R. Strauss / Symphonic Fragments from Josephs Legende
R. Strauss is regarded today both as a paramount heir of the programmatic genre "tone poem" and as a luminary of the operatic history. He was already a big name with his hits including Don Juan (1888) and Salome (1905) when he completed the ballet score Josephs Legende (The Legend of Joseph) in 1914 for the impresario Sergei Diaghilev and his dance company, Ballets russes.
This Bible-based ballet, set in the palace of Potiphar, features the chaste and devout shepherd boy Joseph who, seduced by Potiphar’s Wife, resists temptation. The sensual and radiant music by Strauss calls for a large orchestra including violins divided in three, harps, piano and celesta. Symphonic Fragments (1947) is an instrumental digest that Strauss prepared cutting two thirds of the original score for a reduced-size orchestra.
This compressed version opens with the scene of festivities held at Potiphar's luxurious palace (the "gold dust" motif heard here with shiningly descending glissandos is also used in undermentioned An Alpine Symphony). Potiphar's Wife is out of humor until Joseph is brought as an entertainment. The beautiful boy performs a graceful dance (with flutes and harps), leaps lively in triple meter, and then dances divinely to unknowingly arouse her. The gloomy music announces the erotic scene after the party: the Wife sneaks in Joseph's bedroom and strips him almost to the skin. He rejects her with fortitude backed by a dotted resolute motif (the same melody as the "mountain" motif from An Alpine Symphony). The furious Wife lets him caught for torture, but he is saved by an Archangel at the triumphal conclusion resounding the resolute motif.
R. Strauss / An Alpine Symphony Op. 64
Paavo Järvi is from a musical family, his father being the famous conductor Neeme Järvi and his brother Kristjan is also a conductor. He has continuously held important positions directing renowned orchestras around the world, including the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestre de Paris. He is currently Music Director of the Tonhalle Orchestra of Zurich. He was Chief Conductor of the NHK Symphony Orchestra from September 2015 to the 2021–22 season, and has been Honorary Conductor since September last year. He has also contributed to the development of classical music in Estonia, his homeland. It was with his performances of Beethoven symphonies that he first received worldwide acclaim, in his Beethoven Project with the Deustche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen of which he has been Artistic Director since 2004. His particular style, which combines an energetic pace with perfect articulation and powerful intonation, has been so innovative that set a new standard of Beethoven performance in the 21st century. However, it can also be said that he is a conductor who has built up a vast range of repertoire by having a flexible outlook. His approach to music, leaning towards clear sonorities and depicting the overall picture in just right way, may give an indication of where music of this global era should be. His musicality which can be described as a cosmopolitan style has resonated well with the NHK Symphony Orchestra, thus he and the orchestra have continued to display the essence of a wide range of works from the late Romantic period to the modern and contemporary eras as well as hidden Estonian works and Takemitsu with exquisite ensemble in sharp contrast. On this visit, he will conduct three attractive programs—one featuring R. Strauss works, which has been postponed since May 2020, as well as those with Scandinavian, Russian and French repertoire.
[Paavo Järvi by Mitsunori Eto, music critic]
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