Richard Strauss - Don Juan


The second of Strauss's eight Tone Poems tells the story of the Spanish lothario Don Juan as seen through the lens of Nikolaus Lenau's 1844 poem which has him searching for the perfect woman. As with all programmatic music, I urge you to research the stories to come to a deeper understanding of the music and therefore a deeper portrayal when you perform and audition.

The lustiness and exuberance of youth is on display in the orchestral fireworks that open this piece. Have fun with the runs, and keep your tongue sharp for some very fast repetitive triplets. Five measures before D is your first exposed part. Pick a high F-sharp fingering you can control, play in tune, and play pp. Your first big solo, in octaves with the horn, comes at the top of the second page, on the A clarinet. In the orchestra, you have to play quite strongly to compete with the other melodies that are added one by one until you are most likely going to be lost in the texture. In an audition, you can play a real p, but do a large cresc. over the course of the solo to show you know what's happening in the rest of the orchestra at that time.

The really big solo comes 16 measures after M. The oboe has a beautiful solo at M, and conductors usually indulge the music and go quite slow here. The harmony is more beautiful than you will get later, but listen to the oboe well so that you can phrase somewhat in imitation of them, particularly in whether you play the grace-notes on the beat or before. It is more common to have them on the beat, but if you're auditioning for an orchestra and know for sure which way they like it, then you can play it that way. Be flexible enough to be able to change it if asked. Conductors generally like to move the clarinet solo faster than the oboe. The harmony is more unusual here too, with more dissonant notes and appoggiaturas, and crescendos to their resolution. Enter softly and play dolce. You can be more expressive after the first phrase, when you enter on the G-sharp. Now you are playing counter-melody amongst a bunch of woodwind lines, but still the most important thing. Make a very expressive octave leap to the high E, with a subito piu piano on it and a cresc. after you reach it, getting softer as you fall down the C-sharp and A. At the molto esp. be suddenly more expressive and a step stronger. The second falling chromatic line, 11 before N, is often done as an echo, and the line starting at 9 before N continues the dim. Breathe before the C-sharp. It's usually suddenly faster there. After hitting the B half-note, you are now accompanimental, so play soft and without much expression, continuing to get softer, slower, and fading out at N.