Richard Strauss: Man, Musician, Enigma (英語) ペーパーバック – 2006/11/2
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This book re-evaluates a figure whom the author considers to be the greatest composer of the twentieth century. Kennedy deals fully with Strauss's life as leading composer and national figure in the Third Reich, during which he was both fêted and cold-shouldered by the authorities. In putting this period into perspective he draws heavily on hitherto ignored material, including Strauss's own letters and diaries. In addition he reveals much about Strauss's long, happy but tempestuous marriage to the soprano Pauline de Ahna as well as tracing the important relationships to his librettists Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Stefan Zweig, Joseph Gregor and Clemens Krauss. Kennedy reassesses the man and the music, revealing a picture of a level-headed, practical and extremely versatile musician - a great conductor as well as a great composer.
'Mr Kennedy's new biography of Strauss is certain to become the standard work, shaping the interpretations of a whole generation of Strauss's scholars (and ordinary music lovers) to come.' Sunday Telegraph
'One of the many merits of this excellently researched book is that it pinpoints the centrality to Strauss of his family life … It is worth reading … not only for its jaunty style, but also for the integrity with which it provides even discreditable information about its protagonist.' Gerald Kaufman, Daily Telegraph
'Although Kennedy refrains from detailed musical analysis, he is always interesting, if sometimes controversial, in his evaluation of Strauss's most important works and evangelical on behalf of his lesser known ones … Kennedy's book is an important and absorbing contribution to the continuing Strauss debate.' Hugh Canning, Sunday Times
'Michael Kennedy has written a fine work, which I believe will be the benchmark for all future biographies of Richard Strauss.' Literary Review
'Written in an elegantly accessible style, this is the most valuable book on Strauss and his music to have appeared in English.' Charles Osborne, BBC Music Magazine
'… his is one of the best balanced and most intelligent presentations of a composer's work I have ever encountered.' The Observer
'This is a highly enjoyable book. Kennedy gives a sensitive and judicious account of Strauss's life …' The Musical Times
'… majestic and beautifully written study … Here is a major contribution to musical literature at the highest level.' Musical Opinion
'… his abiding love of the subject and his gift for sane human judgements persistently edge us closer to the truth of the enigma that was Strauss.' Gramaphone
'… by virtue of his thoroughness and passion for the subject, Kennedy has given us even cause to celebrate Strauss …' Opera News
'Lord Harewood, the former chairman of English National Opera, reckons Kennedy's 'measured, accurate and penetrating championing' of Strauss to be his finest achievment, 'Strauss was, in some quarters, reviled, and Michael corrected that. He's not just a critic, but an excellent historian'.' The Sunday Telegraph
Kennedy's book brings a complex and paradoxical man to life in this book, yet a lot of what he writes is spent trying to explain, perhaps even absolve Strauss's apparent shortcomings in the parts of his life which are most discussed among historians and music lovers, namely the depth of his creativity and his seeming blindness to horrors committed by the Nazi regime from 1933 to 1945 in Germany.
Certainly Strauss's body of work is varied and extensive and much of it has enjoyed enormous popularity over the years. But as Kennedy himself seems to imply, he wrote for the masses, looking with a keen eye for symphonic and operatic "hits." And score them he did with "Electra," "Salome," "Der Rosenkavalier," "Also Sprach Zarathustra, "Ein Heldenleben," "Till Eulenspiegel..," and scores of lieder and other works.
For this reader I was left with the persistent question as to what constitutes "great" art. If staying power is a key ingredient, than Strauss's music is certainly great. Most of his output has great "legs" and will be heard in concert and opera halls for many years to come, just as will Puccini's and Verdi's works.
On the other hand, it is not deep, in the sense of Beethoven, Bruckner, or in particular Mahler, who believed in asking the great philosophic questions in his own art: What it means to be human, where we fit in the cosmos, etc. In a way, Strauss comes off in this book as someone along the lines of a Broadway composer. Detailing his relationship and work with librettist Hugo Hoffmanstall, we see the constant give and take between a poet who wants to confront the larger world and a musician who understands how to fill the seats. It was absolutely fascinating to read.
As for Strauss's activities during the Third Reich, he has popularly lived with the tag of "collaborator" to the Hitler regime, and Kennedy points out that the post-war de-nazification commission ruled that Strauss was not a collaborationist, and I choose to accept its findings. But certainly, Strauss chose not to disturb the waters as Hitler silenced, imprisoned and murdered millions, including artists, as Strauss composed and conducted all over Germany, ever watchful of his royalties and income, and even enlisting the help of well known Nazis as Baldur von Shirach and Hans Frank ("the butcher of Poland") for favors. Kennedy quotes Klaus Mann (the son of Thomas Mann): "[Strauss's] naiveté, his wicked, completely amoral egoism could be, almost, disarming...Frightening is the word. An artist of such sensitivity yet silent when it comes to questions of conscience...A great man, yet without greatness. I cannot help but be frightened of such a phenomenon and find it somewhat distasteful."
In the end, Strauss, who never apologized for a thing after the war was over, remains an enigma for this writer; a man who made incredibly wonderful music and who painted orchestral color with as broad a palette as anyone in musical history yet had personal flaws which will stand out in his story for as long as his music is heard. For me he will always be a "Yes, but..."
Kennedy forces his reader to consider these things. For that, I am appreciative of his book. This is one which should be in the library of ever lover of good music.
Kennedy seems to have slightly more passion for Strauss it turns out than for RVW or Elgar, or at least enough moxy to blow the cover off some well established sacred cows. I know that I was not expecting to read exactly what I read.
If you are even vaguely interested in the music of Strauss or even if you are simply intereted in the history of Germany from 1900 to 1950, then this is a very interesting read.
Very well done!
Kennedy observes that "Religion played no part in his upbringing." By 1892, "he had read Nietzsche's works and had been particularly attracted by 'his polemic against Christianity.'" As Strauss's character Guntram said, "My God speaks to me through myself." It is not surprising, therefore, that Strauss would attempt to set Nietzsche's "Thus Sprach Zarathustra" to music.
Controversial not only for writing operas such as "Salome," "(T)he German press denounced him for conducting two afternoon concerts in a New York department store (in 1904) ... Such conduct was 'a prostitution of art.' Strauss replied that the concerts had been given in artistic conditions and, anyway, it was no disgrace to earn money." Kennedy notes that "Strauss's output, large though it was, diminished between 1916 and about 1940 ... No wonder the world of music regarded him by then as almost a fossil."
Of course, Strauss's most controversial actions concern with the Nazi Party came to power. For example, in 1933 Joseph Goebbels appointed Strauss to the post of President of the State Music Bureau. Kennedy explains this thusly: "It was not only that Strauss believed nothing was more important than art: he simply did not recognize the conflict, a symptom of a blinkered mentality as a court composer. He kept his nose in the score and ignored the raised voices in the next room." But Strauss was not by any stretch an anti-Semite: "He acknowledged the help and inspiration he had received from Jews, adding that his own most malicious enemies had been Aryans."
Kennedy gives a summation: "If his music lacks mystical and spiritual depth---and it does, except for one late work---it has worldly, human rapture and insight, realism, and humor." Kennedy's fine biography is well-worth reading for anyone who wants to know more about the man or his music.