Assignment Two REVISED

Music 1 ~ Stylistic Techniques – Ms Suncica Lazic, Student ID: Suncica516098 – Assignment Two

Assignment Two

Richard Strauss’ Don Juan Op. 20 (TrV 156) 1888

Richard Strauss (1864- 1949) was a Bavarian composer from Munich. Along with Gustav Mahler he is generally considered the most influential composer of the late Romantic period. He cited his father (a court musician), Liszt, Berlioz and Wagner as his main influences. Richard Strauss showed talent from an early age beginning his studies at the age of four and completing his first orchestral score by the age of twelve. (Del Mar,1986) His exceptional skill at composing picturesque programme music eventually evolved into the writing of operas. Alongside his role as a composer Richard Strauss was also a famous conductor. His conducting at the Bayreuth Festival lead to his employment by the Nazi Party as head of the ‘Reichsmusikkammer’. Strauss was himself not a Nazi and towards the end of his employment for the Nazi party relations between him and Goebbels were decidedly fraught. Strauss was eventually fired after writing an anti-war opera ‘Friedenstag’. (Gilliam and Youmans, 2000)

‘Don Juan, Op 20.’ is based on the Spanish fictional literary character of Don Juan who first appeared in the play ‘El burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra’ (The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest) by Tirso de Molina in 1630. (Walsh Utterback, 1979)

Richard Strauss took his Don Juan ‘type’ from the play ‘Don Juan Ende’ based on the 1844 poem by Nikolaus Lenau. Rather than being the standard libertine/hedonist Lenau’s Don Juan is a narcissistic lost soul in constant search of true love and the perfect union with a perfect partner. (Kohut, 2009) After several failed attempts at finding ‘the one’ he is plunged into a depression brought on both by the futility of his quest and the slow realisation of the consequences of his actions. In the last scene he deliberately gets himself killed during a duel.

Strauss was undoubtedly drawn to a ‘romantic’ Don Juan type because he was in love with his future wife, the soprano Pauline de Ahna, at the time of composing. It also probably contributed to the vivacity and sensuality of the love scenes. (Madonna, s.d) In fact, Strauss developed such a descriptive musical language that any subtitles to the programme became superfluous. For early performances Strauss had included three quotes from Lenau’s poem to go with the programme, but quickly discovered that they were not necessary. With his themes and leitmotifs, he conveyed both the drama, scenes and the psychology of the characters very clearly. His opening horn theme signalling the heroic arrival of Don Juan has become one of the best-known openings of all time and synonymous with the character of Don Juan. (Browne, 2008)

Fig. 1. Don Juan Score Opening. (from Richard’s Strauss, Don Juan, Op. 20, Full Score. Mainz: Music GmbH & Co. KG, 1888). (2019)

After the bombastic introduction (fig. 1) there is a quieter romance section played by a solo violin describing both the first lover and Don Juan’s psychological reaction to her. It is a beautiful, although a somewhat subdued and hesitant lyrical solo interspersed with contrapuntal elements from the orchestra.

Fig. 2. Violin Solo 1. (from Richard’s Strauss, Don Juan, Op. 20, Full Score. Mainz: Music GmbH & Co. KG, 1888). (2019)

A second mistress appears in the form of a flute solo, even more hesitant and flighty, sensitively illustrated by a syncopated melody and marked flebile. Irrespective of the beauty of these melodies, the gender stereotyping of having female characters portrayed by high and flighty motifs, whilst the males are lower in pitch and higher in energy, is perhaps the weakest, most dated aspect of the work.

Fig. 3. Flute Solo 1. (from Richard’s Strauss, Don Juan, Op. 20, Full Score. Mainz: Music GmbH & Co. KG, 1888). (2019)

Shortly after the flute solo the central emotional and sensuous love scene is introduced by a tender oboe melody. In my view this exquisite melody is the perfect musical expression of love.

Fig. 4. Oboe Solo 1. (from Richard’s Strauss, Don Juan, Op. 20, Full Score. Mainz: Music GmbH & Co. KG, 1888). (2019)

The sweetness of the oboe scene is interrupted by an assertive horn theme, signifying the grandiose and overconfident Don Juan who eventually falls from grace and descends into despair.

Fig. 5. ‘Don Juan’ main horn theme. (from Richard’s Strauss, Don Juan, Op. 20, Full Score. Mainz: Music GmbH & Co. KG, 1888). (2019)

What follows is a section of many of the themes and motifs playing at once, increased dramatic tension through chromaticism and use of triplets, duplets and grace notes, with more and more of the orchestra joining in, until a glockenspiel solo introduces a carnivalesque scene.

Fig. 6. Carnival scene. (from Richard’s Strauss, Don Juan, Op. 20, Full Score. Mainz: Music GmbH & Co. KG, 1888). (2019)

After the masked ball and Don Juan’s disillusionment with both himself and life in general there is a fatal duel, with its death stab illustrated by piercing trumpets.

