Richard Strauss


Richard Strauss Essay, Research Paper


Richard Strauss was born June 11, 1864 in Munich, Germany. The German composer-conductor is best known for his operas and tone poems. His father was Franz Strauss, one of Germany’s leading horn players. Strauss’s musical career began at the age of 4 when he learned how to play the piano. By the age of 6 he was composing and by the age of 11 he was studying theory and composition [5, par. 1870]. At the age of 20, he made his conducting debut in Munich. This led him to the Meiningen Court Orchestra. After a month there he was in charge.

In 1886, Strauss became third conductor at the Munich Opera. A second conductorship at Weimar enabled him to astonish the world with the performance of his tone poem “Don Juan” (1888)[3, 46]. His first opera “Guntram” was performed at Weimar in 1894. During rehearsal for this opera Strauss began a relationship with the lead soprano, Pauline de Ahna. After she threw a tantrum one-day, Strauss announced that they were to be married.

That autumn he became the court conductor of the Munich Opera. Here, he wrote the tone poems “Till Eulenspiegel” (1895), “Als Sprach Zarathustra” (1896) (based upon Nietzsche’s book of the same name), “Don Quixote” (1897), and “Ein Heldenlieben” (1898)[1, 39-51].

From 1900 till 1911, Strauss concentrated primarily on operas. The more advanced “Salome” (1905) and the powerful “Elektra” (1909) followed the cynical “Feuersnot” of 1901 [3, 47]. His crowning achievement, “Der Rosenkavalier” (1911), brought him fame and fortune.

Strauss, later became co-director of the Vienna Opera where he set “Die schweigsame Frau” (1931) to a libretto by Stefan Zweig [5, par. 1935]. Which was subsequently banned by the Nazis, in 1935, after two performances because Zweig was Jewish. Strauss became involved in political conflict and his music was banned for a year because his daughter-in-law and grandsons were of Jewish ancestry. Strauss was forced to make a deal with the Nazis for their protection but was denied visits to see them in Switzerland for his own health. His later compositions were some of his most inspirational. They include the opera “Capriccio” (1942), “Metamorphosen” (1945), the Oboe Concerto (1945), and Four Last Songs (1948) [5, par. 1911-1920]. He moved back to Germany later that year and died in his Garmisch home on September 8, 1949.

Work and Style Essay

Richard Strauss was a composer and conductor of many different types of music. He composed primarily for instruments in all his different operas, ballets, tone poems, orchestral works, and chamber music. However, he did compose for voice in a few different Lieders. Strauss’s work Salome is one of his works, with Oscar Wilde’s lurid drama as libretto, which shows his experimental nature as a composer. The graphic killing and eroticism of the opera caused it to be shutdown in over fifty opera houses when it was first released [2, 234]. Other operas like Elektra, Der Rosenkavalier, and Arabella were all written by Strauss’s favorite libretto the Austrian writer Hugo Von Hofmannsthal [1, 287]. When they worked together Strauss put forth some of his best work.

Strauss composed most of his work for larger audiences since most of his compositions were operas. He mainly composed for German audiences however; he spent time in London, the United States, and South America.

Strauss had many different claims to fame over his lifetime. To begin, one of his earlier tone poems, Don Juan, shows his maturity and influence as a composer. When it premiered, at The Weimar Opera House he was recognized as the leading progressive composer in Germany

[4, 249-260]. A few years later, after the turn of the century, he composed Salome and Elektra. These brought him fame in the form of notoriety because of their violent climaxes involving gruesome deaths and impassioned dancing, with elements of abnormal sexuality and corruption

[2,234-254]. This notoriety didn’t bother him but he did change his style. He moved on to composing comedic operas. His most successful comedic piece was “Der Rosenkavalier” [5, par. 1911]. In most of his pieces he is known for his use of huge orchestras to accompany the opera, just as Mahler did during this period. During the 1930’s he receives more fame in the form of notoriety for his work as the head of the State Music Bureau under the Nazi regime. After the war, towards the end of his life he writes “Four Last Songs” (1948) [5, par. 1948]. This piece is considered by some to be a masterpiece as well as the culmination of his career.

Strauss was quite the workaholic when it came to music. Over his lifetime he wrote almost 300 different pieces of music. This was due to the fact that he lived to be 85 years old and worked until he died. Compared to many other great composers he had much more time than they did since many of them died at an early age. Due to the fact that he lived such a long life I believe that he received much more fame when he was alive. He seems to be criticized more today for his dealings with the Nazis rather than adored for his contributions to music.

Richard Strauss

Composer Profile

Pual Maguire

December 4, 1999

Work Cited

1. Del Mar, Norman. Richard Strauss: A Critical Commentary

on his Life and Works. London: Barrie and Rockliff,


2. Finck, Henry. Richard Strauss: The Man and his Works.

Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1917.

3. Mason, Daniel. Contemporary Composers. New York: The

Macmillan Co., 1918.

4. Newman, Ernest. Musical Studies. London: Ballantyne,

Hanson, and Co., 1938.

5. Nice, David. Richard Strauss: Biography. 1997. Online.

Internet. 1 Dec 1999. Available:


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