ichard Georg Strauss (11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier and Salome; his lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; and his tone poems and other orchestral works, such as Also sprach Zarathustra
Strauss's final work is a masterpiece and a culmination of his song-writing: Four Last Songs (1948), his most popular set. In general, Strauss survives as a song-writer by individual songs, rather than by cycles, unlike someone like, say, Mahler. One finds gems throughout his career, early through late.
Before and during the 1939-45 War, [Strauss] was criticised as a Nazi sympathiser, and held an official (musical) post. This claim is not entirely accurate. He lost the job when he refused to remove the name of a Jewish librettist from a programme. He was also condemned for criticisms of the Nazi party. He was thereafter denounced by the Nazi party, and he was forced to make concessions and submit to their will in order to save his family
the opening of Strauss' Zarathustra is one of the most recognizable musical excerpts in history. [...] Strauss takes Nietzsche's work and distills it into eight musical sections, with an introduction and epilogue. Through these sections, he wants to convey the essence of Nietzsche's philosophical approach to the world.
It is "Don Juan" that, with its orchestral brilliance, its formal command and its vivid evocation of passionate ardour ([Strauss] was in love with the singer Pauline von Ahna, his future wife), shows his maturity and indeed virtuosity as a composer. With its première, at Weimar (he had moved to a post at the opera house there), he was recognized as the leading progressive composer in Germany.
Until the appearance of Salome in 1905, Strauss's claim to prominence as a composer was due to his tone poems. They emerged in three groups: Aus Italien in 1886 and a trio of works from 1888-89: Don Juan, Macbeth, and Tod und Verklärung (Death and Transfiguration). After he left his post in Weimar, Strauss wrote four of his best tone poems between 1894 and 1898: Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche (Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks), Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus spake Zarathustra), Ein Heldenleben (A Hero's Life), and Don Quixote.
Some of [Strauss'] 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.
Richard Strauss poses a unique challenge in modern music. His predilection for mixing the trivial and the sublime, for undercutting the extraordinary with the everyday, defies our stereotypes of nineteenth- and twentieth-century composers. Indeed, Strauss embodies a fundamental dichotomy that will be a recurring focus in his study of the man and his music.
During the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s, a new artistic movement, Modernism, arose in reaction to the Romantic aesthetic of the 19th century. Strauss absorbed some of the musical innovations of the Modernist revolution, especially a more brash style of instrumentation and the use of dissonance for expressive effect. But he remained a Romantic at heart.
Richard Strauss is one of the great German musicians towards the end of the Classical Romantic epoch the music of which reflects the ’joie de vivre’ of his contemporaries which is characterized by emotionalism, self-awareness and modernism. In his orchestral works he gives images and ideas of his literary or philosophical models musical form, using different colours and nuances. His style is characterized by exciting tonal zest, extremely sharp dissonances and drama. In Strauss’ operas, such as in Elektra (1908), Der Rosenkavalier (1909/10) and Arabella (1932), special emphasis is given to the expressive element.
On the surface, life was good to Richard Strauss. He was successful, world-famous, rich and happily married for fifty-four years. Look a little below the surface and we see a different picture, that of a composer who was in tune with the times for only the early part of his career. For most of his life he found himself at odds with the direction music was taking.