The New International Encyclopædia/Strauss, Richard

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The New International Encyclopædia
Strauss, Richard
Edition of 1905. See also Richard Strauss on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

STRAUSS, Richard (1864—). A German composer, the most ingenious disciple of the so-called school of Weimar. Born in Munich, he mastered the technics of the violin and piano when quite young, and in 1875-80 studied theory and composition with kapellmeister Wilhelm Mayer. In October, 1885, Strauss became musical director at Meiningen. In 1886-89 he was kapellmeister at Munich and was then called to Weimar. His radical tendencies were soon recognized, and his espousal of extremely modern music caused his conducting of Wagner to become of notable interest. On his return from a trip to Greece, Egypt, and Sicily, his music drama Guntram, opus 25, dedicated to his parents, was produced at Weimar, in 1894.

Strauss returned to Munich as Court kapellmeister in 1895, and in the same capacity went to Berlin in 1898. He wrote Italia, a symphonic fantasia, in 1886. It is fresh, vigorous, and characteristic in themes and coloring. Then followed a series of daring orchestral compositions. The chronology of the greater symphonic works is as follows: Don Juan (1888); Macbeth (1887); Death and Apotheosis (1889); Till Eulenspiegel (1895); Thus Spake Zarathustra (1895); Don Quixote (1897); A Hero's Life (1898). His later works include, besides numerous songs and choruses, an opera, Feuersnot (1901); a tone poem entitled Sinfonia domestica; and Taillefer, a choral work with orchestra, based on a poem by Uhland. Strauss's earlier productions tell no tale of genius; the mark of the file is upon them. But from his twentieth opus his originality shows itself. He invented the tone poem, in which the line of design is as sternly unwavering as the symphony, and the possibilities for expression almost illimitable. The Strauss themes condition their treatment, and if his harmonic scheme sometimes seems ugly, his melodic curve daring, and his orchestration polyodic, it must be remembered that the same criticisms were made of Richard Wagner's music. The developing sections in his tone poems are remarkable. Perhaps, following the trend of the Lied writers since Schumann in his songs, the voice is woven too closely in the dense fabric of harmony, yet many effects of pure, rhythmetic, and sensuous beauty are discovered. Here Strauss has often dared to be simple in sentiment. Such a song as the Serenade is heard with delight by audiences that do not realize the complexity of a scheme expressing itself so naïvely. It is the epical Strauss that appeals especially to the imaginative.

Consult: Fuller-Maitland, Masters of German Music, with Illustrations (London, 1894); Huneker, Mezzotints in Modern Music (New York, 1899); the monographs by Seidl and Klatte (Prague, 1896), and Breelier (Leipzig, 1900); and The Musical Times, vol. xliv., No. 719 (London, 1903).