Fig. 7. Trumpet death thrust. (from Richard’s Strauss, Don Juan, Op. 20, Full Score. Mainz: Music GmbH & Co. KG, 1888). (2019)

As life ebbs away the very final bars settle down in a melancholy tone, unusually ending the whole piece in the key of E minor.

Fig. 8. Hushed minor ending. (from Richard’s Strauss, Don Juan, Op. 20, Full Score. Mainz: Music GmbH & Co. KG, 1888). (2019)

In keeping with other Romantic fashions of the time near virtuosity is expected. The wide tessitura, with many of the instruments playing at the extremes of their range, combined with quick changes in mood and style required great agility and highly skilled finger technique on part of the players in order to clearly articulate the notes. These technically difficult instrumental parts required virtuoso level playing skills, a fact attested to by the musicians in rehearsal for its 1889 Weimar premier;

‘The players seem to have taken it well after the initial shock, though there seem to have been some amusing incidents, such as when one horn player sat breathless and dripping with sweat, sighing: ‘Good God, in what way have we sinned that you should have sent us this scourge!’ Strauss wrote: ‘We laughed till we cried! Certainly, the horns blew without fear of death…. I was really sorry for the wretched horns and trumpets. They were quite blue in the face; the whole affair was so strenuous.’  (Del Mar,1986)

Because of its difficulty this piece has become part of the curriculum used for auditions and entrance exams into music schools. For example, the violinists require excellent finger technique from the outset to achieve smooth string crossing when shifting between the notes in order to achieve the correct intonation. In bar 6 the triplets require good articulation when finger dropping/lifting to achieve clarity. (Gingold, 2015:8)

Fig. 9. Bar 6. Finger technique difficulty during triplets. (from Richard’s Strauss, Don Juan, Op. 20, Full Score. Mainz: Music GmbH & Co. KG, 1888). (2019)

In addition to the extended orchestration, technical virtuosity and highly emotional, picturesque nature of this programmatic piece other Romantic features are unexpected harmonic progressions and a fluid structure. The E major key signature surprisingly opens with a C major chord and moves to the dominant before settling on E major. (see fig 1. above) The whole composition also ends unexpectedly in a minor key. Strauss structurally followed Lenau’s play by using Liszt’s Symphonic poem form (further developed by himself).  

‘Strauss claimed that he was working on a sort of symphonic poem, “but not in the manner of Liszt” (nicht nach Liszt). This cryptic remark on one level signals Strauss’s wish to distance himself from Liszt’s homophonic textures in favour of a richer, more polyphonic approach. Another important distinction between the two has been noted by John Williamson: where Liszt’s works are mainly focused on character depiction, Strauss’s involve the representation of dramatic events. (Youmans, 2010)

There is still debate over which type of ‘classical structure’ this one movement Symphonic poem fits into. Some musicologists perceive a one movement Sonata form whereas others maintain it is in Rondo form and other theorists have detected several superstructures of forms within forms, like wheels within wheels. I am inclined to agree with this last assessment and find the complexity and ambition of the structure hugely impressive.

Fig. 10. Musicologist’s structure debate. (2019)

Arguably it is in the orchestration where the strength of the piece lies. Strauss used a large Romantic orchestra with an extended percussion section, including a glockenspiel and extendeding the wind section with contrabassoon and doubling piccolos (see fig. 1 above). His layering of timbres is what brings out the character in the motifs and the dramatic effects of the action.

Certain instruments symbolise certain states of mind, for example harp glissandi would illustrate a heavenly atmosphere. This symbolism is still used in film music today. Glockenspiel has also been used in untold cinematic circus/carnival scenes or as creepy nursery rhymes underscoring horror films. There is irony behind the choice to use a very pure ‘bell like’ sound, such as Glockenspiel or a music box (a toy associated with the innocence of childhood ), to signify something grotesque and menacing. These ‘ironic’ instrumentation choices and juxtapositions have become standard compositional devices in cinematic orchestration. (Brownrigg, 2003). I detect this type of ironic humour in Strauss’ orchestration of the ‘carnivalesque’ scene.

Strauss set a new standard for how depictive music could be, this in turn influenced composers who came after him. It is difficult to listen to themes such as John Williams Star Wars theme and Superman soundtracks without drawing direct parallels to Strauss’ tone poems. Stanley Kubrick went as far as including ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ in a scene which set the tone and defined the whole film. Before Kubrick and Williams composers such as Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Alfred Newman openly cited his influence when writing the scores for ‘The Prince and the Pauper’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’ respectively. (Garland, 2014)

Fig.11. Extract from Mark Evan’s ‘Soundtrack : the music of the movies’. (1975)

Even the father of film music, the Viennese born Max Steiner (who was trained by Brahms) had close musical ties to Richards Strauss who was his godfather (ACF, 2009). Steiner was, according to film music critic Mark Evans, influenced by Strauss’ harmonies and orchestration choices. (Evans, 1975). It is via the genre of film music that Strauss has also influenced me, an aspiring film composer.

