Sunday, January 18, 2015

"Sophie's Choice" Uses Johann Strauss Jr. For Big Dance Scene

Sophie (Meryl Streep) and Nathan (Kevin Kline) are having an evening of Southern decadence when the scene climaxes with the two characters dancing romantically to "Frühlingsstimmen" of Johann Strauss II. "'Frühlingsstimmen' ('Voices of Spring'), Op. 410, is a waltz by Johann Strauss II, written in 1882, for orchestra and solo soprano voice. Strauss dedicated the work to the pianist and composer Alfred Grünfeld. The famous coloratura soprano Bertha Schwarz (stage name Bianca Bianchi) sang this concert aria at a grand matinée charity performance at the Theater an der Wien in aid of the 'Emperor Franz Josef and Empress Elisabeth Foundation for Indigent Austro-Hungarian subjects in Leipzig.' The waltz was not a great success at its premiere, but was more successful when performed on Strauss' tour of Russia in 1886. A piano arrangement by the composer contributed much to its success beyond Vienna. Bianca Bianchi was then a famous member of the Vienna Court Opera Theatre and Strauss was sufficiently inspired to compose a new work, a waltz for solo voice, for the acclaimed singer. The result was his world-renowned "Frühlingsstimmen" waltz which celebrated spring and remained one of the classical repertoire's most famous waltzes. The piece is sometimes used as an insertion aria in the act 2 ball scene of Strauss' operetta Die Fledermaus. The waltz makes a grand entry in the key of B-flat major with loud chords preceded with the waltz's three beats to the bar ushering the first waltz's gentle and swirling melody. The second waltz section invokes the joys of spring with the flute imitating birdsong and a pastoral scene. The plaintive and dramatic third section in F minor probably suggests spring showers whereas the fourth section that follows breaks out from the pensive mood with another cheerful melody in A-flat major. Without a coda, the familiar first waltz melody makes a grand entrance before its breathless finish, strong chords and the usual timpani drumroll and warm brass flourish. A performance lasts between seven and nine minutes." [Source] Watch Carlos Kleiber conduct an orchestral and Kathleen Battle sing a vocal version of "Frühlingsstimmen," as well as more information on Sophie's Choice, after the jump.



"Sophie's Choice is a 1982 American drama film directed by Alan J. Pakula, who adapted William Styron's novel of the same name. Meryl Streep stars as Sophie, a Polish immigrant who shares a boarding house in Brooklyn with her tempestuous lover, Nathan (Kevin Kline), and a young writer, Stingo (Peter MacNicol). Streep's performance was commended, and she received the Academy Award for Best Actress. The film was nominated for Best Cinematography (Néstor Almendros), Costume Design (Albert Wolsky), Best Music (Marvin Hamlisch), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Alan J. Pakula). British company ITC Entertainment produced the film, and Universal Pictures distributed and released it. In 1947, Stingo relocates to Brooklyn in order to write a novel and is befriended by Sophie Zawistowski, a Polish immigrant, and her emotionally unstable lover, Nathan Landau. One evening, Stingo learns from Sophie that she was married but her husband and her father were killed in a German work camp and that she was interned in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Nathan is constantly jealous, and when he is in one of his violent mood swings he convinces himself that Sophie is unfaithful to him and he abuses and harasses her. There is a flashback showing Nathan with Sophie who is near death due to anemia shortly after her immigration to the U.S. Sophie eventually reveals that her father was a Nazi sympathizer. Sophie's wartime lover, Józef, who lived with his half-sister, Wanda, was a leader in the Resistance. Wanda tried to convince Sophie to translate some stolen Gestapo documents, but Sophie declined, fearing she might endanger her children. Two weeks later, Józef was murdered by the Gestapo, and Sophie was arrested and sent to Auschwitz with her children. Nathan tells Sophie and Stingo that the research he is doing at a pharmaceutical company is so groundbreaking that he will win the Nobel Prize. At a meeting with Nathan's physician brother, Stingo learns that Nathan is a paranoid schizophrenic and that all of the schools that Nathan had attended were 'expensive funny farms.' He has a job in the library of a pharmaceutical firm, which his brother got for him, and only occasionally assists with research. After Nathan discharges a firearm over the telephone in a violent rage, Sophie and Stingo flee to a hotel. She reveals to him that, upon arrival at Auschwitz, she was forced to choose which one of her two children would be gassed and which would proceed to the labor camp. To avoid having both children killed, she chose her son, Jan, to be sent to the children's camp, and her daughter, Eva, to be sent to her death. Sophie and Stingo make love, but while Stingo is sleeping, Sophie returns to Nathan. Sophie and Nathan commit suicide by taking cyanide. Stingo recites the poem 'Ample Make This Bed' by Emily Dickinson—the American poet Sophie was fond of reading. Stingo moves to a small farm his father recently inherited in southern Virginia to finish writing his novel." [Source]

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