Classical Haiku: Richard Strauss

Your music visits
a new key, and another,
and yet another . . .

If you’ve ever felt as though you’re on a banana peel while listening to Richard Strauss’ music – maybe one of his great tone poems, like Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, or music from one of his operas, like the waltzes from Der Rosenkavalier, it’s because, to a certain extent, you are.

Most composers before Strauss were content to write music that changes key only once in a while, say every few lines or so. Strauss, however, couldn’t contain his wanderlust, and so every few beats his music visits new keys. That’s what gives his music its slippery, ungraspable feel.

Let me draw an analogy in preset-day terms: if Richard Strauss were alive today, I think he’d be online all the time hopping around on every possible social media outlet there is. As we all know, it’s all too easy to log on and surf from one site to another to another. This is essentially what Strauss’ music does in moving so freely – and so often – from key to key: key surfing.

As a listener, it’s easy to get caught up in the tide of Strauss’ music. Its slinky melodies slide around like eels, and its orchestrations sparkle like summer sun on the ocean. But never fear: Strauss always brings us safely back to shore.

Today’s Classical Haiku honors Richard Strauss, whose music is a true journey in sound.

Comments