This paper was
written by a graduate student for a music appreciation class.
Strauss (no relation to the Viennese Waltz family) shone in two major areas:
tone poem and opera. Almost single-handedly, he carried the Wagnerian opera
tradition and the Romantic Lisztian tone poem into the twentieth century. He is
also one of the great composers of Lieder.
Richard Strauss was born in Munich in June, 1864. His father, Franz, was an
artist himself and the most highly ranked horn player in Germany. Richard
received a proper music education, based around his father's prejudices. He
began his career, with the composition and performance of several symphonic
pieces and a few seasons of piano recitals in Berlin. At the
time that his Suite for Winds in B Flat won the approval of the famous
conductor, von Bulow, Strauss made his debut as a conductor with the Munich
Strauss soon became von Bulow's assistant and ultimately became a skilfull
conductor. In 1885, upon von Bulow's resignation, Strauss took charge of the
Munich orchestra. He also continued composing and in 1889, the
performance of the composer's first tone poem, Don Juan , brought him a standing
ovation from his audience. Having found a niche for himself, Strauss
continued in the same musical vein with more and more sensational efforts at the
symphonic poem: Till Eulenspeigel , Don Quixote , Ein Heldenleben, Sinfonia
Domestica, and Eine Alpensinfonia among them. In 1905, with Salome ,
Strauss found operatic immortality as the composer of the most scandalously
sensational stage production of his era. Capitalizing on this notariety,
Strauss continued new productions of Salome before curious patrons around the
In 1933, when the Third Reich came to power, authorities found it essential to
name Strauss "Reichsmusikkammer," in acknowledgment of his rank as the
most important composer in the nation. Completely apolitical, Strauss continued
composing to his own purposes, unwittingly offending authorities on regular
occasions. His uneasy and apparently useless relationship with the Nazi regime
continued for several years. His family eventually lived under house arrest
until they managed to emigrate to Switzerland to wait out the last years of the
war. Yet, once more, Strauss attracted strong criticism from some who felt he
should have utilized his position as "court composer" to protest the
By the time of his death in 1949, Richard Strauss had achieved the
strange distinction of living a quiet, remarkably scandal-free life,
without the slightest indication of eccentricity; a practical businesslike
artist, and a conductor with a nearly emotionless technique.
If you want to read more about his life, check out one of the
From the Classical Net Web site: A detailed Biography w/recommended
recordings (discusses musical influences).
From the Arizona Opera Web site: an extensive Biography, including quotes
and more background information.
From the New York City Opera Web site: another Biography, with more
emphasis on opera.
From David E. Coy's Web site: a Biography which discusses Nazism and
From the Phillips Classical Web site: another Biography with a partial
From The Classical Music Pages by Matt Boynick: a Biography -- excerpted
from Grove's. (The Topic links are currently empty.)
From The Diva Page: another Biography.
From The Timid Soul's Guide to Classical Music: an Overview with
From the Grace Notes Web site: a brief item about Strauss' interactions
with Allied Soldiers at the end of World War II