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Thesis (M.M.)—University of Nebraska—Lincoln, 1955. Department of Music.


Copyright 1955, the author. Used by permission.


The purpose of this examination of the musical style of Richard Strauss has been to determine if there are elements in his compositions which represent significant contributions to music.This study was limited to a discussion of the tone poems, since they were adequate for an elucidation of his style and since it is generally conceded that they represent his greatest contribution in the field of instrumental writing.

The musical content of his works was discussed from three angles, thematic material, contrapuntal devices and harmonic structure.It was pointed out that in many respects he utilized Classic and Romantic principles.This adherence to the traditional was also evident in the various forms he employed in the tone poems.In regard to his orchestration he admitted his indebtedness to Wagner.While he believed in expressing things in the simplest way possible, he was fascinated with the challenge of scoring for an enlarged orchestra.

In contrast to the emphasis on traditional elements in the writing of Strauss, his singular treatment of the melodic line stands out as perhaps his most significant contribution.It is in the ingeniousness of his thematic material that his inventive power is most apparent.The rhythmic and melodic peculiarities of his motives explain the particular flavor of the Straussian style.Because of his re-interpretation of the melodic line as a dynamic power rather than a song-like melody, audiences found his music bold and daring, and some regarded it as the antithesis to music.The particular contour of his themes is one of the most important characteristics of his style because it determined the entire form of his composition.Themes such as these could be best exploited by the vast coloristic possibilities of the modern orchestra, and the poetic ideas which generated them found their logical means of expansion in the symphonic poem.As a result this instrumental form was recognized as a medium for expressing the utmost poetic power of music.The tone poem was established as an instrumental form capable of concise and exact definition of a poetic idea.Orchestral players were required to play in the capacity of virtuosos, and instruments like the bass clarinet and tuba assumed considerable importance in the exposition of the whole.

Thus it may be stated that while there is much that is imitative in the writing of Strauss, his creativeness is most evident in the nature of his thematic ideas.His brilliant scoring represented new heights in the coloristic possibilities of the orchestra.Since these ideas reached their fulfillment through orchestral instruments, contributions to instrumental music have thus been realized.

Advisor: Emanuel Wishnow