24 February 2014 at 11.50am | Comment on this article
Richard Strauss was a fierce advocate and defender of a composer’s ability to assert copyright.
He was often embroiled in battles with publishers and at turn of the last century helped establish the first society to protect the rights of German composers. The Genossenschaft Deutscher Tonsetzer became the model for other international societies.
These efforts are indicative of Strauss’s business-minded approach to composition. It was therefore particularly galling for him to realize that when Bote & Bock published his op. 56 songs, they had immediately acquired the rights to his next six Lieder. Indignant, Strauss composed Krämerspiegel in 1918, a song cycle which lampoons the publishing industry. Bote & Bock refused to accept the songs and Strauss was forced to compose six more in order to honour his contract, offering three Goethe settings and three songs based on Ophelia’s mad scene in Hamlet. While subtler in message than Krämerspiegel, the three Goethe poems, taken from the Buch des Unmuts (Book of Bad Temper) and Ophelia's wild rants nonetheless helped Strauss vent his anger over the publisher’s greed and his own shortsightedness.
2014 sees the 150th anniversary of Richard Strauss’s birth. The composer will be celebrated at the ROH with stagings of Die Frau ohne Schatten (14 March-2 April) and Ariadne auf Naxos (25 June-13 July). Tickets for both are still available.