Richard Strauss: 

some thoughts & facts 

Concerto op.11

Click here for instructions about this concerto: op11.htm 

Richard Strauss composed his first concerto at age 18, as a schoolboy. 

Arithmetic ?  1964 plus 18 makes 1882. Franz Strauss premiered the Parsifal then.  He was still the principal horn of the Royal Court Opera Orchestra in Munich.  Could he have had difficulties with the few high Bb in the concerto,  with the greater part flowing in the common upper middle range of the horn ?

Why was the concerto dedicated to Oscar Franz and not to Franz Strauss ?

Answer: Franz Strauss did not like the style of the composition, that is it.  And Oscar Franz was twenty one years younger than Franz Strauss.  Dedicating a piece is a good way to get a piece performed, performed with orchestra.  Franz Strauss had only the chance to perform it with the "Wilde Gungl" in Munich, a quite good amateur orchestra, which exists still now. He had no chance to put it on a program of the concerts of "The Musikalische Akademie 1811" (the concerts of the Royal Court Opera rchestras Concert association - this is my orchestra now renamed  Bavarian State Orchestra), as he was 60 already & not prepared to do any future solo  appearance any more. That is the reason behind the dedication to Oscar Franz and Franz Strauss refusal.  Gustav Leinhos premiered op.11 in Meiningen on March 4rth,  1883 under Hans von Buelow.  Hans von Buelow programmed the premiere despite of the difficulties they had  each other (Franz Strauss & Buelow) during the rehearsals for the Munich premiere  of "Mastersingers"  1868. That was already 15 years earlier. By the way, Franz Strauss himself played the Bb-horn for the most of his time.  He was an exception to the horn playing scene in Germany during that time.


Concerto No.2 (1943)

Click here for the solo part of the first performer Gottfried von Freiberg and some instructions about the concerto: RStrauss2.htm

The written musical text makes this concerto very difficult ? 
The many entrances with the high Bb are also very difficult.


The written notes are not the main difficulty. The difficulties come in the performance:  clean technique, right expression, endurance, power, playing against a full orchestra  (last movement !). You mention the top Bb entrances. Right. They are only in the last  movement and in a way, where they are not difficult in no ways. They are part of regular arpeggios & come five times, whereof only the third time is somewhat delicate  (after rehearsal number 43), as it comes right after a jump of an octave & should be soft.  But how about the finger breaking three measures before 11 until 12 ? Or 35 to 36 ?  Or the four measures following 6 measures after 39 ? Or 6 measures before 47 ?  Not to speak about the stamina of the first page. Yes, there is a hit or not hit  high Bb entrance two measures before 4. But the Bb2 is a very good note & rarely missed.  The above mentioned difficulties will be reduced if one uses the F-side a lot more than usual.  And, talking frankly, is this concerto written for the less experienced ?  First horn players, yes, first horn players will play this concerto only.  If they had problems with the high Bb, they would not be first horn players at all.  And this concerto is not for the amateur horn player with the exception of those who might have been brave first horn player, but had changed their profession for whatever reason. It might be a difference between performing the concerto & just playing it.  The most demanding in a concerto is the emphasis you give to it. 

Belonging to the most difficult concerts ? 

Answer: Yes, together with Schoeck, Tomasi, Pauer, Gordon Jacob. 

Why is the solo part in E-flat ?

Answer: If publishers publish (only US companies did it for the Mozart, 
but also the stupid Baerenreiter in Kassel) transposed solo parts, they think 
they might do it for easier reading, but they mistake completely. 
Richard Strauss wrote the horn part in E-flat for better readability as it eliminates 
many accidentals. He did this also for his operatic compositions. 
All passages in A-major are to be transposed in A eliminating 4 sharps 
(seen from Horn in F) and E-major passages are transposed to E eliminating 
five sharps. Very simple. 


I have to prepare the second movement only & hope to do it 
within the four months left.

Answer: The second movement is a simple melody, even for very young players, 
not requiring any more time then playing it through a few times. 
But if basics of horn playing are missing, even four months will not do it.

It should be up to the choice of everybody, what to choose for a competition 
or what piece to select to study.

Answer: Arguing that everybody might choose the music he or she wants to play, 
I might say the followings: 

Everything has to go step by step. The baby learns first how to sit, than how to stand, how to set one first step, how to walk, how to jump, how to run, how to dance, etc. - 
Nobody let the baby start dancing first (the babies little hopping around has nothing  to do with dance, but rhythmic feeling).


