Richard Strauss. Life And Metamorphosis Of A Sonic Hero

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Richard Strauss. Life And Metamorphosis Of A Sonic Hero
Richard Strauss. Life And Metamorphosis Of A Sonic Hero

Video: Richard Strauss. Life And Metamorphosis Of A Sonic Hero

Video: Richard Strauss. Life And Metamorphosis Of A Sonic Hero
Video: Richard Strauss: Ein Heldenleben (A Hero's Life) - Pittsburgh S. O., Manfred Honeck (HD 1080p) 2023, March

Richard Strauss. Life and Metamorphosis of a Sonic Hero

On June 11, the world celebrates the 150th anniversary of the birth of Richard Strauss. And today, listening to his works, we ask ourselves what was the drama of the fate and creativity of the great master. What was the great Strauss and what allowed him to create so many masterpieces of world musical art? Let's talk in this article.

Richard Strauss (German Richard Strauss, June 11, 1864, Munich, Germany - September 8, 1949, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany) is known to us not only as an outstanding German composer and symphonic conductor - numerous experts and admirers of his work recognize him as a genius, innovator, creator of new musical and dramatic forms and unique musical images. Richard Strauss devoted his entire life to the development of German musical culture.

Most of his contemporaries loved Strauss's music, deifying his talent, and opera houses fought for life and death for the right to first stage his operas. There were also those who did not accept it, condemned, criticized, ridiculed and even demonized and prohibited it.


On June 11, the world celebrates the 150th anniversary of the birth of Richard Strauss. And today, listening to his works, we ask ourselves: what was the drama of the fate and work of the great master? What was it like for him, having lived the happy years of the flourishing of peaceful Germany, in the midst of his creative life, to become an involuntary participant in the military aggression of the Second, and then the Third Reich, finding himself in an atmosphere of moral degradation and spiritual fall of his people? What was the great Strauss and what allowed him to create so many masterpieces of world musical art? Let's talk in this article.


Every piece of music has a form, and the form must correspond to the content. In essence, in a harmonious, healthy art, it is the content that chooses the form for its full adequate expression. Not the other way around. What is this content? This is a really interesting question …

The answer is simple. The content of a musical work is an internal search, desire, lack of its author. This is not the desire of our body, but something more, which is beyond the basic "eat - drink - breathe - sleep" in various variations, an additional desire on top of animal nature. This desire is not material, but from this it does not become secondary. On the contrary, the artist, as they say, can neither eat nor sleep until he has created his work.

The inner search for something beyond the physical world, the search for the root cause of the very existence of my "I" - this is a common aspiration for a certain type of people who in system-vector psychology are called the owners of the sound vector. And a specialt of sound composers is the ability to melt this aspiration into musical creativity, unique in its depth and richness of content.


These people lack music so much that they do it every day and develop the skill to play not for themselves, but for others. It is significant that there are much fewer musicians performers than those who are able to play for themselves. What does this mean? About the fact that in order to become a composer, one must not only wish for something more than a simple filling of one's physical “want”, that is, not just be a sound engineer, but learn to take your inner search outward and share what you hear in the depths of the unconscious with others …

Childhood and adolescence

From childhood, Richard Strauss loved to study and was a very diligent student. He began composing at the age of six and wrote a huge amount of sheet music, developing his ability to compose and record music, although at this stage his compositions were imitative in nature. The boy's efforts made his father happy, who did everything to prevent his son from falling into destructive prodigy, but gradually and deeply developed his talent in the key of German classicism, following in the footsteps of Mozart, Haydn, Bach, but by no means the "terrible" Wagner, whom Franz Strauss hated fiercely.

The famous French horn player at that time, Franz Strauss had a difficult character. According to a number of descriptions, we can say that he possessed an anal-skin combination of vectors, combining anal despotism with a skin desire for strict discipline and control. He always had his opinion and expressed it not without aggression, which earned the dislike of the leadership and orchestra members of the Munich orchestra, in which he worked all his life. Richard's mother, from a family of famous Pshor brewers, was a quiet, gentle woman with frequent bouts of depression, suggesting that she had a sound vector. After all, it is the sound people who fall prey to depression.

