Richard Strauss


Richard Strauss Famous memorial

Munich (München), Stadtkreis München, Bavaria (Bayern), Germany
Death 8 Sep 1949 (aged 85)
Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Landkreis Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria (Bayern), Germany
Burial Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Landkreis Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria (Bayern), Germany
Memorial ID 13380799 View Source

Composer. He is considered the last great figure of the German Romantic movement. Strauss is best-known for his opera "Der Rosenkavalier" (1910), a bittersweet look at lives and loves among the Viennese aristocracy of the 1700s. Set to a brilliant libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, its lilting waltzes and ensembles, scintillating wit and penetrating human observation have made it among the 20th Century's best loved operas. He is also celebrated for his tone poems and songs, and was one of the finest conductors of his day. Strauss was born in Munich, Germany. His father was a noted French horn player who gave him a thorough musical education. He started composing at age six and by the time he was 21 he'd had two symphonies, a Horn Concerto, and several chamber works performed. His precocity caught the attention of the great conductor Hans Guido von Bülow, who made him his protégé. After serving as an associate conductor in Munich and Weimar, Strauss was director of the Berlin Royal Opera (1898 to 1918) and the Berlin Philharmonic (1908 to 1918), and co-director of the Vienna State Opera (1919 to 1924). He commanded a wide repertory and excelled at interpreting his favorite composers, Mozart and Wagner. While at Weimar Strauss married Pauline de Ahna, a soprano known as much for her shrewish personality as for her voice. Their stormy, quarrelsome marriage lasted 55 years, until his death. As a composer Strauss initially won fame for his tone poems, orchestral pieces illustrating literary or pictoral subjects. The best of them are still concert hall favorites: "Don Juan" (1889), "Death and Transfiguration" (1889), "Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks" (1895), "Thus Spake Zarathustra" (1896), "Don Quixote" (1898), and "A Hero's Life" (1898). The harmonic daring and instrumental virtuosity Strauss displayed in these compositions established him as the most cutting-edge musician of his time, but it is their memorable themes and wealth of emotion that keep them fresh and enjoyable. Strauss failed with his first two operas, "Guntram" (1894) and "Feuersnot" (1901); the former was too derivative of Wagner and the latter was a transitional piece. But with "Salome" (1905), adapted from Oscar Wilde's play, he was able to bring the range and style of his tone poems to the stage, and created an operatic masterpiece. Many listeners were outraged by its harsh, dissonant sound, and the scandal of its premiere assured it considerable popular success. Its instrumental number "The Dance of the Seven Veils" is sometimes played separately as a concert piece. Strauss carried the harmonic experiments of "Salome" even further, and caused even greater controversy, with the blood-curdling "Elektra" (1909), taken from the Greek tragedy by Sophocles. Relentlessly dark and savage, it is essentially atonal and was the most extreme-sounding music written up to then. It remains a gripping theatrical experience when performed by singers capable of meeting its demands. It was also the beginning of Strauss's association with Hugo von Hofmannsthal as his librettist. Having brought music to the brink of atonality with "Elektra," Strauss abruptly turned back and began writing in a more conservative style. He was still at the height of his powers and his next opera, "Der Rosenkavalier," became his greatest triumph. But after that he fell into a long creative slump. Success and the material comforts that went with it, as well as advancing age, made Strauss complacent and willing to compromise in his work. He wrote ten more operas over the next 30 years. Some, like "The Woman Without a Shadow" (1917) and "Arabella" (1933), both to Hofmannsthal texts, have merit, but the overall impression one gets is of the composer relying on his formidable technique rather than inspiration. It would take the cataclysm of World War II and its aftermath, when Strauss was in his 80s, to reawaken his dormant gifts. Abandoning opera forever after "Capriccio" (1942), he returned to the smaller-scale instrumental forms of his youth and enjoyed an Indian Summer of great compositions: the Horn Concerto No. 2 (1942), the Sonatina for Woodwind (1944), the masterful "Metamorphosen" for 23 strings (1945), the Oboe Concerto (1947), and the ravishingly beautiful "Four Last Songs" for soprano and orchestra (1948), his creative farewell. A gruff, self-centered man, Strauss cared for little outside of his music and his family, and was totally indifferent to politics and world events. This attitude cost him when Adolf Hitler took control of Germany. At first oblivious to Nazi ideology, Strauss accepted an appointment as president of the new Reich Chamber of Music, a position he held from late 1933 to early 1935. He was forced to resign for expressing disapproval of the regime's cultural policies and was thereafter held in official disfavor by the Nazis; only his fame spared him greater retribution. At the same time his brief, ill-considered association with Hitler seriously tarnished his international reputation. After Germany's defeat in 1945 Strauss was shunned as a Nazi collaborator and went into exile in Switzerland. A successful Strauss Festival was held in London in 1947, but when the nation of Israel was founded the following year Strauss's music was banned there, along with Wagner's. Strauss was ultimately cleared by an Allied de-Nazification tribunal and returned to Germany in time for celebrations of his 85th birthday in June 1949. He died three months later. His ashes were buried in the garden of his villa in Garmisch, in the Bavarian Alps. Towards the end of his life Strauss summed up his legacy. "I may not be a first-rate composer," he declared, "but I AM a first-class second-rate composer!" There is truth in this. Taken as a whole, his work is very uneven. Alongside his masterpieces are such questionable items as the "Sinfonia Domestica" (1904), the ballet "The Legend of Joseph" (1914), "The Alpine Symphony" (1915), and several of his operas and occasional pieces. His craftsmanship was always impeccable, but even his best compositions are sometimes marred by lapses of taste and musical judgement. And because he ceased to be innovative comparatively early in his career, and lived long enough to see his style become an anachronism, historians have tended to downplay his importance. But important he was, and Strauss's cool self-appraisal is too harsh. The complex harmony of "Salome" and "Elektra" had a definite influence on Arnold Schoenberg, making Strauss, along with Gustav Mahler, a vital progressive link between Wagner and the Serialists. His vast resources in instrumentation opened up new vistas of sound and color in the modern orchestra. And more than any other composer he made the tone poem (or symphonic poem) a viable musical genre. Unlike Mahler, Strauss suffered no long period of neglect; audiences have never stopped loving his music. His posthumous fame enjoyed a peak in the 1970s, after director Stanley Kubrick used the dynamic opening of "Thus Spake Zarathustra" as the theme music for his film "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968). A disco version of this tune later became a worldwide hit. That Strauss's melodies could cross over into pop music success nearly a century after they were written is a tribute to the durability of his genius.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards

Family Members



In their memory
Plant Memorial Trees



How famous was Richard Strauss?

Current rating:

145 votes

to cast your vote.

  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bobb Edwards
  • Added: 17 Feb 2006
  • Find a Grave Memorial ID: 13380799
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Richard Strauss (11 Jun 1864–8 Sep 1949), Find a Grave Memorial ID 13380799, citing Richard Strauss Villa, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Landkreis Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria (Bayern), Germany ; Maintained by Find a Grave Cremated, Ashes given to family or friend.