In October of 2014, DYNAMIC released the first volume of Dario Bonuccelli’s project to record the complete works for solo piano by Richard Strauss. As was observed on this site at that time, Bonuccelli seems to have an interest in performing music by composers not particularly known for writing for piano as a solo instrument. Prior to beginning his Strauss project, he had celebrated the 200th birthday of Richard Wagner with a recording of that composer’s complete piano works. Strauss’ case, however, was a bit more extreme, since his first solo piano composition (a polka) was written at the age of six, the same age in which he wrote his first song for voice and piano, a genre for which he is much better known.
Bonuccelli’s first volume thus covered compositions written between 1870 and 1882; and only the latest of these had an Opus number (Opus 3). The span of the second volume, released today, overlaps that of the first, beginning in 1874 with a C major fantasia and extending to 1884 with a solo performance of the Opus 9 Stimmungsbilder (mood-pictures) suite, originally composed for two pianos. This volume also includes Strauss’ very first piano sonata (TrV 47 in E major); but it does not include the only published sonata, Opus 5 in B minor. Thus, at least one more volume must be on the way and possibly more if one takes into account the many short unpublished pieces Strauss wrote prior to 1880.
In writing about the first volume, this site suggested that Strauss’ juvenilia shared with that of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart a sense of playfulness. In the second volume there is a clear sense that Strauss is allowing himself to be guided by influences from the past. The strongest of those influences is clearly Mozart, which would lead one to believe that his early music education (which he received from his father) involved exposure to a healthy amount of Mozart’s solo piano music. One might even imagine Strauss’ father trying to shape his own prodigy-son by turning to piano compositions by child prodigy Mozart.
The results will probably pique the curiosity of those with academic interests. However, concert-goers would probably not be interested for very long in any of this music being included in a piano recital in any capacity other than a guess-what-this-is encore. Things change a bit by the time the album has progressed to the Stimmungsbilder, however, if only because it gives the impression that Robert Schumann has entered the young Strauss’ sphere of interests. This reinforces the hypothesis of a correlation between what Strauss may have learned to play on piano and what he chose to write for piano.
Perhaps, by the time Bonuccelli has advanced to his third volume, he will be playing music less determined by influence and more a product of Strauss finding his own voice.