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June 2014
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Milestone: Richard Strauss at 150

Richard Strauss

Richard Strauss


Strauss in 1886

WFMT offers many opportunities to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Richard Strauss, from a new radio documentary to complete operas to many of his orchestral works.

Richard Strauss was born in Munich on June 11, 1864. He lived until 1948. He wrote 15 operas, dozens of songs, and a number of orchestral pieces, including the tone poems (Don Juan, Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Don Quixote, and others) which set him on his way to becoming one of the 20th century’s most popular composers.

Special Features

Monday-Friday at 7:00 pm (except Wednesday, 5:30 pm)

Exploring Music with Bill McGlaughlin

Bill McGlaughlin devotes an entire week to the life and music of Richard Strauss.


Fun Facts about Young Strauss

Richard Strauss was born in a brewery. His mother, Josephine Pschorr, came from a wealthy family of brewers whose Munich-based beers go back to the year 1417. After Strauss’s parents were married, they lived in an apartment at the Pschorr brewery.

Strauss’s father was principal horn of the Munich Court Orchestra for over 40 years.

Strauss’s father despised both Wagner AND his music, though he played much of it in Munich, and the premiere of Parsifal at Bayreuth.

Strauss never attended a conservatory. His piano, violin, and theory lessons were all taught privately.

Strauss began to compose at the age of 6.

Strauss claimed to have been forbidden from studying the score to Tristan und Isolde. At 17 he did it anyway, “against my father’s orders.”

Theodore Thomas (the first Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra) conducted the premiere of Strauss’s 2nd Symphony in New York City. Richard Strauss was 20 years old.

Strauss’s favorite operas were Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde and Mozart’s Così fan tutte.

Strauss conducted Tristan in 1892 with Pauline de Ahna as Isolde. Pauline sang the heroine in the premiere of Strauss’s first opera Guntram in 1894. He married her later that year.

Strauss’s Op.27 song cycle was a wedding present to Pauline (see video below).

In 1896, Strauss became chief conductor of the Munich Opera. In 1898, he took over the Royal Court Opera in Berlin. That year he conducted 25 operas in 8 months.


WFMT’s New Release of the Week: Strauss Conducts Strauss

Both as composer and conductor, Richard Strauss was one of the most significant representatives of late- and post-Romantic music. His greatness as an interpreter is documented on this 7-CD set (see Strauss conducting video below) , which brings together his major recordings for Polydor/Deutsche Grammophon. Made between 1921 and 1941, these recordings feature his own orchestral works along with music of Mozart, Beethoven, Gluck, Weber, and Wagner.

Strauss with wife Pauline and son

Strauss with wife Pauline and son

Tuesday, June 10 at 8:00 pm

The Tuesday Night Opera with Peter van de Graaff

Strauss: Elektra

Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet
Angela Denoke
Felicity Palmer
Matthias Goerne
London Symphony Orchstra and Chorus/Valery Gergiev

View the libretto: elektratragedy


Wednesday, June 11 at 1:00 pm

Richard Strauss: Lion of Opera

This new documentary, hosted by Thomas Hampson, commemorates the 150th birthday of Richard Strauss. Lion of Opera is a co-production of the WFMT Radio Network and Radio New Zealand.

On Demand

Arias and Songs with Larry Johnson observes the 150th birthday of Richard Strauss. There’s no need to send a card, just celebrate with Larry, Jessye Norman, Jonas Kaufmann, Kiri Te Kanawa, Renée Fleming, and others in selections from Der Rosenkavalier, Arabella, and Ariadne auf Naxos.


Cover art to the featured recording on “The Tuesday Night Opera”


Tuesday, June 17 at 8:00 pm

The Tuesday Night Opera with Peter van de Graaff

Strauss: Intermezzo

Lucia Popp
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
Kurt Moll
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Wolfgang Sawallisch



Soprano Deborah Voigt, EMI Records

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Music is a Holy Art: A Richard Strauss Celebration

Hosted by soprano Deborah Voigt, this 150th anniversary special includes commentary from conductors James Conlon, Michael Tilson Thomas, Leon Botstein, and Alan Gilbert.


German Soprano Elisabeth Schumann with the composer at the piano






Tuesday, June 24, 2014 at 8:00 pm

The Tuesday Night Opera with Peter van de Graaff

Strauss: Die Liebe der Danae

Lauren Flanigan
Peter Coleman-Wright
Hugh Smith
American Symphony Orchestra/Leon Botstein


See video of “Morgen” from the Op. 27 collection of songs presented as a wedding gift to Pauline.


See a video of Strauss conducting:

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