SU RICHARD STRAUSS
H.208. Il primo frammento è un dattiloscritto senza data né firma. Il secondo fa parte di una raccolta di pareri sull’argomento in «Die Zeit», Berlino, n. 142, 26 maggio 1908.
Dei compositori tedeschi viventi che hanno raggiunto la notorietà è il più ragguardevole.
Il suo rapporto con Wagner e Liszt è analogo a quello che corre tra il Barocco e il Rinascimento, tra Veronese e Tiziano, e tra Tiepolo e Veronese.
È più «snello» e meno pesante di Wagner, perché è più mosso, più complicato di Liszt, perché è più piccolo. In piccole forme può dare solo cose piuttosto piccole, la grandezza della forma è fatta per la grandezza dell’idea.
Considera l’intero mondo umano materia per la musica. Fallisce in quello sovrumano, in quanto lo abbassa a mondo umano.
I suoi concetti di amore, eroismo, passione, lutto sono convenzionali, senza che arrivino alla grandezza del sentimento popolare. Non si libera mai di certi difetti. Pur essendo realmente uno strumentatore raffinato, ricasca a scrivere combinazioni che non suonano, dominatore della forma qual è si ritrova tuttavia in imbarazzo.
…che dal lato dell’armonia e dell’orchestrazione rappresenta una partitura che impone il massimo rispetto.
Che il libretto è un testo drammatico di geniale abilità e l’ultimo frutto naturale di una lunga genealogia: Bibbia arti figurative del Rinascimento Gustave Flaubert.
In arte tutto si trasforma per gradi. Può darsi senz’altro che con questa Salome si sia raggiunto un piano, sul quale altre manifestazioni avranno campo di esplicarsi, fino a che non si salirà un altro gradino ancora. Ogni figlio ha in sé il germe che può renderlo antenato accanto a lui fioriscono cento altre famiglie.
AMONG the living German composers who have become well known he is the most conspicuous. He is to Wagner and Liszt as the Baroque is to the Renaissance, as Veronese to Titian, and Tiepolo to Veronese. He is "slimmer" and less heavy than Wagner, more stormy, more complicated than Liszt because he is smaller. He can only give what is small in small forms, the bigness of the form stands there for the bigness of the idea.
He views the whole human world as a musical subject. He gets stranded in the supernatural, because he pulls it down to human level.
His ideas of love, heroes, passion, grief, are conventional without arriving at the dimensions of the popular. He never conquers certain deficiencies. Excellent orchestrator as in fact he is, he comes to grief over sound-combinations that don't sound. Master of form as he is, he yet falls anew into dilemmas.
[...] That in its harmonic and orchestral part it shows a score commanding the highest respect.
That the libretto is a theatrical poem of gifted ingenuity, and the natural final fruit of a long genealogy: the Bible--plastic art of the Renaissance--Gustave Flaubert.
In art everything changes step by step. With this Salome such a step may have been taken on the top of other manifestations which will hurry on to the ascent of a new and higher step. Every son has the stuff of his ancestors in him-by his side flourish a hundred other species.
I HAVE the score of R. Strauss' Sinfonia Domestica with me on board. Strauss is a person of decided talent and has rich gifts. Polyphony and movement are necessary elements in him. In this piece, the musical illustration misses fire (I have only read it) for the child's cry is the only thing not to be misunderstood, provided one knows the title beforehand. It is a long work consisting of small movements, and the movements of small motives. He uses much material from his earlier compositions. Like a family picture, it is very joyless, irritable, excited and restless. The score looks like the streets in New York. Its name is the only effective thing about the oboe d'amore, that old instrument, the deeper oboe, but who hears the name when it is played? The frequent use of a complete clarinet family, as in chamber music, must make a pretty colour effect (a family within a family). A masterly fugue.
A scherzo, a cradle song, both according to recipe, without surprises. A couple of well-known climaxes which come from Tristan. It breaks off frequently and begins again. Contains lyrical and popular trivialities (the latter by polka rhythms, as used previously in Till Eulenspiegel in Don Quixote and Feuersnot). An admirable facility for making things complicated and spreading out what is small. Strauss seems to write out both the principal voices, then the principal middle voice, and afterwards cram in everything there is still room for in between. One can go on and on with that, and he does not stop in time. He does not understand the mastery of the unfinished. On the whole, a work for which one has the greatest respect, from which one gets much amusement, and in which there are many quotations (especially technical ones). This is as far as the first impression goes.
Yesterday evening I turned over the leaves of Richard Strauss' score again. (3) It gains nothing from renewed acquaintance.
His orchestration--in spite of unusual virtuosity--is not "sonorous" because his style of composing is opposed to his orchestral writing. It branches out too much. I believe he has made a mistake in some of the proportions again. He has said himself. " Wagner makes everything sound but I am often unable to achieve this." That is because Wagner concentrates everything on the principal idea. Strauss really has twelve subordinate ideas and they are in confusion; the chief idea lies more in the atmosphere than in the motive, but is easily effaced by overloading.
But I must hear the work. Music is there to be heard.
I SAT in the orchestra yesterday and heard Don Quixote by Richard Strauss. It is a work which has great qualities; commonplace in the lyrical places, unusually exciting in the grotesque parts, naïve in a boorish way and yet on the other hand too cultivated, badly put together as regards form, but the daring texture of sound is excellent. On the whole, one of the most interesting works of our time and the richest in invention; perhaps the composer's best work.
Up to the present Toscanini is the most intelligent musician I have met (with perhaps the exception of Strauss). (4)
1) Opinions about Salome from Die Zeit, May 1907.
2) Letter to his wife, 27th March 1904.
3) Letter to his wife, 2nd April 1904.
4) Letter to his wife, 18th February 1911.
5) Letter to his wife, 28th February 1911.
Unpublished typed copy among the written posthumous works, without date or signature. Preserved in the German State Library in Berlin.