Richard George Strauss was born in Munich. Germany on June 11, 1864. He was a child prodigy and began studying music at age 4. He began composing at age 6 and had completed his first major work, the Symphony in D Minor, before the age of 17. Most of his earlier works were in the classical forms of the 18th and 18th centuries. In 1885, he was appointed director of the orchestra at Meiningen, Germany. It was here that the composer and poet, Alexander Ritter, encouraged him to study the works of Lizst and Wagner. Strauss then began to incorporate the concepts of developing literary and philosophical ideas in musical form into his compositions.
His opera, Salome, written in 1905, was very successful. Between 1906 and 1017, he composed several operas, such as Elektra and Ariadne and Naxos. All of these had librettos by the Austrian poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal. His last opera, Capriccio, was performed in 1942 and contained libretto by Clemens Krauss.
Although he was accused of Nazi collaboration after the war, he was acquitted of those charges. His last works were Metamorphoses in 1945 and Drei Gresange (Three Songs) in 1948. He died in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany on September 8, 1949.
Strauss is especially noted for his symphonic poems and his operas. Some of his symphonic poems are Don Juan, Thus Spake Zarathustra, Till Eulenspiegel and A Hero’s Life. In these works, he evoked literary events and characters through subtle, delicate changes in mood and theme. The influence of Wagner is reflected in the chromatic harmonies and the complex treatment of motifs. His skill as orchestrator and his ability to produce novel and exciting tonal colors are expressed in his operas.