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“Munich’s favorite son was Richard Strauss. I met him only three times, but he had a great influence on my professional life. Strauss had spent the immediate postwar years in Switzerland, where he composed his Four Last Songs, but he returned to his home in Garmisch, in the Bavarian Alps, shortly before his eighty-fifth birthday, on June 11, 1949. In honor of his birthday and homecoming, the Staatsoper put on a new production of Der Rosenkavalier. Strauss, whose health was frail, declined to attend any of the public performances, but he let us know that he would attend the dress rehearsal.”

“I conducted at his funeral. As he had requested in his will, the music was the final trio from Der Rosenkavalier. Marianne Schech sang the part of the Marschallin, Maud Cunitz was Oktavian, and Gerda Sommerschuh was Sophie. One after the other, each singer broke down in tears and dropped out of the ensemble, but they recovered themselves and we all ended together.”

“A few years ago, when I was conducting Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten at the Salzburg Festival, I spoke with his grandson. As we sat talking in a friend’s garden, he told me that after the war his grandfather had despaired for the future of German opera houses, most of which were in ruins and the rest of which were an artistic and administrative shambles. Strauss thought this was the end—and in a sense it was, because the old German lyric-theater tradition died out within the following decade. But after my visit to Garmisch, he told his family, ‘This young man gives me a little hope.’ I hadn’t known this and I was of course delighted to hear it forty-five years later. I think Strauss must have sensed my enthusiasm and determination to do as much as I could, as well as I could. But I regret very much that my time with him was so short, because his advice has been a guide for me throughout my entire career.”

Text excerpted from Memoirs by Sir Georg Solti. And the attached YouTube video is not the property of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association. We just thought it was interesting.

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