|No. 289 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages, which can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast289|
To close off the month of August, we revisit works by Richard Strauss in this the last of our beaten path montages.
When we mention Strauss’ name, three main genres come immediately to mind: his operas, his many lieder and, finally, his tone poems. Today’s montage features two of these, including probably his moist famous.
Although it has a later opus number than his more famous Don Juan, Macbeth was his first tone poem, "a completely new path" for him compositionally. Originally composed between 1886 and 1888, the piece was revised more thoroughly than any of Strauss's other works; these revisions show how much the composer was struggling at this point in his career to balance narrative content with musical form.
Also sprach Zarathustra, composed in 1896 and inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophical novel of the same name. The initial fanfare – titled "Sunrise" in the composer's program notes – became well-known after its use in Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Elvis Presley used the opening fanfare as the opening piece in his concerts between 1971 and his death in 1977, and as the introduction to several of his live albums. Eumir Deodato's funk-influenced arrangement of the opening fanfare reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 U.S. popular music sales charts in 1973.
The two conductors featured in today’s montage, Rudolf Kempe and Eugene Ormandy, have long been associated with Strauss’ music. Kempe’s recordings of Richard Strauss’s music, which demand true conductorial virtuosity, probably stand as his greatest monument. These recordings with the Dresden Staatskapelle were only intermittently available outside of Europe in the LP days, but in the 1990's EMI issued them on 9 CD's.
The Burleske's original title was Scherzo in D minor, and it was written for Hans von Bülow. However, von Bülow considered it a "complicated piece of nonsense" and refused to learn it. In 1889, Strauss became acquainted with Eugen d'Albert, who liked the work, although he suggested some cuts and changes to the piano part. Strauss rededicated the revised work to d'Albert, who premiered it under its new title Burleske, at a convention of the General German Music Associationat Eisenach on 21 June 1890, in the same concert as the premiere of Strauss's Death and Transfiguration.
Eugene Ormandy recorded Zarathustra a whole bunch of times for at least three labels: CBS, RCA, and EMI (his last time, an early digital recording, closes today’s montage). The Burleske performance that completes the trio of Strauss works, also under Ormandy, features Rudolf Serkin as piano soloist.
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