Monday, June 14, 2010

Happy Birthday Richard Strauss!

Subject: Richard Strauss

Born: June 11, 1864 in Munich

Died: September 8, 1949 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

Known for: Tone Poems. Strauss was heavily influenced by Wagner. His tone poems are masterpieces of virtuosity for the symphony orchestra.

Also known for: Politics. Although he never joined the Nazi party, and, in fact, privately reviled the party, Strauss is linked with Hitler and Goebbel. The situation is far to complex to fully explore here, but it seems to have been an advantageous relationship for Strauss: his daughter-in-law was Jewish and he used his connections to keep her and his grandchildren safe.

Child prodigy? Strauss began composing at age 6.

Contribution to music: Strauss pushed the harmonic envelope. He used dissonance for dramatic purposes, famously with the "Elektra Chord," which is an E major chord and a C# major chord played simultaneously.

Happy or neurotic?: Happy, mostly.

Strange fact: Because of it's virtuosity, Strauss' tone poem Don Juan is on the audition list for just about every orchestral instrument and is often used by symphonies to weed out candidates in the first round.

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