Richard Strauss

Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche (Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks), tone poem for orchestra, Op. 28 (TrV 171)

    Description by James Zychowicz

    One of Strauss' most popular symphonic poems is Till Eulenspiegel, a single-movement work for orchestra. It was composed between 1894 and 1895, shortly after the premiere and critical debacle of his first opera Guntram. In choosing the popular tale of Till Eulenspiegel as the basis for the tone poem, Strauss found an effective vehicle for responding to his critics, who treated his first opera unfavorably.

    The character of Till Eulenspiegel is a chronic prankster, whose unrelenting sense of the sardonic continually challenges his peers and lands him in trouble. Till would never learn from his mistakes and constantly thumbed his nose at convention and any criticism. The tone poem is based on a German folktale that has appeared in various versions since its first appearance in the fourteenth century. Some have found a historical basis for the character, but he is best understood as a kind of folk hero who challenges the establishment. While no single source contains all the adventures of Till Eulenspiegel, the character is recognizable in various adaptations, just as Strauss' musical depiction in the rondo theme is apparent throughout the musical compositions.

    The musical form of Till Eulenspiegel is a large-scale rondo. By identifying the character of Till with the rondo theme, Strauss found a way to demonstrate the recalcitrant nature of the protagonist and also to unify the work. After a brief introduction, often interpreted as an expression of "once upon a time," Strauss states the theme at the very beginning in a bravura passage for horn. The theme recurs between episodes of the rondo, and it is in those episodes that Till Eulenspiegel has his adventures. In terms of musical structure, the rondo-episodes provide contrast and, as they depart further from the main idea, they also set the stage for the return of the familiar rondo theme. The subsequent episodes show Till at odds with the peasants, railing at preachers, wooing a woman and being rejected by her, and making fun of the intelligentsia. Within these sections, Strauss allowed his theme for Till to return in various guises, yet still remain recognizable. Ultimately, Till finds himself brought before judges, who review his career and sentence him to death. Even then Till cannot depart without a mocking gesture, and the piece ends with his theme fully transformed with all its permutations exhausted.

    Till Eulenspiegel contains some of Strauss' most brilliant orchestration and makes use of various instruments, including the clarinet in D. Strauss approached the orchestration of this work with a kaleidoscopic hand, often abruptly shifting between instrumental groups. This gives the work its appealing color and also makes it a virtuoso piece for orchestra. In writing program music, Strauss chose a still-new approach to composition and aligned himself with the avant-garde. His brilliantly orchestrated score with its virtuosic instrumentation and colorful dissonances showed Strauss as a modernist. It remains a popular concert piece and one of Strauss' best-known compositions.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Introducing the Rogue
    2. Till's Pranks
    3. Till's Trial
    4. Sentence and Execution
    5. Epilogue

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2017 Warner Classics 561986
    2017 Capriccio Records C 8015
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4795805
    2016 Estonian Record Productions ERP 8916
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4796314
    2016 CuGate Classics CGC 005
    2016 Alpha ALPHA 236
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 002894794110
    2015 Erato
    2015 RCO RCO 15002
    2015 Maestro Classics SSD 1014
    2015 Radio France FRF 02027
    2014 Decca
    2014 National Youth Orchestra Canada
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon 4792686
    2014 Orfeo C 878141A
    2014 Praga PRD 350100
    2014 Sony Classical 88843070972
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 Oehms Classics OC 889
    2014 Andromeda ANDRCD 9120
    2014 Sony Classical 88843045052
    2013 Entertainment Group 14142
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon B001891302
    2013 Reference Recordings REFSACD 707
    2013 Hyperion CDA 67960
    2013 Haenssler / Hänssler Classic CD 93304
    2012 Erato / Teldec 2564663163
    2012 Altissimo ALT 61042
    2012 Entertainment Group 4056
    2012 Entertainment Group 1584
    2012 Dutton Laboratories 9816
    2012 Regis Records RRC 1371
    2012 MDG / Zebralution
    2012 Alto / Musical Concepts 1197
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099967831
    2012 Mark Custom Recording 2951
    2011 Urania WS 121116
    2011 SOMM SOMMB 31
    2011 RCA Red Seal 88697899792
    2011 The Entertainment Group 1037
    2011 Brilliant Classics 9249
    2011 Royal Philharmonic Masterworks / RPO RPM29260
    2011 Alto ALC 1134
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon 4779814
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon
    2011 Apex 67716
    2011 Warner Classics
    2011 EMI Classics 9187452
    2011 Meridian Records CDE 84568
    2011 EMI Classics
    2011 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099990811920
    2010 Orfeo 821102
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Haenssler / Hänssler Classic 93237
    2010 Decca
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Documents / Membran 232597
    2010 Haenssler 9065
    2010 BR Klassik 900707
    2010 Denon Classics / Denon Records
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099945633
    2010 Classics & Jazz / Deutsche Grammophon
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    2010 Guild / Guild Historical 2356
    2010 Opus KURA 2087
    2010 Urania 22416
    2009 Urania 22396
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    2009 Maestro Music 4693687
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    2009 Signum Classics / Signum UK 148
    2009 Documents/Membran 223508
    2008 RCO Live 08005
    2008 CAvi-music 553015
    2008 Deux-Elles 1122
    2008 EMI Music Distribution 3458262
    2008 Nimbus Records 7090
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 001038702
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    2008 PentaTone Classics 5186310
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099951203
    2007 Urania URN 22313
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    2007 Orfeo 746071
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    2000 Haenssler 93012
    2000 Teldec 82130
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    1999 London 448568
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    Deutsche Grammophon 427783
    Koch 7073
    History 203093
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    Decca 001078802
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    Document 205232
    Rca Red Seal 5959
    Document 203189303
    Urania
    McGraw Hill 700808
    Epic 88697280972
    Seraphim UK
    Supraphon 110572
    BBC Music Magazine 94
    EMI Music Distribution 66285
    Bescol 538
    LaserLight 14282
    CBS Records 44817
    Grammofono 2000 78682/3
    Teldec 3984-28409-2
    Capriccio Records 10369
    RCA Victor Red Seal 60173
    Seven Seas 2111
    Nuova Era 0136317
    Deutsche Grammophon 419599
    Chandos 8572
    Deutsche Grammophon 469073
    Denon Records 73801
    Brilliant 7591/3
    IMP Classics 954
    Tahra 1008
    Vox 5140
    Deutsche Grammophon 429925
    Supraphon 111938
    Collins Records 30042
    Collins Records 10302
    Decca 430445
    London 430445
    Hungaroton 12899
    EMI Music Distribution 4592
    Nimbus 5235
    London 414043
    Philips 411442
    Nuova Era 2234
    RCA 60561
    London 436444
    Arlecchino 102
    Testament 1383
    Arkadia 487
    Originals 839
    Teldec 843358
    Music & Arts 292
    Intersound 3457
    Koch 7053
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    Verbier Festival & Academy 2004
    EMI Music Distribution 561822
    Deutsche Grammophon 435333
    London 433330
    London 433331
    Arlecchino 111