Might Richard Strauss have heard the young Dennis Brain & 
have composed his second horn concerto having Dennis Brain in mind ? 

Answer: Dennis Brain was 18 years old in 1939 when WW2 broke off.  Richard Strauss was 75 already then. Where should Richard Strauss have heard  Dennis Brain before that date ? Dennis Brain was not more then than a very promising  young horn player, not engaged with any orchestra, where Strauss could have known  him when conducting there. How could Strauss have traveled to a country,  which has been in war with Germany later on.

Do you know the story behind Strauss promising a horn concerto to Prof.Suttner?

Answer: Yes, I know it from the late Josef Suttner (March 18th,1881 Prague - 
April 1st, 1974 Munich) Richard Strauss had the concept of the second concerto 
much longer. But Josef Suttner, the then famous Munich principal horn, insisted 
to get a concert from the master. They knew each other from many occasions, 
as Suttner played the very first recording of Heldenleben (1928) & the first 
Audio-& Video recording of the Alpine Symphony 1941 (This has not been conducted entirely by Richard Strauss but by Mr.Seifried at 50%. 
The late Mr.Seifried was Richard Strauss´ "mistake finder" & a close friend & our stage band director. He showed me a letter once, sent to him by Dr.Goebbels to express his thank to him for the good work for the Alpine Symphony recording.). 

So the concert was completed within a short period of time, Strauss implementing the technical skill showed to him by Josef Suttner, who had the nickname "clarinetist on the horn".

Why did Richard Strauss think that Salzburg would be a better place for the premiere?  Did it have anything to do with the war? 


Knowing about Salzburgs importance as a musical city with the special summer 
festival since 1928, one knows why Richard Strauss has chosen this city for the 
world premiere of his 2nd Horn Concerto. This had nothing to do with the war. 
If you know a bit about European history, you might realize that Salzburg & all 
of Austria were part of the Deutsche Reich then & both targets of the allied air raids, not so much in 1943 but later on. They had air raids also in 1943. Safety concern was not the reason for the premieres location. The Vienna Philharmonic was the most prominent orchestra for that premiere & so was Gottfried von Freiberg, their principal horn. He premiered it on the single F Viennese horn, recorded it three weeks later at the Viennese Radio Studio with the same cast, including Dr.Karl Boehm as conductor. The premiere was received enthusiastically. 

Josef Suttner was a bit disappointed, that he did not get the premiere, but he was 62 then and had to give way to the younger Freiberg, 35 then. By the way, 
Freiberg was of Jewish descent from his fathers side, also related to Franz Schubert by his mother. Freiberg´s father converted to be a  Christian ,  when he resumed his position as a section leader of the imperial interior ministry in Vienna (equal to a state secretary). Freiberg was under permanent danger during the war, but Dr.Goebbels protected him personally. You might ask why ? Freiberg was smart enough to write a horn quartet named "Horst Wessel Fanfare" (remembering the "Nazi martyr" - the quartet does not exist any more, fortunately !), sent it to Berlin and ...... survived.

Muscles are not everything, one has to use ones brain also ! ....

Freiberg played the concerto once again 1958 in the Musikvereinssaal in Vienna, 
Karl Oesterreicher conducting. I was so fortunate, to study the concerto with Freiberg.

Who were the early performers of this concerto ?

Answer: There were very few performers in the first years after the premiere. 
Max Zimolong, the principal horn of the Dresden Staatskapelle played it twice 
in 1944 during the Weimar Music Festival, conducted by Karl Ellmendorff. 
Dennis Brain flew to Vienna & performed it on March 3rd, 1948 under Josef Krips.

His biography, written by Stephan Pettit, says, that this was the second public 
performance. This is not right, as Zimolong did it 1944 (see above). 

Domenico Ceccarossi did it on March 25th, 1950 in Rome. 

I am proud to state, that I myself belong also to this  hand full of early performers, as I did it in a school concert 1962 & in a public concert with the Bruckner Orchestra  in Linz in Sept.1964 (playing single F Viennese Horn), conducted by the late  Kurt Woess & have done it many times since, even as premieres in several countries &  doing it even still now. 

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© 2000 by Prof.Hans Pizka 23.04.2003