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LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

Figure 1. Sunny, L. (2019) Don Juan Score Opening. (from Richard’s Strauss, Don Juan, Op. 20, Full Score. Mainz: Music GmbH & Co. KG, 1888). [Illustration] In: possession of: The author: London.

Figure 2. Sunny, L. (2019) Violin Solo 1. (from Richard’s Strauss, Don Juan, Op. 20, Full Score. Mainz: Music GmbH & Co. KG, 1888). [Illustration] In: possession of: The author: London.

Figure 3. Sunny, L. (2019) Flute Solo 1. (from Richard’s Strauss, Don Juan, Op. 20, Full Score. Mainz: Music GmbH & Co. KG, 1888). [Illustration] In: possession of: The author: London.

Figure 4. Sunny, L. (2019) Oboe Solo 1. (from Richard’s Strauss, Don Juan, Op. 20, Full Score. Mainz: Music GmbH & Co. KG, 1888). [Illustration] In: possession of: The author: London.

Figure 5. Sunny, L. (2019) ‘Don Juan’ main horn theme. (from Richard’s Strauss, Don Juan, Op. 20, Full Score. Mainz: Music GmbH & Co. KG, 1888). [Illustration] In: possession of: The author: London.

Figure 6. Sunny, L. (2019) Carnival scene. (from Richard’s Strauss, Don Juan, Op. 20, Full Score. Mainz: Music GmbH & Co. KG, 1888). [Illustration] In: possession of: The author: London.

Figure 7. Sunny, L. (2019) Trumpet death thrusts. (from Richard’s Strauss, Don Juan, Op. 20, Full Score. Mainz: Music GmbH & Co. KG, 1888). [Illustration] In: possession of: The author: London.

Figure 8. Sunny, L. (2019) Hushed minor ending. (from Richard’s Strauss, Don Juan, Op. 20, Full Score. Mainz: Music GmbH & Co. KG, 1888). [Illustration] In: possession of: The author: London.

Figure 9 Sunny, L. (2019) Bar 6. Finger technique difficulty during triplets. (from Richard’s Strauss, Don Juan, Op. 20, Full Score. Mainz: Music GmbH & Co. KG, 1888). [Illustration] In: possession of: The author: London.

Figure 10. Sunny, L. (2019) Musicologist structure debate. [Scan] In: possession of: The author: London.

Figure 11. Evans, M. (1975) Extract from Mark Evan’s ‘Soundtrack : the music of the movies’. [JPEG downlaod] Available At: https://archive.org/details/soundtrackmusico0000evan/page/22/mode/2up?q=richard+strauss In: possession of: The author: London.




BIBLIOGRAPHY

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Berliner Philharmoniker and Herbert von Karajan. (1995) Strauss, R.: Also sprach Zarathustra; Till Eulenspiegel; Don Juan; Salome’s Dance Of The Seven Veils. [download] Berlin: Deutsche Grammophon GmbH. Available At: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Strauss-R-Zarathustra-Eulenspiegel-Salomes/dp/B004BU5YZG/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=richard+strauss+don+juan&qid=1573568748&s=dmusic&sr=1-1

Browne, M. (2008). Compositional Processes and Structure of Don Juan by Richard Strauss. [MA] At: New York University. https://www.scribd.com/document/206677290/Compositional-Processes-and-Structure-of-Don-Juan-by-Richard- (Accessed on 03 November 2019)

Brownrigg, M. (2003) Film Music and Film Genre. [PhD] At: University of Stirling. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/40108516.pdf (Accessed on 26 August 2020)

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http://apmadonna.weebly.com/uploads/9/7/1/8/9718766/essay.pdf (Accessed on 01 October 2019)

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Phillip, H. (s.d) PROGRAM NOTES. Richard Strauss. Don Juan, Op. 20. In: Chicago Symphony Orchestra [online] At: https://cso.org/uploadedFiles/1_Tickets_and_Events/Program_Notes/052710_ProgramNotes_Strauss_DonJuan.pdf (Accessed on 02 October 2019)

Strauss, R. (1888) Don Juan Richard Strauss [With score]. [Video Score]. At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8woshq-F21s&t=95s

 (Accessed on 01 October 2019)

Strauss, R. (1888) Don Juan. [Music Score] Mainz: Schott Music GmbH & Co. KG.

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Walsh Utterback, S. (1979) Don Juan and the Representation of Spiritual Sensuousness. In: Journal of the American Academy of Religion Vol. 47, No. 4 [online] At: https://www.jstor.org/stable/1462278 (Accessed on 03 October 2019)

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