Sunday, June 19, 2011

Try Richard Strauss's early F Minor Symphony

If you want to look for a suitably obscure Romantic crowd pleaser (maybe to use in a movie score), look at the Symphony in F Minor, Op. 12, composed at age 19 by Richard Strauss.

The familiar iconoclastic harmonies of the “mature” (that is, mid 20’s) Strauss is not there. But there is a pre-post-Romantic symphony, with real moments, and yet a rather striking Mendelssohn-like sound in its climactic passages.

In the mid 1980s, the progressive company Records International made a CD with Michael Halasz conducting the Slovak Philharmonic, in one continuous track, as if a tone poem.

In fact, the lugubrious descending theme opening the work anticipates the “Alpine Symphony”. The Andante Cantabile (the third “movement”, in C) is truly moving. The finale transforms the descending theme into a new hymn tune with lots of repeated notes (like Schubert), but when the climax of the work blossoms into a familiar sounding Lutheran-like hymn, the Mendelssohn feeling prevails, recalling the triumphant close of the Scotch.  F Major, with its pastoral feel, seems almost like the wrong key. Maybe the whole symphony could have been written in F# minor, so that the concluding triumph would play in the richer F# Major. Just raising pitch doesn’t change that, each key has its own personality. Mozart knew that. 

No comments: