Richard Strauss (1864-1949) at Bayreuth
"At work and in private conversation he [Richard Strauss] never tired of pointing out that, as far as he was concerned, Richard Wagner was the only composer besides Mozart who could be taken seriously." (Hans Hotter: Memoirs)
Richard Strauss as Conductor at the Bayreuth Festival
"The overture was smooth but pointless, not to be compared with dozens of London performances [...] Strauss, the new conductor, seemed a hopeless failure; he kept the band as smooth, but also as inane, as a linen collar; and his tempi, except for an occasional gallop in the wrong place, were for the most part insufferably slow." (George Bernard Shaw review in the Star)
Strauss had only conducted Parsifal four times (Berlin, 1917) before conducting it at Bayreuth.
"Strauss gave few signs that he is particularly interested in Parsifal. I am told that he got through the performance in about the shortest time on record, and I can well believe it. Unfortunately, however, Parsifal is not a work that is improved by acceleration: the very essence of it is a certain timelessness, in the metaphysical sense of the word; room must be given to the marvellous score to develop its lovelynesses and subtleties at their ease [...] while we never feel at Bayreuth this year that the performance is in the hands of an orchestral master who has taken the music and the drama up imto his own being and given them out again transformed, the orchestral players, of their own accord, again and again gave us moments of the rarest beauty."
(Ernest Newman, review in Sunday Times)
"The Master has already composed Parsifal to be very slow, so one doesn't need to add to this by also conducting it slowly." (Richard Strauss to the orchestra during rehearsals)
"With Strauss, the tempo is much livelier than is usually adopted for this sacred play. Yet it loses nothing of its pious and heartfelt mood either, something which of course must always be retained. And the theatrical piece that is Parsifal also received immense drive so far as purely dramatic effect is concerned. Totally new aspects, tensions and triggers which one would hardly ever have expected are suddenly illuminated. Those long drawn-out movements, further extended by slow tempos (for instance in the case of Gurnemanz in the first act) become more comprehensible thanks to tighter tempos. Of course, Strauss is no mystic - but he is a musician of such great calibre that he managed to convince with his Parsifal performance, despite its veering away from all those well-worn paths, and left everyone deeply moved."
(Oskar von Pander in Münchner Neueste Nachrichten, 24 July 1933)
Richard Strauss attending the Bayreuth Festival
- 1882: Parsifal (Levi)
- 1886: Parsifal (Levi), Tristan (Mottl)
- 1888: Meistersinger (Richter), Parsifal (Mottl)
- 1889: Musical assisstant
- 1891: Musical assisstant. Tannhäuser
At the Vienna State Opera Richard Strauss conducted 41 Wagner performances during the years 1919-24.
Richard Strauss conducting his own Ein Heldenleben with the Vienna Philharmonic playing in 1944.
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