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Strauss as Reader

Richard Strauss in Context

Chapter 14 - Strauss as Reader


Composers have long engaged with texts, but the extent to which they have consciously constructed a literary cosmos around their work and private lives has radically changed over the last two centuries. For modern composers, it has been increasingly common to read not merely to enrich intellectual horizons or scour for musically settable material, but as a means to tap into a reservoir through which the reception of their music can add a layer of cultural legitimation. Viewed against this wider context, the extensive library that Strauss collected, read, and selectively presented to audiences in various musical formats symbolizes neither the physical legacy of a lifelong bibliophile (Brahms) nor the quiet spiritual refuge of a well-heeled bourgeois (Elgar). Rather, it constitutes the material footprint of an intellectual disposition toward the world that stems from a deeper-held set of beliefs about the cultural mission of literature in Western European history.

Published: Cambridge University Press 2020.

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