“The Last Days of Mankind”

Glenn Watkins

in Proof through the Night

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2002 | ISBN: 9780520231580
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520927896 | DOI:
“The Last Days of Mankind”

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In a letter to Gerty von Hofmannsthal on August 22, 1914, Richard Strauss registered pride in Germany's initial battlefield successes during the Great War. On September 12, however, it was reported that Strauss had refused to sign a manifesto of German artists and intellectuals. Among the members of the Viennese School it was Anton Webern who retained the closest spiritual link with the nature world of Strauss and Gustav Mahler. Karl Kraus, a Jewish convert to Catholicism, brooked ambiguity along with apocalyptic visions in his powerful five-act play, Die letzten Tage der Menschheit (1915–1922). Kraus was not the only contemporary poet to whom Webern turned. In the same month that he completed “Der Tag ist vergangen,” Webern sketched but never finished settings for two poems by Georg Trakl, who had died two months earlier. The “March” that concludes Alban Berg's Three Pieces for orchestra, op. 6, written in 1914, immediately following the assassination at Sarajevo, has been linked to the composer's affection for the music of Mahler.

Keywords: Richard Strauss; Germany; Great War; Anton Webern; Gustav Mahler; Karl Kraus; Georg Trakl; Alban Berg; music

Chapter.  6206 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music

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