Leipziger Notenspur Leipziger Notenspur Leipziger Notenspur

This list of composers is continuously updated and does not claim to be complete.

Richard Strauss (11.06.1864–08.09.1949)

Richard Georg Strauss was a German composer, conductor and theatre director. He visited the city of Leipzig over forty times.

  1. Biography
  2. Private Life
  3. Connection to Leipzig
  4. Reception
  5. Works
  6. Sources and Links

1. Biography

Richard Strauss was born in Munich on June 11th, 1864. He was the son of Franziskus Strauss, the first horn player of the court orchestra, and Josephine Strauss, whose family had run a beer brewing business for generations and was one of the richest families in Munich. Music played a major role in the Strauss household through his father, and so Richard Strauss began composing at the age of six. Soon court conductor Friedrich Wilhelm Meyer taught him composition and his first opus was written – a festival march for large orchestra.

From 1882 Richard Strauss studied philosophy and art history at the University of Munich. However, he soon abandoned his studies in order to devote himself more to his musical work. His compositional works were performed early on and in 1885 he took up a position as music director at the Meiningen court. The following year, after a trip to Italy, he became third music director at the court opera in Munich. Shortly before the premiere of Wagner's Die Feen (The Fairies), which he was to conduct, he was withdrawn from the project, working first as assistant at the Bayreuth Festival in 1889 and then as second music director at the court theatre in Weimar.

Due to health problems, Strauss embarked on a journey to Greece in 1892, which he extended to Egypt. Almost a year later he returned to Weimar. In 1893, he continued his work as court conductor in Munich and replaced Hans von Bülow with the Berlin Philharmonic for one season. The tone poems written during this period were performed throughout Germany, and Strauss was also in demand as a conductor in many European countries. In 1898 he became the royal Prussian court’s music director in Berlin. He championed the performance of contemporary works and founded the Berlin Tonkünstlerorchester (Tone Artists Orchestra) in 1901, which he quit after a few concerts. In the same year he became chairman of the Allgemeine Deutsche Musikverein (General German Music Society). During his time in Berlin, he went on many trips, including to America.

In 1919 Richard Strauss began conducting the court opera in Vienna alongside Franz Schalk. In 1924 he gave up the post again and composed and conducted in many different countries. With the National Socialists' seizure of power, Strauss began to be appropriated as a person and composer. In 1933, he became president of the Reichsmusikkammer (statutory corporation controlled by the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda that regulated all music in Nazi Germany). Two years later, however, he was forced to resign.

Stricken by illness, Strauss lived the last years of his life in seclusion at his home in Garmisch and, after the war was over, in Switzerland. Struggling with financial difficulties, he returned to Garmisch in 1949, where he died on September 8th of that year.

2. Private Life

Richard Strauss' father – Franz Joseph – was already 42 years old and married to his second wife when his son Richard came into the world. The relationship between the two must have been complicated. Richard Strauss later recalled: "My father's character had been embittered by a difficult youth. [...] At home he was fierce, irascible, tyrannical, and it required all the gentleness and kindness of my tender mother to make the relationship of my parents, although it was always borne by sincere love and esteem, pass off in unclouded harmony."[1]  Even in later years, many letters between the son and his parents show that the relationship must nevertheless have been important to him and that he always valued his mother and father as advisors. They were both also very positive about his marriage to his great love Pauline de Ahna, whom he met in 1887.

The young soprano was initially Strauss's pupil before he became engaged to her in 1894. He composed many songs for her and she sang some parts in his operas, such as the premiere of Guntram in the same year. The couple married on September 10th, 1894. Their honeymoon took them to Venice. On April 12th, 1897 Franz was born, their only son. In 1906 Pauline gave up her profession as a singer and devoted herself entirely to the household and raising children. During their marriage, the couple remained closely connected. Later, Strauss also maintained a good relationship with his daughter-in-law and his grandchildren. During the Nazi regime, he did everything he could to protect his son's wife, who was Jewish, and their children. Pauline died only a few months after Richard Strauss. His urn, initially kept in his villa, was buried many years later in the closest circle of family and friends at the Garmisch cemetery in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Pauline, his son Franz, his daughter-in-law Alice and his grandson Richard were also buried there.

