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CLASSICAL  December 2008

CLASSICAL December 2008

Subject:

Color in Strauss

From:

Ed Zubrow <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 10 Dec 2008 16:05:58 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (44 lines)

A recent NY Times' article about bel canto singing prompted an interesting
response from a letter-writer.  The writer pointed out that part of the
emotional effect in various arias came from the composers' deft application
of orchestral colors.  I can't remember the examples, but they were on
the lines of "a touch of oboe," etc.

It strikes me that Strauss is doing the something similar despite
deploying a vastly larger orchestra.  In some annotations he wrote
to Berlioz' Treatise on Istrumentation, Strauss warned orchestrators
to: "use all bright and characteristic coloors of the orchestra very
sparingly...  Nowadays all special orchestral titbits (...) are being
terribly misused...should be used only as highlights if their effect is
to be felicitous...Otherwise the ear of the listener becomes unnecessarily
dulled: fine light accents become formless smears of colour."

As an example of the value of such economy of color, he approves of
Wagner's "wise application of the triangle," in Act 2 of Siegfried.
The triangle plays a single note at the end of the act!

In my research I also came across something Strauss wrote called Ten
Golden Rules for the Album of a Young Conductor.  Since most of you are
probably familiar with this, I won't reproduce them here.  They can be
found at:
http://www.grahamnasby.com/misc/musichumour_strauss-10-golden-rules.shtml.
Two that are relevant: "Never look encouragingly at the brass..." and
"But never let the horns and woodwinds out of your sight.  If you can
hear them at all they are still too strong."

Lastly, I discovered that he believed that on rare occasions *silence*
can produce color.  How?  In Salome he writes low notes for the violin
that are not playable.  (They are being doubled elsewhere in the orchestra,
but they are written into the violins' line as well.) Norman Del Mar
explains in Anatomy of the Orchestra: "in his more patient moments he
[Strauss] would explain that if the player *thought* the unobtainable
note strongly enough and tried hard to look as if he *was* playing it,
the audience would never know it was missing."

Zeke

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