1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

A composer's life

Marita Berg / rf
June 10, 2014

Richard Strauss (1864-1949) lived through several musical eras - and shaped them deeply. "Others compose; I make music history," the maestro said at age 80 - with his typical blend of self-confidence and wit.

Richard Strauss
Image: AP

1864 - on June 11, Richard Strauss is born in Munich as the son of horn player Franz Strauss and his wife Josephine.

1881 - In Munich, Hermann Levi conducts the premiere of the D Minor Symphony by 16-year-old Strauss.

1882 - first visit to Bayreuth. Strauss witnesses the world premiere of Richard Wagner‘s "Parsifal." Hermann Levi is the conductor.

1884- First meeting with conductor Hans von Bülow

1885-1886 - At von Bülow’s recommendation, Strauss is named court orchestra director in Meiningen.

1886-1889 - Strauss - along with Hermann Levi and Franz von Fischer - is named third orchestra director at the Munich Court Opera.

1889 - Musical assistant at a performance of "Parsifal" in Bayreuth.

1889-1894 - Court orchestra director in Weimar.

- With the symphonic poem "Don Juan," Strauss achieves his breakthrough as one of Germany's most significant young composers.

1894 - Conducting debut in Bayreuth: Wagner‘s "Tannhäuser." After Hans von Bülow's death, Strauss temporarily takes over as music director of the Berlin Philharmonic's concerts.

- Marriage to soprano Pauline de Ahna.

1896 - Strauss is named principal music director at the Munich Court Opera.

1895-1898 - Premiere of the symphonic poems "Till Eulenspiegel," "Thus Spake Zarathustra" and "Don Quixote" in Cologne and Frankfurt.

1898 - Named first royal Prussian court orchestra director at the Berlin Court Opera.

1900 - Meets Austrian poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal in Paris; plans made for a joint effort.

1901 - Made president of the General German Music Association.

1903 - Co-founder of the German Composers' Society, established to represent composers' rights.

1904 - Trip to the US. Strauss conducts the world premiere of the "Symphonia domestica" in New York's Carnegie Hall.

1905 - Premiere of "Salome" at the Dresden Court Opera, now the Semper Opera. Critics are appalled. About his court orchestra director, Emperor Wilhelm II. fumes, "I've nourished a beautiful snake at my breast!" Gustav Mahler enthuses: "An utterly ingenious, very strong work."

Starting in 1906 - First collaboration with librettist Hugo Hofmannsthal; several operas ensue in the following years.

1908 - General music director in Berlin and director of the court orchestra.

1909 - January 25: premiere of the tragedy "Elektra" in Dresden.

1911 - January 26: premiere of the comedy "Der Rosenkavalier" in Dresden. Ernst von Schuch, who conducted the performance, reports: "An unprecedented outburst of ovations in the theater. Probably the most beautiful thing ever written."

1915 - Premiere of Strauss' symphonic poem "An Alpine Symphony" in Berlin: "A kitschy post card in notes," is the verdict of some, while others call it "an Alpine tapestry in sound."

- Co-founder of the "Society for Musical Performance Rights" (now known as GEMA).

1917 - Strauss, Hofmannsthal and Max Reinhardt co-initiate the Salzburg Festival.

1919 - Along with conductor Franz Schalk, Strauss is named director of the Vienna State Opera.

1924 - Strauss resigns from the Vienna Opera and lives as a freelance composer and conductor in Vienna and Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

1929 - The death of his partner Hugo von Hofmannsthal upsets Strauss deeply. He begins to look for a new librettist.

1931 - First meeting with Jewish-born writer Stefan Zweig.

1933 - Cooperation with the National Socialists: Strauss is named president of the Reich Music Chamber.

1935 - "Die schweigsame Frau" premieres in Dresden. Strauss' support of librettist Stefan Zweig causes friction with the regime. The opera is banned in Germany. Strauss is forced to step down as president of the Reich Music Chamber.

1936 - At the opening of the Olympic Games in Berlin, Strauss conducts his "Olympic Hymn," commissioned by the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne in 1932.

1939-1945 - Work mostly as a conductor during the Second World War in Vienna and elsewhere.

1945 - The composer witnesses the end of the war in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. In "mourning over Munich," he writes his "Metamorphoses" for 23 solo strings, calling it “a reflection of my entire life."

- Strauss' mansion in Garmisch-Partenkirchen is occupied by American troops. Strauss moves to Switzerland to avoid being named a Nazi collaborator by the American war commission.

1948 - In June, the de-Nazification trial in Garmisch-Partenkirchen is adjourned: Strauss is classified as "not guilty."

- "Four Last Songs" composed and first performed post-mortem in London by soprano Kirsten Flagstad.

1949 - Return to Garmisch-Partenkirchen; on September 8 Richard Strauss dies, at age 85.

Skip next section Explore more
Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

Former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (in lilac tie) is escorted from the House floor after a Tuesday afternoon vote
Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage