Author Topic: Hear the original ending of Strauss' "Ein Heldenleben"  (Read 4702 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

M forever

  • Guest
Hear the original ending of Strauss' "Ein Heldenleben"
« on: July 07, 2007, 12:32:30 PM »
I think it's a little known fact that Strauss originally ended this tone poem with a very quiet ending, it just gets calmer and calmer and fades out. While he was working on writing out the full score, a friend convinced him that the ending should be a little more "heroic", so he added the final tutti outburst which you all know. Apparently, only the original ending is actually contained in the composer's autograph.

Here is a clip of the original ending, in an EMI recording by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch.

The original ending is also used in the fabulous new recording with the Staatskapelle Dresden with their new principal conductor, Fabio Luisi (just came out on Sony).

http://preview.tinyurl.com/37bjbn

lukeottevanger

  • Guest
Re: Hear the original ending of Strauss' "Ein Heldenleben"
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2007, 01:05:35 PM »
I think it's a little known fact that Strauss originally ended this tone poem with a very quiet ending, it just gets calmer and calmer and fades out. While he was working on writing out the full score, a friend convinced him that the ending should be a little more "heroic", so he added the final tutti outburst which you all know. Apparently, only the original ending is actually contained in the composer's autograph.

IIRC, wasn't there something along the lines of 'all your previous tone poems have ended quietly - why don't you/can't you end loudly for once?'  ;D

Mark G. Simon

  • Guest
Re: Hear the original ending of Strauss' "Ein Heldenleben"
« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2007, 02:07:22 PM »
What a boring way to end a piece. His second thought is a great improvement.




Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 8683
  • William Havergal Brian, symphonist (1876-1972)
    • JZH Text Services
  • Location: Delft, Netherlands
  • Currently Listening to:
    Bruckner, Wagner, Brian, Bax, Dyson, Delius...
Re: Hear the original ending of Strauss' "Ein Heldenleben"
« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2007, 12:26:52 PM »
I agree with Mark G. Simon - Strauss's friends were right. This ending is very tepid, there is no tension there, it goes out like a candle. For a work on such a grand scale, with so many heroic and passionate passages, it's vital to keep that spirit alive until the last bar.

Thanks for giving us the opportunity to hear Strauss's first thoughts, M forever!

Jez
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

M forever

  • Guest
Re: Hear the original ending of Strauss' "Ein Heldenleben"
« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2007, 12:39:12 PM »
I agree with Mark G. Simon - Strauss's friends were right. This ending is very tepid, there is no tension there, it goes out like a candle.

That's *exactly* the idea of the last section. The "hero" quietly "extinguishes" in the end (in the sense of "nirvana" which literally means "not blowing"), like a flame that has burnt brightly and violently in the wind but the wind never managed to blow it out. It survived all that and in the end goes out quietly and calmly by itself. Very poetic, Jezetha! You got exactly what Strauss had in mind.

For a work on such a grand scale, with so many heroic and passionate passages, it's vital to keep that spirit alive until the last bar.

Oh no, you didn't. That spirit is *not* supposed to be alive until the end because in the end the "hero" (and I am sure you know the "hero" thing here is a little tongue in cheek, not completely "heroic" in the standard sense to begin with) has left the world and all its troubles behind and found peace. Nothing heroic there left at all. Just inner peace.

That said, I also like the revised ending better.  ;D

The final "heroic" chords seem to be like an epilogue after the actual ending, an additional comment rather than a new ending, something which comes after the hero's life, looking back in time on it. Kind of like the first version ends with the hero having found his peace, and the second version doesn't change the basic "storyline" but adds a brief comment at the end, something like "and that was the hero's adventurous life", something that in an old movie would have been read by the storyteller from the off while the "The End" appears on screen and then it fades out.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2007, 12:45:07 PM by M forever »

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 8683
  • William Havergal Brian, symphonist (1876-1972)
    • JZH Text Services
  • Location: Delft, Netherlands
  • Currently Listening to:
    Bruckner, Wagner, Brian, Bax, Dyson, Delius...
Re: Hear the original ending of Strauss' "Ein Heldenleben"
« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2007, 01:20:48 PM »
Quote
That's *exactly* the idea of the last section. The "hero" quietly "extinguishes" in the end (...) like a flame that has burnt brightly and violently in the wind but the wind never managed to blow it out. It survived all that and in the end goes out quietly and calmly by itself.