Richard's education was multifaceted. The development of the visual vector did not lag behind the development of the sound one - young Strauss passionately loved fine art and was very well versed in painting. He read a lot and actively attended opera and concert halls. The only subject that he didn't particularly like was mathematics. Preserved school notebook of little Richard on the subject with sketches of a violin concerto instead of equations. However, the future composer still had a skin vector: in the future, Richard will have no problems either with calculations or with economy - the distinctive features of the skin vector. It was just that counting was not his main interest - the upper vectors asked for more.

If you plunge into the description of his childhood and youth, it is difficult not to notice how harmoniously, with the collective support of others, among whom after the departure of 19-year-old Richard to Berlin there were already musicians of the highest caliber, the future composer grew and developed. Through the efforts of his parents and environment, Richard had almost ideal conditions for the development of the sound-visual ligament of vectors.

In Berlin, Strauss was popular, he was invited everywhere: to dinners in nice houses, to rehearsals of the orchestra and the premiere of operas. As a youthful bundle of energy, Strauss often darted between an endless number of musical projects, starting business with pianists, cellists, critics or journalists. He was 20 years old, he lived economically, spent his parents' money wisely on opera and concerts, and knew exactly what he wanted.

Richard was patronized by Hans von Bülow, one of the brightest personalities in the history of music, a symphonic conductor and an amazing pianist, a student of Liszt and a follower of Wagner. Bülow's attention was drawn to the early works of Strauss: "Festive March" and Serenade for 13 winds in E flat major. It was Bülow who was destined to play a decisive role in Strauss's life.

In addition, Strauss managed to befriend Cosima Wagner. The ex-wife of Bülow, Cosima, left her husband, having fallen in love with a man who was a god for Bülow himself, Richard Wagner. She treated the young Strauss with great sympathy and supported him as a conductor and composer.


During these Berlin years, Richard Strauss developed as a highly educated, music-obsessed, attractive young man with a lively, open, impulsive character.

Based on the above, we can complete the systemic portrait of the composer. Leading in the set of Strauss vectors, of course, was the dominant sound vector. Richard lived for music and for the sake of music, that was his meaning, his idea. Well-developed bottom vectors allowed him to easily maneuver on the difficult terrain of the German capital. There was enough anal perseverance in him to study and do everything with high professionalism, no matter what he took up. He had enough dermal ambition to pursue his musical career. The visual vector allowed him not to shy away from going out and constantly communicating with the audience. A high temperament made it possible to do all of the above with special passion and zeal.

It won't take long for a diamond named Richard Strauss to acquire all its facets and transform into a sparkling diamond.


Before moving to Berlin, Richard Strauss was under the unrelenting influence of his father. At first, it was still preserved - through correspondence. But the moment came when Richard managed to get out of his influence and start his own search, not without the influence of original and outstanding personalities, meetings with whom fate so generously gave him.

One of Strauss's inspirations was Alexander Ritter, a mediocre violinist and mediocre composer, but an educated and well-read man and a keen follower of Wagner. Ritter's philosophical ideas and reflections served as a catalyst for a new round in the spiritual and musical search of Strauss.

The first transformation of his inner world was the inevitable conversion into a fan of creativity and philosophical ideas of Richard Wagner. They say that Strauss's love for the opera Tristan and Isolde was so deep and strong that in the last years of his life he constantly carried its score with him as a talisman.


The musical manifesto of young Richard from a letter to von Bülow sounded like this: “To create a work of art that is compatible in spirit and structure, which would cause tangible impressions for the listener, the composer must think in visual images if he wants to convey his idea to the listener. But this is possible only if the composition is based on a fruitful poetic idea, regardless of whether the program accompanies it or not."

This is where the interweaving of visual and sound approaches to the creation of music, invisible to a non-systemic researcher, is located, which formed the basis of Strauss's work and formed the unique pattern of his works. To explain the importance of this plexus, let's step aside a little.

