Symphonia Domestica, finale by Richard Strauss
You may not have suspected that Richard Strauss would place on a list like this, considering he’s known for tone poems. In fact, most commentators tend to describe both of Strauss’ mature symphonies as tone poems anyway, which may be 10% true, but both Eine Alpensinfonie and Symphonia Domestica are symphonies, admittedly with unique structures and approaches. Domestica in particular is symphonically constructed, whatever that may mean, with the movements connecting thematically and motivically with the sublime effortlessness that is synonymous with Strauss. Continue reading
Wolfgang Sawallisch died Friday at the age of 89. I confess to have been working under the assumption that he had died years ago. Because conducting is often something that people at the highest levels do until they’re extremely fucking old (or extremely fucking dead in some cases), it’s unusual to think of a world-class maestro “retiring” to the Bavarian Alps and just chilling and playing piano and shit. But that’s exactly what Sawallisch did – his last major gig was with the Philadelphia Orchestra, which ended in 2003 and he retired “officially” in 2006 – something that, as I reflect upon that unbelievably relaxed cardigan/tie combo and wry smile, seems totally reasonable, ill health or otherwise. Continue reading
Why so serious?
Of all the divisive figures in music history, perhaps none inspires as much debate as Richard Strauss. He is a genius, a schlocky Romantic, a master. Too playful, too saccharine, too heavy, not serious enough. A first-rate composer, or a first-class second-rate composer as he himself said. Excessive, simple, arrogant, profound. Truth be told, he’s all those things and then some, but above all else he’s a showman, and no one can top him for sheer listenability. Of all the great composers Strauss, to me, is the most likely to inspire someone to listen to more classical music, and it’s obvious why: his shit is entertaining as hell. Continue reading