Richard Strauss (1864-1949) grew up in a musical household. His father, Franz, who was a horn player in the Munich Court Orchestra, played in the premières of Wagner’s TristanMeistersingerRheingoldWalküre and Parsifal. That said, Franz Strauss disapproved strongly of Wagner’s music. His son, on the other hand, did not. Indeed, Richard Strauss embraced Wagner’s sound world in his symphonic poems (including Don JuanDeath and Transfiguration and Also sprach Zarathustra) and early operas (Salome and Elektra in particular) before cultivating a style and idiom that veered more in the direction of Mozart. For most of his life Strauss was both a composer and a conductor. Indeed, there is film footage of him conducting excerpts from his opera Der Rosenkavalier at the age of 85. He composed right to the end of his life too. His Four Last Songs, among the most famous of his works, were premièred posthumously in London in 1950 with conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler and soprano Kirsten Flagstad. Other late works include the Oboe Concerto and Metamorphosen for 23 solo strings. In December 1999, Alex Ross, music critic for the New Yorker, described Strauss as the ‘composer of the century.’

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