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on 14 January 2013
Matthew Boyden's biography of Richard Strauss is at all times highly readable and avoids the over technicality of many music biographies. A good biography is one that you don't want to put down and this is definitely in this category. However if you want the man to live up to the music, you will find little in this book to give you comfort. Strauss comes across as egotistical and self driven to the point of nausea, his greed for money at the expense sometimes of musical value is sometimes hard to swallow and his at best neutral attitude to Nazi Germany and its leaders will also put many off the man and even some off his music. My only criticism is that one often looks in vain for something positive about the man and although the author extols the virtues of the music, he does at times seem to take a very anti Strauss view of the man. In regards to vanity, one could cite several other great composers, not the least Wagner, and a certain amount of selfishness seems to be a pre-requisite of genius from the many biographies I have read. Strauss' greed for money and status is less common in composers who generally have quite a bad business sense, but in this materialistic age can one really criticise Strauss for perhaps being one of the first materialistic composers! In regards to the Nazi era, although it is difficult to defend Strauss for his laisse-faire attitude and for seeming to say that as a composer he was above politics, it must be remembered that Strauss was aged 70 when Hitler came to power, and how many of us in our retirement years would have railed against Hitler! I have also read more sympathetic views of Strauss' during the Nazi era, which emphasise that he did try to help some of his Jewish relatives in the camps, insisted on the Jewish Librettist Zweig's name featuring on an opera billing and had at least some regrets when he realised the extent that the Nazi's had in fact destroyed Germany and it's people. This said, this is a very fine biography, I would just like to read one that maybe was a bit more pro Strauss the man, to get a balance. In conclusion though the truth may well be summed up in Toscanini's quote 'To Strauss the musician I take my hat off, to Strauss the man I put it back on again'.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 October 2012
This book serves as a great introduction to the life and works of Richard Strauss. Written in a lucid and informative fashion, largely avoiding technicalities, the author manages to explain the inner workings of Strauss's music with sufficient clarity even for the non -expert.

The problem of Strauss is perhaps that he was a man of his time- sharing many of the thoughts and prejudices of his class. His antisemitism was was not of the virulent variety, but was sufficiently well developed to leave a sour taste for most modern readers.Strauss was caught up in momentous historical events,forcing choices that put him in the position of having to satisfy to his conscience and protecting his family and colleagues. It is too easy to judge him harshly.Strauss was not one for heroic deeds, but then how many of us are? He did his best. In reality he wanted to be left alone, but that was the one thing that Goebbels and the rest could not let happen. He was a public figure and so had to play his part as a supporter of things Nazi.

Clearly Strauss lived for his music and his family and little else concerned him. He certainly was not a tame pet of the Nazi's, but even so had to tow the line in order to avoid the fate that awaited many of his former friends and associates.Strauss as a character is rather elusive.It would have been well if the author could have located some appropriate sources that discussed the domestic home life and personal attributes of the great man in order to give us a more rounded view. On a more positive note, the book is well illustrated, comprehensive and highly enjoyable. I raced through it enjoying every page. I was sad to finish reading the book, but at a least I felt compelled to go out and explore more of Strauss's music.Highly recommended.
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these are two separate books! one by Boyden and one by Tim Ashley. Can you seperate the two ISBNS so i can order Tim Ashley?? At the moment, it clicks through to Boyden's book. Also some of the reviews are for one book, some for the other
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on 24 April 2000
Condensing Richard Strauss's life and work into a single, short volume is no easy task, though Tim Ashley manages it with considerable dexterity.Given the difficulty of approaching Strauss as a subject fifty years after the end of the Second World War - the charges of Nazi collaboration still loom large over him in some quarters - Ashley succeeds by placing Strauss in a political context, subdividing his life and works into the various relevent epochs of German history, beginning with his childhood in the Bavaria of mad King Ludwig II and ending with his death in the aftermath of atrocity and war, days before the founding of the Bonn Republic. The public persona of the outer man is often related to the private emotions conveyed within his music - Ashley is also unfailingly strong on exploring the literary background to many of Strauss's works. There are flaws: there are times when you feel Ashley is hampered by the Phaidon series format and could do with more space (though it should also be added that the book is beautifully illustrated and the photographs have been both well researched and well captioned); the knock-on effect of this is that there are ommissions in Ashley's discussion of Strauss's works, while there are times when the composer's all-important relationship with his shrewish wife Pauline is somewhat sketchily portrayed. On the other hand, there are some riveting insights into the man's political and aesthetic beliefs and some wonderfully radical interpretations of some of his best known scores. Despite its flaws, I would recommend it - both to fans of the composer's work and those who might be approaching his output for the first time.
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on 22 February 2015
As described
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on 6 November 1998
Just a quick note to say that I have seen and read the draft manuscript of Boyden's biography, and all I'll say at the moment is that it is a remarkable achievement.
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