Richard Strauss was destined to live in a unique time - on the break of two historical eras between the outgoing anal and incoming dermal developmental phases. The very beginning of this process coincided with Strauss's youth. Ahead were still the fatal convulsions of the reactionary anal part of society, embodied in the creation of the idea of a superior race and leading to the murder of millions of people. Ahead was still a bitter realization of the horror of the perfect and unprecedented rise of the ideas of humanism.

While all this was still ripening in the depths of the collective unconscious and sprouting with rare test spikes on the surface of human lives, a mass culture standardized for all was born in the works of masters of art. By “bringing” art to people by dressing it in visual forms accessible to the majority of society, composers such as Richard Strauss contributed to the creation of mass culture.


Richard Strauss, like a true dermatologist, was an absolute music fanatic. He was terrified not to work. Composing music and performing were the raison d'être of his life.


At the first stage of his work, Strauss, influenced by Wagner's ideas, created several vivid symphonic poems, where the transformation of the musical language to create vivid visual series became both a goal and a means. Capacious harmonic language, characteristic melody, dazzling orchestration allowed the viewer to see the world through the eyes of the main character of the work.

The heroism of the spirit, incredible energy, the subtlest musical poetry of feelings - all this swept away the listener with an avalanche, giving no opportunity to remain indifferent. Both a violin solo and a dance theme written in the style of the Viennese waltz could have been elegantly poetic for Strauss. A feeling of beauty and harmony of life, romantic pathos of heroism, female presence, fearless frankness of sexual impulses literally permeated his works.

As the most perfect of them, one can single out the poem "Don Juan", which, to Strauss's pride, split the world of his listeners into ardent admirers and no less ardent opponents. Nowadays, more than one movie melody has been copied from the delightful themes of Don Juan. It is to Richard Strauss that we should be grateful for the sparkling hits from the films of Disney and Hollywood.

Quite different were the symphonic poems "Death and Enlightenment" and "Thus Said Zarathustra", which reflected the sound search of the master. In them, the center of Strauss's attention was not the boiling physical life and valiant antics of the heroes, but the inner search and the desire to know oneself.

Death and Enlightenment (1888–1889) is a poem of extraordinary beauty, embodying in the sound of the state of a seriously ill and deeply suffering person, who is tormented by the question of what is the meaning of everything that we call life. He tries to solve the riddle of life by solving the riddle of death.

The poem reflects an internal search, but, of course, cannot give an answer to it. Self-awareness, correct concentration of thought is the individual work of each as a particle of society, which no one can perform for another. The composer's task is to awaken these questions in the listener.

The world famous first phrase of the poem Thus Said Zarathustra (1896):

From the age of thirty, Strauss began to show a keen interest in writing operas. In 1894 he created the opera Guntram. It is significant that, initially following Ritter's influence, Strauss suddenly retreated even from his newly acquired worldview and in one fell swoop became more to the left than his leftist mentor. The main character of the opera does not follow the original plot and instead of voluntarily surrendering to the religious court for the murder of a villain in the finale, he goes into a moral search and seeks an answer for what he has done only in his conscience. Unfortunately, the public and even Ritter, flying on the wings of progressive ideas, were not ready for such a turn of events. They were outraged by Strauss's reluctance to give his hero to the mercy of the law. The opera failed and Strauss's moral position was rejected. For a while…

The second opera, Lack of Fire, written in 1901, was an attempt to address the more universal theme that the woman is the center of being and the driving force for the man. Strauss approached this topic from the outside, which prevented the growth of the popularity of this opera as well. To the sincere surprise of many contemporaries, the main representative of the aristocratic elite of that time recognized the opera as obscene and not worthy of attention.

The music of that time, trying to consolidate the position of classical romanticism (Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades, 1890; Symphony from Novy Svet by Dvořák, 1893; Verdi Falstaff, 1893), still remained faithful to traditions. Along the entire musical front, however, changes were already visible. Mahler's symphonies, songs to verses by Baudelaire and Debussy's Afternoon of Faun already spoke the post-Wagnerian language.

