Horn Concerto in C minor, op. 8
solo horn, flute, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, trombone, timpani, violins, violas, cellos, basses
notes by Anthony Suter
I. Allegro moderato
III. Allegro moderato
First performance: March 27, 1865, Munich. Franz Strauss, horn.
Though now more famous as the father of Richard Strauss, Franz Strauss was a very well-known horn player with a well-documented reputation for being both musically conservative and difficult to work with. Franz's musical aesthetics held up Mozart and Beethoven as the ultimate models, and his dislike for Wagner was no secret. He was, however, one of the most gifted and musical horn players of the day, so much of the time his rather stubborn personality and abrasiveness were tolerated. This was true even of Wagner; despite Strauss's public criticism of him, Wagner had Franz perform in the premieres of several of his operas. He once wrote that "Strauss is a detestable fellow, but when he plays his horn, one cannot sulk with him". Franz's conservatism was so strong that not even his son escaped comment. He famously remarked that the younger Strauss's masterwork Salome sounded like "a swarm of ants crawling in the seat of your trousers".
His aesthetic views and legendary musical skills (especially his uniquely rich, beautiful tone) immensely influenced his concerto. Unlike his son's concertos, which showcase amazing feats of technique on the instrument, Franz's 1865 contribution to the genre challenges the player's sense of musicality, tone, intonation, and melodic phrasing. The first movement opens like a traditional concerto, with the orchestra establishing the key and thematic material for the work. It is a rather stern military march, but in a surprising turn of events, the entrance of the solo horn also brings a lyrical new theme. The thematic material is not shared as much in this concerto as other concerto forms. As a result, the importance of the solo horn is always held primary.
The end of the first movement dovetails with the beginning of the second; there is not a traditional pause between movements. After a short orchestral interlude, the melodically-driven Andante begins. This movement highlights the kind of lyrical, balanced playing for which Strauss the horn player was known. The final movement is signaled by a timpani roll and is the most technically demanding movement of the work. Some of the leaps and runs no doubt inspired his son, who became rather notorious among horn players for writing very challenging horn parts in his own work—certainly a trait passed from father to son.
A Big Band Christmas Jam
Swing along with your favorite holiday tunes in this festive big band celebration.