Fritz Busch and Dresden [14/15]

Welcome home: Sinopoli’s “homage”



Giuseppe Sinopoli: On Fritz Busch’s return to Dresden



Giuseppe Sinopoli’s speech

Fritz Busch is undoubtedly a figure of extreme ethical importance.
In his conducting, musical expression is stripped of any form of superficial exhibitionism and limited to deep inner spirituality. The absolute clarity of his thinking shows in his choice of tempos, which are based on an incontestable logic that is nonetheless not without brilliant, simple and yet rousing phrasing, the product of deep empathy and the highest degree of inner freedom.
That is one more reason for us to meet our long overdue obligation to cry out to Fritz Busch – albeit posthumously – our most heartfelt, most joyful and at the same time respectful “Welcome home!”

Today, I and the orchestra, which is still “his orchestra”, ask him to forgive us for the day on which with a steady and courageous hand he entered that tragic and heart-rending “all over” in his diary, words that would apply to his future in Dresden, a future of which he was robbed for ever by an ill turn of fate.

Our celebration today is also his celebration. His music is also our music. His love of humankind is also our love of an unspoilt ideal of humanity.

Dear Maestro Busch, with this ceremony today, which for us has the solemnity of a holy rite, you return to your theatre for the first time since that day. The example set by your fearless moral attitude will help us to fulfil our obligations as ambassadors of art, that form of human thinking and feeling which through the work of the hand becomes a lasting mark of culture and civilization.

It was a blackout of the human spirit and feeling, a collective derangement, which extinguished the Promethean fire of culture and civilization and banned you from your theatre.
And it is the new Germany, the Germany which has been reunited after painful but also very human events, that bids you welcome here today.

We hope that your strong and fearless countenance which, like that of the Spartan warrior Leonidas, the countenance of archaic Greece chiselled in stone, bears the veil of melancholy and the deep and bitter furrows of the foreboding of death far from home, may for an instant light up in a brief smile to show us that you are of a mind with us.

I hope this gesture will bridge the gap between the ruins of the past and the consciously lived freedom of today.


Busch and Sinopoli

About Giuseppe Sinopoli’s speech in the Semperoper on September 22, 1998:
When we were consulting about the programme for the ceremony to mark the 450th anniversary of the Dresden Staatskapelle on September 22, 1998, I suggested that consideration be given to showing the 1932 sound film of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser Overture conducted by Fritz Busch. Some members of the committee already knew the film, and it was immediately made accessible to the others. The decision was unanimous in favour of the unique document, provided that showing the available copy in the Semperoper could be effected in such a way as to preserve the effect it had produced in our small viewing room. That meant putting it to the test, which we arranged to do at a time that fitted in with the schedule of our principal conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli.

Sinopoli was naturally aware of Busch’s outstanding international rank as a conductor and of his importance for the opera and orchestra in Dresden. He of course also knew how euphorically Busch had once been received in the city and of the barbaric events of March 1933 that had driven him from the rostrum of the Semperoper and from Dresden.

And so we took our seats in the darkened auditorium of the opera house one day in March 1998;
I observed that Sinopoli, who had just come from a strenuous morning rehearsal, showed interest in the forthcoming experiment, but also looked somewhat sceptical. But after only a few bars he was all at once not only wide awake but quite electrified by the sounds and images. As the film progressed, he seemed more and more overwhelmed by Busch’s powerful authority and suggestive charisma, by the vigour and sensibility with which he led and inspired the orchestra, and no less by the total devotion, the spirited musicianship, the discipline and the rich sound of what was now “his orchestra”.

I have never again seen him listening and watching in such a spellbound manner. And although he was perfectly familiar with the exceptional Dresden tradition stretching from Schütz through Weber and Wagner up to Schuch and Strauss and although he greatly esteemed the recordings conductors like Böhm and Kempe made with the Staatskapelle, I seemed to perceive that he had suddenly become aware in those minutes how truly unique was the heritage entrusted to him – and of the ignominious injustice that had been done to his great predecessor.

Visibly moved after the showing, Sinopoli said only that he would devote a few words to Fritz Busch at the ceremony. Shortly afterwards he asked me for more detailed information, particularly relating to Busch’s time in Dresden. Sinopoli had for some time been sending me his letters and other writings concerning Dresden, with the request that I correct his not always quite perfect German, but I neither heard nor saw anything of his Busch speech. He obviously saw it as an intensely personal matter that he had to ex- press in his own words and did not want anyone from Dresden to see it first.

When Sinopoli finally held the speech at the ceremony, his deep emotions affected the whole auditorium. In conjunction with the film, those urgent, heartfelt words formed the intellectual and emotional focus of the celebrations. Although the Staatsoper had posthumously conferred honorary membership on Fritz Busch in 1990 to mark what would have been his 100th birthday, we felt that he had truly been called back during that unforgettable hour on September 22, 1998.

Giuseppe Sinopoli was unfortunately not able to keep his promise and “take up the thread where it had been broken off” by the Rigoletto catastrophe of March 7, 1933. Before he was able, as general music director designate, to begin the planned cycle of concert performances of operas by Giuseppe Verdi in the Semperoper, his productive life suddenly came to an end on April 20, 2001; he died in Berlin – whilst performing Verdi’s Aida.

Eberhard Steindorf
For many years the concert planner of the Dresden Staatskapelle
and personal assistant to Giuseppe Sinopoli




Memories of Konzertdramaturg Eberhard Steindorf




Fritz Busch • A multimedia portrait of a music-maker

  1/15    Introduction
→  2/15
    The Busch Family
→  3/15    “He is the right one!”
→  4/15    In search of great voices
→  5/15    Staatskapelle concerts
→  6/15    Correspondence between Richard Strauss and Fritz Busch [only in German]
→  7/15    First concert tours
→  8/15    First Gramophone recordings 1923  “Played into the horn”

→  9/15    In Front of a microphone for the first time 1926
10/15   “On Air!”
11/15    Cinema film with photographic sound “Fritz Busch conducts Richard Wagner”
12/15    “Over!”
13/15    Only as a guest
 •  14/15    Welcome home: Sinopoli’s “homage”
15/15    FACTS AND FIGURES The Busch era  [only in German]