Manfred I Mautner Markhof, Richard Strauss and Skat
Manfred I Mautner Markhof, also known as MMM, had a long-standing, deep and respectful friendship with the great composer Richard Strauss. A passion that connected them, was undoubtedly Skat. The following memories have been shared in the Mautner Markhof family:
As is well known, Richard Strauss was a passionate card player who also liked to play for quite large amounts. However, he never entered a gaming room. When MMM once asked him in Monte Carlo why he never went to the casino, he said that on the one hand he was bored with losing little money, but on the other hand never wanted to get involved in playing beyond his means, however exciting such a game might be. This attitude seemed so reasonable to MMM that he had never entered a gaming room again from that time on.
In the incomparably beautiful Eden Hotel in Nervi they both played Piquet for days because a third person was missing for Skat. MMM had an unlikely lucky streak and continued to win. At that time, foreign exchange management in Germany was very strict and money transfers abroad were almost impossible. After MMM had just collected his winnings, Richard Strauss asked him to call the mighty musician of Monte Carlo, Monsieur Ginsberg. He answered the phone and Strauss picked up the handset, which had always made him uncomfortable.
To the great delight of the other, Strauss agreed to conduct a second concert. MMM was pleased as well, but Richard Strauss only meant with a smile on his face, “After the losses you inflicted on me in the game, I have no choice but to conduct another concert, because after all the hotel bill has to be paid.” My grandfather, from his own experience, always had to strongly contradict the rumour that Richard Strauss was a bad loser. Strauss liked to play and, with equanimity, pocketed profits as well as accepted losses.
The reason why Richard Strauss was such a passionate Skat player was because that activity was the only way that allowed him to clear his mind, to switch off from the music – as he emphasized several times. Music always accompanied him everywhere, and the notes just flowed out of him. When the German composer Hans Pfitzner once complained to Richard Strauss, “If you only knew how much effort and hard work went into my opera Palestrina, you would talk differently!”. He replied, “I don’t know why you compose at all when you find it so difficult.”
Written by Theodor Mautner Markhof