Richard Strauss, continued
During his boyhood he had the good fortune to be able to attend orchestra rehearsals of the Munich Court Orchestra, and he also received private instruction in music theory and orchestration from an assistant conductor there. In 1874 Strauss heard his first Wagner operas, Lohengrin, Tannhäuser and Siegfried; the influence of Wagner's music on Strauss's style was to be profound, but at first his father forbade him to study it: it was not until the age of 16 that he was able to obtain a score of Tristan und Isolde. Indeed, in the Strauss household the music of Richard Wagner was considered inferior. Later in life, Richard Strauss said and wrote that he deeply regretted this.
n 1882 he entered Munich University, where he studied philosophy and art history, but not music. Nevertheless, he left a year later to go to Berlin, where he studied briefly before securing a post as assistant conductor to Hans von Bülow, taking over from him at Munich when von Bülow resigned in 1885. His compositions around this time were quite conservative, in the style of Robert Schumann or Felix Mendelssohn, true to his father's teachings. His Horn Concerto No. 1 (1882 – 1883) is representative of this period and is still regularly played.
Richard Strauss married soprano Pauline de Ahna on September 10, 1894. She was famous for being bossy, ill-tempered, eccentric, and outspoken, but the marriage was happy, and she was a great source of inspiration to him. Throughout his life, from his earliest songs to the final Four Last Songs of 1948, he would prefer the soprano voice to all others. Indeed, nearly every major operatic role that Strauss wrote is for a soprano.
In 1948, Strauss wrote his last work, Vier letzte Lieder ("Four last songs") for soprano and orchestra, reportedly with Kirsten Flagstad in mind. She certainly gave the first performance and it was recorded, but the quality of the recording is poor. It is available as a historic CD release for enthusiasts. All his life he had produced lieder, but these are among his best known (alongside "Zueignung", "Cäcilie", "Morgen" and "Allerseelen"). When compared to the work of younger composers, Strauss's harmonic and melodic language was considered somewhat old-fashioned by this time. Nevertheless, the songs have always been popular with audiences and performers. Strauss himself declared in 1947, "I may not be a first-rate composer, but I am a first-class second-rate composer!"
Richard Strauss died on September 8, 1949, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany at the age of 85.