Introduction and Scherzo (The Pursuit of Fortune) for grand orchestra op.11
Nicodé, Jean Louis
Jean Louis Nicodé – Introduction and Scherzo, Op. 11
(b. Jezyce near Poznan [Jersitz near Posen], 12 August 1853 – d. Langebrück [Dresden], 14 October 1919)
Nicodé wrote his Introduction and Scherzo, Op. 11 in 1878. Running ca. nine minutes, the piece is dedicated to the Silesian conductor Benjamin Bilse (1816-1902). It has the secondary title of Die Jagd nach dem Glück (The Pursuit of Fortune) after the eponymous 1868 painting by Rudolf Henneberg (1825-1876). Done in a tight 16th Century style, it depicts a young knight galloping after Fortune. She’s painted as an ephemeral figure, balancing on a crystal ball. His accompanying rider is death; a female figure trampled under his horse’s hooves may symbolize his mother or caution (or both). He rides over a bridge, which diminishes to a single rail over a chasm, thus the viewer sees his fate is assured. Theo Schäfer’s monograph on Nicodé also describes the work as a symphonic poem.
The music begins with a slow introduction, nominally in G minor. A theme marked “mit Pathos” appears on the bassoons, repeated by a horn symbolizing the ideal of Happiness. Nicode expands on it by passing it through several instruments in the course of a crescendo till the music builds to a peak. The scherzo (p.15), representing the knight’s ride pays homage in its delicacy of color, scored with trills, runs and pizzicato strings, to Mendelssohn and Raff. Without losing momentum, the work acquires a longer-breathed legato melody in the celli (p. 37). After several climaxes, there’s a rhythmic tapering off and slowing of pace. The theme from the introduction reappears, now in C# minor, like a reminiscence of the original goal. After this brief interlude, the scherzo resumes, the knight speeding to his doom in a definite G minor. When Richard Strauss heard it in 1888, he wrote to Nicodé “I greatly enjoyed your work, with its attractive, piquant invention and its immensely witty, spicy instrumentation . . . the resplendent sound of your up-to-the-minute orchestra was a great solace.”
Jean Louis Nicodé was a composer and conductor, working mostly in Dresden. Richard Strauss regarded him as a pioneer in the development of program music. He wrote several works like the above in a Romantic idiom with suave, vivid orchestration. His most ambitious and best compositions are Das Meer (The Sea, 1889), a symphony for orchestra and mens’ chorus and his two-hour plus symphony Gloria! (1904). The latter, using an enlarged orchestra – including 12 tuned referees’ whistles – with a choral finale is a gigantic autobiography in tone. Steffen Fahl has made computer recreations of both works. For further details on Nicodé, see my online article Jean Louis Nicodé; Three Masterpieces, or my website vonhausegger.com
Don O’Connor, 2019
For performance material please contact Breitkopf & Härtel, Wiesbaden.
160 x 240 mm