Richard Strauss (1864–1949) was one of the most gifted composers of the twentieth century, Richard Strauss's position in music's hall of fame nevertheless continues to be hotly debated.
Life and Music
Strauss began composing seriously at the age of six.
Strauss demonstrated his mastery of miniature forms with his first published set of a remarkable output of some 200 songs.
A move to the court opera at Munich in 1886 broadened Strauss's conducting experience and allowed sufficient 'spare' time for him to compose the first of his spectacular series of tone poems: Tod und Verklärung ('Death and Transfiguration'), Don Juan and Macbeth.
In 1889, Strauss was appointed principal conductor of the Weimar Court Orchestra.
In 1894 he produced his first opera, Guntram, and fell in love with the leading soprano, Pauline de Ahna, who stayed with him to the end, outliving him by just a few months.
Some of his hits include: Till Eulenspiegels Lustige Streiche, Also Sprach Zarathustra, Don Quixote, the semi-autobiographical Ein Heldenleben ('A Hero's Life') and the less inspired and indulgently autobiographical Symphonia Domestica.
Strauss's musical activities during the inter-war years were dominated by conducting and a series of operas - including Intermezzo, Arabella and Daphne - which embrace an easily assimilated lyricism and charm.
Strauss got a bumpy ride from the Nazis. In 1933, Goebbels appointed him, without prior consultation, head of the Reichsmusikkammer (Hitler's commission for music) but Strauss was removed in 1935 because of his collaboration with Jewish librettist Stefan Zweig on the opera Die Schweigsame Frau.
Did you know?
Strauss's ten golden rules for budding young conductors contained the gem: "Never look at the brass, it only encourages them - if you can hear them at all, they are too loud".