Richard Strauss was born June 11, 1864, in Munich, Germany. He was the first born son of Franz J, Strauss, a musician and Josephine of the Pschorr Dynasty. With his father as a leading horn player appearing in Munich Opera Court, he received detailed musical education from his father. At an early age of six, he had already started composing his first pieces and managed to complete 140 works by the age of 18. He dedicated his time and energy to music when he was in school. At the Royal School of Music, he started acquiring violin lessons from Benno Walter, his father’s distant cousin.
Born in a family of musicians, Strauss had connections through his father and met leading musicians. One of them was conductor Hans Von Bulow, who was hugely impressed by the young composer’s melody for wind instruments. Strauss secured the post of assistant conductor to Hans Von Bulow in 1884 and later succeeded him as the Wagner conductor. He later became the director of music in Meiningem orchestra court after a recommendation from Bulow, who at the time his mentor, at the age of 21. In 1886 he moved up to become a musical director at the Munich court opera.
• Solo and chamber worksInstrumentals and chamber works were some of his first compositions. These included pieces of his early rhythms for piano solo in a traditional melodic style. Uncounted of these works are lost. The works include a piano quartet, cello sonata and violin sonata in E flat.
• Tone poemsIn 1885, Strauss met Alexander Ritter, a renowned composer, and violinist, who persuaded him to abandon his conservative style and start writing poems. Ritter’s influence helped him bring out his mature personality in tone poems which include An Alpine Symphony (1911–1915), Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks (1895), Symphonia Domestica (1903) A Hero's Life (1898), Don Quixote (1897), Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1896), Death and Transfiguration (1889),Don Juan (1888).
• OperasThe end of the 19th century saw Strauss turn his attention to opera. His first two attempts were controversial and were Guntram (1894) and Feuersnot (1901). Guntram is seen as a critical failure while Feuersnot is considered indecent by critics. Working at Berlin’s hofoper resulted in some of his unforgettable works including Salome (1903-1905), Elektra (1906-1908), and Der Rosenkavalier (1909-1910), which are some of his most performed operas.
In 1933, when Strauss was 68, the Nazi Party under the leadership of Adolf Hitler rose to power. The political position in Europe became dangerous. He tried as much as possible to avoid the Nazis and their rivals. He lost everything during the First World War and only had his villa in Garmisch in his possession. With his financial status compromised, he later began having health issues.
Death and Legacy
On 8th September 1949, Richard Strauss died aged 85, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, West Germany. he is regarded as one of the greatest composers of the 20th century and his works had significant impact on the 20th-century musical scene.