Josephslegende (The Legend of Joseph), Op. 63, is a ballet in one act for the Ballets Russes based on the story of Potiphar's Wife, with a libretto by Hofmannsthal and Kessler and music by Richard Strauss. Composed in 1912–14, it premiered at the Paris Opera on 14 May 1914.
Hugo von Hofmannsthal first proposed the Josephslegende to Strauss as a Zwischenarbeit (interim work) between Ariadne auf Naxos and Die Frau ohne Schatten. Composition began in June 1912, but in a letter of 11 September Strauss confided that the work wasn't progressing as quickly as he expected: "The chaste Joseph himself isn't at all up my street, and if a thing bores me I find it difficult to set it to music. This God-seeker Joseph – he's going to be a hell of an effort!"
Strauss drew on earlier sketches for his abandoned ballet Die Insel Kythere and wrote for an outsized orchestra with exotic instrumental colouring including four harps, large and small cymbals, four pairs of castanets, heckelphone, and a contrabass clarinet.
Josephslegende is scored for the following instruments:
With Diaghilev as impresario, Nijinsky as choreographer and creator of the title role – replaced after his marriage and fall from grace by Fokine and Massine – costumes by Léon Bakst and Alexandre Benois, scenic design after Veronese by Josep Maria Sert, and Strauss conducting the premiere, the initial run lasted seven performances.
This was shortly followed by a further seven in London in June conducted by Richard Strauss (UK premier 23 June) and Sir Thomas Beecham, who had loaned the money for the commission to Diaghilev. With the looming war, Strauss never received his fee of 6,000 francs.
- Dresden Staatskapelle, conducted by Giuseppe Sinopoli (DG)
- Budapest Festival Orchestra, conducted by Ivan Fischer (Channel)
- The first complete recording of the work was performed in 1987 by the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Hiroshi Wakasugi
- Gilliam, Bryan (2001). Sadie, Stanley, ed. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 24. Oxford University Press. p. 517.
- A Working Friendship: The Correspondence between Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Trans. Hammelmann, Hanns & Osers, Ewald. Random House. 1961. p. 142.
- Heisler, Wayne (2009). The Ballet Collaborations of Richard Strauss. University of Rochester Press. pp. 46, 63f.
- Del Mar, Norman (2009) . Richard Strauss: A Critical Commentary on His Life and Works II. Faber and Faber. pp. 133, 144–5.
- Heisler, Wayne (2009). The Ballet Collaborations of Richard Strauss. University of Rochester Press. p. 240.
- Lesnig, Günther (1996). "75 Jahre seit der 'Deutsche Uraufführung' von 'Josephs Legende'". Richard Strauss-Blätter. 36: 3–51.
- Kennedy, Michael (2006). Richard Strauss: Man, Musician, Enigma. Cambridge University Press. p. 208.
- Del Mar, Norman (2009) . Richard Strauss: A Critical Commentary on His Life and Works II. Faber and Faber. pp. 148–150.
- Greenfield, Edward (14 July 2000). "The man who dared to monkey with Beethoven". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 January 2012.
- Ashley, Tim (13 April 2007). "Strauss: Josephslegende; Budapest Festival Orchestra/Fischer". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 January 2012.
- Josephs Legende, Op. 63, Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Hiroshi Wakasugi. Nippon Columbia, 1988