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Strauss Don Juan – Violin I Part

Edited by Jorja Fleezanis

Title: Don Juan 
Composer: Richard Strauss
Instrument: Violin
Edited By: Jorja Fleezanis
Instrumentation: Orchestral
Pages: 11

The first violin part for Strauss' Don Juan, Op. 20 has been edited by Jorja Fleezanis, concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra from 1989 to 2009 and (when appointed) the second woman in the U.S. to hold the title of concertmaster in a major orchestra. Fleezanis' bowings, fingerings and other editorial markings have been added throughout the score.

Don Juan is an early tone poem by Richard Strauss. The work is scored for large orchestra in the key of E major. Strauss' wrote Don Juan in 1888 and premiered it in 1889 with the orchestra of the Weimar Opera, where he served as Court Kapellmeister.

The legend of Don Juan originated in Renaissance-era Spain and was the subject of many musical settings throughout the years, though Strauss' rendition is specifically based on the play by Nikolaus Lenau. His Don Juan is more of a psychologically-based question of values, rather than the simple condemnation of the lecherous character in Mozart’s version of the traditional story, Don Giovanni. In search of his ideal woman, Don Juan ruins several women along the way in his search for perfection. This becomes a burden to him as he realizes he has harmed so many, and – despairing of never finding his ideal woman – he surrenders his life to the brother of one of his victims in a duel.

Strauss's Don Juan represents several aspects of this story with individual themes: at least two memorable themes for Don Juan himself. A typical performance lasts around sixteen minutes, and the difficulty of the work has made excerpts from Don Juan a staple of orchestral auditions.

Download and print the score today to gain access to expertly edited Strauss Don Juan violin fingerings and bowings from Jorja Fleezanis!

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Be sure to check out Fleezanis' extensive interview with Ovation Press String Visions.  An excerpt from the interview follows:
Ovation Press: We have just released your edition of Richard Strauss’s Don Juan. It’s such a fantastic work and was incredibly successful with audiences and critics right from the first performance in 1889–and it’s now a defining piece in the symphonic canon. Having performed Don Juan numerous times over the years, do you have any stories to tell about playing it, learning it, or teaching it? 

Jorja Fleezanis: The poem by Nicholaus Lenau that inspired this work is in the front of the score and must be read if one is to truly understand the force of nature this work portrays so brilliantly. 

Being the theatrical genius of such gritty operas like Elektra and Salome, it is no surprise that Strauss would create ‘Don Juan’ into one of the most unrelenting and driving orchestral works in the literature. It is as virtuosic as its hero. For me, playing a note perfect version of any work without the blood and guts of the subtext, especially when it so vividly outlined by a source, is to miss the whole point. The opening gesture of seven fast notes, lunging upward after a gulp of quick silence on the downbeat, immediately sets us on course with flare and an unmistakable sense of this unstoppable, dominant character. Conductors such as Wolfgang Sawallisch and Edo de Waart, who had one foot in opera and the other in symphonic repertoire, brought visceral electricity to performances I played because they understood the larger than life subject matter and had the theater experience behind the language of Strauss in the opera house. Constant physical energy inside those many upward seven note figures throughout the work, the long melodic lines that are Straussian trademarks begging extreme fervor this unquenchable hunter of females, must motivate the performer very specifically. If you can make the connection of the point of this work to the ubiquitous first page excerpt many of you will play for auditions, you will never tire of working on the technical challenge as a means to a dramatic end.

Ovation Press: Starting Don Juan when playing it for an audition is incredibly difficult. What specific tips do you have for violinists to help them tackle the opening run?

Jorja Fleezanis: Here is my prescription for the that opening gesture: one, start firmly on the string, two, ONLY place the bow on the string on the upbeat inhalation the length of a half note in the temp, and three, the instant you exhale on the downbeat, PULL the bow as though you were letting go of a tightly pulled rubber band. Put a slight underscore pulse on the fourth note you play, which is on the third quarter note of the first bar, so that you very slightly balance between the first three notes as a pick up to the last four of the seven note figure.

Click below to preview or purchase a recording of the Minnesota Orchestra performing Strauss' Don Juan