Academic journal article Journal of Singing

A Musical Overview of Strauss's Krämerspiegel, Op. 66

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

A Musical Overview of Strauss's Krämerspiegel, Op. 66

Article excerpt

[This article is the second of a three-part series devoted to Strauss's Krämerspiegel, Op. 66 in honor of the 150th birthday of Richard Strausss (1864-1949).]


The first part of this three-part series placed Strauss's Krämerspiegel within the context of the German Liederkreis tradition. This portion will give the reader of an overview of the musical content of Op. 66, with special attention to the role that the piano plays in the structure and drama of the cycle. It will prepare the reader for the third and final part, which will fully explore the structural and dramatic role of the piano in the cycle. Before proceeding to an in-depth discussion of Krämerspiegel as a whole, it is necessary to familiarize the reader with the individual songs that comprise the cycle. This article will provide such an overview by briefly discussing the texts and general characteristics of each song.


With the important exception of the Krämerspiegel theme in Songs VIII and XII, Strauss's musical decisions in the cycle are directly inspired by the words. In this respect, he follows the conventions of other great lied composers. However, unlike Schumann and Wolf, who often obsessed over text-painting specific words within poetic lines, Strauss was more Brahmsian in the way he approached song writing; although he generally paid attention to the declamation of stressed and unstressed syllables, he more often allowed the general affect of a poem to inspire the general affect of the music.

Before proceeding directly to a discussion of each of the twelve songs, it may be helpful to review the overall form and structure of the cycle. As explained in the previous article, the cycle can be divided into two large sections: Songs I-VII comprise Part I of the cycle, and Songs VIII-XII comprise Part II. The texts of Part I are devoted to satire directed toward individual publishers, whereas the texts in Part II are directed toward publishers in general. Musically, Strauss matches the text of Part I with humor and irony. This satirical tone continues in the musical setting of Part II, but only in part; as we have seen, Strauss also introduces a much more serious and meditative character in Songs VIII and XII with the Krämerspiegel theme.

The Individual Songs of Krämerspiegel


Es war einmal ein Bock, ein Bock,

der frass an einem Blumenstock, der Bock.

Musik, du lichte Blumenzier,

wie schmazt der Bock voll Schmausegier!

Er möchte gar vermessen

die Blüten alle, alle fressen.

Du liebe Blüte wehre dich,

Du Bock und Gierschlung schere dich!

There once was a ram, a buck,

which fed upon a flowering potted plant, the buck.

Music, you light-flower adornment,

How smacks the lips of the buck, full of gluttony!

He would even like to survey

the blossoms all, all to devour.

Dear blossom defend yourself,

you buck and greedy guiper shear yourself!

The target of the first poem is Hugo Bock (1848-1932), head of the publishing firm Bote and Bock, the firm that published Strauss's Sinfonia Domestica, Op. 53 in 1903, and possessor of the dreaded contract that inspired the legal action against Strauss to fulfill his obligations.2 It is fitting then that Strauss would place this poem first in the collection, so that the first words that the audience would hear would be "Es war einmal ein Bock." The first line of text not only includes the obvious pun on Bock's name, but also parodies traditional openings of German fairy tales and folk poetry; these also often begin "Es war einmal..." When one realizes that the antagonist of the poem is Hugo Bock, one understands the allegory: the greedy publisher is ruthlessly feeding on the music (and thus, on composers as well).3

A long prelude in G major (mm. 1-18) opens the cycle, ironically setting the mock pastoral scene. …

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