Composer, Orchestra Conductor. A leading member of the famous Strauss musical dynasty, he devoted himself to dance music with works that show considerable emotional depth and formal invention. His brother Johann Strauss, Jr. once declared he was "the more gifted of us two; I am merely the more popular". Strauss was born in Vienna, the son of original "Waltz King" Johann Strauss, Sr. He trained as a civil engineer at the Vienna Polytechnic and invented a horse-drawn forerunner of today's street-sweeping vehicles, which the city used for many years. But he had a natural affinity for music and liked to participate in the family orchestra as an amateur violinist. In 1853 he stepped in as the ensemble's conductor after Johann Jr. fell ill from overwork. Believing the job would be temporary, he composed a dance set under the title "First and Last Waltzes"; to his surprise it was a hit and he was obliged to write another set, which he ironically called "The First Waltz after the Last". After Johann recovered Josef stayed on as his deputy and helped supply new music for their repertory. He became co-conductor of the Strauss Orchestra in 1856 and principal conductor in 1863, taking them on several tours of Europe. Josef, nicknamed "Pepi" by his intimates, was the romantic of the Strauss family. He looked the part with his lean and haunted features, a consequence of lifelong poor health, and Viennese audiences adored him. His waltzes, polkas, mazurkas and other dances (nearly 300 in all) have a distinctive poetic quality and bear such names as "Music of the Spheres", "Love and Life", "Deliriums", "Voices of the Times", "The Mysterious Powers of Magnetism", and "Village Sparrows from Austria". He also collaborated on several pieces with Johann, including the well-known "Pizzicato Polka". His one serious concert work, the orchestral tone poem "Ode to the Night", was critically praised, but the score was lost and he did not live to pursue symphonic music further. In June 1870, during an engagement in Warsaw, he suffered what may have been a stroke and collapsed on the podium. His wife took him home to Vienna, where he died the following month. He was 42. Leadership of the Strauss Orchestra passed to Josef's younger brother Eduard. Originally buried at the Saint Marxer Friedhof, Josef was reinterred at the Zentralfriedhof in the early 1900s.
Bio by: Bobb Edwards