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brewing family, brought sufficient wealth to free her husband and children from financial concerns. Into these comfortable circumstances arrived a charming and precocious child, who, as early as age six, tried to write music — which his father indulgingly copied down. As Richard undertook formal lessons in music theory and harmony, his attempts at composition ripened. We may rightly see his earliest works as student exercises in copying the styles of earlier masters, but what better way to fully understand the underpinnings of 19th-century composition? The only real gap in his education resulted from father Franz’s conservative musical tastes — “Mozart (above all the others), Beethoven, and Haydn” as well as the early works of Liszt and Schumann. The operas of Wagner, for whom Franz played in the first performances of both Tristan and Isolde and Die Meistersinger, were not tolerated at home. Soon enough, however, Strauss was vividly intoxicated by the score to Tristan after studying it “against my father’s orders” at age 17. Perhaps most remarkable of all is the fact that by 1885, the 21-year-old Strauss had composed nearly 150 pieces, in all of the standard genres — instrumental and vocal works, solo and chamber music, concertos, choral pieces, works for orchestra and band — and in some surprising combinations as well. What’s more, several of the pieces had already been published and many of them performed — by friends, by his father’s orchestra, and even by the Dresden State Orchestra and Bülow’s Meiningen Court Orchestra. All of this enabled the budding composer to sharpen his mind’s ear to such an extent that the score of Tristan, which had so intoxicated him in his head, sadly disappointed him on live hearing, “until I realized at last that it was the discrepancy between a mediocre performance and the intentions of the great master.” In the fall of 1885, Strauss took up his first full-time position, as second conductor to Bülow at Meiningen. It would prove an eventful year. Following a quarrel with Brahms over the first performances of that composer’s Fourth Symphony, Bülow resigned, and the young Strauss suddenly became first conductor of one of Central Europe’s finest orchestras. Even more important, Alexander Ritter (one of the orchestra’s violinists) introduced the young composer to a whole world of new ideas — from philosophy and Romantic literature to the previously forbidden music of Wagner and Berlioz (as well as the later works of Liszt and Schumann). In subsequent years, Strauss recalled that Ritter’s influence, “in the nature of a whirlwind,” shifted all creativity “toward the poetic and the expressive in music.”

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About the Music

The Cleveland Orchestra

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The Cleveland Orchestra May 23-25, May 30- June 1 Concerts  

May 23-25 Sibelius & Strauss May 30- June 1 An American in Paris

The Cleveland Orchestra May 23-25, May 30- June 1 Concerts  

May 23-25 Sibelius & Strauss May 30- June 1 An American in Paris

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