Richard Strauss (1864-1949)



In a career which spanned nearly eight decades across some of the most turbulent years of European history, Richard Strauss gained a reputation as one of Germany's most important composers.

But controversy has dogged the steps of this complex character, as a result of his anti-Semitic attitudes and association with the Nazis.

Donald Macleod begins his exploration of Strauss' life and works with the first two of his characterful tone poems.

Allerseelen : Barbara Bonney (soprano) : Geoffrey Parsons (piano)
Don Juan : Vienna Philharmonic : Christoph von Dohnanyi (conductor)
Serenade for Winds, Op 7 : Wind soloists of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Til Eulenspiegel : Chicago Symphony Orchestra : Daniel Barenboim (conductor).


Donald Macleod explores Strauss' final days, framed by recordings of his early works.

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of Richard Strauss, hailed in his youthful fame as 'the outstanding living composer'.

He focuses on Strauss' early works, which frame the story of his final days.

As the composer wrote on his deathbed, 'dying is just as I composed it in Death and Transfiguration'.

Morgen!, Op 27, No 4

Anne Schwanewilms (soprano)

Halle Orchestra

Mark Elder (conductor)

Halle CDHLL7508 Tr 5

Sonata in E flat for violin and piano, Op 18

Vadim Repin (violin)

Boris Berezovsky (piano)

Erato 8573-85769-2 Trs 1-3

Tod und Verklarung, Op 24

Staatskapelle Dresden

Rudolf Kempe (conductor)

EMI 7243 5 73619 2 7 CD5 Tr 2.


Donald Macleod focuses on the changing of the guard in German music in 1883.

Richard Strauss lived one of the longest lives of any composer.

He was born in 1864, when the American Civil War was raging.

By the time he died in 1949, two global conflicts had been fought and the world had changed entirely.

This week, Donald Macleod explores the music and stories from five distinct years of Strauss's life.

We travel in time from the 19 year old Strauss's first forays as a professional composer, to the final works of an old man, exploring his personal and professional relationships as we go.

In today's programme, 1883, the year in which there was a changing of the guard in German music.

Richard Wagner died, and Richard Strauss had his first professional success.

01A Star In The Ascendant20180226

The composer embarks on his most important conducting job to date.

In 1894, aged 30, German composer and conductor Richard Strauss embarked on his most important conducting job to date, at the Munich Opera House. That year he reinforced his standing in the concert hall with another brilliantly colourful tone poem and married his soulmate and muse, Pauline de Ahna. But he was keen to establish himself on the operatic stage, too, and after the poor reception of his first two operas came Salome. It nearly caused a riot amongst the performers and Strauss was accused of sensationalism by his critics, but it was an instant success and immediately in demand from opera houses all over Europe.
Presented by Donald Macleod.

Morgen!, Op 27 No 4
Kiera Duffy (soprano)
Roger Vignoles (piano)

Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Conductor, Manfred Honeck

Wiegenlied, Op 41 No 1
Christine Brewer (soprano)
Roger Vignoles (piano)

Salome (excerpts)
Salome....Christine Brewer (soprano)
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
Conductor, Donald Runnicles.


By 1894, at the age of 30, Strauss was conducting his own works in concert halls all over Europe.

That same year he got married to Pauline de Ahna, whose voice inspired some of his loveliest songs.

Donald Macleod introduces a selection of those songs, presented to Pauline as a wedding present, and the tone poem inspired by Cervantes' famous novel, which rapidly became one of his most popular works.

Ruhe, meine Seele!; Heimliche Aufforderung; Morgen! from Op 27 : Margaret Price (soprano) : Wolfgang Sawallisch (piano)
Don Quixote : Symphonieochester des Bayerischen Rundfunks : Lorin Maazel (conductor).


Donald Macleod examines events in Richard Strauss' early career.

Donald Macleod explores the life and work of Richard Strauss, examining events in the composer's early career that led him to develop an iron will to reinvent musical forms and push Romanticism to its limits.

