About this work
Richard Strauss' Symphonic Fragment from The Legend of Joseph (1947) was assembled by the composer from a ballet the composer wrote for Diaghilev in 1914. Strauss' publishers had asked the composer to arrange the most effective portions from The Legend of Joseph into a form suitable for concert use, apparently in hopes of transforming the unsuccessful ballet into a more lucrative property. Musically speaking, the half-hour-long Symphonic Fragment, really a suite, presents a mixed bag.
Strauss had not been particularly enthusiastic about composing a ballet on the Biblical story of Joseph in the first place; the idea had been suggested by his longtime librettist, Hugo von Hofmannstal. Given such circumstances, it seems fair to say that Strauss never really put his heart into the ballet. While some of the music (Joseph's dance, for instance) is charming and graceful, much of the score seems to rely on orchestral effects to sustain listener interest: the massive ensemble Strauss calls for includes triple woodwinds, four harps, celeste, piano and organ.
The Symphonic Fragment was first performed in 1949 by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra conducted by Fritz Reiner.