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Death and Transfiguration (Tod und Verklarung), by Richard Strauss - pt.1

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Uploaded on Jan 15, 2012

This is one of the most moving pieces I know. It describes no less than the actual death process.
The work opens with a man on his deathbed during his final few moments. There are sweet memories, past loves and tender feelings; and then there are the terrors. During the titanic fight for his life we first hear the transfiguration, a rising 6-note theme which shows us his first signs of finally letting go and accepting the end. But the fight isn't over. Although the transfiguration theme gains power, he still suffers bursts of terror. However, after the fear and the sweat the music then subsides to funereal depths. Low woodwind, strings and a tam-tam (unpitched gong) beat out a very weak pulse, which fades and stops as the transfiguration theme finally takes flight. It ignites and blazes as his soul transcends this world. The music rises to an overwhelmingly euphoric climax before settling down to a radiant and serene finish. Peace has finally been achieved!
Strauss wrote this when he was just 25 years old and only a year after the virile and youthful tone poem, Don Juan. More than fifty years later, on his actual death bed, he said he'd got it right when he wrote Death and Transfiguration. I love this work. It speaks of the most profound journey we must all take and, in our own way, accept and find peace with. It gives me hope and it can move me to tears, particularly this recording of Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic, from 1972. It achieves what few recordings can do, combining an overwhelming power with a genuinely cathartic release. Extraordinary and utterly beautiful! Listen to this with good kit. I like to use headphones because the experience is totally immersive. Switch off the lights, lie back and surrender! I love it. I hope you like it too xx

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