Strauss, Richard


Strauss, Richard

Japanese Festive Music Op. 84 for large orchestra

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Richard Strauss – Japanische Festmusik, Op. 84 (Japanese Festive Music)

(b. Munich, June 11, 1864 – d. Garmisch-Partenkirchen, 8 September, 1949)

Richard Strauss is celebrated for his 15 operas, many of which are still performed today, with a handful in the standard international repertoire, including Salome, Elektra and Rosenkavalier. He also enriched the romantic repertoire with numerous lieder and orchestral tone poems such as Don Juan, Death and Transfiguration, Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks,Also sprach Zarathustra, Don Quixote, and Ein Heldenleben. His long compositional life spanned from the age of the Kaisers to the Weimar Republic, the Nazi regime and the post WW II allied occupation. In each age, being one of the leading composers in German lands, he was often the first choice for commissioning works for special occasions, dedications and commemorations. His tonal, romantic, opulent, lush, and expertly scored orchestral language was much in vogue by the public and the various regimes he lived under.

For the imperial regime such works included Feierlicher Einzug, Königsmarsch, Two Militärmärsche, and Festliches Präludium. The latter was actually commissioned by the city of Vienna to celebrate the opening of the Wiener Konzerthaus in October 1913. During the Weimar period he received another commission from Vienna composing the Wiener Philharmoniker Fanfare in 1924 for the Philharmonic’s first benefit ball, which raised money for the musician’s pension fund. The work continues to be performed every year at the Philharmonic’s annual balls. Strauss had a lifelong relationship with the Vienna Philharmonic as conductor and also lived in Vienna at various times. During the Nazi era he composed the Olympische Hymne, which was featured in the 1936 Olympics held in Berlin. His Festmusik der Stadt Wien was dedicated to the Vienna City Council, in appreciation for having been awarded its Beethoven Prize in 1942. At that time the Austrian capital along with all of Austria were part of the German Reich and Strauss was living in Vienna. The Japanische Festmusik also dates from the Nazi era. The Japanese government commissioned works from composers of six different countries to celebrate the 2600-year anniversary of the Japanese Empire. Two of the more prominent names awarded commissions were the French composer Jacques Ibert whose Ouverture de fête pour célébrer le 26e centenaire de la fondation de l’empire Nippon is one of his finest orchestral works. The British contribution, Benjamin Britten’s Sinfonia de Requiem, was rejected by the Japanese as an insult. A composition from an American composer was also requested but was ultimately refused as a result of the political situation at the time. Japan had an excellent relationship with Germany. The Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels awarded the Japanese commission to Richard Strauss, then age 75. He completed the piece on April 22, 1940 and received the enormous sum of 10,000 Reichsmarks for his work. The première, performed by an augmented NHK Symphony Orchestra conducted by Helmut Fellmer, was in December 1940 in Tokyo. The initial European performance was in 1941 in Stuttgart. Before that, in late 1940, Strauss conducted the work for a recording with the Bavarian State Opera Orchestra.

It is scored for a large symphony orchestra with an option for organ or nine additional brass. Strauss also included a set of Japanese tuned gongs in the percussion section. Its c. 15-minute length is divided into five musically continuous sections: Meerszene (Seascape) Kirschblütenfest (Cherry Blossom Festival) Vulkanausbruch (Volcanic Eruption) Angriff der Samurai (Attack of the Samurai) Loblied auf den Kaiser (Hymn of Praise to the Emperor).

Karl Hinterbichler, University of New Mexico, 2023

For performance material please contact Schott, Leipzig.

Score Data


Repertoire Explorer




210 x 297 mm





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