Richard Strauss

From Wind Repertory Project
Richard Strauss


Richard Strauss (11 June 1864, Munich, Germany – 8 September 1949, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany) was a German composer and son of Franz Strauss, a famed horn player and member of the Court Opera Orchestra in Munich.

His early musical education came from his father, and in 1882 he enrolled at Munich University, but did not study music there. His residency in Munich lasted only one year, after which he moved to Berlin and studied there briefly before becoming assistant conductor to Hans von Bülow.

To look upon Richard Strauss in his adult years was to look upon a mirage, that of a conservative, well-mannered, well-heeled banker or lawyer, perhaps a doctor. Yet underneath his conservative exterior lay the mind of a musical genius whose music shocked the world, stirring controversy with iconoclastic tone poems, erotic operas that incited crowds to violence, and outspoken opinions. In 1889 he composed Don Juan, a tone poem that drew mixed reactions from its listeners, and in 1905 he composed Salome, an opera that cemented his reputation as the creator of the most scandalous stage production of his era. At the very peak of his “rebellion,” Strauss abruptly changed direction with the composition of Der Rosenkavalier, a calm, melodic, “Mozartian effort.” The violent, erotic, and sensational stage of his career was over.

When the Third Reich came to power in Germany, Strauss found himself appointed “Reichsmusikkammer,” in acknowledgement of his reputation as the most important living German composer. Completely uninterested in politics, Strauss simply continued to compose to his own purposes, offending the Nazi authorities on many occasions. Eventually, Strauss and his family would move to Switzerland to live out the last years of the war. Strauss died peacefully in his sleep on 8 September 1949 after weeks of illness.

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