In 1943, before allied bombing made it unsafe, Vienna was the primary residence of the German composer Richard Strauss. Now, in a city mad about music and opera, the presence of a composer of Strauss’s stature was not something that went unnoticed or unappreciated. The previous year, the Vienna City Council awarded Strauss its Beethoven Prize, and the composer, for his part, felt obliged to write a little something as a thank-you gesture.
The resulting piece was entitled “Festival Music for the City of Vienna,” and was scored for a brass ensemble sufficiently large to provide pomp and pageantry—and written in a style guaranteed to swell the breasts of the City Council with civic pride. Strauss himself conducted the Vienna Trumpet Corps in the premiere at the city’s Town Hall on April 9, 1943.
It’s a stirring piece, and went over so well that Strauss quickly made an arrangement for a smaller ensemble than the original, rather lavish, version for ten trumpets, seven trombones, two tubas, and timpani. It’s also quite possible that working on this piece reminded Strauss of some of his earliest compositions, which were also written for wind ensembles.
In any case, to keep himself busy while the disastrous course of the war meant the closure of theaters and fewer commissions for new music, Strauss began work on a piece for a small ensemble of wind and brass instruments, which would become his Sonatina No. 1.
Music Played in Today's Program
Richard Strauss (1864-1949)Festmusik der Stadt WienLocke Brass Consort;James Stobart, cond.Chandos 8419