Richard Strauss, classical music composer

Richard Strauss

Biography

Richard Strauss was born in Munich on June 11th, 1864. His father, Franz Strauss, was the principal horn player of the Court Opera in Munich and responsible for much of young Richard's musical training as well as his endearing love for the horn. Of conservative tastes and suspicious of Wagner's progressive trend, Franz had a strong influence over his son's developing musical tastes. Consequently, Richard's early compositions owe much to the style of Robert Schumann and Felix Mendelssohn. In addition, to his father's thorough musical instruction, Richard also received private lessons in music theory and orchestration from the assistant conductor of the Court Opera. Perhaps his most well-known and regarded work of this period is his First Horn Concerto.

In 1882, Strauss entered Munich University, not to study music, but instead Philosophy and Art History. However, after only a year he left Munich for Berlin where he soon secured the post of assistant conductor to Hans von Bülow, one of Germany's leading conductors at the time. Bülow, an ardent supporter of Johannes Brahms, had been greatly impressed by Strauss's Serenade for wind instruments and was likely drawn to Strauss's seemingly conservative musical style. A few years later, in 1885, Bülow gave a performance of Strauss's Symphony in F minor, a performance at which Brahms himself was in attendance. Following the performance, Strauss was introduced to the elder composer who remarked, "Very pretty, young man." Being the archetype for thematic unity, he also constructively criticized what he called Strauss's "thematic irrelevancies," or, rather, piling up of unrelated themes. Strauss, however, never heeded Brahms's advice but instead eventually was able to turn it to his advantage.

The year of 1885 also proved to be a turning point in Strauss's career. He met Alexander Ritter, a noted composer and violinist, who was able to persuade Strauss to branch out into the tone poem—the prominent formal vehicle of "progressive" composers such as Franz Liszt. With this also came a change in Strauss's compositional style. His first tone poem, Don Juan, appeared in 1888 and is regarded as the first display of Strauss's mature style. Virtuosic in its treatment of the orchestra, Don Juan was only the beginning. More ambitious tone poems followed soon after, including, Tod und Verklärung ("Death and Resurrection") in 1889, Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche ("Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks") in 1895, Also sprach Zarathustra ("Thus Spake Zarathustra") in 1896, Don Quixote in 1897 and Ein Heldenleben ("A Hero's Life") in 1898.

In the final decade of the 19th century, Strauss turned his creative energies towards opera. His first two attempts, Guntram in 1894 and Feuersnot in 1901, were both failures. However, success quickly came with the production of Salome, based on the play by Oscar Wilde, in 1905. The premiere was a remarkable success, garnishing praise from audience and fellow composers alike. Elektra followed in 1908 and represents Strauss's lavish use of dissonance. His most successful opera, Der Rosenkavalier, was premiered in 1911.

The rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in 1933 and the advent of World War II began a turbulent time in Strauss's life. Strauss expressed no interest in politics and never joined the Nazi party. Indeed, in private, Strauss even expressed contempt towards the rising Third Reich. However, Strauss's Jewish daughter-in-law and Jewish grandchildren forced him into complying with Nazi demands. Despite their mutual dislike of each other, Joseph Goebbels nevertheless appointed Strauss as president of the Reichmusikkammer, the State Music Bureau. Goebbels saw Strauss merely as the means to an end which he would discard when his usefulness had ended. Strauss, on the other hand, took advantage of the position as a means of using his high-ranking authority to protect his Jewish relatives. However, a letter to Stefan Zweig, a Jewish librettist, written in 1935 in which Strauss ridiculed the Nazi's notion of superiority was intercepted by the SS and delivered to Hitler. Strauss was consequently dismissed as president of the Reichmusikkammer. In 1938, just prior to the outbreak of war the following year, Strauss produced a one-act opera title Friedenstag (Peace Day). Set in a besieged fortress during the Thirty Years' War, the opera was a thinly veiled criticism of the Nazi regime.