I know, I know. That's what the programme says. That's the difficulty - programmatic closure and musical closure are two things. The programme says 'composer retreats from world' but the compostion demands that the storm, stress and resolution are put inside the right frame. As you say: 'The End', which balances the stirring opening of the work.

So we're agreed on that, I think!
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Mark G. Simon

  • Guest
Re: Hear the original ending of Strauss' "Ein Heldenleben"
« Reply #6 on: July 09, 2007, 01:25:14 PM »
I think, in general, Heldenleben is too much beholden to its program at the expense of musical sense. I'm glad he at least got the ending right.

M forever

  • Guest
Re: Hear the original ending of Strauss' "Ein Heldenleben"
« Reply #7 on: July 09, 2007, 02:13:40 PM »
I think, in general, Heldenleben is too much beholden to its program at the expense of musical sense. I'm glad he at least got the ending right.

That's probably only because you focus on it too much rather than appreciating the enormous complexity and inventiveness of the music itself. The program is actually rather simple, maybe even a little silly, but the musical substance is just awesome. I don't actually care too much for what "happens" in the individual scenes, and they are more character portraits anyway than actual "storyline" elements. An exception might be the "battle scene" which I personally don't like that much, but I can live with it. The introduction with its wealth of musical ideas and complex sounds alone is already worth the price of admission.

I know, I know. That's what the programme says. That's the difficulty - programmatic closure and musical closure are two things. The programme says 'composer retreats from world' but the compostion demands that the storm, stress and resolution are put inside the right frame. As you say: 'The End', which balances the stirring opening of the work.

So we're agreed on that, I think!

Not at all. The "The End" does not balance anything. There is no need to balance anything here. The musical form is dictated by the program, and the musical content does not necessarily need that either. There are a ton of musically very successful pieces which end very quietly after heavily dramatic "scenes". Many of Strauss' own tone poems fade out very quietly after a lot of "action". The question is whether or not that ending is musically prepared. And it certainly is here. The final "crisis" and "resolution" of the hero's conflicts does not come abruptly, it is well prepared and rather lengthy, a somewhat organic process rather than a sudden fading out.

Musically or programmatically, there is no need at all for the "heroic" ending. I still like it better, but not for these reasons. Simply because it sounds great. I just love it when the bass trumpet comes in with those very low notes (at least as long as the bass trumpet sounds really good, which rarely happens) and then how the sound opens up to those grandiose cords. Actually, it's rather more "hollow" and "superficial" than the original ending which is more "organic". But then I am hollow and superficial myself, so I like to hear those final chords.

Do you feel there is a need for some similar ending for the end of Mahler's 9th? I think not.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2007, 02:17:50 PM by M forever »

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 8683
  • William Havergal Brian, symphonist (1876-1972)
    • JZH Text Services
  • Location: Delft, Netherlands
  • Currently Listening to:
    Bruckner, Wagner, Brian, Bax, Dyson, Delius...
Re: Hear the original ending of Strauss' "Ein Heldenleben"
« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2007, 02:40:20 PM »
Quote
Do you feel there is a need for some similar ending for the end of Mahler's 9th? I think not.

No, of course I don't. The closing Adagio of Mahler's Ninth is one through-composed 'morendo', it's a dying-in-action, before our very ears.

Perhaps the grandiose ending of Heldenleben serves as a last reminder of the power and the struggle that was needed to reach so much tranquility? That's why it feels right, to me.

Jez
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Mark G. Simon

  • Guest
Re: Hear the original ending of Strauss' "Ein Heldenleben"
« Reply #9 on: July 09, 2007, 06:37:52 PM »
That's probably only because you focus on it too much rather than appreciating the enormous complexity and inventiveness of the music itself.

