Richard III Overture, op. 68/Volkmann
March 14, 2015
Robert Volkmann (1815-1883) German composer was born in Saxony to a father who was a music director for a church. He had plans to prepare his son to take over position and as a result he learned to play organ, piano, violin, and cello. By the time he was twelve he was performing Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven in a string quartet. During his life he became friends with Lizst, Schumann, and Brahms later in his life. He went to Budapest in 1842 and except for four years in Vienna he spent the rest of his days there. His output as a composer was limited and many of his works were for piano. However he did gain some attention with his Piano Trio which was performed by Lizst and his Symphony No. 1 in d minor, although he was nearly fifty when he attempted it. Some of this could be attributed to a mental block undertaking a difficult task. Richard III was composed in 1870 one of his last works (68 of 71) and has some success if you measure it by the number of recordings. The last ten years of his life he did no composing which contributed to his lack of popularity.
Richard III was composed in 1870 and is considered to be a symphonic poem for a full orchestra, including a contra bassoon.Written in the key of F minor this work begins with a continuous note from the bassoon followed by another long note from the strings along with work from the timpani. This prelude (2+ minutes) leads us to a lovely melody from the oboe and flute which continues from the bassoon and clarinet. This melody seems out of place considering the overall dark nature of the work but it appears throughout the entire work. The battle section sounds like background music for a silent film (girl tied on the railroad tracks) slowly building to a rousing climax that is ended with the gong. Rising from the battle we hear a return to the original theme this time being played by the strings with harmony from the trombone.
If you like symphonic poems of this kind it will definitely to your liking. It can take its place on the shelf with the Hamlet Fantasy Overture and others. Nicely orchestrated this is an opportunity to explore one of our forgotten composers. The rest of the CD is filled with Lizst, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Rimsky Korsakov.
Total Playing Time: 01:13:47