Symphonia Domestica (Domestic Symphony), Op. 53, is a tone poem for large orchestra by Richard Strauss. The work is a musical reflection of the secure domestic life so valued by the composer himself and, as such, harmoniously conveys daily events and family life.
History and composition
In 1898, Strauss became the chief conductor of the Royal Court Opera in Berlin. It was at this point in his life that the composer took a keen interest in his own circumstances and turned his attention to his status and personal history. When he began composing the Symphonia Domestica, he intended it to be the sequel to A Hero's Life, the next installment of the autobiography of the now-successful artist. Of it, Strauss said "My next tone poem will represent a day in my family life. It will be partly lyrical, partly humorous – a triple fugue will bring together Papa, Mama and Baby."
The piece is scored for piccolo, 3 flutes, 2 oboes, oboe d'amore, English horn, clarinet in D, 3 clarinets (1 & 2 in B♭, 3 in A), bass clarinet in B♭, 4 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 saxophones (soprano in C, alto in F, baritone in F, bass in C), 8 horns in F, 4 trumpets in F and C, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, tenor drum, bass drum, triangle, cymbals, antique cymbals, tambourine, glockenspiel, 2 harps, and strings.
The program of the work reflects the simplicity of the subject-matter. After the whole extended family (including the aunts and uncles) has been introduced, the parents are heard alone with their child. The next section is a three-part adagio which begins with the husband's activities. The clock striking 7am launches the finale.
The most detailed exposition of the work's structure is that which was provided for the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra's performance on December 12, 1904. On that occasion, the concert programme carried the following outline:
- I. Introduction and development of the chief groups of themes
- The husband's themes (F major):
(a) Easy-going (gemächlich)
(b) Dreamy (träumerisch)
(c) Surly (mürrisch)
(d) Fiery (feurig)
- The wife's themes (B major):
(a) Lively and gay (sehr lebhaft)
- The child's theme (d minor):
Tranquil (ruhig) Observation that the child is "Just like Papa" and "Just like Mama" with the initial musical motives of the father's theme and mother's theme which are musical inversions of each other.
- II. Scherzo
- Parents' happiness. Childish play.
Cradle song [quotation from Felix Mendelssohn's Op.19b, No. 6 "Venezianisches Gondellied"] (The clock strikes seven in the evening).
- III. Adagio
- Doing and thinking. Love scene. Dreams and cares (the clock strikes seven in the morning).
- IV. Finale
- Awakening and merry dispute (double fugue). Joyous confusion.
Strauss reserved the premiere for his American tour in 1904, and Carnegie Hall in New York was booked. He would conduct it himself. Originally the premiere was scheduled for March 9, but the orchestral parts were delayed, so it was postponed to March 21. The later date allowed more rehearsals, of which 15 were required before Strauss was satisfied. The Wetzler Symphony Orchestra was adequate, but not much more. During a performance of his Don Quixote two nights earlier, the orchestra had broken down in the middle of the piece.
Nevertheless, the performance was a great success, so much so that he was prevailed upon to conduct two more performances in Wanamaker's department store in New York, on 16 and 18 April, for a fee of $1,000. An entire sales floor had to be cleared to make way for the huge orchestra, and the concerts attracted audiences of 6,000 people. The New York and German press were very critical, not just of these exhibitions but of the very work itself, regarding them as a blatant commercialization of the sacred art of music and the intimacy of family life. Strauss responded: "True art ennobles this Hall, and a respectable fee for his wife and child is no disgrace even for an artist".
A typical performance of the work lasts approximately forty-four minutes.
In 1924 Strauss wrote the Wedding Prelude for two harmoniums (Trv 247) for the occasion of the wedding of his son Franz with Alice Grab-Hermannswörth, based largely on themes found in the Symphonia Domestica. In 1925, Strauss wrote a piece for Paul Wittgenstein for piano left-hand and orchestra, again using themes from the Symphonia Domestica, titled Parergon zur Symphonia Domestica, Op. 73.
|Eugene Ormandy||Philadelphia Orchestra||1938|
|Carl Schuricht||Orchestra of La Scala Opera House, Milan||1941|
|Richard Strauss||Vienna Philharmonic||1944|
|Wilhelm Furtwängler||Berliner Philharmoniker||1944|
|Franz Konwitschny||Staatskapelle Dresden||1956|
|Clemens Krauss||Vienna Philharmonic||1952|
|Fritz Reiner||Chicago Symphony Orchestra||1956|
|George Szell||Cleveland Orchestra||1957|
|Dimitri Mitropoulos||Wiener Philharmoniker||1957|
|Zubin Mehta||Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra||1968|
|Rudolf Kempe||Staatskapelle Dresden||1972|
|Herbert von Karajan||Berliner Philharmoniker||1973|
|Lorin Maazel||Vienna Philharmonic||1983|
|Zubin Mehta||Berliner Philharmoniker||1985|
|Neeme Järvi||Scottish National Orchestra||1986|
|Gerard Schwarz||Seattle Symphony||1988|
|Edo de Waart||Minnesota Orchestra||1990|
|Wolfgang Sawallisch||Philadelphia Orchestra||1993|
|Lorin Maazel||Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra||1995|
|André Previn||Vienna Philharmonic||1995|
|Vladimir Ashkenazy||Czech Philharmonic Orchestra||1997|
|David Zinman||Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra||2002|
|Antoni Wit||Staatskapelle Weimar||2009|
|Marek Janowski||Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin||2015|
- Content from adaptation of the notes of Ernst Krause.