In an effort to unravel the source of human desires and their meaning, composers demonstrated a craving for intoxicating colorfulness, withdrawing into the world of dreams, and began to use sexuality in art. All this can be traced in the works of Strauss. He was able to express in bright contrast in music the exciting issues of human existence: seduction and disobedience, male and female principles, life and death, sex and murder.



In Herod's palace, Jokanaan, a religious prophet, is imprisoned. A 15-year-old teenage girl, daughter of Herod's wife, Salome, falls in love with the prophet. He rejects her. Salome dances the dance of the Seven Veils for Herod. Pleased with Salome's dance, Herod promises her to fulfill her every desire. Salome asks for the head of Jokanaan. Herod is forced to execute the prophet. When the head of Jokanaan is carried out to the girl, she openly expresses her love for the dead chosen one. This is confusing and shocking to witnesses. Salome is killed.

The opera Salome was first staged in Dresden. It was banned in Vienna and was forced to be removed during a screening at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. On May 16, 1906, Salome was staged in the Austrian city of Graz. Among the audience were Mahler, Berg, Schoenberg, Puccini, Zemlinsky, the widow of Johann Strauss and many others. Numerous opera lovers and even crowned heads attended this performance. Even the fictional character Adrian Leverkühn, the hero of Thomas Mann's novel Doctor Faustus, was there along with 17-year-old Adolf Hitler …

The opera was a resounding success. Despite the provocative ambiguity, there was something about this music that did not leave anyone indifferent. The boldness with which the author looked into previously completely forbidden topics shocked the audience as much as the subject of the opera itself. The public of that time saw the scandalousness in the debauchery of the court of King Herod, the unbridled behavior of Princess Salome, and at the end of the opera - in the ugly scene of necromancy and the frankly sexual triumph of the insane Salome over Jokanaan.

How do we see this opera today?

A 15-year-old girl lives in the palace of her stepfather Herod, who harasses her despite her mother's closeness. Salome meets Jokanaan, who is called a famous prophet in the opera. Strauss was not religious and knew that he did not portray Jokanaan in the best light for a prophet. His character turned out to be limited and unspiritual. Jokanaan awakened in Salome a passionate desire for love.

This was by no means the romantic outburst of feelings of a naive girl who desires the blessing of the man of God, as Lord Chamberlain insisted on showing this before the opera production in London in 1910. For Salome, this love was the result of a sudden insight that "the mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death." Her frank final operatic monologue with the head of Jokanaan, christened "necromancy", ends with the mesmeric words:

AND! I kissed your mouth, Jokanaan, I kissed your mouth.

There was a pungent taste on your lips. Did it taste like blood?..

Maybe this is the taste of love. They say love has a sharp taste.

But still. Does not matter. I kissed your mouth, Jokanaan, I kissed your mouth.

About forty years have passed since the first production of Wagner's "Tristan". In the finale of Tristan, Isolde also “radiates love” on the body of the dead Tristan. But between the two finals, Tristan and Salome, there is a chasm. In the first case, the tragic couple could not realize their relationship due to social norms: in the realm of anal conservatism, a married woman cannot be happy with her husband's best friend, even if he nobly decided to give them this opportunity.

In "Salome" the tragedy of a different plan: it is a deadly fight for the satisfaction of their desires, which shows a person's readiness to use any means on the way to the goal. And it's not for nothing that the main character is a young girl. She is like the embodiment of a new generation with an increased desire to receive, with a huge, even more complicated mental and complete misunderstanding of herself, the loss of moral guidelines.

Throughout his life, Strauss searched for the perfect libretto for the perfect opera. He wrote 15 operas, and his creative search in this genre was unusually wide. "Chevalier of the Roses" - a comic opera, one of the most beloved by the public, was conceived by Strauss as a musical comedy with features of parody. The script was written by a brilliant librettist named Hoffmannsthal as a stylization for the works of the 18th century, and in particular for the operas of Mozart. Anachronisms were deliberately allowed in the music: mixing the melodies of the old times with the Viennese waltzes of the 19th – 20th centuries.

