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13 January, 2012
"It is in learning music that many youthful hearts learn to love."
|Richard Strauss and His World|
When these essays were first published in 1992, Timothy
L. Jackson's thoughts on the "Four Last Songs" got the most
attention. Jackson argues, quite persuasively, that the four
songs were originally five, with the orchestral song "Ruhe,
meine Seele!" to be heard before "Im Abendrot." Elsewhere,
Leon Botstein contributes the "keynote address," taking up
the odd disjunction of Richard Strauss's life versus his
music. He demolishes the idea of Strauss having stylistic
shifts. Michael Steinberg takes on Strauss's behavior during
the Nazi era. Like Kirsten Flagstad, Karl Boehm, and
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Strauss will always be linked to his
politics. James Hepokoski offers a look at "Macbeth,"
Strauss's first tone poem. In general, the lesser-known
works such as "Intermezzo" and the "Burleske" for piano and
orchestra come up more than you would expect, with
correspondingly less on "Don Juan" or "Ariadne auf Naxos."
Two chapters offer selections from the composer's
correspondence, nicely translated by Susan Gillespie. The
essays are quite fine individually; taken together they
offer nothing less than a wholesale reevaluation of the
composer. Focusing on the "middle period" after "Elektra,"
editor Gilliam asks for a separation of style from
historical era, and it is the key to a much deeper
understanding of the music.
|Richard Strauss: Man, Musician, Enigma|
Michael Kennedy here undertakes to penetrate Strauss's
contradictions and see the man whole. Through his impressive
access to diaries, letters, and living relatives, he posits
an underlying consistency of attitude that made "art the
reality in [Strauss's] life." The central enigma about the
composer that fascinates Kennedy is the "disparity between
man and musician," the paradox that this fundamentally aloof
and reserved person, dedicated to bourgeois stability, could
produce music of such overpowering passion. While steering
clear of an overbearingly Freudian analysis, Kennedy reveals
the crucial significance of Strauss's mother's nervous
instability and the centrality of the work ethic inherited
from his father. The result was to make music "Strauss's
means of escape ... and in much of his music he wore a
mask." Yet for all his aloofness, Strauss "let [the mask]
slip"--another aspect of the enigma surrounding him--in such
compositions as "Don Quixote" ("the most profound" of his
orchestral works) or the pervasively autobiographical
"Capriccio," which Kennedy counts as Strauss's greatest
achievement for the lyrical stage. He is particularly
persuasive in his high estimation of the post-"Rosenkavalier"
output and the undiminished quest for artistic innovation
that they continued to exemplify--above all in Strauss's
development of a fluently conversational style in his
operas. Kennedy similarly demystifies much of the received
opinion that has developed around the composer, particularly
in the level-headed portrait of his wife, Pauline. The
fundamental happiness of their lifelong relationship emerges
as a context indispensable to Strauss's creative focus.
Kennedy devotes a significant portion of the book to the
composer's position as president of the Reich Music Chamber
and subsequent fall from grace both with the Nazis and in
world opinion. In his view, Strauss becomes a "tragic
figure, symbolizing the struggle to preserve beauty and
style in Western European culture" against emerging
barbarism. This biography largely succeeds in pointing to a
greatness that "has not yet been fully understood and
|Talks With Great Composers|
(Arthur M. Abell)
Between 1890 and 1917, Abell engaged in lengthy, candid conversations with the greatest composers of his day--Johannes Brahms, Giacomo Puccini, Richard Strauss, Engelbert Humperdinck, Max Brunch, and Evard Grieg--about the intellectual, psychic, and spiritual tensions of their creative endeavors. This book is the result of those conversations, and is, quite simply, a masterpiece that reveals the agony, triumphs, and the religiosity inherent in the creative mind.