Some thoughts on Richard Strauss and composing:
By the end of the late 19th century, Richard Strauss was considered to be Germany’s most prominent composer and every new premiere of his music drew international attention. In addition to being a highly regarded composer of operas and symphonic poems, he was considered to be one of the finest conductors of his time.
When asked by American journalist Arthur M. Abell to expound on the source of his creative inspiration, Strauss replied, “Composing is a procedure that is not so readily explained. When the inspiration comes, it is something of so subtle, tenuous, will-o-the-wisp nature that it almost defies definition. When I’m in my most inspired moods I have definite compelling visions involving a higher selfhood. I feel at such moments that I am tapping the source of infinite and eternal energy from which you and I and all things proceed. Religion calls it God.”
Strauss’s reference to compelling visions of “a higher selfhood” indicates a synergy in which the divine nature of God, a spirit being of love, is realized through the creative process when an artist’s motivation are pure and unadulterated, thus realizing one’s “true self” and becoming a co-creator with God.
“I realize that the ability to have such ideas register in my consciousness is a Divine gift. It is a mandate from God, a charge entrusted to my keeping, and I feel that my highest duty is to make the most of this gift---to grow and to expand.”
On his inspiration in creating his opera Der Rosenkavalier; “While the ideas were flowing in upon me---the motives, themes, structure melodies, harmonic garb, instrumentation---in fact the entire musical measure by measure---it seemed to me that I was dictated to by two wholly different Omnipotent Entities.”
In the Abell interview, Strauss discloses that he had read the work of the Swedish mystic Emmanuel Swedenborg and that this prompted a curiosity about the spiritual world. In speaking about the text that was the basis for his tone poem Death and Transfiguration, Strauss confides that he identifies with the hero of the work in that in his expects to have the frustration of his earthly dreams realized upon “the triumphant opening of the gates of Heaven.”
But in the discourse on what heaven may be, he refers to Swedenborg, who “claimed that he could actually look into Heaven, and that he found it to be a glorified earth, where we carry on and perfect the work we start here [on earth.] I believe that.”
Strauss, who was happily married, also reveals that he was able to develop and cultivate the means to contact the higher powers of inspiration and use them to facilitate his creative designs.
“I was…definitely conscious of being aided by more than earthly Power, and that it was responsive to my determined suggestions. A firm belief in this Power must precede the ability to draw on it purposefully and intelligently.”
“I am not far enough advanced in my evolution to presume to define such a Cosmic Force, but I know that I can appropriate it to some extent and that after all is the main consideration for us mortals here in this world. I can tell you, however, from my own experience, that an ardent desire and fixed purpose combined with an intense resolve brings results. Determined concentrated thought is a tremendous force and this Divine Power is responsive to it. I am convinced that this is a law and that it holds good in any line of human endeavor.”
Strauss’s testimonies attest to the importance of an artist’s ability to cultivate a relationship with the spiritual realm and in so doing refrain from being easily influence solely by earthly desires and considerations. Strauss’s finest music seems to be the progeny of his firm belief the “Divine Power.”
Death and Transfiguration/Christoph von Dohnanyi-Vienna Philharmonic
Don Juan/Claudio Abbado-Berlin Philharmonic
Also Sprach Zarathustra/Fritz Reiner-Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Till Eulenspiegel/George Szell-Cleveland Orchestra
Der Rosenkavalier/Herbert von Karajan-Berlin Philharmonic
Ein Heldenleben/Vladimir Ashkenazy-Cleveland Orchestra
Four Last Songs/Elizabeth Schwartzkopf-Vienna Philharmonic (Szell conducting)
Again, what insightful writing. I linked it to my FB-Site. I am just surprised and a bit shocked about the lack of responses, particularely on this Site.
Such an essay deserves more exposure and appreciation. Please, could you not try to have this published in the NY-Times or other Publications,
so more Music-lovers or spiritually interested could benefit from it. Did you ever try?
How was your new composition received in the Sept 18 concert ? Will you share it on this Web-Site or would it be accessible on U-Tube?
Your's must be a wonderful Life - Greetings, Klaus Schick