At first glance, the opera, light in content, includes the main character Marshalsha, a bright and attractive woman, a high position in society, Count Octavian, a 17-year-old young man in love with Marshalsha, Sophie, the bride of Marshalsha's cousin. During the course of the opera, Octavian falls in love with young Sophie. In the last act, the famous trio sounds, where Marshalsha abandons Octavian and convinces him to link his life with Sophie. Octavian's part was written for mezzo-soprano, in the tradition of 18th century opera. The opera is permeated with details of graceful frivolity. The character of the Marshalsha was especially successful for Strauss, and he considered this character one of his best creations.

If Strauss wrote symphonic poems with bright visual strokes, in a skin-like quick change of small episodes and various characters, then in his operas he relied mainly on the values of the anal vector and often chose plots for them from the past, even the ancient past. For example, in an opera such as Electra, the emotional core is anal resentment and a thirst for revenge, destructive for both the object and the subject of what is happening.

In the "Knight of the Roses", the theme of a "aging" thirty-year-old beauty, losing or voluntarily giving up a young lover to his peer, evokes a feeling of genuine sadness, although Marshalsha is not one of those who succumb to sadness. Most of all, she will find a worthy replacement for Octavian and will be forgotten in the new novel. One way or another, the last trio sounds like an unforgettable episode of farewell to love, and the light sadness and beauty of the music do not hide the true tragedy of this moment for a charming woman who is aware of the inevitability of the passage of time.


"Metamorphoses, or Concerto for 23 Strings" is one of the last works of Strauss, begun in 1943, when the Munich Opera House was destroyed, with which almost his entire life was connected. The Metamorphoses were completed two years later, in 1945, after the fire and destruction of the Vienna Opera, after the barbaric and strategically senseless bombing of Dresden.

The music of the play is permeated with grief for the dying German culture. The play uses quotations from Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, a theme from Strauss's last opera, Arabella, and a funeral march theme from Ludwig van Beethoven's Heroic Symphony. In the score, this theme is accompanied by the words "inmemoriam".

Musicologists have long argued over to whom this play is dedicated. It turned out that in recent years, Strauss studied the works of Goethe in order to understand the roots of evil in man, responsible for such terrible events as war. During the war, Strauss had to go through a lot. His daughter-in-law, the wife of his only son and the mother of two grandchildren, was a woman of Jewish origin. In order to save the lives of these very dear people to him, Strauss for some time served as Minister of Culture in the Third Reich, where he was appointed without any consultation with him.

Strauss did not fulfill this role for long, as he refused to remove the name of librettist Stefan Zweig, who was in exile because of his nationality, from the program of his new opera Silent Woman. Soon, the Gestapo intercepted an outspoken letter from Strauss to Zweig, where he wrote about his contempt for the Nazis. Strauss was urgently removed from office and would have probably been killed if not for his worldwide fame and authority. His son and daughter-in-law were once kidnapped by the Gestapo and spent several days in prison, until Strauss urgently returned from his tour to petition for their release.

His grandchildren, when they had to go to school during the war, were attacked and bullied by local residents. They were spat on and intimidated. After the war, Strauss was tried in connection with his work for the Third Reich before the war and was fully acquitted. After the war, its popularity was restored. Once, crossing the border between France and Switzerland for treatment in a Swiss sanatorium, Strauss forgot all the documents. The French border guards recognized him, greeted him with respect and let him cross the border, despite the lack of a passport.


Richard Strauss lived a long and successful life. He survived two world wars, and his work and some of his actions are still contradictory interpreted by musicologists and historians.

For example, the creator of 12-tone music, Arnold Schoenberg, once said: "I have never been a revolutionary, Strauss was the only revolutionary in our time!" But that was not the case. Richard Strauss was not a revolutionary leading the way and showing the way to the future; rather, he was the closing link in the chain of great romantics.

Strauss's long and unusual musical career ended with the ingenious Four Last Songs. After a really well-lived life in these songs, he surpassed everyone in the ability to look death in the eye without fear. Thus, in the divine beauty of these songs, the last German romantic Richard Strauss completed his earthly journey and his sound search.

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