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Richard Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks

Can you guess this piece? Here’s a hint: a roguish rondo…

Although Richard Strauss had contemplated writing a Till Eulenspiegel opera, he ultimately abandoned this project and told the story of his merry prankster in this programmatic orchestral rondo.

The richly detailed music depicts Till vandalizing a marketplace, seducing women, and mocking both the clergy and university professors.

Till first appears in German folklore of the late middle-ages and in the satirical literature of the Renaissance. In many illustrations, he is seen with an owl and a mirror, a reference to his name: “Eulen” (owl) and “Spiegel” (mirror), although it has also been speculated that the name is a pun on a Low German colloquialism meaning “Wipe your Buttocks!”

Ultimately condemned to death, a final, post-mortem statement of Till’s theme honors the eternal spirit of anarchic fun.

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