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Recollections and Reflections
Most quotes come from from material gathered together in Richard Strauss, Recollections and Reflections, Willy Schuh (editor), Boosey and Hawkes, English Translation E.J.Jawrence, London, 1953. German original, 1949, Atlantis-Verlag, Zurich.
- If my works are good and of any importance for the further development of our art, they will maintain their position in spite of all opposition on the part of critics, and in spite of all denigration of my artistic intentions. If they are worthtless, not even the most gratifying box office success or the most enthusiastic acclamation of augurs will keep them alive. Let the pulping press devour them...I shall not shed a tear over their grave.
- On Criticism (page 21-2) (1908).
- I am convinced that the decisive factor in dramatic effect will be a smaller orchestra, which does not drown out the human voice as does a large orchestra…The orchestra of the opera of the future is the chamber orchestra which, by painting in the background of the action on the stage with crystalline clearness, can alone realise precisely the intention of the composer with regard to the vocal parts. It is after all an important desideratum that the audience should not only hear the sounds but should also be able to follow the words closely.
- On composing and conducting (page 39-40) (1929).
- Producers of opera nowadays usually make the mistake of translating each particular orchestral phrase into terms of a movement on the stage. In this matter one should proceed with a maximum of caution and good taste. There is no objection to bringing life to into the production by changes of position and new nuances of acting during repetitive passages of music, especially in arias. Preludes of one or two bars frequently, and especially in Mozart, clearly express some gesture on stage. But each trill on the flute doea not represent a wink on the prima donna, nor every delayed chord on the strings a step or gesture. Whole passages, especially in the finales, are pure concert music and are best left undisturbed by “play acting”.
- Conducting is, after all, a difficult business – one has to be seventy years of age to realise this fully!
- The left hand has nothing to do with conducting. Its proper place is the waistcoat pocket from which it should only emerge to restrain or make some minor gesture for which in any case a scarcely perceptible glance should suffice.
- It is better to conduct with the ear instead of with the arm: the rest follows automatically.
- On conducting classical masterpieces. (p44-56).
- Ten Golden Rules (for the album of a young conductor)
- 1. Remember you are making music not to amuse yourself but to delight the audience.
- 2. You should not perspire when conducting: only the audience should get warm.
- 3. Conduct 'Salome' and 'Elektra' as if they were by Mendelssohn: fairy music.
- 4. Never look encouragingly at the brass, except with a short glance to give an important cue.
- 5. But never let the horns and woodwind out of your sight: if you can hear them at all they are still too strong.
- 6. If you think that the brass is not blowing hard enough, tone it down another shade or two.
- 7. It is not enough that you yourself can hear every word the soloist sings - you know it off by heart anyway: the audience must be able to follow without effort. If they do not understand the words they will go to sleep.
- 8. Always accompany a singer in such a way that he can sing without effort.
- 9. When you think you have reached the limits of prestissimo, go twice as fast. (1948 Today, I should like to ammend this as follows: Go twice as slowly - addressed to conductors of Mozart).
- 10. If you follow these rules carefully you will, with your fine gifts and great accomplishments, always be the darling of your listeners.
- page38. Originally published 1922.
- Rule 4 is often misquoted as: Never look at the Trombones, you'll only encourage them.
- When during my stay in Egypt I became familiar with the works of Nietzsche, whose polemic against christianity was particularly to my liking, the antipathy which I had always felt against a religion which relieves the faithful of responsibility for their actions (by means of confession) was confirmed and strengthened.
- Recollections of my youth and years of apprenticeship, page 140. In November 1892, Strauss had set off for an eight month journey to Greece and Egypt for convalesence from a severe lung ailment.
- Melody as revealed in the greatest works of our classics is one of the most noble gifts which an invisible deity has bestowed on mankind.