Wiegenlied, Op 41, No 1

Renee Fleming (soprano)

Houston Symphony Orchestra

Christoph Eschenbach (conductor)

RCA 09026 68539 2 Tr 7

Helft! Morder!; Elektra! Schwester!; Ob ich nicht hore?; Elektra's Dance; Elektra!/Schweig, und tanze (Elektra)

Aegisth....Fritz Uhl (tenor)

Elektra....Inge Borkh (soprano)

Chrysothemis....Marianne Schech (soprano)

Choir of the Staatskapelle Dresden

Staatskapelle Dresden

Karl Bohm (conductor)

DG 431 737-2 CD2 Trs 13-17

Sonata in F for cello and piano, Op 6

Stephen Isserlis (cello)

Stephen Hough (piano)

RCA 74321 75389 2 Trs 15-17

Der Abend, Op 34, No 1

The Danish National Radio Choir

Stefan Parkman (conductor)

Chandos CHAN 9223 Tr 1.


Donald Macleod introduces Strauss's partnership with the librettist Hugo von Hoffmannsthal

As General Director of the Berlin Court Opera and conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, Strauss was, by 1908, Germany's most powerful musician. With his next opera began one of the greatest partnerships between composer and librettist in operatic history, but also one of the most problematic. His second collaboration with the writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal produced Der Rosenkavalier which was a tremendous success when it was premiered in 1911. The next, with Molière's play Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme as its inspiration, was fraught with difficulty and required several reinventions before it gained the popularity it would eventually achieve. Presented by Donald Macleod.

Mit deinem blauen Augen, Op 56 No 4
Christopher Maltman (baritone)
Roger Vignoles (piano)

Der Rosenkavalier (excerpt)
Marschallin....Kiri Te Kanawa (soprano)
Octavian....Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo)
Sophie....Barbara Hendricks (soprano)
Staatskappelle Dresden
Conductor, Bernard Haitink

Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (excerpt)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor, Simon Rattle

Ariadne auf Naxos (excerpt)
Composer....Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo)
Zerbinetta....Natalie Dessay (soprano)
Prima Donna....Deborah Voigt (soprano)
Music Master....Albert Dohmen (baritone)
Dancing Master....Michael Howard (tenor)
Staatskapelle Dresden
Conductor, Giuseppe Sinopoli.


Taking five snapshots of Richard Strauss' life, Donald Macleod focuses on 1894.

In the second snapshot from the life of Richard Strauss, Donald Macleod finds himself in 1894, the year Strauss married the redoubtable Pauline.


Donald Macleod on Strauss' everyday life, including his favourite pastime - a card game.

Donald Macleod explores the life and work of Richard Strauss, and examines the composer's everyday life, including his favourite pastime - the card game Skat, and a revealing musical portrait of his family life, the Symphonia Domestica.

Stille...O weh, Falke, o weh! (Die Frau ohne Schatten - Act 2)

Der Kaiser....Placido Domingo (tenor)

Vienna Philharmonic

Georg Solti (conductor)

Decca 436 243-2 CD2 Tr 5

An Einsamer Quelle (Stimmungsbilder, Op 9)

Daniel Barenboim (piano)

Teldec 3984-23913-2 Tr 10

Symphonia domestica, Op 53

Scottish National Orchestra

Neeme Jarvi (conductor)

Chandos CHAN 10206 X Trs 1-5.


Donald Macleod focuses on the start of Richard Strauss' work with Hugo von Hofmannstahl.

In today's programme, Donald Macleod focusses on 1905, the year in which Richard Strauss started to work with his greatest collaborator and librettist, Hugo von Hofmannstahl.


Strauss had a penchant for basing works on scenes and characters from his own life.

Donald Macleod introduces highlights from an opera which laid bare the intimate details of a quarrel between Strauss and his wife, and the massive autobiographical tone poem with himself as hero.

Intermezzo - extract : Christine Lucia Popp (soprano) : Robert Storch Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone) : Sinfonie Orchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks : Wolfgang Sawallisch (conductor)
Ein Heldenleben : Vienna Philharmonic : Georg Solti (conductor).

03World War One And Its Aftermath20180228

Donald Macleod looks at the effects of the war on Strauss's life.

