Richard Strauss: Suite in B Flat op.4 – Gavotte (III)

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Richard Strauss (1864-1949)
Suite in B flat for thirteen wind instruments, opus 4

I – Praeludium (Allegretto); II – Romanze (Andante); III – Gavotte (Allegro);
IV – Introduction und Fuge (Andante cantabile – Allegro con brio)

Strauss’ compositional genius is demonstrated throughout the Suite in his blending of the strikingly individual timbres of the various wind instruments to create remarkably homogeneous, yet constantly changing textures. No doubt the young composer acquired this skill in part through the strong orchestral connections of his father, who, in addition to other positions, played principal horn in the Munich Court Orchestra for forty-nine years. Furthermore, Strauss ably brings the Baroque forms of the last two movements up to date, juxtaposing them with the Classical and Romantic tendencies of the first two movements without any impression of anachronism.

The somewhat lighter Gavotte starts with a lively, humorous theme, introduced by the bassoons, in which interaction between the different families of instruments is a prominent feature. After a short interlude in which flute and clarinet melodies are gently accompanied, the main theme returns. The next section, which is in the style of a Baroque musette, exploits the dark, predominantly double-reed timbres of the bassoon drones which accompany the oboe, low in its register (joined by the second oboe, and later by a clarinet in dialogue). The energetic gavotte theme returns following a flourish in the flutes, and, after one further reminder of the musette, repeats before the music calms to its quiet, sparsely-scored finish, and ends with one last burst of humour.

Netherlands Wind Ensemble – Edo de Waart

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