Composers Datebook®

Post-traumatic Strauss?

Composers Datebook - Jan. 25, 2024


On today’s date in 1946, the octogenarian German composer Richard Strauss conducted the final rehearsal of his latest work, Metamorphosen, a study for 23 strings. Paul Sacher, the Swiss conductor and music patron, had commissioned the work and conducted the public premiere later that day in Zurich.

Strauss had begun work on the piece on March 13, 1945, one day after the Vienna State Opera house had been bombed by the Allies. When the Nazis had come to power in 1933, Strauss was at first fêted as the greatest living German composer, but he soon fell out of favor. While his music was not banned, official Nazi support for Strauss eventually fell away, and the fact that Strauss’ beloved daughter-in-law was Jewish meant increasing anxiety about her fate and that of his grandchildren as the Nazi’s race laws tightened their noose.

In a postwar memorandum, Strauss wrote, “The most terrible period of human history has come to an end, the 12-year reign of bestiality, ignorance and anti-culture under the greatest criminals, during which Germany’s 2,000 years of cultural evolution met its doom and irreplaceable monuments of architecture and works of art were destroyed.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Richard Strauss (1864-1949) Metamorphosen; Vienna Philharmonic; Simon Rattle, cond. EMI 56580

On This Day


  • 1851 - Flemish composer Jan Blockx, in Antwerp;

  • 1886 - German composer and conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, in Berlin;

  • 1911 - American composer and pianist Julia Smith, in Denton, Texas;

  • 1913 - Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski, in Warsaw;

  • 1921 - American composer and conductor Alfred Reed, in New York City;


  • 1817 - Rossini: opera, "La Cenerentola" (Cinderella), in Rome at the Teatro Valle;

  • 1902 - Franz Schmidt: Symphony No. 1, in Vienna;

  • 1909 - R. Strauss: opera "Elektra," in Dresden at the Hofoper, conducted by Ernst von Schuch, with soprano Annie Krull in the title role;

  • 1946 - R. Strauss: "Metamorphosen," in Zürich;

  • 1957 - Walton: Cello Concerto, by the Boston Symphony conducted by Charles Munch, with Gregor Piatigorsky the soloist;

  • 1963 - Karl Amadeus Hartmann: Symphony No. 8, by the West German Radio Symphony, Rafael Kubelik conducting;

  • 1987 - Paul Schoenfield: "Café Music" for piano trio at a St. Paul Chamber Orchestra concert.

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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.

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