„Der Rosenkavalier“ – Chamber Version with Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

This post is partly an advertisment and partly a success story of creating Beautiful Scores with LilyPond which I had the opportunity to experience recently.

2015, April 26th, 3pm and 5pm we will play a children’s version of Richard Strauss’ „Der Rosenkavalier“ in the Philharmonie of Berlin, commissioned and played by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. I made the arrangement, the engraving, and I will conduct these performances.

Since 2013, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra is the orchestra in residence for the Easter Festival of Baden-Baden. Besides a large opera production in the biggest opera hall of Germany, there are numerous symphonic concerts, chamber music concerts, a chamber opera in the historical Theatre of Baden-Baden and a children’s version of the main opera. This is a cooperation between the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Academy „Musiktheater heute“ of the Deutsche Bank Foundation.

In 2015 the main opera was „Der Rosenkavalier“ (1911) by Richard Strauss, and so the children’s opera became „Der kleine Rosenkavalier“ (The little Knight of the Rose), a one-hour version for children aged 5 to 10 – and the first approved children’s arrangement of the opera. Last summer I was appointed with the arrangement of the music for 13 musicians and 4 singers. We chose the excerpts with director Hersilie Ewald and the dramatic adviser Sophie Borchmeyer. We planned a total duration of one hour, so that we only kept 40 minutes of the 3,45 hours opera – but the most beautiful ones!

The original orchestra of Strauss has over 100 musicians and it has to be reduced to… 13!
The instrumentation of our version is:

  • 1 flute (piccolo)
  • 1 oboe (english horn)
  • 1 clarinet
  • 1 bassoon (contrabassoon)
  • 1 french horn
  • 1 harp
  • 1 harmonium / celesta
  • 1 percussion player
  • 2 violins
  • 1 viola
  • 1 violoncello
  • 1 contrabass

This chamber orchestra is very near of the one Schoenberg used for his version of „Das Lied von der Erde“ of Gustav Mahler – except I didn’t use the piano.

I tried to preserve the orchestral colors as much as possible, and almost all the wind soli remained unchanged. The harmonium has a very useful filling function. The bassoon plays often melodically in a high register, the french horn must play both deep and high and generally the orchestra parts are slightly more difficult than the original – which is already a challenge for every orchestra musician!

I first wrote the whole score by hand. In a second work phase I copied it in LilyPond. I used TextMate as my editor because of the possibility of using shortcuts for highly user-settable commands I use often.
The LilyPond input was quite quick: on good days I could enter 20 pages of orchestral music. LilyPond still has some bugs… For example the standard setting doesn’t avoid collision of accidentals and slurs:
Walzer with collision
which should be corrected to
Capture d’écran 2015-04-20 à 16.17.58
I looked for examples and rules in the reference engraving books but I couldn’t find precise instructions… If someone has an idea?

And I got mad with the annoying issue 3287: when a clef change occurs at the end of a staff, the slurs in others staves are displayed wrong, while ties aren’t!

These are all little details but I got most of them corrected – some others not. With a lot of work and constant check up of Gould’s “Behind bars”, I produced nice scores and received very positive feedback from the musicians.

I would be very happy to see many LilyPond users in the hall to celebrate a glorious milestone in the LilyPond history: one of the best orchestras in the world playing with LilyPond scores – and enjoying it a lot!

More details and tickets

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