Sixty years ago, on September 8th 1949,
the great composer Richard Strauss, aged 85, died following a short illness.
This marvellous musician, conductor, composer and even librettist once
called himself ‘a first rate second-class composer’. We have no idea how
many or even which composers Strauss would have considered first class, but
we do know that he adored Mozart, had tremendous respect for Beethoven and
for Wagner’s music, and that he admired, even with a hint of criticism, the
works of his friend Gustav Mahler. Strauss was to outlive Mahler by almost
forty years, yet his final compositions during and after the European Second
World War, stand as monuments to the great Romantic era, when that period in
musical life had all but vanished during the earlier part of the twentieth
composed over 30 full scale orchestral works and symphonic brass works,
including fanfares, the Olympic Hymn for the 1936 Games, tone poems such as
the Alpine Symphony, Till Eulenspiegel, Don Juan and
Death and Transfiguration; he composed over 200 songs, 2 full ballet
scores and 3 other incidental ballet scores, 4 concerti, chamber music and
15 operas. Many of these latter are now classics in the operatic repertoire
worldwide, with names such as Salome, Elektra, Arabella, Der
Rosenkavalier and Capriccio becoming household names amongst
opera lovers. The great glory that is still Strauss’s very own is in his
writing for the female voice, especially the high soprano. Nowhere is this
magic to be found more forcibly expressed than in the final aria of his last
opera, Capriccio or in the Vier Letzte Lieder, the Four Last
These songs were written within a few months of each other at the Palace
Hotel in Montreux where Strauss was staying to recuperate after the ordeals
of the war and some increasing health problems, The first song, Im
Abendrot, a setting of the poem by Joseph von Eichendorff, was completed
on May 6th 1948;
Fruhling (Spring) came next on July 18th,
Beim Schlafengehen on August 4th and
finally September on September 20th.
These latter three are poems by Hermann Hesse. In the finale of Capriccio
and in these songs, Strauss, aged 84, creates a vocal line of extraordinary
beauty and tenderness. The voice almost becomes an instrument of the
orchestra as it floats, soars with surging power, curves and weaves its way
through the delectable lines of poetry set to a rich backcloth of glowing
orchestral harmonisation that somehow encapsulates everything Strauss had
written before. In these songs we see and feel the beauty of nature
eloquently expressed in rich tones and glorious harmonies; we hear the
extraordinary beauty of the female voice with all its force, colour, depth
and expression in a way that embodies the very essence of the human heart.
As Michael Kennedy so aptly wrote in his book on Strauss, ‘He wanted to give
pleasure, to create joy, for he understood the human heart. That was his
greatest strength and it made him a master musician not for an age but for
all the time mankind allows itself’.
How fitting, too, that the last song in this cycle reads as follows: ‘The
garden is in mourning; the rain sinks coolly on the flowers.
Summertime shudders quietly to its close. Leaf upon golden leaf is dropping
down from the tall acacia tree. Summer smiles amazed and exhausted on the
dying dream that was this garden. Long by the roses still it tarries, yearns
for rest, slowly closing its weary eyes’. Strauss did just that a year
Songs of Memory: Traditional Music of the Golden Triangle
The open presentation at the August meeting of the Chiang Mai
chapter of Soroptimists International, held August 19 at the Amari Rincome
Hotel was a great success, with 47 guests listening in fascination to
Victoria Vorreiter’s sensitive and beautifully expressed description of her
4-year journey documenting the traditional music of the unique and diverse
hill tribe communities living in the mountains of the Golden Triangle.
talk, ‘Songs of Memory: Traditional Music of the Golden Triangle’, centred
on 6 prominent groups, the Karen, Hmong, Mien, Lahu, Akha, and Lisu, all of
whom have maintained to a high degree their independence and unique cultural
history in language, customs, arts, religion and dress. The diversity of the
six groups’ musical traditions was highlighted by recordings of instrumental
pieces on traditional instruments, and with a filmed record of indigenous
mountain people, many of whom became, over the years, Victoria’s much-loved
To these diverse groups, music does not represent entertainment, or the
expression of personal talent for gain. It is inextricably bound up with
beliefs, rites and rituals, and the handing down of tribal history in the
bardic tradition. According to Victoria, the keepers of the ancient
traditions - master musicians, shamans, headmen, matriarchs and patriarchs –
use their vast trove of songs, sacred chants, legends and instrumental music
to connect their people to something greater than themselves. Music,
supported by ritual and formality, anchors members of a community to their
life-source, reunites them with their ancestors and aligns them with their
deities. Ceremonies and songs remind them of their origins and preserve
collective memory. Music promotes a sense of communal harmony by instilling
identity and belonging. Songs are the chronicles and oracles of tribal ways
Beginning her presentation, Victoria explained that ‘This presentation will
give you a window into the world of traditional hill tribe peoples, who live
close to the earth, in synchronicity with the seasons, and with lifestyles
little changed over the centuries. The photographs, audio and video media
clips, will introduce you to the tribal cultures that my Resonance Project
has visited. Please enjoy the sounds and sights of these amazing people who
have graced my path’. And ‘enjoy’ is exactly what the audience did.
