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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Turn of the 20th Century > Symphonic Fantasia, "From Italy". Op. 16. - Richard Strauss


Symphonic Fantasia, "From Italy". Op. 16.

Richard Strauss
(1864-1949)



"From Italy," the first of Strauss' orchestral tone poems, was written in 1886, after the composer had made a visit to Rome. It is divided into four movements: 1. "On the Campagna." 2. "Amid Rome's Ruins." 3. "On the Shore of Sorrento." 4. "Neapolitan Folk Life."

The opening movement describes the solitude of the Campagna, with incidental allusions to historical events of which it has been the scene. After a somewhat extended introductory passage a theme is given out by the first violins and cellos, with accompaniment in clarinet, bassoon, and horn, with figures in the second violins and violas, and chords in harp. After development the clarinet takes the theme, with responses in horn and bassoon, the movement dying away softly.





The composer has given this additional program note to the second movement: "Fantastic pictures of vanished splendor. Feelings of sadness and longing in the midst of brightest surroundings." It is constructed in sonata form with two themes. In the opening, the strings give out chords sustained against a figure in the trumpets, which constitutes the principal theme of the movement. Following the development the first violins have a fresh melody, which is worked up in the strings and woodwinds, leading to a fortissimo chord in full orchestra, interrupted by trombone and trumpet, suggesting the opening theme. The latter is then taken in the cellos and extends to full orchestra, and is developed, the movement ending with a recapitulation of the first and second themes.

The third movement is absolutely free in its construction, and evidently is intended for a description of the sea rippled by the wind. It is scored almost entirely for the strings, against which are heard boat songs and bits of melody in the woodwinds.

The last movement is a gay Allegro, opening with clashes of cymbals. It is constructed mainly upon a Neapolitan folksong, given out in the violas and cellos with horn and bassoon accompaniment, the brasses and kettle drums accenting the time. Another theme follows in the first violins and cellos, after the development of which the folksong reappears in the bassoon, then passes to English horn, and thence to first and second violins, flute, and oboe. After its development the Coda closes the work with suggestions of the folksong.





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