Richard Strauss






    Richard Strauss was born in Munich, Germany in 1864. He was a visionary late Romantic composer who bridged the gap between romanticism and modernism. Strauss was born into a musical family and began studying music at the age of four. Composing from six to his death in 1949 at 85, Strauss wrote over 200 works.

    From an early age, Richard Strauss was exposed to music and learnt the piano, conducting and the violin from members of the Munich Court Orchestra whilst also attending their rehearsals. Instead of studying at a traditional conservatoire, Strauss began performing, conducting and composing his own works. Whilst working on his studies, Strauss went to the University of Munich to read art history and philosophy. His father, a renowned horn player at the time, helped to promote his son’s work to a wider audience.

    Upon finishing university, Strauss became a regular conductor at many orchestras across Europe assuming an almost celebrity-like status in society. His most prominent position was at the Bavarian State Opera where he also began composing tone-poems, a style which Strauss pioneered. 

    Strauss moved to Weimar in the late 1880s and began working on larger works, which turned out to be his most famous. It was around this time where he met Gustav Mahler. His tone-poems were being performed all across the world by the turn of the century.

    1933 saw the rise of Adolf Hitler to power in Germany signalling the end of the Weimar Republic, a period of rapid cultural expansion. Hitler aimed to manage all aspects of society, including music. Strauss was controlled by the state to compose Reichsmusikkammer; a type of music deemed acceptable by the state.

    On the whole, Strauss complied with the numerous constraints placed on music however he worked on banned composition styles in private. As the Nazi regime became more extreme, Strauss became more unpopular as he expressed views that were against the party.

    During the war, Strauss wrote a few pieces; his main aim was securing the safety of his Jewish family. At the end of the war, Strauss moved to Switzerland after the allied forces took control of Germany. He composed a small number of melancholic and reflective works in his later life before dying from complications after a surgery at the age of 85.

    A visionary, Strauss composed many significant works including the tone poems ‘Don Juan,’ ’Tode und Verklärung’ and ‘Ein Heldenleben.’ The pinnacle of Strauss’ orchestral compositional force can be seen in ‘Eine Alpensinfonie’ which he composed between 1911 and 1915.

    Oliver Clayton
    Oliver Clayton
    Oliver Clayton is currently reading an undergraduate degree in Music at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire where he studies modern violin with Susanne Stanzeleit and baroque violin with Lucy Russell. Whilst at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Oliver often plays in the Birmingham New Music concert series where he premiers new compositions. Oliver also works as a creative, collaborating on various artistic projects in and around Birmingham. Oliver regularly performs with the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus singing alongside the CBSO. When not playing the violin, Oliver is an avid reader of modern and contemporary fiction and writes commercially. Before attending higher education, he studied German and History alongside Music.
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