"People criticize me because I like playing Skat so much. I assure you that this is the only moment in my life when I am not working. At all other times, ‘that’ up there in my head is going on continuously." Thus Richard Strauss explained his passion for his favorite "recreational sport." The composer first encountered the card game in Weimar in 1890, and would later play it at every opportunity – which was not at all to his wife’s liking. Strauss was regarded as an imaginative, risk-taking player, and did eventually find himself mixing "work" and "pleasure," bringing the game of Skat to the opera stage in his musical comedy Intermezzo. On the subject of opera: the premiere of Strauss’s Salome took place on May 16, 1906 in Graz. Court Opera Director Gustav Mahler had tried in vain to arrange for Salome, based on a Biblical story and a play by Oscar Wilde, to be premiered at his opera house in Vienna, but the censors refused to permit the extravagant music to be performed. In Graz in 1906, something is possible that, in conservative Vienna, would only become a reality in 1918: the Austrian premiere of Salome, an audacious work on many levels. Schoenberg, Webern, Berg, Zemlinsky, Puccini, Rosegger, and Johann Strauss’s widow all travel to the Styrian capital on this day. The tension in the city is rising. Music critic Ernst Decsey writes: "The city was in a state of great excitement. Pub philosophers buzzed about what was going on. Visitors from the provinces, critics, press people, reporters, and foreigners . . . three more than sold out houses. Porters groaned, and hoteliers reached for the keys to their safes." And after the triumph of this long-expected evening, he comments: "Nothing more satanic and artistic has been seen on the German opera stage."
© Elke Tschaikner, ORF - Radio Österreich 1


  • Richard Strauss is born on June 11, 1864 in Munich

  • He is already busy composing as a child; his official opus 1, the Festmarsch for large orchestra, appears in 1881

  • In 1894 he marries German soprano Pauline de Ahna, for whom he composed many songs

  • The same year Strauss is appointed Kapellmeister in Munich, three years later his son Franz is born

  • As a composer he writes mainly orchestral program music, songs, and operas

  • As a conductor Strauss has many engagements, including performances in Munich, Weimar, and Berlin

  • In 1900 he meets the poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal, who would become his congenial partner in the role of librettist; Hofmannsthal wrote the libretti for Elektra and Der Rosenkavalier, among other works

  • On Strauss’s initiative, the Consortium of German Composers was founded in 1903, which itself founded a copyright collective the same year that was a forerunner of today’s GEMA (Society for musical performing and mechanical reproduction rights)

  • The Salzburg Festival, whose idea was championed by Max Reinhardt, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, and Richard Strauss, was founded in 1920

  • Richard Strauss’s ambivalent role during the dark years of the Nazi period was and continues to be the subject of controversy; he was president of the so-called "Reichsmusikkammer" (Reich Music Bureau) from 1933 to 1935

  • 1949 Strauss dies at the age of 85 in Garmisch

Did you know?

  • Richard Strauss was a keen traveller and visited Egypt, Turkey, and the United States, among other countries

  • A heavy smoker, he did not give up this vice until the age of 75

  • The Strauss family enjoyed holding parties for friends, for which the couple kept a meticulous "party planner"

  • The composer was partial to traditional fare; his favorite dishes included beef with fat strip, boletus mushrooms with dumplings, and roast loin of veal

  • The Richard Strauss Institute, which organizes activities that include an annual festival, is located in Garmisch-Partenkirchen