Oil, meet fire

Episode 2

Oil, meet fire

Richard Strauss and his wife Pauline de Ahna are often described as artist and muse. But you’ve never met a muse like Pauline. One of Strauss’ greatest musical masterpieces was ripped straight from the most scandalous moment of their marriage.

A note for listeners: No picture of Richard Strauss can be complete without sharing the scholarship around his work in Germany in the 1930s and 40s. Late in his career, Strauss wrote pieces for the Nazi regime, and he served as president of the State Music Bureau. He also lost that top post when he insisted that a Jewish writer who penned the libretto for his opera be properly credited in the program. There are important conversations to be had about how we think of music composed by artists with ties to hate. We suggest listening to Behind Richard Strauss's Murky Relationship with the Nazis from WQXR, and reading “Monument Man” from The New Yorker for further background.

This episode of Decomposed includes the following works from these recordings:

Richard Strauss: Guntram/Act 3 - Freihild, leb' wohl

Sung by Ilona Tokody, accompanied by the Hungarian State Orchestra, conducted by Eve Queler

SONY 88697448162

Richard Strauss: Rosenkavalier Suite
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andris Nelsons
Orfeo C803091A

Richard Strauss: Guntram/Act 1 - Overture
Hungarian State Orchestra conducted by Eve Queler
SONY 88697448162

Richard Strauss: Cacilie
Sung by Soile Isokoski, accompanied by Marita Viitasalo
Ondine ODE1187-2

Richard Strauss: Ein Heldenleben
Bavarian Radio Orchestra conducted by Mariss Jansons
BR-Klassik 900127

Richard Strauss: Symphonia Domestica
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin conducted by Marek Janowski
Pentatone PTC5186507

Richard Strauss: Intermezzo Symphonic Interludes
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Halasz
Naxos 8.553379

Richard Strauss: Intermezzo (Opera)
Performed by Simone Schneider, Markus Eiche, and Brigitte Fassbaender with the Munich Radio Orchestra conducted by Ulf Schirmer
CPO 777901

Richard Strauss: Im Abendrot
Sung by Sylvia Sass, accompanied by the Hungarian State Orchestra, conducted by Ervin Lukacs
Hungaraton HCD12397
All recordings courtesy of Naxos of America Inc.

Further reading:

  • Richard Strauss: Man, Musician, Enigma by Michael Kennedy