Thursday, December 15, 2011

Richard Strauss: Complete Chronological Catalogue by TrV Number

Richard Strauss (1864 - 1949) was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; and his tone poems and orchestral works, such as Death and Transfiguration, Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, Also sprach Zarathustra, An Alpine Symphony, and Metamorphosen.

Strauss, along with Gustav Mahler, represents the late flowering of German Romanticism after Richard Wagner, in which pioneering subtleties of orchestration are combined with an advanced harmonic style.  - Wikipedia

Richard Strauss working on Die schweigsame Frau (The
Silent Woman) at his villa outside Munich, 1932
This playlist was compiled after the 3rd version of Franz Trenner's chronological catalogue of Strauss's works. The version was revised by his son Florian Trenner in 1999. This catalogue lists 298 works and each has been assigned a TrV number. See full list here.

It starts from Trv 2-4, three songs date from 1870-71, when the composer was six/seven years old, when Germany, or Kingdom of Prussia, was fighting Napoleon III; and ends with Four Last Songs, completed in 1948, by then the composer had seen, among many others, two world wars that took over 100 million lives.

Der Rosenkavalier, photo of a 1911
performance. Elisabeth Böhm van Endert
as Oktavian, Erna Denera as Sophie
2011 is both the 100th anniversary of the death of Mahler and the premiere of Der Rosenkavalier. I always feel this opera is something like the last glimpse into a lost world. A world in which death is not just cold numbers, and sentiment in art music was not deemed cliche because the artists and the audience still shared a lot of common emotions. You can almost see the grim faces of the generals behind those grand waltz tunes. If Mahler survived into the war time, I highly doubt if he would continue to write symphonies that lament over life and death of individuals.

One year before the premiere of Der Rosenkavalier, Arnold Schoenberg wrote: "Art is the cry of distress uttered by those who experience at first hand the fate of mankind. Who are not reconciled to it, but come to grips with it... Who do not turn their eyes away, to shield themselves from emotions, but open them wide, so as to tackle what must be tackled. Who do, however, often close their eyes, in order to perceive things incommunicable by the senses, to envision within themselves the process that only seems to be in the world outside. The world revolves within-inside them: what bursts out is merely the echo-the work of art."

And indeed the composer of Rosenkavalier might be one of the last great artists who turned their eyes away from this most violent century in human history - because he had seen better times - while kept their integrity and created profound art.

Here's the Spotify playlist: Richard Strauss: Complete Chronological Catalogue by TrV Number (999 tracks from more than 150 albums, total time: 71 hours) Ctrl (CMD)+G to browse in album view. I compiled the playlist in October on my Spotify UK account, and revised it on a Spotify US account this week, to substitute recordings also available on Spotify US with those only available on Spotify UK (like Solti's Strauss opera recordings on Decca). You can see from the "Added" column that nearly half of the tracks were added recently.

Some interesting curiosities in this playlist: Strauss's Interludio from his revision of Mozart's Idomeneo (in which he dispensed with Electra, maybe his own opera and wife were enough for him); 1912 version of Ariadne auf Naxos, with its prolog, musical-theater version of Bourgeois Gentilhomme; the complete chamber music (including many early, Brahmsian works); Karl Anton Rickenbacher's The Unknown Strauss series including the unfinished singspiel, Des Esels Schatten (1949), orchestrated and completed by Karl Haussner; orchestral versions of songs for piano and voice, and piano version of Four Last Songs (not arranged by the composer, but very interesting to hear nevertheless). I also included the suites, symphonic fragments and popular concert pieces from the operas (sextet from Capriccio, Dance of the Seven Veils etc), placed after the full recordings.

Please leave a comment if you find something that I left out. Thank you.