Classical & Opera: Yuri Temirkanov conducts the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Richard Strauss's Ein Heldenleben at Leeds Town Hall, tonight at 7.30pm, and at London's Royal Albert Hall, tomorrow at 7.30pm.
Saturday 22 March 1997
Cast in six interlinked sections and taking on the shape of a vast sonata movement, Ein Heldenleben begins by offering an idealised portrait of the hero, followed by charting his adversaries, his companion, his deeds in war, his works for peace and, finally, his retirement from the world. Yet the hero's companion takes on the shape of Strauss's wife, the opera singer Pauline; his adversaries are not military enemies but music critics; and the works for peace section consists of a brilliant tapestry of self- quotation from a host of Strauss's previous opuses.
It's all led some detractors to conclude that Heldenleben is little more than an overblown late Romantic and perhaps peculiarly Germanic piece of self-publicity. Which is perhaps to deny the obvious tongue-in-cheek nature of the entire enterprise, for the work abounds in wit and genial good humour. Yet leaving aside the autobiographical element altogether, one can't help marvel at Strauss's brilliant powers of invention or his ravishing scoring. He employs a massive orchestra, replete with elaborate percussion and a prominent octet of horns - instruments he described as "well versed in heroism."
The results amount to a splendid, vivid and virtuoso score which can test any orchestra and conductor to their limits. And even if the thrust of Ein Heldenleben is autobiographical, so what? It's a deliberately idealised form of autobiography, brimming with bathos. Irreverent and self-parodic, Heldenleben now comes over as an almost post-modern concoction which makes it as audacious today as it was when Strauss wrote it 99 years ago.
EYE ON THE NEW
A close friend of Grieg, Dvorak and Tchaikovsky and championed by, amongst others, Brahms, Beecham and Boult, yet half a century after her death (yes, her death), she is largely forgotten. The composer in question is Dame Ethel Smythe. The Dulwich Choral Society and the Ruskin Orchestra, conducted by Susan Farrow, attempt to make amends for this sorry state of affairs with an evening dedicated to her work. It features Smythe's March of the Women and Mass in D. Blackheath Concert Halls, (0181-463 0100), Blackheath, London SE3, tonight, 7.30pm
Final Top Gear reviewTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Isis propaganda video shows 25 Syrian soldiers executed by teenage militants in Palmyra
- 2 Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
- 3 The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
- 4 The biggest first date turnoff has been revealed
- 5 German man found living with 300 rats in tiny apartment
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture