Richard Strauss: Man, Musician, Enigma

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Was Richard Strauss the most incandescent composer of the twentieth century or merely a bourgeoisie artist and Nazi sympathizer? For the fifty years since his death on September 8, 1949, Richard Strauss has remained dogmatically elusive in the wider body of musical and historical criticism. Lauded as nothing less than the "greatest musical figure" of his time by Canadian musician, Glenn Gould, in 1962, Strauss also has attracted his share of posthumous epithets: in summary, an artist who lived off his own fat during his later years. As recently as 1995, the English critic Rodney Milnes wrote, "the court of posterity is still reserving judgment." In Richard Strauss: Man, Musician, Enigma, biographer Michael Kennedy demonstrates that the many varying shades of criticism that have painted this figure in the past half century resemble the similar understandings and misunderstandings held by his contemporaries—perceptions that touched almost every aspect of Strauss' life and career. Introducing his detailed work more as a broad explication than a firm answer to the Straussian riddle, Kennedy's scope includes the exuberant, extroverted Strauss of young adulthood as well as the phlegmatic and aloof middle-aged man who resembled a "prosperous bank manager;" the arch-fiend of modernism and the composer who redefined the term; a man who professed to lack all spiritual curiosity and a musician who penned the touching ballet Der Kometentanz; an at times almost humble family man and an artist who claimed to be as interesting as Napoleon and Alexander the Great. Kennedy clearly elucidates his enigmatic subject by building his analysis around the few constants in Strauss' life: his profound admiration for German culture, his dependence on his own family for guidance, and his "Nietzschean total absorption in art." This frame offers everyone from Straussian scholars to general readers an insightful and easy-to-follow biographical narrative. Kennedy also deals at length with Strauss' problematic relationship with Nazi authorities, detailing his incompatible roles as the father-in-law of a Jewish woman and as one of the country's leading composers. Michael Kennedy is the chief music critic of the (London) Sunday Telegraph and the author of many books about music.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The first large-scale biography of Strauss to be published in many years, this volume is beautifully written by one of the great writers on music in the English language." Choice

"...this is a lively 'Life' that redresses some balances in previous biographical excursions." The Times, London

"Kennedy has added fresh analyses and drawn on much unpublished material....Kennedy provides significant insights into the composer's personal life and complicated mindset throughout his career. While avoiding the clichés of so many of today's over-written psycho-biographies, Kennedy brings Strauss vividly alive and places him firmly in the context of his times." Opera News

"An excellent biography...." Booklist

"An engaging, straightforward biography that largely eschews extended musical analysis." Gazette

"...a coherent and convincing portrait of the composer that comes from years of study....a thoroughly engaging book that should prompt the reader to...return to the music..." James L. Zychowicz, Opera Quarterly

"Biographer Michael Kennedy Demonstrates that the many varying shades of criticism that have painted Richard Strauss in the past half century resemble the similar understandings and misunderstandings held by his contemporaries. He builds his analysis around the few constants in Strauss's life: his admiration for German culture, his dependence on his own family for guidance, and his Nietzschean total absorption in art." Kennedy also deals with Strauss's problematic relationship with Nazi authorities." Shofar

"Kennedy, in this well-written biography, offers many insights into the family an professional life of Strauss. Kennedy shos great interest in the intellect, the miracle that produced the sublime music of the composer's Lieder, tone poems and operas and implies the Lieder mayy well be the finest works, perhaps presenting yet another enigma for readers to consider." The Oper Jrnl MARCH 2001

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521581738
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/2010
  • Pages: 468
  • Product dimensions: 6.85 (w) x 9.72 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Table of Contents

List of illustrations; Preface; Acknowledgements; Part I. 1864–1898: Youth in Munich: 1. The family; 2. Wunderkind; 3. Growing up; 4. Meiningen; 5. Third conductor; 6. Dora and Weimar; 7. First failure; 8. Engagement; 9. Pauline; 10. The tone-poet; Part II. 1898–1918: The Berlin Years: 11. At the Kaiser's court; 12. Enter Hofmannsthal; 13. The Ariadne crisis; 14. Twentieth-century Offenbach; Part III. 1918–1933: Out of Fashion: 15. Vienna; 16. Intermezzo; 17. Helena; 18. Arabella; 19. The gathering storm; Part IV. 1933–1949: The Dark Years: 20. Taking Walter's place; 21. The Reich chamber; 22. Dismissal; 23. Working with Gregor; 24. Danae and Madeleine; 25. After Capriccio; 26. Eightieth birthday; 27. Metamorphosen; 28. 'I am Richard Strauss …'; 29. The exile; 30. London; 31. Last songs; 32. Return to Garmisch; Appendices; Notes; Select bibliography; Index.

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