Le bourgeois Gentilhomme – suite, Op. 60

Richard Strauss and Hugo Hofmannsthal worked on the German adaptation of Moli?re’s Le bourgeois gentilhomme (The Bourgeois Gentleman) on and off from 1911 to 1917, and eventually together they produced four different works: 1. a play with Strauss’s incidental music, Ariadne in Naxos (which came from replacing the Turkish masquerade that rounds off Moli?re’s comedy with a one-act opera on an entirely different theme); 2. an opera with a new overture, completely independent from Moli?re’s work (the Ariadne in Naxos that is often performed today); 3. a work that returns to the original concept, with a finale resembling Moli?re’s instead of the opera (Der BürgeralsEdelmann); 4. a concert suite of the same title, compiled from the music of the latter work.
Arranged for chamber orchestra, the suite involves just 36 musicians, including a double wind ensemble, harp, piano, strings and percussions. Composed in archaising, Neo-classical style, the suite consists of nine parts, two of which draw on Jean-Baptiste Lully’s music. The movements are the following: 1. Ouverture (‘Jourdain – the bourgeois’); 2.Minuet; 3.The Fencing Master; 4.Entry and Dance of the Tailors; 5. Lully’s Minuet; 6.Courante;7.Entry of Cléonte (‘after Lully’); 8.Intermezzo (a portrait of two aristocrats); 9.The Dinner (‘Dinner-table music and dance of the kitchen boy). For each course of the meal Strauss serves appropriate musical excerpts. The Rhine salmon goes with Wagner’s opera Das Rheingold; the leg of mutton with a subtle reference to Strauss’s own Don Quixote; the roast blackbird and lark with the birdsong of Der Rosenkavalier…

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