At the Royal Philharmonic Society’s concert on November 19, the Gold Medal of the Society was presented to Richard Strauss by Sir Hugh Allen. We are glad to be able to give Sir Hugh’s speech and Strauss’s response:
»Herr Doktor Richard Strauss,
Es ist ein grosser Tag in der Geschichte der Feierlichkeiten der Königlicher [sic] Philharmonischen Gesellschaft. Im Namen aller anwesenden Mitglieder und im Sinne unserer altbewährten Traditionen möchte ich betonen, dass wir niemanden aus den höchsten Kreisen der heutigen Musikwelt mit grösserer Freude und Verehrung begrüssen als Sie, Herr Doktor.
This Society, which to‑night offers for your acceptance its Gold Medal, the highest distinction in its power to bestow, looks back over more than a hundred and twenty years, during which time the welfare of the music‑making of this country has been largely in its keeping.
It has always preserved close contact with the contemporary works of all countries, and has brought to a first hearing in London many of the great works of their composers. It was the privilege of this Society in the early years of its existence to give to London its first opportunities of hearing several of the symphonies of Beethoven. His ninth Symphony in particular may be said to belong to us, for it was commissioned and paid for by this Society. The score of this Symphony that was sent to the Society by the composer is among our most precious possessions.
The bust of Beethoven which presides over all our concerts is the visible memorial of this honourable connection.
To‑night we desire to acknowledge the debt that the musical world owes to you for the great and brilliant series of works you have given to it, and in doing so, to say that in no country nor by any society have these works been more heartily appreciated and (let us hope) more enthusiastically performed than in London and by this Society.
I shall never forget when in Germany at the time that Till Eulenspiegel made his sudden dramatic appearance, how one’s breath was all but taken away in surprise and delight and the world seemed a brighter and more worthwhile place. In range of subject and in power of expression you have played the magician with our feelings and carried us from the philosophic profundities of ›Also Sprach Zarathustra‹ to the entrancing delights of the ›Rosenkavalier.‹ You have made us all love that strange and attractive creature ›Don Quixote,‹ and also to share to the full in the grim tragedy of ›Electra.‹
There is no country where your great gifts to music have been more appreciated and honoured than in this so called ›unmusical England.‹ No students more than our own have read and re‑read your scores, listened and pondered on them in performance, tried to master their content and to follow the intricacies and delicacies of scoring which are unrivalled and inevitable. You have exercised a vast influence on many a young music student of pre‑war days. When you came to Oxford to receive an Honorary Degree there was present at that ceremony a young graduate of Christ Church, an exceptionally gifted amateur, who had made your music his chief study and delight. The war called him, he went to the front with his men and was killed. In his dug‑out there was found a miniature score of your ›Symphonia Domestica‹ fully annotated and studied with all a scholar’s care. It is now deposited with his collection of scores in the music student’s library at Oxford.
During this week, and coincident with the visit of the Dresden State Opera, there is being held in London a veritable Richard Strauss Festival of a quasi‑international kind in which three great orchestras are taking part and also the renowned Opera Company of Dresden. All these performances are crowded. They could be repeated several times without exhausting the number of those who would wish to hear them. This feast of your music may be taken in a sense as the offering of the people of London who desire to show in a really practical way their enthusiasm and their gratitude.
The presentation to‑night of this medal is the particular privilege of this Society. It carries with it the prestige of a great tradition – it is the expression of this Society’s admiration of your genius. I therefore ask you – the outstanding figure in the world of music of our time – to accept this – the Gold Medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society – and may long life and happiness be yours in full measure.«
In reply, Dr. Strauss said: »Permit me to express my warmest thanks for the honour you have conferred upon me this evening in presenting me with the medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society. We in Germany are aware of the significance your Society has held for a long time in the English musical world, and it is of especial interest to us to know how closely the names of our greatest composers, such as Beethoven and Wagner, are connected with your Society. For over forty years I myself have been in close touch with the English musical world and have always been particularly happy at the way my works have been taken up in this country. Throughout many years I was in close touch with your great Master, Edward Elgar, and at the present time I have many friends among English musicians. It is for this reason, and because of this feeling I have of being closely bound to the English musical world, that I appreciate the honour done me this evening with particular gratitude, and I ask you to accept my most sincere thanks.
As a token of this feeling, I ask to be allowed to hand to the Royal Philharmonic Society the first page of the score of my symphonic poem ›Macbeth‹ – the beginning of a work which deals with a subject from your great master, Shakespeare.«