Richard Strauss


Born: June 11th, 1864 in Munich, Germany
Died: September 8th, 1949 (at age 85) in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
Nationality: German
Fields: Late Romantic and earlier modern music
Famous For: His operas and symphonic poems

Richard Strauss was born in Munich, Germany on June 11th, 1864. His father was part of the Court Opera in Munich, which meant that Richard was immersed in music from the start. Throughout his childhood his father taught him all about music, which eventually led to Richard writing a composition by the time he was just six years old. He was fortunate enough to attend orchestra rehearsals, get private lessons from instructors and learn how to play the violin.

By 1882, Richard performed the “Violin Concerto in D minor” in Vienna. Soon after this he started studying philosophy and art history at Munich University for a year. After this, he got a position as the assistant conductor to Hans von Bulow in Berlin. During his time working with Hans, Richard developed a talent and passion for conducting. Hans saw this talent, and decided that Strauss should be his successor in 1885 for the Meiningen orchestra, when he was to resign.

On September 10th, 1894 Strauss married Pauline de Ahna, who was an eccentric and outspoken soprano. They had one son together in 1897 named Franz. Although Franz was Catholic, he married a Jewish woman in 1924 and had two sons with her. Unfortunately, a few years after this, in 1933, the Nazi Party was beginning to rise.

Nazi Takeover

Strauss was able to protect his Jewish family during this time and became the State Music Bureau’s president. Although Jewish works were banned in the opera by the Nazis, Strauss ignored the warnings. He continued to create performances that used the Jewish works, which eventually led to the opera being banned. After this, Strauss wrote a letter to his Jewish friend Stefan Zweig, stating that it didn’t matter if someone was Jewish, only if they were talented.

Unfortunately, Hitler ended up intercepting this message and soon after dismissed Strauss from the position of president. During this time Strauss received a lot of criticism from other people due to his seemingly positive relationship with the Nazis. Strauss did not take this to heart, as he had to maintain a good relationship in order to prevent his daughter in law and grandchildren from going to concentration camps.

In 1938 Strauss focused on creating his next opera, named “Friedenstag.” After this, his daughter-in-law was placed under house arrest, but her safety was secured. He tried to get her mother out of a concentration camp using his same connections, but he was unsuccessful. In 1945 Strauss completed “Metamorphosen,” which was a composition that was about German culture and the war.

His last works were some of his most famous, as the end of the war seemed to put him into focus. Strauss passed away on September 8th, 1949 at the age of 85. His wife passed away eight months later when she was 88 years old.


Strauss created solo and chamber works, tone poems, orchestras and many other works during his lifetime. Many of these are still played today by orchestras all over the world. Strauss is also remembered in many books and even on U.S. stamps.