Composers Datebook®

Richard Strauss' "Peace Day"

Richard Strauss (1864 – 1949): Friedenstag (Bavarian Radio Symphony; Wolfgang Sawallisch, cond.) EMI 56850


Composer's Datebook - July 24, 2021

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July 24, 2021

Synopsis

On today’s date in 1938, a new opera by the 74-year-old German composer Richard Strauss had its premiere at the Munich National Theater. It was entitled “Friedenstag” or “Peace Day” – a rather ironic title, considering a Second World War was imminent.

The opera’s story takes place during the Thirty Years War in 17th century Germany. The military commander of a besieged town decides to blow the whole place up rather than surrender and is about to do so when he misinterprets a signal and opens the gates, allowing a peaceful takeover. The surprised commander is reconciled to his enemy, and everyone celebrates their deliverance from the horrors of war.

Hitler did not attend the Munich premiere, and supposedly thought the historical peace following the Thirty Years War a disaster for Germany. But the opera could be interpreted many ways, and, after the “peaceful” takeover of Austria by Nazi Germany, Hitler did in fact attend the Viennese premiere of “Peace Day” in 1939.

The new opera played in other German opera houses briefly, but after the outbreak of war was quickly dropped. And to this day, depending on whom you ask, Strauss’ ambiguous opera is either a work celebrating peace – or appeasement.

Music Played in Today's Program

Richard Strauss (1864 – 1949): Friedenstag (Bavarian Radio Symphony; Wolfgang Sawallisch, cond.) EMI 56850

On This Day

Births

  • 1803 - French opera composer Adolph-Charles Adam, in Paris

  • 1880 - Swiss-born American composer Ernest Bloch, in Geneva

  • 1904 - French-born American composer and arranger Leo (Noël) Arnaud, in Lyon

  • 1922 - American composer Leo Kraft, in New York City

Deaths

  • 1739 - Italian composer Benedetto Marcello, in Brescia

  • 1971 - British composer Alan Rawsthorne, in Cambridge, England

Premieres

  • 1926 - Hindemith: Concert Music for Winds, Op. 4, in Donaueschingen, Germany, with Hermann Scherchen conducting

  • 1938 - R. Strauss: opera, "Friedenstag" (Peace Day), in Munich at the National Theater, Clemens Krauss conducting, with vocal soloists Hans Hotter (Commandant) and Viorca Ursuleac (Maria);

  • 1964 - Ginastera: opera, "Don Rodrigo," at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires

  • 1983 - Elisabetta Brusa: "Favole" (Fables) for chamber orchestra, by the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, George Hanson conducting

  • 1995 - Michael Torke: opera "Strawberry Fields," at Cooperstown, N.Y., by the Glimmerglass Opera, Stewart Robinson conducting

Others

  • 1838 - Mendelssohn finishes in Berlin his String Quartet in D, Op. 44, no. 1; In a letter dated July 30 that year, he writes to the violinist Ferdinand David: "I have just finished my third Quartet, in D Major, and like it very much. I hope it may please you as well. I rather think it will, since it is more spirited and seems to me likely to be more grateful to the players than the others."