3. Connection to Leipzig

Richard Strauss visited the city more than 40 times and must have left such a lasting impression that in 1926, during his lifetime, a square was named after him and adorned with a monument, although Leipzig was a little behind Bremen and Dresden in terms of time and it was also a rather out-of-the-way square. Strauss visited the city for the first time in 1883, to travel from there to Dresden. He used the stay to introduce himself to teachers at the conservatoire, the Gewandhaus concertmaster Henri Petri, the Gewandhaus music director Carl Reinecke and the St. Thomas cantor Wilhelm Rust. However, the Gewandhaus did not play a major role at first for his time in Leipzig: his music was initially heard not in the Gewandhaus but in the Euterpe concert society. The reviews were rather mediocre, similar to his debut as a conductor at the Gewandhaus two years later with his Symphony in F minor. In the following years, Strauss worked mainly with other orchestras and usually conducted the Leipzig premieres of his works himself – a great advantage for him. In 1899, he conducted the Gewandhaus Orchestra for the second time with Don Juan. Other first performances of his works followed which were very well received by the Leipzig audience.

In 1906, Richard Strauss appeared as the first "official" guest conductor in the history of the Gewandhaus. The critics had their doubts this time as well, but the audience was enthusiastic. In the following years, visits to Leipzig became less frequent. In 1915 he conducted Elektra and Salome at the New Theatre. In 1926, a Richard Strauss Week took place, during which he celebrated his 62nd birthday. At the age of 69, Strauss conducted for the last time in Leipzig, Arabella at the municipal theatre.

4. Reception

"If it can be said of a modern musician that his character image fluctuated in the mirror of his contemporaries, this is true of the head of musical modernism, Richard Strauss."[1]

Richard Strauss was in the public eye for a very long time and extended his fame beyond German and even European borders. He led a successful, if not uncontroversial, career as both conductor and composer until a ripe old age. Through skilful public relations, his fame took on very large proportions. On the other hand, critics and contemporaries had difficulty grasping his work and assessing his musical development. Strauss often took contradictory positions on social affiliations and conventions. At first, he was regarded as not very innovative; later, the image changed to one of someone who went radically down new paths, and finally to a conservative authority. In addition, he was repeatedly confronted with attacks that criticised his pursuit of a good income in connection with his great fame. The general public, at any rate, attached great importance to him and his work. This is reflected not least in the numerous honours he received throughout Germany: honorary citizenships, honorary doctorates and several streets and squares named after him.

To this day, opinions on the classification of his work – also against a cultural-historical or political background – differ greatly. His relationship to National Socialism seems complex. His appointment as president of the Reichsmusikkammer was probably a great honour for him at this point in his career, and he himself expressed the hope that in this position he would bring about positive things for art and music. To what extent he was aware of being instrumentalised by the regime is hardly clear. In any case, they profited from Strauss's international reputation and tolerated his work – as well as that of many contemporary composers – as long as it was useful. However, when Strauss decided to collaborate with Stefan Zweig, a Jew, the relationship began to become difficult. Nevertheless, the opera Die schweigsame Frau (The Silent Woman) that resulted from the collaboration was able to be performed, albeit accompanied by some criticism from the ranks of the Nazi party. While Strauss was still completing the opera, he was already under surveillance by the Gestapo (secret police). Strauss was only able to force Zweig's name to appear on the premiere posters by threatening to leave immediately, thus ensuring a successful premiere and the desired effect abroad. Afterwards, the opera was removed from the repertoire. Strauss was asked to resign due to "health problems", which the composer complied with. There are reports of an offended reaction by Strauss, but no great resentment, as there were no financial disadvantages. His representative function abroad remained and was promoted.

[1] Batka, Richard: Richard Strauss. Zu seinem fünfzigsten Geburtstag, in: Fremden-Blatt, Feuilleton supplement, June 11th, 1914.

5. Works

Tone Poems

·  Don Juan op. 20 (1888)

·  Macbeth op. 23 (1886–88, rev. 1889/90 and 1891)

·  Tod und Verklärung (Death and Transfiguration) op. 24 (1888–89)

·  Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche (Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks) op. 28 (1894–95)

·  Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra) op. 30 (1896)

·  Don Quixote – Fantastische Variationen über ein Thema ritterlichen Charakters (Don Quixote – Fantastic Variations on a Theme of Knightly Character), op. 35 (1897)

·  Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life) op. 40 (1898)

·  Sinfonia domestica op. 53 (1902–03)

·  Eine Alpensinfonie (An Alpine Symphony) op. 64 (1911–15)

Instrumental Music

Selected orchestral music:

·  Horn concerto No. 1 in E flat major op. 11 (1883)

·  Symphony in F minor op. 12 (1883)

·  Burlesque for Piano and Orchestra in D minor (1885/86)

·  Festive Prelude op. 61 for large orchestra and organ for the opening of the Vienna Concert Hall (1913)

