MUSICALLY the visit of Dr. Richard Strauss to Birmingham was looked forward to as one of the events of the season. True, we had an opportunity of hearing him as a pianist at one of Mr. Max Mossel’s drawing-room concerts last season, and several of his works had been introduced by Mr. Geo. Halford. But, for all that, of the man and his music – that is, his greater works, we knew little. Therfore we were glad of another opportunity of judging him not only as a composer but also as a conductor. A number of vacant seats were noticed, and undoubtedly some few people appear somewhat afraid of attempting to listen to a concert composed wholly of Strauss music. It was a bold undertaking on the part of Mr. Halford to ask his patrons to listen to the music of one man, but the audience present – among whom one noticed many influential people in the musical world – must have been gratifying both to the promoters and to the composer-conductor. The programme was as follows: »Don Juan«, Op. 20; Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 8; Tone poem »Tod und Verklärung«, Op. 24; »Ein Heldenleben,« Op. 49. The novelty of the concert was the Violin Concerto, and, as its opus number indicates, this is an early work, but as music it is excellent in every respect. It is formed on classic models, but contains some real melodies, which charm the listener by their beauty. Speaking personally it did not appeal to the writer as a great work; but played as it was by Mr. Max Mossel, it certainly created a most favourable impression. Mr. Mossel gave his part excellently. The Lento was charmingly played, while the Rondo went with a most inspiriting swing. The first movement appeared to contain the most solid scoring. Under Dr. Strauss the orchestrea gave just the requisite accompaniment.
As regards the orchestral selections, Mr. Halford had evidently prepared his ground well, especially as regarded the »tone-poems«, all of which, however, have been dealt with in detail in previous issues of this journal. The »Don Juan« poem is a work of great power, but, to my way of thinking, does not depict the idealist in his best light. The orchestral colouring is in places most vivid, and several of the themes are beautiful, and one must say the composer imparted a certain individuality to the performance. One of the best performances was undoubtedly that of »Tod und Verklärung«. There was nothing in this poem which struck a repellent chord, while the realism of some sections, especially that of the dying struggles of the unhappy man, was excellent. This performance created great enthusiasm. »Ein Heldenleben« has been the subject of special comment as to its merit. Its powerful scoring is admittedly great, while in places its beauty is impressive; but it is such a combination of beauty and ugliness that, as a work of art, I am loth to place it. Sometimes, it must be confessed, one appears to be listening to a musical joke. Certainly the performance of the work was magnificent in every respect, every point being accentuated. The majority of the audience remained until the close, and Dr. Strauss met with a reception which must assured him of the high estimation in which he was held by the audience. Shouts of »bravo!« at the close of the concert were a startling demonstration on the part of the audience, and undoubtedly the Strauss Concert will long be remembered by many. –