An hour-long documentary, ‘The Music of the Golden Triangle and the Cycles
of Life’, together with a beautifully illustrated book, ‘Songs of Memory’,
has been produced by Victoria as part of her Resonance project. A travelling
exhibition is being put together, including the documentary film, film
modules, recordings, photographs and examples of tribal instruments and
costume. The launch of the book will be on November 1, and the exhibition
will run through February and March next year at the CMU Art Centre,
definitely a ‘don’t miss’ event.
For more info, please visit Victoria’s website at www.
Suriya Gallery’s ‘Art and Ideas’ talk– A journey through Myanmar
In spite of the heavens opening and discharging a much- needed
tropical downpour, Suriya Gallery’s ‘Art and Ideas’ talk by veteran
travel journalist Judyth Gregory–Smith went ahead as planned, hugely
enjoyed by a somewhat damp audience!
Judyth based her talk on readings from her new book, ‘A Trishaw called
Kinny’, which relates her experiences travelling alone across Myanmar to
historical and obscure locations. This was her second visit to the
country; the first was in 1987, with her husband Richard. She describes
her determination to return in a bittersweet passage:-
Richard and I first visited Myanmar, then called Burma, in 1987. Our
passions were travel, nature, birds, other cultures and each other. The
list is not in order. We were on leave from the Australian High
Commission in Papua New Guinea.
“Wouldn’t it be good to see what my opposite number is doing in the
Embassy in Burma?’ he’d said, which in Richard-speak really meant
‘Wouldn’t it be good to traipse through jungles and swamps to study
Burma’s rainforest birds and animals.’ The powers-that-were permitted a
visa for only two weeks, but that was enough to fall in love with the
country. We vowed to return. And I did. Alone. Richard died in 2001.
The themes of ‘A Trishaw called Kinny’, described as ‘an intimate,
detailed travelogue packed with first- hand information’, vary from
Myanmar’s royal cities to ways by which a lone woman can travel safely
and inexpensively in the country. It’s a geographical, historical and
personal journey which also charts the writer’s personal journey of
recovery and self-discovery after her husband’s death, taking her by
public transport to isolated villages and farming communities as well as
to famous monasteries and temples. She stays in family-run guesthouses
and is made welcome by local people rich in traditions and culture but
poor in material possessions.
During her talk, Judyth described many of her adventures with humour and
a genuine love for Myanmar and above all its people who, in spite of the
poverty and restrictions imposed by the ruling Junta, seemed always to
be happy in themselves.
Nance, owner of Suriya Gallery, and, with her Burmese partner, the
compiler of the first practical Burmese-English dictionary, now in
print, provided her usual gentle welcome to her guests, along with large
quantities of iced herbal tea—with a difference! The tea, made from
flowers which are also used for dyeing cloth, was a beautiful, bright
blue - delicious and refreshing.
Suriya Gallery, which specialises in works by Burmese artists, will be
closed until late October, allowing Nance a long-overdue 2-month holiday
during which she will visit Europe. The next ‘Art and Ideas’ event will
take place in November, with a poetry reading by three poets, during
which the audience will be encouraged to compose their own poems on the
spot!. Watch this space for further information closer to the date.
The gallery is located off Huey Kaew Road at No. 2, Hotel Bua Luang, Soi
Bua Luang, in the same soi as the Holiday Garden Hotel. Look for the
spray-painted Suriya Art Gallery sign before you get to the hotel’s
gate, or park in the Nice Nails-Mr Chan and Miss Pauline’s Pizza parking
lot at the mouth of the soi, and walk through the gate, keeping to the
culture celebrated at Airport Plaza
Supoj Thaimyos & Jittraporn Charasrum
A festival celebrating traditional Japan was held recently at
Airport Plaza, attended by a great many students and presided over by
Junko Yokota, Consul-General of Japan in Chiang Mai, and Reungdet
Wongla, Chiang Mai Rajabhat University’s President.
young student from by Rajabhat University pictured wearing a traditional
Japanese kimono at the cultural event held at Airport Plaza.
The event was aimed at anyone who wished to learn more about the arts,
culture, history, literature and traditions of Japan, with traditional
lifestyles, art, and cultural aspects exhibited and presented within
activities. Guests were able to dress in kimonos and yukatas before
being photographed in front of a beautiful background, and were able to
learn about traditional Japanese Ikebana, (flower arranging), the game
of Go, calligraphy using brushes, the Cha-No-U, (tea ceremony), and
other purely Japanese pastimes.
The event, including a stage performance, was organised by Rajabhat
University’s Japanese major students, and ran from August 21-23.