Perhaps a consequence of the horrifying events of World War II, Strauss let loose a torrent of deeply felt emotions in the works of his final years. Among these include his Second Horn Concerto from 1942, Metamorphosen for twenty-three solo strings written in 1945, and his Four Last Songs of 1948. His Oboe Concerto, composed in 1945, was actually written in response to a request of an oboe player in the American army unit which apprehended Strauss at his estate in Garmisch. The unit's commander, Lt. Milton Weiss, was himself a musician and placed an "Off Limits" sign on the lawn to protect Strauss.

Widely regarded as the greatest composer of the first half of the 20th century, Richard Strauss died on September 8th, 1949 at the age of eighty-five in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.


Composer Title Date Action
Richard Strauss Romanze for clarinet and orchestra in E flat major op.61 09/24/2010 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Nichts, from Letzte Blätter 12/04/2012 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Geduld, from Letzte Blätter 12/04/2012 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Die Verschwiegenen, from Letzte Blätter 12/04/2012 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Ständchen 09/18/2013 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Enoch Arden op.38: melologo (Introduzione) 10/22/2011 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss 4 Last Songs: 1. Fruhling 06/06/2012 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss 4 Last Songs: 2. September 06/06/2012 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss 4 Last Songs: 3. Beim Schlafen gehen 06/06/2012 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss 4 Last Songs: 4. Im Abendrot 06/06/2012 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Heimliche Aufforderung, Op. 27, No. 3 09/26/2011 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Cäcilie, Op. 27, No. 2 09/26/2011 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Sonata for Violin in E-flat Major, Op. 18 03/31/2011 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Sonata for Violin in E-flat Major, Op. 18 11/27/2012 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Sonata for Violin in E-flat Major, Op. 18 10/07/2012 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Sonata for Violin in E-flat Major, Op. 18 01/15/2009 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Sonata for Violin in E-flat Major, Op. 18 08/28/2010 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Sonata for Violin in E-flat Major, Op. 18 12/01/2011 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Sonata for Violin in E-flat Major, Op. 18 04/16/2009 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Sonata for Violin in E-flat Major, Op. 18, 3rd mov. 04/15/2012 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Sonata for Violin in E-flat Major, Op. 18 05/05/2014 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Morgen! 09/18/2013 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Morgen!, Op. 27, No. 4 09/26/2011 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Allerseelen, from Letzte Blätter 12/04/2012 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Die Nacht, from Letzte Blätter 03/13/2014 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Die Nacht, from Letzte Blätter 12/04/2012 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Zueignung, Op. 10, No. 1 03/13/2014 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Zueignung, Op. 10, No. 1 01/29/2010 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Zueignung, Op. 10, No. 1 09/18/2013 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Zueignung, Op. 10, No. 1 12/04/2012 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Letzte Blätter, Op. 10 12/04/2012 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Das Rosenband, Op. 36, No. 1 09/26/2011 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Einerlei, Op. 69, No. 3 01/29/2010 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Einerlei, Op. 69, No. 3 09/26/2011 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Guten Morgen,'s ist Sankt Valentinstag, from Ophelia-Lieder, op. 67 09/24/2011 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Ophelia-Lieder, op. 67 09/24/2011 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Sie trugen ihn auf der Bahre bloss, from Ophelia-Lieder, op. 67 09/24/2011 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Wie erkenn' ich mein Treulieb vor andern nun?, from Ophelia-Lieder, op. 67 09/24/2011 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Ophelia-Lieder, op. 67 04/20/2009 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Der Rosenkavalier 06/08/2014 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Cäcilie, Op. 27, No. 2 03/13/2014 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Mädchenblumen, Op. 22 01/10/2009 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Die Zeitlose, from Letzte Blätter 12/04/2012 Play Add to playlist
Richard Strauss Sonata for Violin in E-flat Major, Op. 18 08/19/2014 Play Add to playlist