Richard Strauss

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Strauss 1922 (Photographer Schmutzer)

Richard Strauss (June 11, 1864September 8, 1949) was a German composer of classical music and conductor.


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.

On composing and conducting (page 39-40) (1929).

  • 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 shold also be able to follow the words closely.

On conducting classical masterpieces. (p44-56).

  • 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.

  • 4. Never look encouragingly at the brass, except with a short glance to give an important cue.
    5. But never let the horns and woodwinds out of your sight: if you can hear them at all they are still too strong. [emphasis added]
    • Recollections and Reflections (second edition: 1953), "Ten Golden Rules: for the album of a young conductor", p. 38. Widely circulated in paraphrase:
      • Never look at the Trombones, you'll only encourage them.

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