The story of Don Juan takes many forms, but few fit the seducer better than Strauss’ tone poem, which is filled with a Romantic urge.
Wagner’s writing is also filled with longing and unrequited love, and rumour has it that he was a bit of a Don Juan himself in his relationship with the poet Mathilde Wesendonck. Elisabeth Kulman performs Wesendonck Lieder, which, in terms of form, strongly recalls Tristan and Isolde. Bizet draws us along to popular French delights in his L’Arlesienne suite, as does Till Eulenspiegel with his daring adventures in yet another of Strauss colourful tone poems.
Richard Strauss (1864-1949) can be said to have perfected the tone poem at the end of the 19th century. Using the most modern and intricate orchestration of the time, he lent precise musical expressions, rich in association, to various stories, fantasies and ideas. In Till Eulenspiegel’s lustige Streiche (1895), one can almost hear the twinkle in his eye when the jester rides into the marketplace and starts playing tricks, and almost physically sense the tragedy when he is captured and condemned to death. In Don Juan (1888) Strauss has created a musical depiction of a calculating seducer, but also a dissatisfied and tortured soul.
The basis for Strauss’ musical language was primarily laid by Richard Wagner (1813-1883) earlier in the 1800’s, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the iconic opera Tristan und Isolde. In his work with the opera Wagner developed a close friendship with the poet Mathilde Wesendonck; so close that many believed the relationship extended far beyond friendship. Wagner’s five songs, now known as Wesendonck Lieder (1858), constituted critical material for Tristan, and also stand alone as great works.
Like Wagner and Strauss, Georges Bizet (1838-1875) was best-known as an opera composer, but this time we will hear his popular, melodious and magnificent theatre music to L’Arlesienne (1872), arranged by the composer himself in two suites. And even in this context we can easily detect the Carmen composer behind the notes.
(Text: Thomas Erma Møller; Translation (from Norwegian): Sarah Osa; In photo: Vasily Petrenko; Photo: Mark McNulty)
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