Strauss wrote program music across his entire life. It was in the 1880s and 90s, however, that he composed a steady stream of his best-known tone poems. "Don Quixote" was one of the last of these. Based on the early seventeenth-century novel by Cervantes, Strauss's tone poem tells the tale of the elderly gentleman of La Mancha whose immersion in chivalric romances causes him to lose his mind and believe himself a knight. Strauss frequently gives the "voice" of Don Quixote to the solo cello, and that of his squire Sancho Panza to the solo viola. Some of Strauss's most flamboyant use of color shows up in this work, with the orchestra depicting, among other things, bleating sheep!