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A Richard Strauss melodrama -
reviewed by

'... a fine performance from an actor of wide experience ...'

Enoch Arden. Michael York, John Bell Young. © 2002 Americus Records

Critical opinion has hardly rallied behind Enoch Arden. Strauss's music bolsters a Tennyson narrative poem in which the three main characters behave with such impeccable and impossible rectitude that the human interest almost takes second place to descriptive passages about the fishing village, the desert island where Enoch, bookless and musicless, is washed up, and the second home of Enoch's wife. For Gerard Manley Hopkins, seeing in the poem more technique than inspiration, this was the work in which he began 'to doubt Tennyson'. Strauss devised his music for Enoch Arden (in a translation by Adolph Strodtmann) to strengthen his Munich position with Ernst von Possart, intendant of the Court Theatre. His diary entry of 26 February 1897 is revealing enough: 'Finished Enoch Arden (melodrama) for Possart. Remark expressly that I do not wish it ever to be counted among my works, as it is a worthless occasional piece (in the worst sense of the word).' Ernest Newman's 1908 book on Strauss seems initially to dismiss the whole genre: 'The union of the speaking voice with the pianoforte is at the best a detestable one.'

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Copyright © 4 May 2003 Robert Anderson, London, UK


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