Macbeth is a symphonic poem written by Richard Strauss between 1886 and 1888. The work was his first tone poem, which Strauss described as "a completely new path" for him compositionally.


Macbeth is a symphonic poem written by Richard Strauss between 1886 and 1888. The work was his first tone poem, which Strauss described as "a completely new path" for him compositionally. Written in some semblance of sonata form,[3] the piece was revised more thoroughly than any of Strauss's other works; these revisions, focused primarily on the development and recapitulation sections, show how much the composer was struggling at this point in his career to balance narrative content with musical form. Bryan Gilliam writes in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians that, "New path or not, Macbeth failed to find a firm place in the concert repertory, because it lacked the thematic cogency and convincing pacing of musical events so evident in the two antecedent works [Don Juan and Tod und Verklärung (Death and Transfiguration)]. And despite revisions to the orchestration, in an attempt to restrain inner voices and highlight principal themes, Macbeth still falls short of Don Juan and Tod und Verklärung in sonic clarity."

The piece is scored for 3 flutes, (3rd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, bass trumpet, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, snare drum, cymbals, tam-tam and strings.

Description by Blair Johnston:

Richard Strauss was a veritable fountain of music in the 1880s and 1890s, and during these years it is a rare thing indeed to find him taking the time to tinker with an already-finished piece of music. But he was sufficiently dissatisfied with the first version (1886-1888) of his orchestral tone poem Macbeth, Op. 23, to withdraw it and completely rethink the matter of its ending. When the second version appeared some two years later and was given its Weimar premiere (October 13, 1890), all involved agreed that the changes made for a better piece. Still, however, Strauss' Macbeth remains the least fawned-over of his tone poem children, and one might have to wait many seasons to hear a live performance of the work.

Macbeth's unpopularity has been credited to many things over the years. It has been accused of having no memorable themes. Untrue -- the themes are mostly not of the long, voluptuous variety that admittedly endear listeners to Strauss' other tone poems, but there are plenty of extraordinary and evocative motives, and their use is ingenious. There is, in fact, one gloriously self-indulgent melody that might challenge any of Don Juan's famous tunes. Macbeth has been called too obvious an attempt to mimic the style of Liszt's symphonic poems, which is also untrue -- the work is, at heart, absolutely un-Lisztian. Probably the real reason is a very simple one: Shakespeare's drama is a cold, gray one, and Strauss' 20-minute condensation of it follows suit -- musicians and audiences don't seem to know what to do with a Strauss who isn't colorful, shimmering, and velvety. Strauss continued to alter the orchestration of Macbeth through 1891, perhaps with the idea of somewhat brightening the textures; but the work cannot escape the somberness and despondency of its subject, and there is no reason that it should. Strauss might well have created a more popular -- though by no means superior -- work had he never revised Macbeth. The original version concluded with MacDuff's triumphant entry into the castle, D major and robust. In the final version, a grim D minor ending was composed, providing the audience no light at the end of what Strauss himself sardonically described as a "horribly dissonant" tunnel. 

理查·施特劳斯 - 麦克白 Op.23
Composer: Richard Strauss 1886-1891
Based on: Shakespeare 1603
Opus/Catalogue Number:Op. 23
Duration: 0:19:07 ( Average )
Genre :Symphonic Poem


Update Time:2018-08-20 17:46