Life carried on pretty much as normal for Strauss during the war. His strenuous conducting schedule continued at the Berlin Court Opera and he undertook punishing conducting tours. He met the soprano Elisabeth Schumann during his travels. Her voice inspired Strauss to write his first songs in 12 years, including three which trace Ophelia's descent into madness. After the war, life at the Berlin Opera House became untenable and he took on the co-directorship of the Vienna Opera, a move not without its own challenges. There, Strauss's opera Die Frau ohne Schatten received a lukewarm reception at its premiere. A few years later came his next opera, which featured the composer and his wife as the main characters and a farcical case of mistaken identity in his personal life.
Presented by Donald Macleod.

Amor (Brentano Lieder, Op 68)
Kiera Duffy (soprano)
Roger Vignoles (piano)

Die Frau ohne Schatten (excerpt)
Empress....Julia Varady (soprano)
Nurse....Reinhild Runkel (contralto)
Dyer's Wife....Hildegard Behrens (soprano)
Barak....José van Dam (baritone)
Vienna State Opera Chorus and Children's Choir
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor, Sir Georg Solti

Ophelia Lieder, Op 67
Christiane Karg (soprano)
Malcolm Martineau (piano)

Four Symphonic Interludes from 'Intermezzo'
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Conductor, Franz Welser-Möst.


Strauss caused a sensation when he decided to make Oscar Wilde's decadent play Salome into an opera.

It turned him into the most successful opera composer of the day.

Not long afterwards Strauss began work on the opera which remains his most popular work, and possibly the subtlest of all his scores, Der Rosenkavalier.

Salome - extract : Herod....Kenneth Riegel (tenor) : Herodias....Hanna Schwarz (mezzo-soprano) : Salome....Catherine Malfitano (soprano) : Jochanaan....Bryn Terfel (baritone) : Jews....Uwe Peper, Robin Leggate, Uwe Schonbeck, Ferdinand Seiler (tenor), Andreas Kohn (bass) : Vienna Philharmonic : Christoph von Dohnanyi (conductor)
Der Rosenkavalier - extracts : Marschallin....Elizabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano) : Octavian....Christa Ludwig (mezzo-soprano) : Sophie....Teresa Stich-Randall (soprano) : Baron....Otto Edelmann (bass) : Faninal....Eberhard Wachter (baritone) : Annina....Kerstin Meyer (mezzo-soprano) : Philharmonia Orchestra : Herbert von Karajan (conductor).


Donald Macleod focuses on Strauss' music at the time of the First World War.

Donald Macleod explores the life and work of Richard Strauss.

He focuses on the composer at the time of the First World War, when his music began to show an even more profound sense of irony.

His incidental music for Le bourgeois gentilhomme is a typical example, presenting the style and mood of 18th century music in a 20th-century manner.

Ouverture; Schlaft sie? (Ariadne)

Najade....Christiane Hossfeld (soprano)

Dryade....Angela Liebold (mezzo-soprano)

Echo....Eva Kirchner (soprano)

Ariadne....Deborah Voigt (soprano)

Staatskapelle Dresden

Giuseppe Sinopoli (conductor)

DG 471 323-2 CD1 Trs 9-10

Der Pokal; Einerlei; Waldesfahrt; Schlechtes Wetter (Kleine Lieder, Op 69)

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone)

Gerald Moore (piano)

EMI 7 63995 2 CD6 Trs 4-7

Le bourgeois gentilhomme, Op 60

Berlin Philharmonic

Simon Rattle (conductor)

0EMI 3 39339 2 Trs 7-15.


Donald Macleod focuses on the unravelling of Richard Strauss' relations with the Nazis.

Donald Macleod explores another significant year in the life of Richard Strauss.

1935 saw the coming into force of Hitler's Nuremberg Laws and the beginning of a nightmare for Europe.

Strauss's relations with the Nazis are difficult to unravel.

On the one hand, he accepted an official post in Goebbels's cultural ministry - on the other, members of his own family suffered because of their Jewishness.

Donald Macleod tells the story.

04The Third Reich20180301

Soon after Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, he wasted no time in setting up the Reich's Culture Chamber, of which Strauss was invited to take on the role of president of the music section. Strauss believed he could improve the country's musical affairs through his official position but his close association with the Nazi regime would ultimately prove to be both a blessing and a curse. When Strauss wrote an ill-advised letter to his new librettist, the Jewish writer Stefan Zweig, criticising the regime, it was intercepted by the Gestapo and Strauss was ordered to resign from his official position less than two years after taking on the role. Presented by Donald Macleod.

