Shelley, Strauss & Goosby's Debut

with the NAC Orchestra

2025-01-15 20:00 2025-01-16 22:00 60 Canada/Eastern 🎟 NAC: Shelley, Strauss & Goosby's Debut

In-person event

28-year-old violin sensation Randall Goosby makes his Ottawa debut to perform Florence Price’s Violin Concerto No. 2.  The concert includes two dynamic pieces by Richard Strauss – Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks (the story of a legendary trickster) and Der Rosenkavalier (the Cavalier of the Rose).  The evening’s program includes premieres of musical companions to Strauss’s lively and luscious works by esteemed Canadian composers John Estacio and...

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Southam Hall,1 Elgin Street,Ottawa,Canada
January 15 - 16, 2025

≈ 2 hours · With intermission

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Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks

In 1888, convinced that his artistic direction was to create new forms for every new subject, Richard Strauss embarked on writing orchestral “tone poems”. A genre of instrumental music initially developed by Franz Liszt, the symphonic poem is a one-movement work that illustrates or evokes the content of an extra-musical source, be it a story, poem, or painting. It was a novel way to structure the experience of orchestral music compared to the traditional abstract forms of the four-movement symphony.

Strauss composed Macbeth that year, followed by Don Juan and Tod und Verklärung (Death and Transfiguration) in 1888–89. The latter two were so successful, they were quickly absorbed into the German performance repertory. In 1895, he completed Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche; it, too, was a hit and remains his most frequently performed orchestral work today.

Till is a roguish figure from medieval German folklore, who relished wreaking havoc and scandalizing authorities with his practical jokes targeting anyone too high on themselves or too rigid with their moral principles. For Strauss, rendering the prankster’s escapades in the form of a tone poem was an apt (albeit veiled) metaphor for himself as an artist disrupting the status quo of music composition at the time. The piece consists of a series of adventure episodes, vividly brought to life through the brilliant colour and scintillating textures of the composer’s orchestral writing, which demands highly virtuosic playing from all instruments.

An opening prologue has the effect of a fairy tale’s first line—"Once upon a time there was a knavish fool.” Two motifs are introduced: the first, smooth and charming, played by the violins, followed by a fanfare-like, (mock-)heroic horn solo. After an initial build-up, the clarinet intones a cheeky phrase—the charming melody sped up to evoke the prankster. Listen for this theme—a marker of Till’s presence—as it is transformed throughout the piece, during each of his antics.

After the prologue, Till goes off in search of excitement. In the first of his pranks, the music depicts him sneaking on tiptoe, then suddenly, with a cymbal crash, he bursts into a market square riding a horse. Mayhem ensues, as he scuttles away. He next appears at an elegant courtly dance, transformed into a charismatic seducer, represented by caressing phrases on solo violin and sinuous motifs in muted horns and trumpets. Later, the violin leaps high, then runs rapidly down a scale—a scream and subsequent fainting of a lady scandalized. Till moves on to a group of clergymen (bass clarinet, bassoons, and contrabassoon) in serious debate. In disguise (listen for an impish bass-line figure), he begins to mock them. The figure climbs through the instruments to the piccolo, reaching a peak, and after an orchestral raspberry, the jig is up with a gleeful polka dance. The offended clergymen attempt to collect themselves, while Till escapes again, unscathed.

The opening horn theme returns (in a different key) and builds to a climax—our prankster the swaggering hero. But an ominous drum roll and a tolling minor chord interrupts his revelry—found guilty of his offences, he’s sentenced for execution. He attempts to cajole and plead for his life, but a final shriek from the clarinet suggests it’s all over for him. In the epilogue, the smooth music of the opening returns, like an attempt to end with a moral to the tale…but in the closing moments, Till reappears to laughingly thumb his nose at us listeners.

John Estacio

Commissioned companion piece to Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks

Florence B. Price

Violin Concerto No. 2


Suite from Der Rosenkavalier

One of the 20th century’s operatic masterpieces, Der Rosenkavalier (The Knight of the Rose) was the first real collaboration between Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal, who wrote the original German libretto. Completed in 1910, it premiered on January 26, 1911, at the Königliches Opernhaus in Dresden to great acclaim. It became Strauss’s most popular opera and remains firmly established in the repertory. Most audiences nowadays encounter the music of Der Rosenkavalier through the concert suite being performed tonight. It’s believed to have been created in 1944 by the conductor Artur Rodziński, who, as the then-music director of the New York Philharmonic, led the first performance in October. The following year, Boosey & Hawkes published the arrangement with the composer’s approval.

The opera’s popularity owes much to Strauss’s appealing score, which is sumptuous and sparkling, rich in sonority, colour, and texture. It’s also strikingly modern, featuring the composer’s eclectic use of anachronistic styles and genres of music, including 18th century Classical style à la Mozart, Italian opera, late-Romantic era harmony and Wagnerian leitmotivic techniques, 19th century waltz (with allusions to Johann Strauss, Jr.), and early 20th-century chromaticism. Thus, as Strauss scholar Bryan Gilliam has noted, the music creates a multilayered “text” rich in historical meaning that underscores the opera’s central themes about time, transformation, and love. Set in 1740s Vienna, the beautiful Marschallin instigates the makeover of her youthful paramour Octavian (one of opera’s great trouser roles) into the Rose Knight, and in doing so, witnesses him and Sophie, a younger woman, fall in love. Though initially conflicted, she ultimately relinquishes him to Sophie in a poignant act of letting go.

The Suite is a tour of Der Rosenkavalier’s main highlights. It begins with the music that opens the opera, depicting Octavian and the Marschallin in the throes of passion—him represented by a confident upward motif played by horns, followed by her sighs. After reaching a climax, the music relaxes to bliss. It then jumps to Octavian’s transformation into the Rose Knight in Act Two (listen for a grand version of his motif) and his presentation of the engagement rose—on behalf of Baron Ochs—to Sophie von Faninal, the daughter of a wealthy man. This is music evoking a “meet-cute”—time seems to stand still, as flutes and piccolo, celesta, two harps, and three solo violins play an enchanting progression of twinkling chords; the shy tentativeness of the two would-be lovers gradually evolve into warm tenderness.

A sudden outburst breaks the reverie, and a frenzied episode follows, leading to “Ohne mich”, the favourite waltz tune of Baron Ochs, the Marschallin’s oafish and lecherous cousin who intends to marry Sophie. It’s first sung by muted violins, as if to themselves, then is further developed, featuring yet another variant of Octavian’s motif on solo violin, and builds to a full-orchestra rendition. A sensuous transition leads into the sublime trio (“Hab’ mir’s gelobt”) of Act Three in which the Marschallin surrenders Octavian to Sophie. She leaves them to sing a duet (“Spür nur dich/Ist ein Traum”), intoned here by first violins, after which the magical music from their initial meeting returns briefly. The Suite closes with a grand waltz, with Octavian’s motif appearing once more, in resplendent fashion, before the final flourish.

Program notes by Hannah Chan-Hartley, PhD

Alexina Louie

Commissioned companion piece to Rosenkavalier


  • Conductor Alexander Shelley
  • randall-goosby
    violin Randall Goosby
  • louie-headshot
    composer Alexina Louie
  • estacio-412-final-bw
    composer John Estacio

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees