Strauss wrote his "Burleske" when he was only 21. After Hans von Bülow judged it "unplayable", Strauss put it aside at first, but ultimately conducted its premiere in 1890 in Eisenach, with Eugen d'Albert as the soloist. The work contains all the signs of a budding musical personality and, in spite of the Brahmsian influence, it prefigures the composer of the Rosenkavalier much more than that of the symphonic poems. The French music commentator Claude Rostand once remarked that it was more of a "Baroque fantasy" than a "comical" work, even though there are traces of a humor that will return in "Till Eulenspiegel". Formally, the work can be seen as a Scherzo written in a sonata "first-movement" form. It opens Allegro vivace with the ground rhythm of the principal theme in four kettledrums; these instruments play an important role throughout the work and occasionally enter into a discourse with the piano. The orchestra replies, followed by the piano with the first and second themes. After an effective climax, the horn offers some new material. All this is worked out in an elaborate improvisation-like section. The coda features a piano cadenza, but it is the kettledrums that have the final words.
A versatile and highly respected conductor, Christoph von Dohnányi has pursued a remarkable career both in Europe and the United States. After completing a long tenure as musical director and manager of the Frankfurt Opera, he was appointed to the same posts at the Hamburg State Opera. In 1984 he succeeded Lorin Maazel as principal conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra. He became first guest conductor of the London Philharmonic in 1994 as well. His commitment to new music is evident both in concert and in recordings. He led the premieres of Henze's "Der junge Lord" and "Die Bassariden". The Austrian pianist Rudolf Buchbinder launched his international career as a soloist after winning the Lipatti Medal in 1962 and, particularly, the Special Prize in the Van Cliburn Competition in 1966.