Aus Italien, symphonic fantasia for grand orchestra Op. 16
Richard Strauss – Aus Italien op. 16 (1886)
(b. Munich, June 11, 1864 – d. Garmisch-Partenkirchen, 8 September, 1949)
Richard Strauss is considered a master of the great symphonic music, with his tone poems and the large orchestras used in them, culminating in the „Alpensinfonie“ with more than 120 musicians. He also cultivated an opulent sound in his operas, just think of his “Salome” and “Elektra”! Thus he was a successor in a line of composers from Berlioz to Liszt and Wagner. But before he turned to tone poems, he tried his hand at the traditional form of the symphony, both with his Symphony in D Minor (1880) and Symphony in F Minor, Op. 12 (1883). “Aus Italien” is a transitional work from these still youthful compositions to the later tone poems that made him one of the leading composers of his time. That it is a work of transition is evident above all in its form, Strauss again leaning on the form of the symphony, except that he gives the individual movements titles. The composer himself called “Aus Italien” a “Symphonic Fantasy”.
In the 19th century, many writers, artists and composers took it for granted to embark on a journey to Italy. Their experiences with landscape, history and people were incorporated into their works. Compositions written under this influence include Mendelssohn’s „Italienische Sinfonie“ (1833), Berlioz’s „Harold in Italien“ (1834), Liszt’s “Années de pèlerinage” (1835), Bizet’s “Roma” (1868), Tchaikovsky’s “Capriccio Italien” (1880) and Richard Strauss’s “Aus Italien” (1886).
Strauss’s work is the result of his first trip to Italy, which the 22-year-old undertook in April and May 1886. It took him to Florence, Rome, Bologna, Naples and Capri. Incidentally, the advice for this trip came from Johannes Brahms, whom the young composer still regarded as a great role model in those years. However, this was to change considerably with this new composition, in which he took the side of the “New Germans”, i.e. the music of Wagner and Liszt. It became his first work of programmatic music. Strauss wrote to the conductor Hans von Bülow: “I never really believed in being inspired by the beauty of nature; in the Roman ruins I was taught otherwise, the thoughts just flew”.
The composer dedicated the work, which was completed on 12 September 1886, to his patron Hans von Bülow. Strauss gave the individual movements explanatory titles. Thus the first movement is a “Praeludium” with the title “Auf der Campagna” to the actual main section “In Roms Ruinen” with the subtitle „Fantastische Bilder entschwundener Herrlichkeit, Gefühle der Wehmut und des Schmerzes inmitten sonnigster Gegenwart“.The third movement, “Strände von Sorrent” is a calm mood piece. The final movement “Neapolitanisches Volksleben” was partly criticised and booed at the premiere in Munich on 2 March 1887 (at which, incidentally, his father Franz Strauss played the first horn and practised the difficult part for days). At the first performance in Berlin by the Berlin Philharmonic in 1888, there were even laughs in the audience. The use of the song “Funicoli, funicolà” was criticised. However, it is not a Neapolitan folk song, as Strauss assumed, but was composed by the composer Luigi Denza for the inauguration of the cable car to Mount Vesuvius and was extremely popular not only in Italy. One reason why the work never quite caught on is certainly its length. Nevertheless, “Aus Italien” is an immensely important composition for Strauss’s development, as it paved the way from symphony to the following tone poems!
Playing time: approx. 45 minutes
Marcus Prieser, 2022
For performance material please contact Peters, Leipzig. Reprint of a copy from the collection Marcus Prieser, Wittmund.
210 x 297 mm