When Richard Strauss, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, and Max Reinhardt founded the Salzburg Festival in 1917, they envisioned both a monument to the genius of Mozart, the city’s favorite son, and a stage for the innovative efforts of contemporary artists in music and theater. These seemingly disparate goals can be easily understood in light of the success with which these artists reconciled traditional art forms with modern ideas and idioms. They viewed their work as contributions to a continuous, living cultural tradition. Luckily for them the public received their work in the same spirit in which it was conceived, and found it good.

But few twentieth-century artists, even in the early 1920s, enjoyed so fortunate a relationship to the audience as did Salzburg’s founding fathers. Though many artists whom we identify as aesthetic modernists often professed their debt to the past, the most salient...


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