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February 2014
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About People Named Strauss

Richard Strauss

Richard Strauss

The name Strauss looms large in the annals of western music. The family that lived like rock stars during 19th century Vienna captured and embodied the musical voice of that city, a hub for European music, cranking out one popular dance piece after another. Johannes Brahms once signed an autograph with the opening bars of the Blue Danube waltz: “Leider nicht von Johannes Brahms” (“Unfortunately not by Johannes Brahms”). That family includes Johann Sr., Johann Jr., Eduard, and Josef.

Johann Strauss II

Johann Strauss II

At the same time, a man named Franz Joseph Strauss (no relation) taught at the Royal School of Music, Munich, and played principal horn of the Bavarian Court Opera for 40 years. The opera house was his kingdom, a level of success that didn’t prepare him for the rock star status of his son Richard. By 1894, the 30-year-old Richard was conducting at Bayreuth, and had written tone poems that were being played all over the world.792px-Eduard_Strauss_Strauß_Otto_Böhler

Franz Joseph Strauss was a traditionalist, and not particularly impressed by the free-form style of his son’s compositions. Probably son Richard regretted losing his dad before he could hear Der Rosenkavalier, his greatest hit. Premiering in Dresden in 1911, demand was so enormous, special train service, the Rosenkavalier Train, was established to move opera-goers between Berlin and Dresden. In fact Rosenkavalier has been on-stage somewhere in the world, almost without pause ever since. One of the most telling anecdotes about the composer happened in 1945: when American soldiers entered his Bavarian villa, the startled 80-year-old straightened his tie and announced, “I am Richard Strauss, the composer of Der Rosenkavalier.”

Though quite different from Richard’s Elektra, the other Strausses and their popular Viennese waltzes remained in his conducting repertoire. It was out of that spirit that Rosenkavalier was born.

Saturday’s Metropolitan Opera broadcast features Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier with Martina Serafin as the Marschallin, Alice Coote as Octavian, Erin Morley as Sophie, and Peter Rose as Baron Ochs. The Met broadcast begins at 12:00 PM. During Saturday’s morning program with Candice Agree, WFMT features music by the Viennese Strauss family.

 

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