Perhaps my favourite composer quote is that by Richard Strauss when an
American officer came up to his house in Garmisch. He said:
'I am Richard Strauss, the composer of Der Rosenkavalier and Salome.'
Of course, we do not know how he said it but I like to think of it said
with pride, some arrogance and perhaps impatience to get back to his
work or card game. Fortunately the officer had heard of him; perhaps
a knowledge of Strauss was part of his officer training (unlikely).
I wonder if an average Australian officer would have been so mentally
It is interesting to speculate whether he mentioned Der Rosenkavalier
and Salome because he was most proud of these or whether he had predicted
that these were the works an enemy coming to the door would most likely
have heard of. I suspect the latter is most likely.
It is very easy for us to condemn Strauss now for staying in Germany
under Hitler but what would we have done? Unfortunately he did not have
the clarity of hindsight which we now possess. If I were asked to conduct
Wagner at Bayreuth I doubt whether I would have said no (presuming I had
the required ability). And, no doubt, I would have entered a complex
web of compromises to protect relatives and myself.
Leon Le Leu