My Dearest Hedgehog

15 October 2017, 4:00pm - 5:10pm

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.


13 October 2017 | 9:00am

The Last of the Romantics - Mahler and fin-de-siècle Vienna

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15 October 2017, 12:30pm - 3:15pm
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15 October 2017, 5:30pm 03 March 2024 - 1:24pm

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