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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Turn of the 20th Century > Symphonic Poem, "Don Juan" - Richard Strauss


Symphonic Poem, "Don Juan"

Richard Strauss
(1864-1949)



"Don Juan," the first published of Richard Strauss' tone poems, was written in November, 1880, and performed for the first time at Weimar, near the close of the same year. The subject of the work is taken from a poem of the same name, written by the Hungarian poet Lenau. The hero is a Don who is in love with the feminine principle. He is devoted to the adoration of the whole feminine world rather than the pursuit of the individual. At last he becomes pessimistic. The pursuit of beauty palls. "Now it is o'er, and calm all round, above me; sheer death is every wish; all hopes o'ershrouded." At last he is satisfied to give up life itself. In the illustration of this story, Strauss' music opens with a variety of restless themes, occasionally melodious in bits, but more frequently discordant without resolution. Don Juan makes his appearance to a somewhat brilliant melody. This is followed by desultory love episodes, some of which musically are as unsatisfactory to the hearer as the episodes themselves were to the hero. They invariably end in a restless manner. Don Juan in desperation plunges into a general carnival of feminine and vinous revels, depicted by music intended to be bacchanalian, but unintelligible without a detailed program. The debauch closes in a manner indicating the hero's fate, and at last his end is announced by the trumpet.





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