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Past Events > 2017


My Dearest Hedgehog

15 October 2017, 16:00 - 17:10


Recital

Early Evening


Thumbnail of Jacqueline du Pré Music Building

Jacqueline du Pré Music Building

St Hilda's College,
Oxford



Please note that Penny Downie has regretfully had to withdraw from this concert. We are extremely grateful to Penelope Wilton and delighted that she is able to step in.

This narrated recital, devised and written by Henrietta Bredin and already performed in numerous venues to great acclaim, explores the relationship between Richard Strauss and his wife, Pauline. Strauss wrote many of his greatest songs with her voice in mind and the fascinating and witty narrative, delivered by two renowned actors, is interspersed with a number of these works. This promises to be an entertaining and illuminating look at the Strauss family.

Henrietta Bredin writes the following the following introduction to My Dearest Hedgehog:

‘Dear and most esteemed Herr Strauss’ and ‘Dear Fräulein de Ahna’ was how it all began: formal correspondence between a young but already successful and respected conductor and composer, and a very slightly older, would-be opera singer. They met in 1887 and over a period of time their relationship (and their careers) blossomed, while their correspondence began to be studded with affectionate nicknames and loving greetings. They called each other Schätzchen, or darling; he was her best, most beloved Richard; she was his dearest Bauxerl, his faithful Bi; they sent each other a thousand kisses.

But Pauline de Ahna, who was to marry her Richard and become Pauline Strauss in 1894, was to most people a very far cry from the ‘süße, reizende Frau’, the ‘sweet and charming wife’ so valued and adored by her husband. She had a volatile temper, was easily roused to irrational jealousy, belittled Strauss in public and criticised his music. She was excessively house-proud, carrying her zeal for cleanliness so far as to run her gloved finger over surfaces in other people’s living-rooms to check for dust. She attended to her husband’s every need but bullied him mercilessly. Nevertheless Strauss swore he could not do without her, their marriage lasted until he died, holding her hand, in 1949, and she survived him by only a few months, broken by her loss. Her daughter-in-law Alice said ‘I never realised anyone could weep so much.’

Unfortunately, no recordings exist of Pauline singing but Strauss said that he composed his songs for her voice; she was his ‘model interpreter’ and sang ‘with a completely even tone and poetic interpretation’. The critic Eduard Hanslick praised her ‘rich, sweet soprano voice’. Strauss wrote some of his most exquisite songs for her, including the raptly blissful Morgen; Cäcilie, which he composed on the eve of their wedding, vital with a sort of nervous ecstasy, and the tender lullaby Meinem Kinde, written when Pauline was pregnant with their only child, Franz.

Strauss’s peak period of writing solo songs came to an end in 1906, when Pauline retired from professional performance. The great operas for which he was to become so well known began with Salome in 1905, to be followed by Elektra, Der Rosenkavalier, Ariadne auf Naxos, Arabella and more. Perceived by some as cold, reserved, even arrogant, Strauss’s deep-rooted sensuality and passionate nature found expression in his music. And that music was inspired by his irascible, exasperating, prickly hedgehog of a greatly beloved wife.


Artist Portrait

Penelope Wilton

Penelope Wilton

Reader

Penelope Wilton is one of Britain’s best-known actresses. After studies at London’s Drama Centre, she made early debuts in the West End and on Broadway and has since worked extensively in theatre, film, and television. Stage highlights include the 2015 Olivier Award for Best Actress, as well as prizes from the London Critics Circle Theatre Awards, the Irish Theatre Awards, and the London Evening Standard Awards. Penelope has six further Olivier Award nominations from a career which has included appearances at the National Thea... Read Full Biography
Artist Portrait

Oliver Cotton

Oliver Cotton

Reader

Oliver Cotton was born in London. As an actor he has worked extensively at The Royal National Theatre playing leading roles in many productions including The Royal Hunt Of The Sun, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It, Peter Brook’s Oedipus, In His Own Write, Hamlet, Tamburlaine, No Mans Land, The Passion, Despatches, Half Life, The World Turned Upside Down, Julius Caeser, The Madras House, The Man With A Flower In His Mouth, Tales from The Vienna Woods, The Crucible, Piano, Troilus and Cress... Read Full Biography
Artist Portrait

Raphaela Papadakis

Raphaela Papadakis

Soprano

Winner of the National Mozart Competition 2015, Raphaela Papadakis is a British soprano of Greek, Italian and Seychellois descent. Whilst still a student at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, she made her professional début at Garsington Opera, for which she was praised by the Financial Times as giving ‘the most attractive solo performance’ of the show. Since then, she has performed roles with Independent Opera and Bury Court Opera, and covered at the Royal Opera House and the Berlin Staatsoper. Recent and future r... Read Full Biography
Artist Portrait

Sholto Kynoch

Sholto Kynoch

Pianist

Sholto Kynoch is a sought-after pianist who specialises in chamber music and song accompaniment. In addition to a busy performance schedule and a fast-growing discography, he is the founder and director of the Oxford Lieder Festival, the UK’s most renowned song festival, which recently won a prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society Award. In recent years he has appeared at London’s Wigmore Hall, the Palau de la Música in Barcelona, the Berliner Konzerthaus, the Victoria Concert Hall in Singapore, the Opéra de Lille... Read Full Biography

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