Exposed Fifths
classical music blog
June 11, 2006
Don Juan - Strauss
To acknowledge Richard Strauss's birthday today, I'll dedicate a post to his first great public success - Don Juan. Recognised immediately as an innovation, its swirling colours, bold brass, and unfamiliar instrumental solos, all pitched against a literary storyline, Don Juan marked the arrival of the Tone Poem by an ambitious 24 year old composer. It followed closely on the tradition of the Symphonic Poem as conceived by Liszt, and if you really want to follow the thread back, it surely ends up in Beethoven's hands, with his unique Pastoral Symphony, showing again his all-pervasive influence on the Romantic Era, much as Bach would dominate the 20th Century.

Don Juan initiated a chain of imaginative conceptions, and Strauss could count Till Eulenspiegel, Also Sprach Zarathrustra, Don Quixote, and Ein Heldenleben, amongst his works at the end of his career. All have entered the public sphere, and worked their way into popular consciousness via film art, whether it be the original form, as in 2001: Space Odyssey, or secondarily through film composers like Korngold or John Williams, whose scores cannot be seen as anything other than Tone Poems, and they themselves have no problem admitting their roots.

I've managed to find a live performance of this seminal work, Don Juan, conducted by Mengelberg in December 1940. Live stream via webJay - here.