Actually, the program is the only thing that gives this bombastic piece of claptrap* even the tiniest semblance of coherence. But the thing that makes the original ending ineffective is not just that it fades away, but that it does so in such a banal fashion: a steady, regular succession of V7-I-V7-I-V7-I. The revised version slips in a little chromatic side-step along the way that keeps your ears fresh before the ending. But really, this piece runs out of steam, musically, after the battle scene and the ensuing recap of the hero's theme. There's no musical reason why there should be two more sections after that, especially when one of them is nothing but a catalogue of themes from the composer's other works, kind of a musicalization of the back cover of the score. Strauss is just playing with his food, spinning out more and more music, simply because he can, not because he needs to. 

(* but somehow the bombastic parts are my favorite parts of the piece).

 

M forever

  • Guest
Re: Hear the original ending of Strauss' "Ein Heldenleben"
« Reply #10 on: July 09, 2007, 10:58:14 PM »
Strauss is just playing with his food, spinning out more and more music, simply because he can, not because he needs to. 

That is very true, but the nature of this "he can" is very impressive because Strauss was a great musician, that's why it's still fun to listen to. It's just very well written and scored music. Highly entertaining. Not maybe so much "high art" in the sense of being incredibly "deep". It doesn't even pretend to be. But that is actually part of the "program" itself, so that makes sense. Strauss had a rather unpretentious, earthy outlook on things. He just saw himself as master craftsman having fun with musical material. I find that a very good attitude. There are some composers who were "deeper", but then there were also many, many, too many who wanted to be deep but got stock splashing around pretentiously in knee-deep water.

Perhaps the grandiose ending of Heldenleben serves as a last reminder of the power and the struggle that was needed to reach so much tranquility? That's why it feels right, to me.

Could be. Or maybe it just sounds better to us because it's more bombastic, simple as that. Maybe we aren't as "deep" as we think we are?

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 8683
  • William Havergal Brian, symphonist (1876-1972)
    • JZH Text Services
  • Location: Delft, Netherlands
  • Currently Listening to:
    Bruckner, Wagner, Brian, Bax, Dyson, Delius...
Re: Hear the original ending of Strauss' "Ein Heldenleben"
« Reply #11 on: July 09, 2007, 11:20:16 PM »
Quote
Could be. Or maybe it just sounds better to us because it's more bombastic, simple as that.

I always hear the ending as an allusion to the opening of Also sprach Zarathustra, which I would call 'grand', 'powerful'. So I don't think either that opening or the ending of Heldenleben are in any sense 'bombastic'. But that's a matter of taste, of course.

Quick check - do you regard 'The Ride of the Valkyries' as bombastic or powerful?
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

M forever

  • Guest
Re: Hear the original ending of Strauss' "Ein Heldenleben"
« Reply #12 on: July 09, 2007, 11:41:26 PM »
Both. Mercilessly bombastic and also powerful. And a genius stroke of imaginative musical writing, as overplayed and banal as it sounds to us now. It is hard to imagine what kind of effect this must have had on the first listeners. Something like that had never been heard before, like a lot of the other crazy and imaginative stuff that Wagner came up. He was really good at finding the right notes to describe characters, events, moods graphically. And he exploited his own ideas shamelessly. They really went for it back then, with winged helmets and all that other totally hardcore stuff.

The ending of "Heldenleben" really has nothing at all to do with the opening of "Zarathustra". Totally different notes and harmonic context.

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 8683
  • William Havergal Brian, symphonist (1876-1972)
    • JZH Text Services
  • Location: Delft, Netherlands
  • Currently Listening to:
    Bruckner, Wagner, Brian, Bax, Dyson, Delius...
Re: Hear the original ending of Strauss' "Ein Heldenleben"
« Reply #13 on: July 09, 2007, 11:53:30 PM »
Quote
The ending of "Heldenleben" really has nothing at all to do with the opening of "Zarathustra". Totally different notes and harmonic context.

True, true. But I'm not talking about total identity. I hear a similarity in the gesture (the opening out, broken chords, the conquering, swelling sound) and - as we have had a whole potpourri of Straussian themes 15 minutes earlier, is it so fanciful to think this could be an allusion? That's how I hear it, at least.

And that's the nice thing about music: within certain limits (limits about which one can argue and argue) you're allowed to entertain such a thought.
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Buying Music From Amazon?
Please consider using these links. A small percentage of every sale using these links is passed on to GMG and helps keep this forum online.
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK