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Strauss, Richard

Richard Strauss

Composer, conductor

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Considered one of the greatest in Germanys long line of musical giants, Richard Strauss was an innovator early in his career. His work was influenced by both Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner, and in mid-career he became famous for operas that at the time were considered quite daring. In his elder years, Strauss fell into disgrace for his somewhat inadvertent associations with the Nazi Party.

Strauss was born into a wealthy and accomplished Munich family in 1864. His mother was an heiress of the Pschorr brewing dynasty, a famous name in German beer, and his father Franz was a well-regarded horn player in the Munich Symphony Orchestra. The elder Strauss, however, had also become famous for his tirades against the music of Richard Wagner, a revered name in Germany music during the era; he even forbid his son to listen to Wagners operas or compositions. Strauss began learning piano by the age of four, taking lessons from colleagues of his fathers, and began to compose around the age of six. He gave piano recitals as a teen, and attended the University of Munich for a time to study philosophy and esthetics. When he was just 18, Strauss premiered his first symphony in Dresden, Germany. The conductor of the Munich Symphony Orchestra, Hans von Buelow, allowed him to make his conducting debutwithout rehearsalin Munich in 1884 leading the orchestra through his Suite for Winds in B Flat.

In 1885 Strauss became conductor of the Meiningen Court Orchestra, and one of its violinists, Alexander Ritter, became a great influence. Ritter was a composer and poet, married to Wagners niece, and introduced Strauss to the music of both Liszt and Wagner.

In 1886 Strauss became assistant conductor of the Munich Court Opera, and traveled to Italy that same summer. The following year, he broke from the traditional form and began working in what he called the tone poem. Other composers, such as Liszt, generally used the term symphonic poem, but both phrases describe a piece of program music based on an extramusical idea. The work, Aus Italien, used discord and ignited a controversyhalf the premiere audience cheered, while the other half booed. Another tone poem, Don Juan, premiered in Weimar, Germany, in 1889 to a more favorable reception. Music scholars consider Don Juan Strausss first mature work, and its success made an important figure in German music seemingly overnight. Another tone poem, Tod und Verklärung (Death and Transfiguration), also met with critical approval when it debuted in 1889.

Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche (Till Eulenspiegels Merry Pranks), a 1894 comic tale of arogue, and Also

For the Record

Born Richard Georg Strauss, June 11, 1864, in Munich, Bavaria (now Germany); died of uremia in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, September 8, 1949; son of Franz (a professional musician) and Josephine Pschorr Strauss; married Pauline de Ahna (an opera singer), September 10, 1894; children: Franz. Education: Attended University of Munch, 1882-83.

Began composing at the age of six; Symphony in D Minor premiered, March, 1881; made conducting debut with Meiningen Court Orchestra in Munich, November, 1884; became assistant conductor, Meiningen Court Orchestra, October, 1885, and principal music director, 1886; served as assistant conductor, Munich Court Opera, 1886-89; musical assistant for the 1889 and 1891 Bayreuth Festivals; first conductor, Weimar Court Orchestra, 1889-94; first opera, Guntram, premiered at Weimar Hofttheater, 1894; conductor with the Berlin Philharmonic, 1894-95; music director, Berlin Royal Opera, 1898-1910; co-founder, Salzburg Festival, 1917; co-director, Vienna Opera, 1919-24; Third Reich Music Chamber, president, and president of the Federation of German Composers, c. 1933-35.

Awards: Gold medal, Royal Philharmonic Society, London, 1936.

SprachZarathustra (Zarathustra Spoke)based on a book by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and debuted in 1896would become Strausss most enduring works for the orchestra. The Zarathustra melody gained even greater recognition when film director Stanley Kubrick used them in his classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Another tone poem from this era, Ein Heldenleben (A Heros Life) in 1898 featured the composer himself as hero, the music critics as foes. All were well received and consolidated his position as the outstanding composer of his day, regarded as the arch-fiend of modernism and cacophony because of the huge instrumental forces, the innovatory design and the natu ralistic effects employed in these masterpieces, noted an essay on Strauss in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

Strauss fell ill for a time, and wintered in Egypt in 1892. He was busy writing his first opera, Guntram, during this period. It premiered at the Weimar Hofttheater in May of 1894. Its Munich debut was a spectacular failure. The Munich Orchestra actually the petitioned the local authorities to censor it, and it closed after one performance. The composer felt the sting of this treatment in his native city keenly, and would later extract his own creative revenge.

