Composers Datebook®

A posthumous premiere for Richard Strauss

Composer's Datebook - Aug. 14, 2023
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Synopsis

There was a time when German opera houses would have fought over the chance to premiere a brand-new opera by Richard Strauss. But by 1940, when Strauss finished a mythological opera entitled The Love of Danae, there was a war on and Strauss had fallen out of favor with Germany’s Nazi rulers.

A scheduled premiere in Dresden had to be cancelled. In Leipzig, the orchestral parts for the new opera were lost in a fire, and in Munich an Allied air raid damaged the opera’s sets and scenery. By the summer of 1944, when conductor Clemens Krauss was rehearsing handpicked vocal soloists and the Vienna Philharmonic for the opera’s belated premiere at the Salzburg Festival, the collapse of the Third Reich was imminent.

On August 1st, an order was issued from Berlin canceling all music festivals and closing all theaters. Somehow Salzburg managed to get a dispensation, and rehearsals for Strauss’s opera were allowed to continue. A private dress rehearsal of The Love of Danae took place in Salzburg on August 16, 1944. The 80-year old composer attended, and, with tears in his eyes, thanked the performers with these words: “Perhaps we shall meet again in a better world.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Richard Strauss (1864 – 1949) Die Liebe der Danae (Symphonic Fragment), Op. 83 Toronto Symphony; Andrew Davis, conductor. CBS 45804

On This Day

Births

  • 1892 - English composer Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji (Christian name Leon Dudley), in Chingford, to a Parsi father and Spanish-Sicilian mother); His major work, "Opus Clavicembalisticum," is one of the longest and most complex solo piano works ever written;

  • 1910 - French composer Pierre Schaeffer, in Nancy; He pioneered a style of electronic music known as "musique concrète";

Deaths

  • 1972 - American composer and pianist Oscar Levant, age 65, in Beverly Hills, Calif.;

  • 1987 - American composer Vincent Persichetti, age 72, in Philadelphia;

Premieres

  • 1814 - Rossini: opera, "Il Turco in Italia" (The Turk in Italy), in Milan at the Teatro alla Scala;

  • 1876 - first complete performance of Richard Wagner's "Ring" cycle continues at Bayreuth with a performance of "Die Walküre" (The Valkyrie); This opera had received its premiere performance in Munich on June 26, 1870;

  • 1942 - Rubbra: Symphony No.4, in London;

  • 1952 - R. Strauss: opera "Die Liebe der Danae," (The Love of Danae) produced posthumously at the Salzburg Festival; A dress rehearsal of the opera attended by the composer had taken place at Salzburg on August 16, 1944, but the actual premiere was cancelled due to the war; Both performances were conducted by Clemens Krauss;

  • 1954 - Malcolm Arnold: Harmonica Concerto, at a Proms Concert in London, by harmonica virtuoso Larry Adler;

  • 1961 - Cowell: "Scherzo" (from "Air and Scherzo") for saxophone and piano, at the Camp Kinhaven in Weston, Vt., by saxophonist Sigurd Rascher; Cowell later arranged this work for saxophone and chamber orchestra;

Others

  • 1703 - Johann Sebastian Bach begins his duties as organist at the Bonifaciuskirche in Arnstadt, where he would stay for four years (see also: August 4 and 9)

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®