Richard Strauss: ‘in Vienna we have hunger – and art’ | Music

Fleet Street, Friday
Dr Richard Strauss arrived in London from America. This is the first time he has visited these countries since the war. In an interview with a London representative for the Manchester Guardian, he said his US tour had been long and enjoyable. He hadn’t been troubled by any lingering anti-German sentiment, and there was a very large American audience that was determined to have good music.

The same was true, he says, in Austria and Germany. The fatigue and despair created by the past terrible years had not reacted negatively on the arts. All countries have lost promising musicians, but the music has not been affected. If there has been a change, it is towards a greater enthusiasm for music, and indeed for all the arts. There was a good audience, despite the poverty, and they liked experimentation and novelty, but not too much. There were many good compositions in Germany and Austria, both lyrical and general. He mentioned the names of Pfitzner, Schreker, Korngold and Reznicek, as men doing interesting work for opera, and said that there was also a good composer in Hausegger, but he did not try the opera.

Dr. Strauss did not want to go into criticism of modern men and musical movements. “We are so easily misunderstood.” What strikes him the most is the firm will of Central Europe to preserve its music. In many cases, that was all they had left, and they were eager to hold on. “In Vienna”, as he says laconically, “we have hunger – and art. It’s because we’ve lost so much that we cling so tightly to what can be saved: our art. It must survive. It was a path to joy.

In Vienna, the city, despite the lamentable state of its finances, has continued to generously subsidize the opera. The same was true of German cities. The result was that seats could always be offered at popular prices for the best music and singing the city or country had to offer.

He could only give the figures for four months ago for the Vienna National Opera, of which he is the director. There, a good seat cost 400 crowns, but he thought it must have been increased since then. But they were always keen to keep plenty of extremely cheap places available to the poorest, and there was a very general desire among workers to take advantage of these opportunities.

Good ideas from Manchester
It was a terribly difficult time for artists, and even with the help of state subsidies it was no easier for them than for the rest of Viennese to achieve a reasonable standard of living. But those who could would occasionally make rounds of work in Switzerland or Spain, or further afield, so that they could earn money where money meant something, and then return with the exchange for their savings and so continue their work.

When asked if he thinks music can really help break down national barriers and build friendship and understanding, Dr. Strauss only pledged to hope. “Hunger and art bring people together.” He has received invitations since the war to visit Italy and he hopes to go there later. But the time, unfortunately, has not yet come for German art to be appreciated in France.

Dr. Strauss has benevolent ideas about Manchester, and mentions with admiration the Hallé Orchestra, which Hans Richter once conducted. In current English music, he has the warmest feeling for Elgar.

Dr. Strauss is left with the impression of benevolent seriousness and a broad and even personality. When he speaks in his limited English, he feels his words not with the eager petulance of a man who must express his ideas as thought flows, but with the loving care of a philosopher who thinks each sentence must be sifted and sifted again.

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