1. Richard Strauss. The theme behind this composition

1.

The piece of music I have chosen to write about is “An Alpine Symphony”, composed by the German composer known as Richard Strauss. The theme behind this composition is an individual’s journey spent climbing an alpine mountain. It has been known to also be labelled as a “tone poem”, the definition of which reads – a piece of orchestral music, usually in a single continuous movement, which illustrates or evokes the content of a poem, short story, novel, painting, landscape, or other non-musical source (Reference here). This piece of music clearly does come under this definition, as this fifty-two-minute symphony tells a compelling story, as the climber passes through woods, across meadows, and even onto dangerous glaciers, during his ascent of the mountain.

 

2.

Strauss actually began working on this piece of programme music in the very early 1900s, before setting the project aside to compose opera works instead for about a decade (Reference). He returned to “An Alpine Symphony” after the death of a fellow friend and composer, Gustav Mahler. This sparked Strauss into completing this symphony, and in doing so create a beautiful landscape that also showcases the potential dangers of the natural world. Strauss had written eight tone poems earlier, so the fact that he chose to write a ninth wouldn’t have come as a surprise to many. Strauss was influenced to write this symphony due to his great love of nature, and how it can exist in many different forms. This particular symphony was actually based on a real-life experience Strauss had as a child, he and a group of climbers lost their way climbing a mountain and were caught in a storm on the way back down.

 

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The composer has split the whole symphony up into twenty-two different parts, with each part representing a different point in the climber’s journey. Beginning with Nacht (Night) the symphony starts with sombre tones, with very few instruments being used. This transitions into the second part (Sonnenaufgang (Sunrise)) with the use of loud, glorious brassy tones, giving an early sense of great panorama as the climbers begin their journey. The next part (Ascent) beings with a bold, rising, rhythmic theme to represent the climber taking strides at haste, eager to begin their journey at speed. When the next movement (Entering the forest) begins, there is an ominous¬†

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