Strauss, Richard Georg, born 11-06-1864 Munich, son of Franz Joseph Strauss, a musician at the Court Orchestra in Munich and a daughter from the Hacker-Pschorr family of brewers. Strauss grew up in a conservative environment and was supported by Hans von Bülow in his early years. Bülow employed him as assistant conductor in Berlin, until he became conductor in Meiningen after Bülow resigned there. As a young man Strauss had seen a repetition by composer, Richard Wagner at Bayreuth and he felt a deep admiration for the composer and his work during his whole life. In 1889 he met Wagner’s widow Cosima
when he worked as a musical assistant for the Opera “Parsifal” at Bayreuth. His own opera “Guntram” was meant to honour the master, but it wasn’t liked by Cosima and her circle. In 1894 he married the singer Pauline de Ahna,
who was disliked by most people they knew because of her rude manners. But it was a good marriage and her bad temper was always easily forgotten by Strauss. In 1897 they had a son, Franz.
In 1905 his opera “Salome”, with a libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, was first performed in Dresden. It was an instant succes and the royalties enabled the shrewd businessman Strauss to build a villa in Garmisch. His next succes together with Hofmansthal was “Elektra” and in 1911 “Der Rosenkavelier” was equally well received allthough completely different in style. Apart from his opera’s Strauss was well known for his impressive symphonic poems. After the Nazi’s came to power it seems that he believed genuinely that they would support German music.
He shared their distaste of Jewish culture and although he was never politically involved with the Third Reich, he accepted the presidency of the Reichsmusikkammer, the State Office of Music. Richard Strauss speaking at the German Composers’ Meeting in Berlin on 18-02-1934.
He, here with SA leader Ernst Röhm,
was in contact with several other NSDAP important, like Generaloberst der Infanterie, commander of the VII Army Corps, Wilhelm Adam
, a regular card play partner in the local café of Garmisch, Josef Goebbels
and his wife Magda Goebbels
and happily accepted well paid assignments. It is possible that he also wanted to protect his daughter in law Alice, who was half Jewish. He lost his post as president after he had denounced the Nazi’s in a letter to his Jewish librettist Stefan Zweig
, who lived in Austria. Zweig had succeeded Hugo von Hofmannshal,
who had died in 1929 of a stroke two days after his son had committed suicide. In 1942 Strauss moved to Vienna, where he had a house since his conducting engagement there in earlier years. In Vienna he was in close contact to Baldur von Schirach
Death and burial ground of Strauss, Richard Georg.
Strauss was back in Garmisch when the Americans invade Germany. He was placed under the protection of the army, but after the war he was heavily criticized for his collaboration and he felt forced to move to Switzerland. He was an old man now and illnesses forced him to cure frequently. He returned to Garmisch in 1949 where he died later that year, old age 85 on 08-09-1949. Richard Strauss suffered from a heart attack and he died of kidney failure quietly, in his sleep, shortly after 2 p.m. on 08-09-1949, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, West Germany. From his death-bed, typical for his enduring sense of humour, he commented to his daughter-in-law Alice, “dying is just as I composed it in Tod und Verklärung”. His ashes were kept at his villa in Garmisch. Sir Georg Solti,
who had arranged Strauss’s 85th birthday celebration, also directed an orchestra during Strauss’s burial. The conductor later described how, during the singing of the famous trio from Rosenkavalier, “each singer broke down in tears and dropped out of the ensemble, but they recovered themselves and we all ended together” After the death of his son Franz in 1980 they were interred in the cemetery in Garmisch. His wife De Ahna outlived her husband, but only by eight months, dying in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in May 1950. On this cemetery is also buried the Generals, also his friend, Generaloberst der Infanterie, Chief of the Troop Office, Wilhelm Adam
Generalleutnant der Gebirgstruppe, Commander of the 1st
Mountain Division, Walter Ritter Stettner von Grabenhofen
, Generallieutenant der Infanterie, Stadt Commander of Dresden Robert Schlüter
, Korvetten Kapitän Carl Daehnke
and Wannsee Conference participant Eric Neumann