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Richard Strauss: Man, Musician, Enigma Hardcover – 13 Jan 1999

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 468 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1st Edition edition (13 Jan. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521581737
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521581738
  • Product Dimensions: 17.4 x 3 x 24.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 817,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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'Mr Kennedy's new biography of Strauss is certain to become the standard work, shaping the interpretations of a whole generation of Strauss's scholars (and ordinary music lovers) to come.' Sunday Telegraph

'One of the many merits of this excellently researched book is that it pinpoints the centrality to Strauss of his family life … It is worth reading … not only for its jaunty style, but also for the integrity with which it provides even discreditable information about its protagonist.' Gerald Kaufman, Daily Telegraph

'Although Kennedy refrains from detailed musical analysis, he is always interesting, if sometimes controversial, in his evaluation of Strauss's most important works and evangelical on behalf of his lesser known ones … Kennedy's book is an important and absorbing contribution to the continuing Strauss debate.' Hugh Canning, Sunday Times

'Michael Kennedy has written a fine work, which I believe will be the benchmark for all future biographies of Richard Strauss.' Literary Review

'Written in an elegantly accessible style, this is the most valuable book on Strauss and his music to have appeared in English.' Charles Osborne, BBC Music Magazine

'… his is one of the best balanced and most intelligent presentations of a composer's work I have ever encountered.' The Observer

'This is a highly enjoyable book. Kennedy gives a sensitive and judicious account of Strauss's life …' The Musical Times

'… majestic and beautifully written study … Here is a major contribution to musical literature at the highest level.' Musical Opinion

'… his abiding love of the subject and his gift for sane human judgements persistently edge us closer to the truth of the enigma that was Strauss.' Gramaphone

'… by virtue of his thoroughness and passion for the subject, Kennedy has given us even cause to celebrate Strauss …' Opera News

'Lord Harewood, the former chairman of English National Opera, reckons Kennedy's 'measured, accurate and penetrating championing' of Strauss to be his finest achievment, 'Strauss was, in some quarters, reviled, and Michael corrected that. He's not just a critic, but an excellent historian'.' The Sunday Telegraph

Book Description

Written by Michael Kennedy, music critic for the Sunday Telegraph, this first detailed biography of Richard Strauss for many years reassesses the man and the musician, drawing on much hitherto ignored material. In particular it considers Strauss's position during the period of the Third Reich.

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Casley TOP 500 REVIEWER on 3 Dec. 2008
Format: Hardcover
The tag was Hans von Bulow's, who declared that after Richard Wagner, there could be no Richard the Second.

This is a review of the 1995, second edition of Michael Kennedy's contribution to the Master Musicians series. It follows the usual format with the earlier chapters focussing on the life, and the remaining chapters concentrating on the works of the composer. The series's customary appendices comprising a timeline, a list of works, short biographies of prominent participants, and a bibliography bring up the rear, although an added appendix in this edition is a list of self-quotations from Strauss's `Ein Heldenleben'. And it is always pleasing to see footnotes rather than endnotes.

In his preface, Kennedy observes that "Richard Strauss's music ... still divides critical opinion into friendly and hostile camps. It always will; it is that kind of music." Kennedy is in the former, but his love of the music is not uncritical. He freely admits that Strauss's music often "lacks mystical and spiritual depth". Strauss himself referred to the art of composition as "wrist exercises". He rarely took himself seriously, telling the Philharmonia Orchestra, "I may not be a first-rate composer, but I AM a first-class second-rate composer." But what is also clear from this book is that in fact what Strauss did take seriously was above all only one thing: music.

The first half of the book - that pertaining to the life - is concise and unexceptional. It is to be regretted that his first eighteen years is covered in a first chapter of only six pages, but - as Kennedy points out - there is "no tale here of an unhappy, poverty-haunted childhood; no serious strife between parents and son; no struggle to adopt a career ...".
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 24 April 1998
Format: Hardcover
Studies of Richard Strauss have a tendency to hover between enthusiasm and mealy-mouthed criticism. Or else they are so voluminous (multiple volumes) that only the most serious scholar or eager enthusiast can imagine plowing through them. Michael Kennedy's volume has two great strengths that place it at the top of the class when it comes to finding a good introduction to Strauss: It is compact, yet invitingly enthusiastic. Kennedy has the knack of highlighting precisely the unique strengths of each different work. Perhaps this is not so rare when he speaks of the leading masterpieces that others praise as well. But it is his special gift that he makes the reader want to listen to those works that have not been blessed with extreme popularity. All of them offer something that sounds interesting and inviting to the music-lover. Not only is it a superb guide to Richard Strauss; I think this book is a veritable model for the way that the non-technical music lover should be introduced to an important composer.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 18 May 1999
Format: Hardcover
It's appropriate that this admirable volume should have appeared now, with the 50th anniversary of Richard Strauss' death occurring on September 8, and with (by bizarre coincidence) the demise last March of Stanley Kubrick, whose use of Strauss' Thus Spake Zarathustra in the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey introduced the German master's genius to millions who would no more have visited a concert hall than flown to the moon.
Compact discs' effectiveness not only at widening the available repertoire but at conveying even the most elaborate instances of Strauss' orchestral filigree -- as no earlier recording medium could consistently do -- has itself done Strauss' standing a favour. But few earlier books on Strauss are recent enough or comprehensive enough to make sense amid the CD revolution. Fortunately Michael Kennedy's clear-headed, unfailingly craftsmanlike account is. It also provides some much-needed balance to often peevish and ill-informed accusations that Strauss was a stooge of the Third Reich.
Strauss, whose tongue seldom emerged from his cheek, called himself in 1947 "a first-rate second-rate composer"; but Kennedy's verdict - that Strauss ranks as high as any composer the 20th century has seen - is not only more generous but probably more accurate. The Strauss expert will relish this book; the newcomer to Strauss can be assured that no better book on the topic exists.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dr. H. A. Jones TOP 500 REVIEWER on 10 Feb. 2013
Format: Hardcover
Richard Strauss by Michael Kennedy, J.M. Dent, 1976, 288ff.

Richard Strauss is equally well known for his operas as for his orchestral tone poems, some of which run to the length of symphonies. He composed 15 operas, from Guntram in 1893 to Capriccio in 1941, and nearly three dozen orchestral pieces. Some of these have become independent orchestral pieces for the concert hall, taken from his operas, like the Dance of the Seven Veils from the opera Salome; or the introductory sextet from Capriccio. He also composed two horn concertos - one at the beginning and the other near the end of his career - as well as concertos for violin and for oboe.

This book serves as the best introduction to Strauss' life and works that I have read. The author, Michael Kennedy, is a journalist who started his career with the British daily newspaper, The Daily Telegraph. He is known for his expertise in writing about the life and work of English composers and performers, several like this book in the series of Master Musicians originally published by Dent in London. Like other books of the series, the first half presents a chronological biography of the composer's life while the second half describes, and to some extent analyses, the music. Again, in the usual format, at the end of the book is a Calendar of events in Strauss' life, a catalogue of works, brief biographical details of other people who were influential in Strauss' life, a brief bibliography and an Index.
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