Next week, the Surrey Mozart Players kick off their season (more on that soon). As the Strauss Romanze is something of an oddity, the orchestra asked if I would write some notes for the program.
Richard Strauss- (1864-1949)
Romanze for Cello and Orchestra in F major, op 13 (1883)
Cellists are often reminded by our violinist and pianist colleagues of just how small our solo repertoire is in comparison to theirs. In our defence, we are often quick to mention that our Dvorak concerto is better than either of theirs, and that we also have the best Schumann concerto.
However, cellists have only themselves to blame for not recognizing the many wonderful pieces that haven’t made it into the repertoire. Such a work is the Strauss Romanze in F major heard this evening. Few composers ever wrote so much and so well in their old age as Strauss- one has only to think of Metamorphosen, the Four Last Songs and the Oboe Concerto (to be heard on the next SMP concert). However, equally few wrote so much and so well in their teens– when the nineteen year-old Richard Strauss set to work on this piece he, already had several masterpieces under his belt, including the Cello and Violin Sonatas and the Horn Concerto no. 1. While the Horn Concerto has become a staple of the repertoire and the two sonatas are at least well known, the Romanze nearly disappeared from the repertoire for over 100 years.
Its earliest champion was the cellist Hans Wihan, who was also the dedicatee of the Dvorak Cello Concerto. Wihan, to whom Strauss dedicated the piece, seemed to understand the key to musical immortality- he championed new music. The piece shows the young Strauss as an inventive melodist and a master-orchestrator. After over 100 years of neglect, this gem of the Romantic era is finally becoming known again