Richard Strauss

Don Juan, op. 20 [TrV 156]

          It is difficult, indeed, to think of a composer more possessed of an overweening ego than that of Richard Strauss (other than that of Wagner, that is).  Thankfully, his was not malicious, and was to some degree justified.  Strauss is almost unique in that his long life (unlike that of, say, Verdi) spanned remarkable changes in musical style, not to speak of world history.

Four Last Songs, TrV 296

            Richard Strauss lived a long and productive life, striding across the musical landscape of Europe from teenage success to triumph in old age.  He was the son of a prominent musician, one of the world’s great horn players, and wrote works in his youth that are still performed and admired.  He married a well-respected soprano, had children who loved him, and enjoyed a warm, stable family life.   The works of his early maturity, the 1880s and 1890s, that garnered world wide praise are his tone poems for orchestra, and they remain central to our standard repertoire, among them: Don Juan, Also sprach Zarathustra, Till Eulenspiegel, and Death and Transfiguration.  He soon turned to the composition of operas, and that remained his focus for the rest of his life. 

Oboe Concerto in D Major, TrV 292

            Richard Strauss lived a long and productive life, striding across the musical landscape of Europe from teenage success to triumph in old age.  He was the son of a prominent musician (one of the world’s great horn players), and wrote works in his youth that are still performed and admired.  He married a well-respected soprano, had children who loved him, and enjoyed a warm, stable family life.   The works of his early maturity, the 1880s and 1890s, that garnered world wide praise are his tone poems for orchestra, and they remain central to our standard repertoire, among them: Don Juan, Also sprach Zarathustra, Till Eulenspiegel, and Death and Transfiguration.  He soon turned to the composition of operas, and that remained his focus for the rest of his life. 

Serenade in Eb major, op. 7

            As long as there have been garden soirées, outdoor wedding receptions, and patio cocktail parties, there have been ample opportunities for casual entertainment by small instrumental ensembles.  A “serenade,” of course, has its origin as solo song of dedication, sung outdoors, and often accompanied by the singer on a guitar, lute, or other similar instrument.  And, indeed, that musical imagery lived on for centuries in various light instrumental pieces that carried the title.  By the middle of the eighteenth century, most especially in Austria, Germany, Italy, and Bohemia, instrumental ensemble entertainment at social, outdoor affairs by groups of less than a dozen players became all the rage, and we are fortunate, today, to have many of these works by the leading co

Suite from Der Rosenkavalier, op. 59

            Richard Strauss lived a long and productive life, striding across the musical landscape of Europe from teenage success to triumph in old age.  He was the son of a prominent musician, one of the world’s great horn players, and wrote works in his youth that are still performed and admired.  He married a well-respected soprano, had a family who loved him, and enjoyed a warm, stable personal life.   But, it is difficult, indeed, to think of a composer more possessed of an overweening ego than that of Richard Strauss (other than that of Wagner, of course).  Thankfully, his was not malicious, and was to some degree justified.  Strauss is almost unique in that his long life (unlike that of, say, Verdi) spanned remarkable changes in musical style, not to speak of world history.

Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, op. 28 [TrV 171]

            A precocious musician, Strauss benefitted from an outstanding family life that was immersed in music.  He studied musical composition early on, was well grounded in all aspects of harmony, form, and orchestration, and participated in the orchestras that his father, the eminent horn player, conducted.