How do you Compose a Family?
The answer is here – and in concert with Franz Welser-Möst.
"My wife is often very gruff, but you know what, I need that": It is probably impossible to speak more lovingly than Richard Strauss about a wife who was also described by other contemporaries as a not entirely simple character. Pauline de Ahna, married Strauss, was considered irascible, tactless, pedantic and moody. But Strauss actually needed her: as a great singer of his songs - and as an inspiration for his music.
Thus Christine in his opera "Intermezzo", which premiered in 1924, is a portrait of Pauline Strauss that is by no means entirely flattering. And twenty years before that, the "Bauxerl", as Strauss called her, had already made a memorable appearance in the "Symphonia domestica". It is indeed a "domestic symphony"; in about three quarters of an hour, the orchestra tells of a day in the Strauss family, during which dreams and arguments, games and love are played. And it is not always just atmospheres that are set to music: the tantrum of son Franz, who was still called "Bubi" even as an adult, sounds almost as realistic as the chimes with which Strauss tells the time.
Accordingly, the information in the score often goes beyond purely musical references. In the first bars, the composer portrays himself as "dreamy", "sullen" and "fiery". In contrast to his later tone poem "Das Heldenleben", which was often interpreted as a rather egomaniacal self-portrait, Strauss reveals himself in the "Symphonia domestica" as a sometimes "gmögiger", sometimes quite grumpy family man.
Self-confidence - and self-irony
However, ego also resonates in this composition – after all, Strauss was the first composer to set himself to music so unmistakably. "I don't see why I shouldn't do a symphony on myself. I find myself just as interesting as Napoleon or Alexander": the bon mot has become famous. But it not only reveals something about Strauss's self-confidence: The conductor Franz Welser-Möst, who will conduct the "Symphonia domestica" in the Tonhalle Zurich, loves this work very rightly in any case "for its humour and the often underestimated self-irony".
Which brings us back to Pauline Strauss-de Ahna. She too must have had some sense of humour; otherwise, if not after the "Symphonia domestica", then at the latest after the "Intermezzo", she would have carried out what her opera counterpart Christine threatens the Kapellmeister's husband with: "We are divorced forever!"
But it did not come to that. Richard and Pauline Strauss' marriage lasted 53 years until they both died shortly after each other in 1949.
Translated with DeepL.com