·  Parergon for Sinfonia domestica op. 73 for piano and orchestra (1925)

·  Music for silent film Der Rosenkavalier (The Rose-Bearer, arrangement for orchestra, 1925)

·  Panathenäenzug (Panathenaea Procession) op. 74 for piano and orchestra (1926/27)

Selected chamber music:

·  String Quartet in A major op. 2 (1881)

·  Cello Sonata in F major op. 6 (1880–1883)

·  Serenade for 13 Wind Instruments in E flat major op. 7 (1881, premiere 1882)

·  Quartet for Piano, Violin, Viola and Violoncello in C minor op. 13 (1883–1885)

·  Violin Sonata in E flat major op. 18 (1887–1888)

·  Andante for Horn and Piano op. posth. (1888)

Also, orchestral suites with extracts from various stage works.


  • Guntram op. 25, premiere 1894 Weimar
  • Feuersnot op. 50, premiere 1901 Dresden
  • Salome op. 54, premiere 1905 Dresden
  • Elektra op. 58, premiere 1909 Dresden
  • Der Rosenkavalier (The Rose-Bearer) op. 59, premiere 1911 Dresden
  • Ariadne auf Naxos (Ariadne on Naxos) op. 60, premiere 1912 Stuttgart
  • Die Frau ohne Schatten (The Woman without a Shadow) op. 65, premiere 1919 Vienna
  • Intermezzo op. 72, UA 1924 Dresden
  • Die ägyptische Helena (The Egyptian Helen) op. 75, premiere 1928 Dresden
  • Arabella op. 79, premiere 1933 Dresden
  • Die schweigsame Frau (The Silent Woman) op. 80, premiere 1935 Dresden
  • Friedenstag (Day of Peace) op. 81, premiere 1938 Munich
  • Daphne op. 82, premiere 1938 Dresden
  • Die Liebe der Danae (The Love of Danae) op. 83, premiere 1952 Salzburg
  • Capriccio op. 85, premiere 1942 Munich

Ballet Music

  • Josephs Legende (The Legend of Joseph) op. 63, premiere May 14th, 1914 Paris
  • Schlagobers (Whipped Cream) op. 70, premiere May 9th,1924 Vienna

Also, some a cappella choral works and songs, e.g.:

·  Fünf Lieder (Five Songs) op. 15 (1886)

·  Sechs Lieder von A. F. von Schack (Six Songs by A. F. von Schack) op. 17 (1886–87)

·  Six Songs from Lotosblätter (Lotus Leaves) by Adolf Friedrich Count von Schack op. 19 (1888)

·  Schlichte Weisen (Plain Tunes) – five poems by Felix Dahn op. 21 (1889–90)

·  Mädchenblumen (Maiden Flowers) – four poems by Felix Dahn op. 22 (1888)

·  Fünf Kleine Lieder (Five Little Songs, after poems by Achim von Arnim and Heinrich Heine) op. 69 (1918–19)

·  Sinnspruch (Aphorism) AV 105 (1919)

·  Durch allen Schall und Klang (Through all the sounds and tones) AV 111 (1925)

·  Gesänge des Orients (Songs of the Orient) – Adaptation of Persian and Chinese poems by Hans Bethge op. 77 (1928)

Also marches and fanfares, as well as piano music

Audio Samples

Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche op. 28 (1894–95)   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxO6Rz4ADKI

Quartet for Piano, Violin, Viola and Violoncello in C minor op. 13 (1883–85)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIIZwbTXlLA

Finale from Arabella op. 79 (premiere 1933 Dresden)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vy9JsdTWOAk



6. Sources and Links

- Böhm, Claudius: Richard Strauss in Leipzig, in: Gewandhausmagazin, issue no. 82, p. 14 et seq.

- Ender, Daniel: Richard Strauss. Meister der Inszenierung, Böhlau Verlag 2014.

- Heinemann, Michael: Richard Strauss. Lebensgeschichte als Musiktheater, Verlag Dohr 2014.

- Prieberg, Fred K.: Musik im NS-Staat, Fischer 1982.

- Splitt, Gerhard: Richard Strauss 1933-1935. Ästhetik und Musikpolititk zu Beginn der nationalsozialistischen Herrschafft, Centaurus 1987.

- Werbeck, Walter: Art. Strauss, Richard in: MGG Online, ed. by Laurenz Lütteken, Kassel, Stuttgart, New York 2016, first published 2006, published online 2016, https://www.mgg-online.com/mgg/stable/13524

- http://www.richardstrauss.at/deutsch.html

The young Richard Strauss, 1888, source: Wikimedia, gemeinfrei