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Richard Strauss

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Richard Strauss

(1864-1949)

Richard Strauss was a programmatic composer of the nineteenth century, and he used freedoms of musical pictorialism to create sounds that bring us into the twentieth century. While many of his works seem classical, they are driven by descriptive techniques. He uses these to create musical representations

Richard Strauss was born in Munich, Germany on June 11, 1864. He was composing by the time he was 6 years old, having received basic instruction from his father, a professional horn player. This was his only formal training. His Father instilled in Richard a love of the classical composers, and his early works follow in their path. He went briefly to a university but he had no formal training as a composer. His first symphony premiered when he was 17, and his second when he was 20. By this time he had focused all his energy on conducting, and in 1885 he succeeded Hans von Bulow as conductor of the orchestra in Meiningen. For the next forty years, he conducted orchestras throughout Germany.

As a conductor, Strauss had a unique vantage point in which to observe the workings of an orchestra. From this vantage point he developed a sense for orchestration that was incomparable. He immediately put this sense to use in a series of orchestral pieces that he called "tone poems", including Macbeth, Don Juan, Tod und VerklÐ'rung, Till Eulenspeigels lustige Streiche, and Don Quixote. These works were intensely programmatic, and in the last two he elevated descriptive music to a level not approached since the techniques of text painting during the Renaissance. He also used his knowledge of orchestral techniques to revise Hector Berlioz's important orchestration treatise; this edition remains standard to this day.

At the beginning of the 20th century Strauss began to shift his focus to opera.

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