- Mozart's melodies, Beethoven's symphonies, Schubert's songs, acts two and three of Tristan are symbols in which are revealed the most profound spiritual truths. They are not "invented", but are "given in their dreams"to those privileged to receive them. Whence they come no one knows, not even their creator, the unconscious mouthpiece of the demiurge.
- The melodic idea which suddenly falls upon me out of the blue appears in the imagination immediately, unconsciously, uninfluenced by reason. It is the greatest gift of the divinity and cannot be compared with anything else.
- On Inspiration in Music, pages 112-117 (originally written around 1903).
- Of all god-gifted dispensers of joy, Johann Strauss is to me the most endearing. I willingly admit to having sometimes conducted the Perpetuum Mobile with far more pleasure than many a four movement symphony.
- As for the Rosenkavalier waltzes...how could I have done those without a thought of the laughing genius of Vienna?
- On Johann Strauss, page 77. Originally written in 1925.
- In my opinion, Gustav Mahler's work is one of the most important and interesting products in the history of modern creative arts.
- Gustav Mahler, page 78. Originally written for a volume dedicated to Mahler edited by Paul Stephan, Munich 1910.
- Why don't people see what is new in my work, how in them, as is found only in Beethoven, the human being visibly plays a part in the work.
- 19th June 1949, in Willi Schuh, Strauss the early years, 1982, Cambridge University Press, page xiii.
- I hope, most revered Maestro, that these metronome markings, in my opinion wholly unneeded by you, are specific enough. Where they do not fit with your conception, I implore you urgently just to ignore them.
- Letter to Hans Von Bulow, 15th January 1890, in Schuh and Trenner, Hans von Bulow and Richard Strauss: Correspondence, in English Boosey and Hawkes 1955. Von Bulow had asked for metronome markings from Strauss for Don Juan. [Italics Strauss]
- It is clear to me that the German nation will achieve new creative energy only by liberating itself from Christianity
- Diary entry, shortly after the death of Gustav Mahler (1911). Quoted in Oxford University Press, Grove music online: Strauss, Richard, §7: Instrumental works (written by Bryan Gilliam and Charles Youmans).
- Very fine, but why do you put so many wrong notes in? Basically, it is all built on simple triads.
- More like a sacrilege du printemps.
- The first quote was made to Stravinsky after he had shown Strauss some of his works in Paris, 1914. The second quote an overheard joke of Strauss later reported to Stravinsky. Found in Kurt Wilhelm, Richard Strauss - an intimate portrait. Thames and Hudson, London, 1898. (Translated from original 1984 German edition by Mary Whittard), page 142.
- Declarations about war and politics are not fitting for an artist, who must give his attention to his creations and his works.
- Quotation made in an article published in 1914. Strauss had refused to sign the Manifesto of German artists and intellectuals supporting the German role in the war. Other signatories included Strauss' friends and colleagues, such as Max Reinhardt, Richard Dehmel, Max Liebermann, Engelbert Humperdink and Felix Wiengartner. The original article quoting Strauss was by Richard Specht, and is quoted by Romain Rolland in his diary entry, found on page 160 of Richard Strauss and Romain Rolland, edited by Rollo Myers, Calder and boyars, London, 1989.
- Man (in B major) asks: When? When? Nature, (in C Major) answers from the depths Never, never, never will the weather improve".
- Whilst composing Also Sprach Zarthustra, Strauss made this joke about the Bavaria weather to his friend, the conductor Max von Schillings. Quoted in Kurt Wilhelm, Richard Strauss - an intimate portrait, page 73.
Quotes about Strauss
- I was never revolutionary. The only revolutionary in our time was Strauss!
- Arnold Schoenberg (1923) in Style and Idea: Selected writings of Arnold Schoenberg, edited by Leonard Stein, University of California Press (Berkeley) 1984, page 137.
- I believe that he (Strauss) will remain one of the characteristic and outstanding figures in musical history. Works like Salome, Elektra and Intermezzo, and others will not perish.
