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Gerard Schwarz uses his knowledge of Strauss's biography, and music theory to explain the music and genius of Richard Strauss.
The course spends a lot of time explaining how the life of Strauss and events that were happening therein influenced his music. This formed and integral foundation for the further understanding of Strauss, and how his musical abilities developed from his first forays into the business as a teenager.
As a young adult Strauss became noted for tone poems, or program music being able to set even highly philosophical pieces to music in such a way as to capture the theme and emotion of Nietzsche's "Thus Spake Zarathustra." The theory of tone poems are thoroughly explained. In fact much time is spent on music theory, and this continues throughout the lecture.
From there the lecture moves on to Strauss's work in Opera with special attention being paid to "The Dance of the Seven Veils" in Salome. Here talk of overtones, chords and intervals reaches a crescendo as you listen to the Eastern folk themed music and beats framing Salome's dance of seven veils.
Those listening to this series of lectures before attending a play or opera of Strauss will do well. They will have greater understanding of the music, the intent and the life of the composer that inspired it, and in turn their appreciation for the the play or opera will increase in proportion.
It should also be mentioned that though "Thus Spake Zarathustra", The Dance Seven Veils" and "Guntram" form the triangular frame of the lecture, other pieces are thrown into the mix for elucidation including his work associated with "Fantasia."