The Ballet Collaborations of Richard Strauss

The Ballet Collaborations of Richard Strauss

Wayne Heisler Jr.


University of Rochester Press



A richly interdisciplinary study of Strauss's contributions to ballet, his collaboration with prominent dance artists of his time, and his explorations of musical modernism.
Richard Strauss contributed music to several ballets during his career, collaborating with prominent dance artists of his time. His ballets include an unfinished Die Insel Kythere (The Island of Cythera), 1900), inspired by French Rococo paintings; Josephslegende (The Legend of Joseph, 1914), choreographed by Léonide Massine for the Ballets Russes; a 1923 Ballettsoirée with dances by Heinrich Kröller, showcasing the Vienna Ballet and including Strauss's arrangements of music by François Couperin; Schlagobers (Whipped Cream, 1924), a "Comic Viennese Ballet" choreographed by Kröller; and Verklungene Feste: Tanzvisionen aus Zwei Jahrhunderten (Faded Celebrations: Dance Visions from Two Centuries, 1941), premiered in Munich with meta-historical dances by the dancer-choreographer team Pia and Pino Mlakar.
In The Ballet Collaborations of Richard Strauss, Heisler considers Strauss's ballet scores alongside story, mise-en-scène, and choreography, revealing Strauss's shift from a parodic conception of classical dance in the years leading up to World War I to a belated obsession with Romantic-era ballet in its aftermath. Heisler explores issues central to Strauss's relationship to modernism: his mining in Die Insel Kythere (1900) of the decorative aspects of dance, suggesting a shared sensibility with fin-de-siècle Jugendstil and a critique of Romanticism; the dynamics of collective creation and Strauss's penchant for parody in relation to Josephslegende (1914); his stance on interwar cultural politics through the 1923 Ballettsoirée and Schlagobers (1924); and Verklungene Feste (1941) as this composer's autumnal meditation on the conceit of music and dance as vehicles for transcendence. The Ballet Collaborations of Richard Strauss is a richly interdisciplinary study that promises to nuance the popular, critical, and academic reception of this ever-popular composer.

Wayne Heisler Jr. is Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Historical and Cultural Studies in Music at The College of New Jersey.


August 2009
23 black and white, 25 line illustrations
361 pages
9x6 in
Eastman Studies in Music
ISBN: 9781580463218
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
University of Rochester Press
BISAC MUS020000, MUS050000, MUS006000
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Table of Contents

Richard Strauss, Dance, and Ballet
Strauss en route to Die Insel Kythere (The Isle of Cythera, 1900)
Josephslegende (The Legend of Joseph, 1914), Léonide Massine, and the Music Box Dancer
The Strauss-Heinrich Kröller Ballettsoirée (1923) and Interwar Viennese Cultural Politics
Kitsch and Schlagobers (Whipped Cream, 1924)
Verstrausster Couperin, Verklingender Strauss, Verklungene Feste: Tanzvisionen aus Zwei Jahrhunderten (Bygone Celebrations: Dance Visions from Two Centuries, 1941)


Build(s) a case for Strauss as a spiritual ancestor of Parisian neoclassicism. . . . Lucid detail. . . . Considerable interdisciplinary virtuosity. . . . Energetic sleuthing. . . . A careful teasing apart of the modernist implications of nostalgia, irony, pastiche, and so on. . . . Rich and sensitively conceived. JOURNAL OF MUSICOLOGICAL RESEARCH (Charles Youmans)

Admirably clear in structure. . . . The nearest thing to a definitive study we are ever likely to have. . . . Will (help evade) the boundary traditionally maintained between musicology and dance studies. . . . Expertly carried out. . . . Entertaining prose and robust conclusions. MUSIC AND LETTERS (Hugo Shirley)

This is a breath of fresh air, and it not only expands Strauss scholarship, but the (all too separate) historiographies of dance and music. --Marian Smith, author of Ballet and Opera in the Age of Giselle

"Wagner does not dance," Nietzsche once asserted. Richard Strauss, too, sometimes used dance to differentiate himself from Wagner, but in music rather than words. Though dance was not Strauss's principal genre, it played an important role at critical times in his life: the pre-Salome period, the unstable Weimar years, and during the era of National Socialism. Heisler's book on the ballet collaborations fills a large gap in Strauss research and twentieth-century dance studies in general. A must read. --Bryan Gilliam, author of The Life of Richard Strauss and editor of Richard Strauss and His World

Wayne Heisler demonstrates with brilliant clarity that dance plays a central role within the composition and study of music. Discussing the Richard Strauss milieu, he also reveals a hitherto little-known, but fascinating, aspect of German dance history. His book is a model of meticulous, interdisciplinary scholarship. --Stephanie Jordan, author of Stravinsky Dances: Re-visions across a Century

A truly interdisciplinary work. . . . Extensively illustrated with an abundant mixture of pictorial and musical examples . . . Meticulous research. . . . A valuable addition to musicological literature on Strauss and to emergent dance-musicology. JOURNAL OF THE SOCIETY FOR MUSICOLOGY IN IRELAND

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