In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Richard Strauss

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Biographies
  • Catalogues and Bibliographies
  • Editions
  • Strauss’s Writings
  • Strauss the Conductor
  • Style
  • Lieder
  • Collected Volumes/Festschrifts

Music Richard Strauss
James L. Zychowicz
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 May 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0109


The legacy of Richard Strauss (b. 1864–d. 1949) as a composer includes symphonic poems, operas, Lieder, and other works. Yet, he was also an influential conductor who interpreted his own scores and also championed the new music of his contemporaries as well as revived the music of earlier generations, including Mozart. With regard to his compositions, Strauss’s early tone poems proved controversial for their daring harmonies, bold scoring, and hermeneutic challenges as program music. As popular as those works were, Strauss soon turned to opera as a mode of expression, and his efforts resulted in similarly provocative scores of Salome, Elektra, and other works for the stage. Yet, Strauss’s depiction of the 18th century in Der Rosenkavalier allowed him to arrive at an idiom that remains aurally representative of his style. His later collaborations with the librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal resulted in equally memorable operas, with pastiche in Ariadne auf Naxos and fantasy in Die Frau ohne Schatten. After Hofmannsthal’s death in 1929, Strauss collaborated with Stefan Zweig on several operas, and Friedenstag, a pacifist work, constituted their final effort. Strauss worked with other librettists, and his final opera, Capriccio, a piece about the conflicting priorities between words and music in opera composition, serves as a valedictory for the genre. With Lieder, Strauss was equally strong in a genre that occupied his attention throughout his career. The songs exist in versions with piano accompaniment along with some for voice and orchestra, and Strauss took the orchestral Lied from the nineteenth to the twentieth century with his distinctive scorings. The final four songs for voice and orchestra, the Vier letzte Lieder, crown his contributions to the genre and are among his most popular works. His other accomplishments include the revision of Berlioz’s Treatise on Orchestration, in which Strauss took that venerable text into the 20th century with his revisions and annotations. For these and other reasons, Strauss remains a Janus-faced figure whose efforts both build on the Austro-German tradition and represent several aspects that anticipate the new music of the 20th century.

General Overviews

Overviews include Gilliam and Youmans 2010 and Werbeck 1997, essential articles that contain concise information on the composer’s life and works. Such perspectives are amplified in Walter 2000 and Kennedy 1996. Botstein 1992 discusses the sometimes conflicting directions that emerge in the latter part of Strauss’s career as a modernist composer with, and also through, his connections with the Nazi government. Aspects of the latter receive balanced treatment in Brosche 2008, and Del Mar 1986 offers a comprehensive introduction to the composer’s music. For online information, Richard Strauss Online is useful.

  • Botstein, Leon. “The Enigmas of Richard Strauss: A Revisionist View.” In Richard Strauss and His World. Edited by Bryan Gilliam, 3–32. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992.

    Botstein discusses the appeal of Strauss’s music in the context of 20th-century modernism, with a consideration of the connections to verbal elements, such as narrative style, extramusical ideas, and the use of myth. Also treats Strauss’s relationship with the Third Reich.

  • Brosche, Günter. Richard Strauss: Werk und Leben. Vienna: Edition Steinbauer, 2008.

    Well-considered presentation of Strauss’s legacy, with useful perspectives on his life. Makes use of recent scholarship, including Brosche’s own archival research.

  • Del Mar, Norman. Richard Strauss: A Critical Commentary on His Life and Works. 3 vols. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986.

    Multivolume study organized chronologically: Volume 1 contains early works through Der Rosenkavalier. Volume 2 covers Ariadne auf Naxos through Arabella. Volume 3 includes Die schweigsame Frau through the final works. Third volume also contains a self-contained study of the songs. Each volume is thoroughly indexed with comprehensive work lists in Volume 3.

  • Gilliam, Bryan, and Charles Youmans. “Strauss, Richard (Georg).” In Grove Music Online. Edited by Deane Root. 2010.

    Includes a biography, followed by an overview of style and works, by genre, along with a work list organized by catalogue numbers (both Trenner and Asow) and opus number (when used). Bibliography (by Charles Youmans) is useful in its organization by logical categories and chronological arrangement (oldest to newest). Updated in February 2010.

  • Kennedy, Michael. Richard Strauss. New York: Schirmer, 1996.

    Similar to other volumes in the Master Musician series, the format includes a short biography followed by the discussion of the music by genre and with a work list at the end. Kennedy’s overview focuses on Strauss’s music, with the emphasis on the major works.

  • Richard Strauss Online.

    Website that is useful for quick searches about the composer and his works; site available in German or English. See also the website of the Richard Strauss Institut online, which provides information on Strauss and his works; available in German.

  • Walter, Michael. Richard Strauss. Grosse Komponisten und ihre Zeit. Laaber, Germany: Laaber Verlag, 2000.

    Comprehensive overview of Strauss in the artistic and political environments in which he worked. Coverage of modernism with Strauss, and the composer’s role as an exponent of new directions in music. Includes work list, bibliography, and personalia [C/E the section is directory of people named in the study, properly personalia, not material on his private life’ material on his personal life.

  • Werbeck, Walter. “Strauss, Richard [Georg].” In Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart: Allgemeine Enzyklopaedie der Musik. Vol. 24. Edited by Ludwig Finscher. Kassel, Germany: Bärenreiter, 1997.

    Includes biography, overview of compositions, work list, and bibliography. The work list includes catalogue numbers, along with opus numbers, when known, plus text source (when applicable), scoring, composition dates, and dedications. Emphasis on German-language references.

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