Strauss and Reger both had stints as conductor of the Court Orchestra at Meiningen (in 1885–6 and 1911–14 respectively) under the enlightened patronage of Duke Georg II of Saxe-Meiningen (1826–1914). It was there that Strauss composed his Burleske, one of his most assured early works, and one of his few pieces to show the unmistakable influence of Brahms. The Burleske has clear parallels with the second movement of Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto. According to Michael Kennedy, ‘the genius of the Burleske is that it shows Strauss using parody as an act of homage’. This is evident not only in the figurations and voicing of the piano part (moving from Brahmsian textures one moment to some decidedly Lisztian cascading octaves the next), but also—as Bryan Gilliam has noted—in the appearance of Wagner’s ‘Tristan chord’ in the cadenza, and allusions to the storm music from Die Walküre. Strauss willingly admitted that this piece was written at a time when his passion for Brahms—he called it ‘Brahmsschwärmerei’—was at its most intense. Hans von Bülow, for whom Strauss had intended the Burleske, declared it to be unplayable, but it was taken up by Eugen d’Albert a few years later, and dedicated to him. D’Albert gave the premiere in Eisenach on 21 June 1890, with Strauss conducting—the same concert included the premiere of Strauss’s Tod und Verklärung. D’Albert also provides a final link to Brahms: on 10 January 1896 he appeared with the Berlin Philharmonic playing both Brahms piano concertos, with the composer conducting.
from notes by Nigel Simeone © 2011