Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Richard Strauss Remembered - BBC classic

"Our future lies in art, especially in music. In times when spiritual goods are rarer than material ones, and egotism, envy and hatred govern the world, music will do much to re-establish love among mankind" - Richard Strauss. born 150 years ago today.

How the world has changed since Richard Strauss was born !  Through his music we might come to know the man he was and how he coped with the horrors of what happened around him, for better or worse. Today I have been watching Peter Adams's documentary Richard Strauss Remembered. It's a remarkable film. We see most of the extant film footage of the composer and also clips from films and stills of early performances - including Feuersnot.  There's also footage from Robert Wierne's 1926 silent Der Rosenkavalier (read more here)  Members of Strauss's immediate family came together with Alice, his secretary, daughter-in-law and devoted champion. They are seen in Strauss's home in the Bavarian Alps, decorated with elk and deer horns, preserved as it was in his time. It must have been quite an occasion. The musical clips are archive classics, and the script is well written.  As the film ends, we see Strauss in his garden, and hear Kirsten Flagstad sing Im Abendrot as the camera pans on the mountains Strauss loved so dearly.

This film was made for the BBC in 1984. It's a wonderful example of the high-quality work the BBC produced in those days, when the government supported the pursuit of excellence.  Hopefully, the BBC will be able to release it again this anniversary year as a public service. The copy I watched has serious sound problems. Richard Strauss remembered is an exceptional  film because it touches on the value of the arts in difficult times, and on personal integrity. On the other hand, maybe the film is too dangerous given present political pressures.  Goebbels couldn't shut Strauss down, so let's hope "egotism, envy and hatred" don't do so now.

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