Das Bächlein, Op 88 No 1
Diana Damrau
Munich Philharmonic
Conductor, Christian Thielemann

Schlagobers Waltz (excerpt)
Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Conductor, Neeme Järvi

Arabella (excerpt)
Arabella....Jane Eaglen (soprano)
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor, Zubin Mehta

Die Göttin im Putzzimmer
Danish National Radio Chamber Choir
Conductor, Stefan Parkman

Daphne (excerpt)
Daphne....Renée Fleming (soprano)
Apollo....Johan Botha (tenor)
Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra
Conductor, Semyon Bychkov.

05Final Decade20180302

Richard Strauss was 75 when war was declared in September 1939. The years leading up to his death, a decade later, would be some of the most challenging of his life.
Strauss's son had married into a Jewish family and when persecution of the Jews began in earnest, Strauss and his family were ostracized. Ironically his association with a senior Nazi official helped keep his immediate family safe.
After his last completed opera, Capriccio, Strauss turned away from the stage to write a series of orchestral pieces. During his final years he produced some of his most intensely felt music. Metamorphosen is a profound lament prompted by the destruction of Munich and Dresden, and his Four Last Songs are as much a tribute to his relationship with his wife as they are a farewell to life itself.
Presented by Donald Macleod.

Capriccio - final aria, 'Kein andres, das mir so im Herzen loht'
Countess....Elizabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano)
Major-domo....Karl Schmitt-Walter (baritone)
Philharmonia Orchestra
Conductor Raphael Sawallisch

Horn Concerto No 2 (final mvt)
David Pyatt (horn)
Britten Sinfonia
Conductor, Nicholas Cleobury

Leipzig String Quartet
Hartmut Rohde (viola)
Michael Sanderling (cello)
Christian Ockert (bass)

Beim Schlafengehen (Four Last Songs)
Soile Isokoski (soprano)
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Conductor, Marek Janowski.

05 LAST20060602

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Strauss decided to remain in Germany when the Nazis came to power - and his associations with the Party have tainted his reputation.

Donald Macleod introduces works from those last decades of Strauss' life, including the chamber piece which has been the subject of debate ever since.

All'mein Gedanken : Elisabeth Schumann (soprano) : Karl Alwin (piano)
Capriccio - extract : Countess....Gundula Janowitz (soprano) : Major Domo....Karl Christian Kohn (bass) : Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks : Karl Böhm (conductor)
Metamorphosen : Vienna Philharmonic : Christoph von Dohnanyi (conductor)
Im Abendrot - from Four Last Songs : Lucia Popp (soprano) : London Symphony Orchestra : Michael Tilson Thomas (conductor).

05 LAST20091016

Donald Macleod explores Strauss' role as the leading German composer of the Nazi era.

Donald Macleod explores the life and work of Richard Strauss.

He appraises Strauss' controversial role as the leading German composer of the Nazi era, and introduces what has been called 'the most challenging tonal choral work ever written', his Deutsche Motette.

Zueignung, Op 10, No 1

Christine Brewer (soprano)

Roger Vignoles (piano)

Hyperion CDA67488 Tr 1

Schwung: Gebt mir meinen Becher! Seht, er uberstrahlt; Liebesgeschenke: Ich pfluckte eine kleine Pfirsichblute; Die Allmachtige: Die hochste Macht der Erde sitzt auf keinem Tron; Huldigung: Die Perlen meiner Seele (Gesange des Orients), Op 77

Hyperion CDA67488 Trs 14-18

Horn Concerto No 2 in E flat

Dennis Brain (horn)

Philharmonia Orchestra

Wolfgang Sawallisch (conductor)

EMI 47834 Trs 4-6

Deutsche Mottete, Op 62

The Danish National Radio Choir

Stefan Parkman (conductor)

Chandos CHAN 9223 Tr 3.

05 LAST194620100409

Donald Macleod focuses on the year 1946, when Richard Strauss faced de-Nazification.

After the war, Strauss faced de-Nazification - as someone who had held an administrative post in the Nazi administration, he had to face a tribunal, which would make a judgement on the extent of his guilt.

The judgement finally came in 1948; while he was waiting, Strauss wrote some of his most popular music.