Strauss met soprano Pauline de Ahna in 1887, a famously tempestuous performer, and they married in September of 1894. During this time, his career as both a composer and conductor was progressing splendidly. He found favor with Wagners widow Cosima, who oversaw the annual Bayreuth Festival of Wagners operas, and directed some of its productions. In 1896 he was hired as chief conductor of the Munich Opera, and composed his second opera, Feuersnot, in the final years of the century. It premiered in Dresden in November of 1901, a medieval tale set in Munich that mocked the citys conservative strain. By this time he was serving as music director for the Berlin Royal Opera, a post he held until around 1910.

Strauss was a enigmatic persona in his day. Many disliked him, though some appreciated his genius. At times he was condemned as vulgar and preoccupied with money and fame. Not many people would have written an enormous and deafening symphonic poem about his own home life, including an embarrassingly boastful five minutes depicting his sexual prowess; and fewer would have been happy to conduct it in a department store and brag about the enormous fee afterwards, remarked Philip Hensher in the Spectator. The work that Hensher referred to was the Symphonia domestica, which premiered in America in 1904. But Strauss also campaigned determinedly to revise German copyright law, and after a seven-year fight, music royalty laws were amended to be more favorable to composers, rather than the publishing firms.

Strauss ignited even more controversy with his 1905 opera Salome, based on Oscar Wildes titillating play. It premiered in December of 1905 at the Dresden Royal Opera, and was vilified in the press as erotic, vulgar, and altogether repulsive, but audiences still flocked to see it. Its title character was a minor figure from the biblical account of the death of John the Baptist. Salome is the teenage stepdaughter of Herodes, the tetrarch who has imprisoned the apostlehere called Jochanaanfor his belief in Christ. Bewitching but spoiled, Salome is fascinated by the prisoner, and angers when he spurns her advances. She performs the Dance of the Seven Veils for her stepfather, then demands the head of Jochanaan as her reward for this erotic moment. In the operas final scene, she rapturously kisses Jochanaans bloody severed head.

For years to come, productions of Salome had to include a ballerina performing the Seven Veils dance, since the female opera singers steadfastly refused. Strausss own father proclaimed the opera perverted music, and even Kaiser Wilhelm II had words of caution for him. But Strausss Salome was staged 50 times around the world over the next two years, and the success provided Strauss with funds to build a villa in the mountainous area of Bavaria called Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Despite its worldwide success, the production of Salome at the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1907 was plagued by internal strife at the organization, and the production was canceled after opening night.

Strauss followed this success with another violencedriven opera that featured an unbalanced woman, Elektra, which made its debut in January of 1909 at the Dresden Royal Opera. It was Strausss first work with a new librettist, the Austrian poet Hugo von Hof mannsthal. Their collaboration would prove a prolific and successful one over the next two decades.

Strausss work suddenly became more conservative with the period comic opera Der Rosenkavalier. Debuting in Dresden in 1911, it greatly pleased audiences; it used the waltz as a recurring musical theme and was quite Mozart in spirit. It remains Strausss most enduringly popular work. Other operas written with Hofmannsthal included Ariadne auf Naxos (Ariadne on Naxos), 1912; Die Frau ohne Schatten (The Woman without Shadows), 1919; Die agyptische Helena (The Egyptian Helena), 1928; and Arabella, 1933.

By World War I, Straussthen in his fiftieswas a preeminent figure in German music. He co-founded the Salzburg Festival in 1917 with Hofmannsthal and Max Reinhardt, and from 1919 onward served as joint director at the famed Vienna Staatsoper. But the rise of Germanys National Socialist Party and Adolf Hitler would irrevocably affect Strauss and his musical legacy. Upon coming to power in 1933, the Nazis created a state music bureau, the Reichsmusikkammer, and made him president without asking; it was largely a ceremonial office bestowed on him as the leading German composer, but Strauss also remained silent about new Nazi laws that excluded composers and musicians of Jewish heritage from this and other organizations, including all the leading orchestras. In 1933, Arturo Toscanini resigned in protest from the Bayreuth Festival over the Nazis tactics, and Strauss was invited to take over as conductor. Though Nazi propaganda trumpeted Strausss works as exemplarily German, the composer opposed the Party when he attempted to premier another opera, Der Schweigsame Frau, with a libretto written by Stefan Zweig, a Jewish writer. Strauss objected when Zweigs name was omitted from the bill, and it enjoyed a brief run in Dresden before the Nazis shut it down. Strauss and his family were then placed under house arrest in Vienna, his music banned for a time, and all access to their assets blocked. But Strauss complied with these terms in order to protect his sons wife, who was Jewish, and their child. After the war, he and his family were allowed to emigrate to Switzerland.

After the war, Strauss was cleared of any collaborationist charges for holding Nazi office, and premiered a lament for 23 strings, Metamorphosen, in Zurich in early 1946. An elegiac piece, the 81-year-old composer wrote it after learning that all of Germanys great opera houses had been destroyed by Allied bombs. A 1947 London festival organized by Sir Thomas Beecham in his honor marked his final absolution, and his final work, Four Last Songs, premiered posthumously in 1950. He died in Garmisch-Partenkirchen on September 8, 1949. While gravely ill, he famously uttered the words, Dying is just as I composed it in Tod and Verklärung, according to Grove.

Selected discography

Also Sprach Zarathustra, Telarc, 1988.

Der Rosenkavalier, PGD/Deutsche Grammophon, 1988.

Die Schweigsame Frau, PGD/Deutsche Grammophon, 1994.

Salome, PGD/Deutsche Grammophon, 1994.

Don Juan, Prestige/Applausi, 1996.

Ariadne auf Naxos, Gala, 1997.

Elektra, Gala, 1997.

Strauss: The Complete Music for Winds, Hyperion, 1997.

Symphonia Domestica, BMG/RCA Victor, 1998.

Four Last Songs/15 Lieder, PGD/London Classics, 1999.

Sources

Books

Plotkin, Fred, Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera, Hyperion, 1994.

Sadie, Stanley, ed., The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Macmillan, 1980.

Periodicals

American Record Guide, September 1995.

Opera News, March 30, 1996.

Spectator, January 30, 1999; February 13, 1999.

Carol Brennan

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Strauss, Richard (Georg)

Strauss, Richard (Georg) (b Munich, 1864; d Garmisch-Partenkirchen, 1949). Ger.-born composer, conductor, and pianist (Austrian cit. 1947). Son of Franz Strauss, hn.-player in Munich court orch. Had pf. lessons at 4 and began composing at 6. Vn. lessons at 8. Studied theory with F. Meyer 1875, but went to no mus. acad., having normal education, ending at Munich Univ. At 16 wrote first sym. and str. qt., both being perf. in Munich, 1881. In 1882 Serenade for wind perf. in Dresden, leading to commission from Bülow for Meiningen Orch. 2nd Sym. perf. NY 1884. Ass. cond. to Bülow at Meiningen 1885, succeeding him after a month. Left Meiningen 1886, visited It., and became 3rd cond. at Munich Opera. His Aus Italien perf. Munich 1887. Mus. ass. to Levi at Bayreuth 1889. 3rd cond. Weimar Opera 1889. Success of symphonic poem Don Juan est. him as most important young composer in Ger. and natural successor to Wagner, whose widow took great interest in his career. Bayreuth Fest. début as cond. 1894 (Tannhäuser). Married sop. Pauline de Ahna 1894 and wrote many songs for her, appearing as her accompanist. First opera Guntram failure at Weimar 1894. Ass. cond., Munich Opera 1894, chief cond. 1896–8. Cond. Berlin PO 1894–5. Series of tone-poems—Till Eulenspiegel, Also sprach Zarathustra, Don Quixote, and Ein Heldenleben—between 1895 and 1899 confirmed his stature as master of the orch. 2nd opera Feuersnot success in Dresden and Vienna, 1901 and 1902. Visited Eng. 1903, USA 1904. F.p. of Symphonia Domestica in NY. Operas Salome (1905) and Elektra (1909) caused sensations through their supposedly ‘obscene’ treatment of biblical and classical subjects. In latter Strauss first collab. with Austrian poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal, who was to be librettist of 5 more of his operas, beginning in 1911 with the 18th-cent. comedy Der Rosenkavalier. This work was a triumph at its Dresden première, went straight into the repertory of world's leading opera houses, and has stayed there. Since 1898 Strauss had been cond. of Berlin Royal Opera, living in the capital, but after 1908 lived in villa at Garmisch and was in constant demand as cond. of his own works. Completed his last full-scale orch. work, Eine Alpensinfonie, in 1915. Resigned Berlin post 1918 and became joint dir., Vienna Opera, 1919–24. With Max Reinhardt, Hofmannsthal and others, founded Salzburg Fest. 1920 and cond. Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte there 1922. His opera Die Frau ohne Schatten and ballet Schlagobers were prod. in Vienna 1919 and 1924. Opera Intermezzo, to his own lib. representing incident in his own marriage, prod. Dresden 1924. During comp. of Arabella, Hofmannsthal died, 1929. In 1933 new Nazi régime in Ger. appointed Strauss pres. of Reichsmusikkammer, but removed him in 1935 because of disapproval of his collab. with Jewish librettist Stefan Zweig on opera Die schweigsame Frau, which was banned after 4 perfs. Thereafter Strauss was tolerated by régime but kept under surveillance because of Jewish daughter-in-law. Visited London 1936, receiving Gold Medal of Royal Phil. Soc. and conducting at CG. 1-act operas Friedenstag and Daphne prod. 1938. During World War II lived mostly in Vienna and comp. operas Die Liebe der Danae and Capriccio. In 1943 reverted to instr. comps., writing 2nd hn. conc., wind sonatinas, ob. conc., and ‘study for 23 strings’ Metamorphosen, partly inspired by destruction of Ger. opera houses in bombing raids. Moved to Switzerland 1945–9, where in 1947–8 he wrote his last masterpiece, the Vier letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs) for sop. and orch. Officially cleared in 1948 of complicity in Nazi régime. Visited London 1947, conducting own works and attending perfs. cond. by Beecham. His last work, completed 23 Nov. 1948, was a song Malven ( Knobel), ded. to Maria Jeritza. After operation in Lausanne in Dec. 1948, returned to Garmisch May 1949, dying there on 8 Sept.

Strauss, like his friend and contemporary Mahler, had immense dual reputation as composer and cond. He was a master of several mus. forms. No sym. orch. can reasonably exist without having in its repertory his series of magnificent tone-poems, in which brilliance of scoring and vividness of representational detail are matched by satisfying mus. construction. Of his 15 operas at least half are regularly in the repertories of the major opera houses. They provide superb singing roles, particularly for women's vv., of which, through his marriage to a sop., he had a profound understanding. In Der Rosenkavalier alone, he wrote parts for 3 sop. in which many a 20th-cent. reputation has been made and which have contributed to making it the most popular opera written in the 20th cent., with the probable exception of Madama Butterfly. In Elektra he approached the atonal and neuro-psychological world of Schoenberg and Berg, but turned aside to what Stravinsky called the ‘time-travelling’ of Der Rosenkavalier and Ariadne auf Naxos, the latter being one of several operas in which Strauss treated subjects from classical mythology, investing them with 20th-cent. traits e.g. Die ägyptische Helena, Daphne, and Die Liebe der Danae. His last opera, a ‘conversation piece’, Capriccio, has become more frequently perf. in recent years. Strauss's mus. is in the Ger. 19th-cent. tradition deriving from Mendelssohn, Liszt, and especially Wagner. However, his love for Mozart, of whose mus. he was a fine cond., is also reflected in many works, leading to a curious but satisfying blend of 18th-cent. elegance and Wagnerian richness as in Rosenkavalier, Ariadne, and Capriccio, and particularly in the superb instr. works of his last years. His natural gift for counterpoint leads to complex and interweaving textures in all his works, which has led his critics to complain of ‘note-spinning’ for its own sake (a charge that has some justification), but the former tendency to ‘write off’ Strauss operas comp. between 1919 and 1940 is gradually being reversed as their virtues become apparent. Though he wrote some concs., his big display pieces are for full orch. and for vv. His unacc. choral works are in a class of their own, and he wrote many first-rate Lieder, some with orch. A song such as Morgen!, for example, is a perfect blend of melody and expression of the text, while its style epitomizes the highly-developed melodic conversational-recit. which was Strauss's lifelong preoccupation in his operas and which even forms part of the subject-matter of Capriccio. The Vier letzte Lieder is a remarkable and moving summing-up of his life's work as well as a testament to all that the late-romantic style had meant to the art of mus. Prin. works:OPERAS (with dates of comp., f.p., and cond.): Guntram, Op.25, comp. 1887–93, rev. 1934–9 (Weimar 1894, Strauss; rev. vers. Weimar 1940, Heger); Feuersnot, Op.50, comp. 1900–1 (Dresden 1901, Schuch); Salome, Op.54, comp. 1903–5 (Dresden 1905, Schuch); Elektra, Op.58, comp. 1906–8 (Dresden 1909, Schuch); Der Rosenkavalier, Op.59, comp. 1909–10 (Dresden 1911, Schuch); Ariadne auf Naxos, Op.60, comp. 1911–12 (Stuttgart 1912, Strauss), rev. version, Prologue comp 1916 (Vienna 1916, Schalk); Die Frau ohne Schatten, Op.65, comp. 1914–17 (Vienna 1919, Schalk); Intermezzo, Op.72, comp. 1917–23 (Dresden 1924, Busch); Die ägyptische Helena, Op.75, comp. 1923–7 (Dresden 1928, Busch), rev. vers. 1933 (Salzburg, Krauss); Arabella, Op.79, comp. 1930–2 (Dresden 1933, Krauss); Die schweigsame Frau, Op.80, comp. 1933–4 (Dresden 1935, Böhm); Friedenstag, Op.81, comp. 1935–6 (Munich 1938, Krauss); Daphne, Op.82, comp. 1936–7 (Dresden 1938, Böhm); Die Liebe der Danae, Op.83, comp. 1938–40 (dress rehearsal only, Salzburg 1944, Krauss; Salzburg 1952, Krauss); Capriccio, Op.85, comp. 1940–1 (Munich 1942, Krauss).BALLETS & OTHER STAGE WORKS: Josephslegende, Op.63 (1913–14); Der Bürger als Edelmann (Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme), incidental mus. for Molière-Hofmannsthal play, Op.60 (1912–17); Schlagobers, Op.70 (1921–2); Des Esels Schatten, children's mus. play (1947–8, completed from sketches by K. Haussner), Ettal 1964, London 1970.ORCH.: Serenade in E♭, for 13 wind instr., Op.7 (1881–2); Suite in B♭, for 13 wind instr., Op.4 (1883–4); syms.: No.1 in D minor (1880, unpubd.), No.2 in F minor, Op.12 (1883–4), Symphonia Domestica, Op.53 (1902–3), Eine Alpensinfonie, Op.64 (1911–15); Aus Italien, symphonic fantasy, Op.16 (1886); sym.-poems: Macbeth, Op.23 (1887–8, rev. 1889–90), Don Juan, Op.20 (1888), Tod und Verklärung, Op.24 (1888–9), Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, Op.28, (1894–5), Also sprach Zarathustra, Op.30 (1895–6), Don Quixote, Op.35 (1896–7), Ein Heldenleben, Op.40 (1897–8); Festliches Präludium, orch., org., Op.61 (1913); Suite, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Op.60, (1918); Dance Suite (after Couperin) (1922); Waltz, München, 1st vers. (1930), 2nd vers. (1945); Sonatina No.1 in F, 16 wind instr. (1943), No.2 in E♭, 16 wind instr. (1944–5); Metamorphosen, 23 solo str. (1944–5).CONCERTOS etc: hn. conc. No.1 in E♭, Op.11 (1882–3), No.2 in E♭ (1942); vn. conc. in D minor, Op.8 (1881–2); Burleske in D minor, pf., orch. (1885–6, rev. 1890); Parergon zur Symphonia Domestica, pf. (left hand), orch., Op.73 (1925); Panathenäenzug, pf. (left hand), orch., Op.74 (1927); oboe conc. (1945–6); Duett-Concertino, cl., bn., str., hp. (1947).CHORAL: Wandrers Sturmlied, Op.14, ch., orch. (1884); Der Abend and Hymne, Op.34, unacc. ch. (1897); Taillefer, Op.52, sop., ten., bar., ch., orch. (1903); Deutsche Motette, Op.62, sop., cont., ten., bass, unacc. ch. (1913, rev. 1943); Die Tageszeiten, Op.76, 4 songs, male ch., orch. (1928); Die Göttin im Putzzimmer, unacc. ch. (1935); An den Baum Daphne, unacc. ch. (1943).PIANO: Sonata in B minor, Op.5 (1881); 5 Stimmungsbilder, Op.9 (1883–4).SONG-CYCLES: Krämerspiegel, Op.66, v., pf. (1918); Vier letzte Lieder (4 Last Songs), high v., orch. (1948).SONGS (with pf. and/or orch.): Strauss wrote over 200 songs, publishing them in groups. Listed below alphabetically is a selective group of the best-known, with opus numbers where applicable. The sign † means that an orch. acc. (not necessarily by Strauss) exists: Allerseelen, Op.10 No.9 (1885), All’ mein Gedanken, Op.21 No.1 (1888), †Das Bächlein (1933), †Befreit, Op.39 No.4 (1898), †Cäcilie, Op.27 No.2 (1894), Du meines Herzens Krönelein, Op.21 No.2 (1888), Einerlei, Op.69 No.3 (1918), Einkehr, Op.47 No.4 (1900), †Freundliche Vision, Op.48 No.1 (1900), Gefunden, Op.56 No.1 (1903–6), Hat gesagt, Op.36 No.3 (1897), †Die Heiligen drei Königen, Op.56 No.6 (1906), †Heimkehr, Op.15 No.5 (1886), †Heimliche Aufforderung, Op.27 No.3 (1894), †Ich wollt’ ein Sträusslein binden, Op.68 No.2 (1918), †Liebeshymnus, Op.32 No.3 (1896), †Mein Auge, Op.37 No.4 (1897), †Meinem Kinde, Op.37 No.3 (1897), †Morgen!, Op.27 No.4 (1894), †Muttertanderlei, Op.43 No.2 (1899), Die Nacht, Op.10 No.3 (1885), Nachtgang, Op.29 No.3 (1895), Nichts, Op.10 No.2 (1885), †Das Rosenband, Op.36 No.1 (1897), †Ruhe, meine Seele, Op.27 No.1 (1894), †Säusle, Liebe Myrthe, Op.68 No.3 (1918), Schlechtes Wetter, Op.69 No.5 (1918), †Ständchen, Op.17 No.2 (1887), Der Stern, Op.69 No.1 (1918), †Traum durch die Dämmerung, Op.29 No.1 (1895), †Waldseligkeit, Op.49 No.1 (1901), †Wiegenlied, Op.41 No.1 (1899), Wozu noch, Mädchen, Op.19 No.1 (1887–8), †Zueignung, Op.10 No.1 (1885).

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Richard Strauss

Richard Strauss

Richard Strauss (1864-1949), the German composer and conductor, is known especially for his operas and symphonic poems linked to his phenomenal mastery of the orchestra. He was the chief exemplar of post-Wagnerian tastes and techniques.

Richard Strauss was born in Munich to a mother who was a talented amateur musician and a father who was the principal horn player in the Court Opera. Piano lessons with his mother began at the age of 4; at 8 he started violin study. In his own words, however, he was a bad pupil because he did not enjoy practicing. His pleasure even then was in composing, which he tried first when he was only 6. Thereafter he composed steadily while receiving regular instruction in music theory from various local musicians. Meanwhile his general education was furthered at the Royal Gymnasium and for a year at the University of Munich.

Strauss was obviously headed toward a career in composition, for by the age of 20 he had turned out a large and quite respectable collection of piano pieces, songs, chamber music, choruses, and orchestral works, including two symphonies and two concertos. He also got into print very early with the Festival March, written in 1876. This music, as far as one can judge from the available examples, was extremely conservative in tone, modeled after Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, and Johannes Brahms. It clearly carried the mark of his father's tutelage, which Strauss said kept him from hearing anything but classical music until he was 16.

The progressive movements of the 19th century touched Strauss only after he took up conducting and settled in 1885 into his first post as director of the Meiningen orchestra. There he became acquainted with a violinist named Alexander Ritter, who opened Strauss's mind to the "advanced" music and ideas of Hector Berlioz, Franz Liszt, and Richard Wagner—men whose names were anathema in his father's house.

The effect of this awakening was first apparent in a symphonic fantasy, Aus Italien, written in 1886 while Strauss was on a visit to Italy. Full alignment with the newer currents was signaled by his entry into the field of program music cultivated years before by Liszt. The result was a series of nine single-movement, orchestral tone poems beginning with Macbeth (1890), ending with EineAlpensinfonie (1915), and covering a range of subject matter from medieval legend in Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche (1895) to Strauss's own domestic life in Symphonia Domestica (1903). Don Juan (1888), Till, and Don Quixote, (1897) are generally the most favored of these works. In principle, however, Strauss's method remained constant. The shaping of each piece was guided by a poetic idea to which his music was linked in a more intimate and detailed way than in earlier programmatic scores. Yet he avoided becoming a mere illustrator by insisting that the composition must also develop "logically from within" to produce a satisfying musical form. And at every point he demonstrated his unsurpassed virtuosity in orchestration.

With the tone poems Strauss came into his own as a composer. He also became increasingly successful as a conductor, performing throughout Europe, especially Germany, where he held positions in Munich, Weimar, and Berlin, and in New York City. By the time he was 30, he was a celebrity on two counts. But there was much more to come after he turned to opera composition.

Strauss, as he said, may have put off composing for the theater from awe of Wagner. Once started, however, he gave it his main attention for almost 40 years, producing 15 operas in that period. The first two, Guntram (1893) and Feuersnot (1901), were failures. Then came Salome (1905), Elektra (1908), Der Rosenkavalier (1910), and Ariadne auf Naxos (1912), which are possibly his best and certainly the most frequently played of all. Salome, with its shocking, perverse sensuality, and Elektra, which goes beyond that in violence and unremitting tension, are prime examples of German expressionism in its most lurid phase. They also show Strauss at the peak of his modernity in respect to musical vocabulary and technique. In Der Rosenkavalier he reverted to a sweetly diatonic strain cast much of the time in waltz rhythm; in Ariadne he looked still farther back as he applied classical methods to the ingenious idea of presenting an antique myth simultaneously with a sketch out of the commedia dell'arte. Of his remaining operas, Die Frau ohne Schatten (1917), Arabella (1932), and Capriccio (1941) are the most interesting, although none has won repertory status.

After Capriccio Strauss returned to earlier interests in concerto composition, chamber music, and songs, the peak of this final effort being the Metamorphosen for 23 solo strings (1945). Grave and Wagnerian in tone, it recalls Strauss's ties to the Germany of his youth and sounds an affecting though belated finale to an era that had long since been closed out by composers such as Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, and Béla Bartók.

