The Annotated Elektra Libretto: Strauss's Preliminary Musical Thought

Two surviving textual sources for Elektra contain musical commentary by Strauss; they document some of his earliest musical ideas about the opera. The first source is Strauss's copy (RSA) of the fifth edition ( 1904) of Hofinannsthal's play. Furthermore, there also exist two separate folios, originally part of the Anna Bahr-Mildenburg Nachlass, owned, since 1947, by the Theatre Collection of the Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek (ONB). These two folios, written entirely in the composer's hand, contain only part of the play: the Recognition Scene to the end of the scene with Aegisthus. But before delving into these manuscripts and the significance of the musical material contained in them, we should first establish a general framework outlining Strauss's compositional methods.

Strauss never gave a specific account of his working procedure, a fact that is further obscured by a lack of good documentation for those instances when he did address the subject. Perhaps the most often-quoted passage concerning Strauss's method of composing-referring in this case to opera -- originated from a chapter ( 'The Composer Speaks') in a book on contemporary composers by David Ewen. It is taken from an undated, unnamed American newspaper:

I compose everywhere, walking or driving, eating or drinking, at home or abroad, in noisy hotels, in my garden, in railway carriages. My sketchbook never leaves me, and as soon as a motif strikes me I jot it down. One of the most important melodies from my opera, Der Rosenkavalier, struck me while I was playing a Bavarian card game. But before I improvise even the smallest


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Richard Strauss's Elektra


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