The young Strauss was a fiery conductor. Later in life he calmed down, and was noted for his economical style of conducting. Strauss held many important conducting positions throughout his lifetime.

Strauss was clearly the most notorious and famous composer alive at the turn of the 20th century, perhaps rivaled only by Debussy. He was also extremely well-known as a conductor (this is how he earned his living for a good portion of his life), and along with his friend Gustav Mahler can be considered one of the twin pillars of both 20th century composing AND conducting.

Leo Eylar

The orchestral works of Strauss are among the most difficult of any composer, and require large forces to execute. When he launched his series of tone poems beginning in 1889 with Don Juan, he excited and astonished the ears of contemporary listeners. Nothing quite like it had been heard before, and with each successive work he pushed the envelope of what is possible, both in terms of orchestral technique and in terms of audience acceptance.

When he turned his attention away from purely orchestral writing to attack (literally!) opera in 1905, he turned the music world upside-down with Salome in 1905 and Elektra in 1908. It was right around this time (1908) that Arnold Schoenberg abandoned tonality altogether and began composing atonal music. Strauss chose not to follow this path, and did an about-face after Elektra, returning to more conventional harmony and music with his masterpiece Der Rosenkavalier, and for the remaining 35 years composed music that was firmly rooted in the more conventional harmony of earlier times.

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COMMENTARY

Richard Strauss

(1864 - 1949)

Not many composers make the cover of TIME magazine!

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