Magazine article Gramophone

Beethoven * Glinka * R Strauss: 'The Princess & the Bear'

Magazine article Gramophone

Beethoven * Glinka * R Strauss: 'The Princess & the Bear'

Article excerpt

Beethoven * Glinka * R Strauss

'The Princess & the Bear' Beethoven Trio, Op 38 (a) Glinka Trio pathetique (a) R Strauss Duet-Concertino (b) Sarah Watts c/ Laurence Perkins bn (a) Martin Roscoe pf (b) Royal Scottish National Orchestra / Sian Edwards Hyperion (F) CDA68263 (76' * DDD)

Dating from 1948, Strauss's Duet Concertino for clarinet, bassoon, strings and harp was his final instrumental work, though unlike many of his late scores it has programmatic associations. Strauss once told Clemens Krauss that it was inspired by Hans Andersen's The Swineherd, about an impoverished prince who woos his princess while tending her father's pigs. In a letter to Hugo Burghauser, a former Vienna Philharmonic bassoonist and the work's dedicatee, however, Strauss came up with a fairy-tale scenario of his own, in which a princess (the clarinet) encounters a bear (the bassoon), who becomes a handsome prince when she agrees to dance with him.

Laurence Perkins, in a booklet note for his new recording with Sarah Watts and the RSNO, argues that we should ultimately think of it as Strauss's final tone poem. This is debatable, though the scenario certainly informs the clarinet's nervous flourishes after the bassoon's first entry and the transformation of the first movement's halting second subject into an expansive love theme in the Andante. The skittish final rondo, meanwhile, overlong in the opinion of many, gradually mutates into a Viennese waltz, not entirely inappropriate for a princess and her dancing-bear prince. …

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