Further Reading

Strauss's Recollections and Reflections were edited by Will Schuh (1953). Two biographical studies are George R. Marek, Richard Strauss: Life of a Non-hero (1967), and Ernst Krause, Richard Strauss: The Man and His Work (trans. 1969). Joseph Kerman, Opera as Drama (1956), offers a biting censure of the Straussian dramaturgy, while William Mann, Richard Strauss: A Critical Study of the Operas (1964), is generally sympathetic. Strauss's historical position is outlined in Gerald Abraham, A Hundred Years of Music (1938; 3d ed. 1964), and Adolfo Salazar, Music in Our Time (trans. 1946).

Additional Sources

Kennedy, Michael, Richard Strauss, Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1995. □

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Strauss, Richard

Richard Strauss (rĬkh´ärt shtrous), 1864–1949, German composer. Strauss brought to a culmination the development of the 19th-century symphonic poem, and was a leading composer of romantic opera in the early 20th cent. Son of a celebrated horn player, he had extensive musical instruction and began composing as a child of six. His first major work, the symphony in D minor, was first performed in 1880. Strauss's early works, in classical forms, brought him instant acclaim. He succeeded Hans von Bülow as conductor at Meiningen (1885–86) and later as conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic concerts (1894–95). His friendship with the poet Alexander Ritter influenced him to adopt the romantic aesthetic philosophy and style of Liszt and Wagner. A group of songs, the symphonic fantasy Aus Italien (1886), and the symphonic poems Don Juan (1888) and Death and Transfiguration (1889) were the first works composed in his new romantic manner. These and the works that followed established him as a master of highly evocative, original, and richly orchestrated program music. These works—including Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche (1895); Thus Spake Zarathustra (1895), after Nietszche; Don Quixote (1898), a tone poem in the form of variations with a cello solo; and A Hero's Life (1898)—were violently both lauded and damned as the very essence of musical modernism.

Strauss also gained wide renown for his operas, including Salomé (1905), after Oscar Wilde's play; the brilliantly dramatic Electra (1909); the delightful comedy Der Rosenkavalier (1911); Ariadne auf Naxos (1912); and Die Frau ohne Schatten (1919). He wrote all but the first of these, as well as Die aegyptische Helena (1928) and Arabella (1933), in collaboration with the poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal. After Hofmannsthal died (1929) Strauss's librettists were Stefan Zweig for Die schweigsame Frau (1935) and Josef Gregor for Friedenstag (1938), Daphne (1938), and Die Liebe der Danaë (1938–40). Strauss's operas, carrying the Wagnerian leitmotif concept to its fullest development, went beyond Wagner in their intensity of drama and psychological treatment of character motivation. The operas display his music at its most sensuous and passionate. From 1919 until 1924 Strauss was codirector of the Vienna State Opera. During this period he made extended tours abroad, including a second trip to the United States (1922). Strauss served briefly as head of musical affairs (Reichsmusikkammer president) under the Nazis; he was officially exonerated of collaboration in 1948. Among Strauss's last major works are the sorrowful Metamorphosen (1946), for string instruments, and two pieces for voice and orchestra, 3 Gesänge and Im Abendrot (both 1948), considered the final musical expression of dying German romanticism.

See his correspondence ed. by R. Myers (1968); biographies by N. Del Mar (1962), W. S. Mann (1964), A. Jefferson (1963 and 1971), K. and R. Bailey (1985), and M. Boyden (1999); study by D. Puffett (1989).

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Strauss, Richard

Strauss, Richard (1864–1949) German composer and conductor. Strauss' symphonic poems, such as Don Juan (1888), Till Eulenspiegel (1895), and Also sprach Zarathustra (1896), use brilliantly coloured orchestration for characterization. His early operas, Salome (1905) and Elektra (1909), deal with female obsession. Der Rosenkavalier (1911) also used the dramatic range of the female voice, but in a comic setting.

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