Richard Strauss - A Controversial Musical Genius | Documentaries | DW | 24.05.2015
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Richard Strauss - A Controversial Musical Genius

Richard Strauss was hailed as a leading avant-gardist and demonized as a reactionary. But that didn’t affect his success: He’s still seen as one of the most important composers of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

Richard Strauss was born in Munich 150 years ago, on 11 June 1864. Both his critics and admirers saw him as a great all-rounder, as successful as a conductor as he was as a composer. In 1905 he established himself in one fell swoop as an operatic composer with the premier of the erotically charged and somewhat dissonant “Salome” in Dresden. Many of his contemporaries were scandalized by the work but it was completely in tune with contemporary avant-garde tastes.

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Strauss’ “Salome” was the first opera to break out of the confines of bourgeois morality.

Five years later, Strauss celebrated another spectacular success in Dresden. His opera "Der Rosenkavalier" was an instant crowd-puller. Working with the librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Strauss created a stylistic blend loaded with allusions to Mozart, and “Der Rosenkavalier” became an indispensible fixture in the operatic repertoire. The city on Elbe became the scene of many of his triumphs. Nine of his 15 operas were premiered at Dresden’s court opera.

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Richard Strauss became assistant choirmaster in Weimar when he was just 25.

In 1945, Strauss, who was seen as having been too closely involved with the Nazis, launched an oppressive retrospective with his final compositions, the mournful “Metamorphoses" and the “Four Last Songs.” To mark his 150th birthday, this documentary looks back over Richard Strauss’ life and talks to major figures from the worlds of music and theater and connoisseurs of his work about the brilliant career of this musical genius.

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