Friday, June 09, 2006

Strauss and Modernity

Relatively late in my life, I've decided to embrace Richard Strauss's music. Early on, I was fond of the tone poems, but later, as a music student, felt he was a surface artist. In a summary fashion, I rejected his harmonic language as manipulative, and relegated his vocal works as suitable only for the most trivial of tastes. In a real way, I thought of Strauss as a precursor of movie and show music.
Well, either my sensibilities have taken a nosedive, or I've discovered something very significant about his operas. After all, Wordsworth became a passion in my fiftieth year, so why not accept Strauss as a true genius. Alex Ross, the music critic of the New Yorker (
in an essay), states the case for Strauss being the real giant of twentieth century music. Somewhere he states, "why do I love his music so?," or something to that effect. My sentiments exactly, since there is some sense of ambivalence in my heart to the delight I feel listening to the music. Perhaps I shouldn't fret. It may very well be that Strauss's operas in the past century rival the stature of Mozart's. More on Strauss later.

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