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Palmer's 3 hour 15 minute 'epic' begins with the founders; playwright/director Hermann Bahr, composer Richard Strauss, dramatist Hugo von Hofmannsthal and director extraordinaire Max Reinhardt. After sketching in the Great War, he charts festival developments into the 1920s and 30s, across the eras of Toscanini, Bruno Walter, Furtwängler, Karl Böhm and their musical heirs -- through World War 2 -- to as recently as 2006.

Throughout the earlier years, concerts by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra had become de rigeur; in addition it acted as the opera orchestra and a scaled-down group required for chamber works and sacred concerts. Budapest's Philharmonic Orchestra (with Dohnányi conducting) was the first guest ensemble as early as 1931; another visiting orchestra, the Berlin Phil, didn't arrive until 1957.

After the Anschluss in 1938, however, many artists left or refused to perform in Salzburg; among them Bruno Walter, Arturo Toscanini, Erich Kleiber, Fritz Busch and Otto Klemperer. Events were curtailed during World War II [watch and listen -- chapter 7, 0:39:51-0:42:10] and the festival was temporarily closed from 1943, then reopened (1945) following the Allied victory in Europe. It slowly regained prominence as the première summer opera festival, especially in works of Mozart and Richard Strauss.

War had left a grim legacy; 48% of Salzburg's housing was in ruins and thousands of refugees thronged the town. Divas of those years look back and tell how it had been during the war. With their eyes to the future, Americans arrived to reinvent Europe; they shrewdly recognised (and invested in) the festival as Austria's dynamo.

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Copyright © 2 August 2007 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand


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