- Arnold Schoenberg (1946) in A Scheonberg reader - Documents of a life, edited by Joseph Auner, Yale University Press 2003, page 316-17.
- I would like to admit all Strauss operas to whichever purgatory punishes triumphant banality. Their musical substance is cheap and poor; it cannot interest a musician today.
- I watched him at rehearsals and admired the way he conducted. Every corrective remark he made was exact: his ears and his musicianship were impregnable.
- Igor Stravinsky, (1959), pages 83-4. Stravinsky recalling rehearsals he had attended for the premier of Strauss's ballet Josephs legende in Paris 1913.
- Richard Strauss is a brilliant pig - I can find no other word for it. The whole thing is larded with illogical, unnecessary and hideous discord.
- Alma Mahler (1901), after attending a performance of Strauss's orchestral piece, the symphonic poem Ein Heldenleben, in Alma Mahler-Werfel: Diaries 1898-1902. Edited by Antony Beaumont, Faber and Faber, London 1997. Page 367.
- No other composer equals Strauss in his power of writing long stretches of music that interests us in and for itself, at the same time that every line and colour in it seems to express some new trait of the individual who is being sketched.
- Salome again made an extraoridnary impression on me. It is entirely a work of genius, very powerful and decidedly one of the most important things that our age has produced.
- I labour on with countless rehearsals. He makes do with just a few, and it always sounds right.
- Gustav Mahler. The first quote in a letter to Alma Mahler, quoted in Kurt Willhelm, Richard Strauss - an intimate portrait (1989), page 106. The second, comparing their conducting, quoted on page 105.
- I simply must tell you of the thrilling impression the work (Salome) made on me when I read through it recently. Every note is spot on! Your vocation is to be dramatist. Through your music you have made me understand for the first time what Wilde's work is about
- Letter of Gustav Mahler to Strauss, 11 October 1905. Gustav Mahler Richard Strauss - correspondence 1888-1911, edited by Herta Blaukopf (translated by Edmund Jephcott), Faber and Faber 1984.
- You are really the only one of all my colleagues who takes any notice of my works.
- Letter of Gustav Mahler to Strauss, 8 June 1895. Quoted in Kurt Willhelm, Richard Strauss - an intimate portrait (1989), page 105. Strauss had arranged for and conducted performances of the first two of Mahler's Symphonies. He went on to conduct all of the first five before Mahler's death in 1911.
- Richard Strauss is at the same time a poet and a musician.
- Romain Roland, French musicologist and author in an article on Richard Strauss, published on 15 June 1899 in the Revue de Paris. the article is translated and contained in Rollo Myers (editor), Richard Strauss and Romain Rolland, Calder and Boyars, London, 1968, Page 178.
- There is no resisting the overwhelming domination of this man!
- He definiteley thinks in colored images. Ein Heldenleben is a book of images, cinematography even.
- Claude Debussy, 1903. Quoted in Kurt Wilhelm, Richard Strauss - an intimate portrait, page 86.
- Except for Strauss, there are none but second class composers in Germany.
- Maurice Ravel. Quoted in Kurt Wihlem, Richard Strauss - an intimate portrait, page 86.
- I was aroused as by a flash of lightening by the first Budapest performance of Also Sprach Zarathustra. It contained the seeds for a new life. I started composing again.
- Béla Bartók, 1902. Quoted in Kurt Wilhelm, Richard Strauss - an intimate portrait, page 73.
- I want to pick the old man's brains for my opera.
- The Symphonia Domestica was amusing and annoying by turns; but with some lovely bits.
- Benjamin Britten. The first quote is from March 1943. He had requested the score of Strauss's opera Der Rosenkavalier whilst writing his first opera Peter Grimes. The second is from 1935, when he was a stundent and had attended a concert conducted by Richard Strauss. Paul Kildea, Benjamin Britten - a life in the twentieth century, Allen Lane, 2013. Page223.