Thursday, December 06, 2007


Alex Ross, in his new book The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century (at 10), after describing the May 16, 1906, premiere of Richard Strauss's opera Salome, conducted by the composer and attended by composers Gustav Mahler (and his lusty wife Alma), Arnold Schoenberg and Giacomo Puccini, plus the seventeen year-old Adolph Hitler:
The Austrian premiere of Salome was just one event in a busy season, but, like a flash of lightning, it illuminated a musical world on the verge of traumatic change. Past and future were colliding; centuries were passing in the night. Mahler would die in 1911, seeming to take the Romantic era with him. Puccini's Turandot, unfinished at his death in 1924, would more or less end a glorious Italian operatic history that began in Florence at the end of the sixteenth century. Schoenberg, in 1908 and 1909, would unleash fearsome sounds that placed him forever at odds with the vox populi. Hitler would seize power in 1933 and attempt the annihilation of a people. And Strauss would survive to a surreal old age. "I have actually outlived myself," he said in 1948. At the time of his birth, Germany was not yet a single nation and Wagner had yet to finish Ring of the Nibelung. At the time of Strauss's death, Germany had been divided into East and West, and American soldiers were whistling "Some Enchanted Evening" in the streets.

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