Franz Strauss (1822-1905) biography


Happy 183st Birthday !

Franz Joseph Strauss was born February 26, 1822 in Parkstein, Bavaria (Oberpfalz), 28 miles from Bayreuth. Since 1700 the ancestors on his father's side were country policemen at near-by Rothenstadt but we do not know of any musical activity. It seems that father Johann Urban Strauss (*1800-?1) led and unsteady life. Although in 1828 a daughter, Friederike Antonie, was born he left his home, and the education of his children was entrusted to the mother, Maria Anna Kunigunde Walter (*1800-1801).
This fact was decisive in the future life of Franz Strauss, as musical activities for the Walter family were not only a matter of course but a part of the profession, since Michael Walter (1771-1831) - the grandfather of Franz Strauss - switched from teacher to watchman on the tower (warder) at Parkstein. This official duty was very honorable, and besides being on guard and striking the hour at night, it required a good trumpet player who also had to take care of the young musical talents as music-master.
Richard Strauss meant, so told me his grandson Dr.Richard Strauss in June 2000 in Garmisch, that his fatherly forefathers might originate from neighboring Bohemia perhaps.
In this respect his own family was a fruitful sphere of activity. On the basis such education his eldest son made his career as warder-master at Nabburg, and two other sons became musicians at the Royal Court in Munich. 
Also, the mother of Franz Strauss, Kunigunde, used to play diverse instruments. She was the eldest of the large Walter family and there her son grew up and found his teacher in uncle Johann Georg Walter, who not only played the horn but also the violin. clarinet, trumpet. bagpipe, dulcimer and guitar. Under his guidance little Franz learned to play clarinet, guitar and all brass instruments. At the age of five he started playing violin, and two years later he was allowed to strike up for a wedding-dance. A hard apprenticeship followed with uncle Franz Michael Walter, the excellent but very strict warder-master of Nabburg. At the age of nine Franz already had to give lessons in violin, clarinet, trumpet and trombone and, still a schoolboy, he was obligated for nightly tower-guard duty. Occasionally he had to cover long marches with his uncle's band in order to play at different festivities of the neighborhood.
The end of this ordeal came at the age of 15 when his uncle Georg Walter, recommended him for playing guitar with the orchestra of Duke Max in Munich (1836-46). The Duke himself used to play the zither. Franz served ten years with the Duke's orchestra. More and more he realized that of all the instruments he could play. the horn was the most appropriate one for him. A fantasy on the Sehnsuchtswalzer [Longing Waltzes] for horn and orchestra shows his beginning talent for composition.
In 1845 he became a citizen of Munich and started a concert tour through diverse Bavarian cities with five other wind-players. In 1847 he joined the Bavarian court orchestra as "unpaid eleve". In addition to the duty at the opera they played as a voluntary formation also - the Musikalische Akademie (Musical Academy) - particularly in the concert hall. It was for a space of 40 years that Strauss was to be active there.
1849 first appearance with the Musical Academy, the concert series of the Hofkapelle
After he had an established position, he was able, on May 28th ,1851, to marry Elise Maria Seiff, daughter of the music-master with the Artillery Regiment. But his happiness was of brief duration. Three years later cholera snatched away his wife and his two children. For almost ten years he lived unmarried. Within his orchestra his abilities were recognized and he was elected into the executive committee of the Musical Academy 1854.Finally, during Easter, 1863 he took heart and wrote to Josephine Pschorr, one of the five daughters of great-brewer, Georg Pschorr, and made an offer of marriage. Due to his upright character, Strauss found the consent of father Pschorr, and their wedding was celebrated August 29, 1863 at the Munich cathedral. Their first lodgings were on the Pschorr estate. And there on June 11, 1864 Richard Georg Strauss was born. A daughter, Berta Johanna, was born July 9, 1867.
The joy and satisfaction of living together with his family also stimulated Franz Strauss to composing. His first horn concerto, opus 8 in c minor, a sonorous work of romantic character, was played by Strauss himself for the first time on March 27th,1865 at an Academv concert in the Odeon concert hall. He played his concerto again in Augsburg on March 10 th, 1866, in Innsbruck on November 19th, 1867, in Haag on March 18th, 1868 & in Nuernberg on January 22nd , 1869. Now, Strauss was at the summit of his fame as an uncontested master Buelow called him "the Joachim of the horn". Therefore most of the works of this time are devoted to his favorite instrument.
Playing with the opera was not an easy duty: Tristan, Meistersinger, Rheingold, Walkuere were performed for the first time in those days. But this was a sore spot to Franz Strauss. His musical creed consisted in adoration to the trinity. Mozart (first of all), Haydn and Beethoven. They were followed by Schubert, Weber and, at some distance, by Mendelssohn and Spohr. He disapproved Wagner so emphatically. and repeatedly had altercations with the king's favorite. But in the same proportion as he rejected Wagner as a person and artist, he made it a point of honor to play his parts with the utmost perfection. Once Wagner conceded: "This Strauss is a detestable fellow but when he blows his horn one cannot sulk with him."
The "Musikalische Akademie" elected Franz Strauss to its artistic committee in 1872. Due to his extraordinary abilities and upright character Strauss experienced a general appreciation. In 1871 he was appointed Professor by the Academy of Music; in 1873 King Ludwig II appointed him Kammermusiker (Chamber Musician), and in May 1879 the King again honored him by awarding him the Ludwig Medal for Science and Art.
Now Strauss' main interests were the musical advancement of his son and the steady care for his health. On the occasion of a journey or a concert tour. or when his wife had to visit a health resort. he opened his heart in letters to her and gave instructions for the education of their son. He could be grumbling and sometimes vehement. but this was only the rugged outside of a kind-hearted character and attribute of the Bavarians.In 1875 he was elected conductor of the amateur orchestra, "Wilde Gungl". Of course he did this work at no salary. Under his guidance of more than 20 years there was serious music making, and relatives of the Pschorr family and the young Richard also participated. His programs consisted of classic and romantic symphonies, overtures, concertpieces and his son's compositions. When making music, Strauss was always an educator. And this ability was important to his mastership at the Academy. 
His last student, Hermann Tuckermann, who was sent to him by his favorite student, Bruno Hoyer, tells: "The method of Franz Strauss is first of all to emphasize tone quality. He always said: 'Only by sustaining tones and by interval-studies can you achieve a noble tone.' Therefore each lesson began with tonal exercises. With his students he worked through the horn concertos, and the important parts from opera & concert literature. He never accepted a fee for his lessons. His main interest was to impart his experience and skill to hornists."
Of course his son Richard experienced these pedagogical abilities to the full measure. At an age of 18 he was admonished: "Richard should not work too fast on his sonata; he should be more critical, for not everything coming into one's mind is worth writing down." And later: "True greatness lies in clearness and simplicity .... Only that which comes from the heart goes to a heart again...". he paternal exhortations are also meant for young Richard as a conductor who, as a matter of fact, observed them as late as when Richard was a full-grown man: "It is unlovely to make such motions like a snake in the grass and particularly for such a tall man as you are ....The fire of conducting comes from another point.... The left hand has nothing more to do than to turn the pages of the score, or. if there is no score, to keep still. The stimulation of the musicians by the conductor has to come from his baton and eye. I beg you, dear Richard, follow my advice and give up these antics. You don't need that ...."
When Franz Strauss retired in 1889 he concentrated completely on his son's career. The prosperity of his children and grandchildren and the success of Richard effected a recovery for him from the asthma and sleeplessness of his last years. When Salome was finished father Strauss expected to have some vacation days. But he was not granted to. He died on May 31, 1905.
The original article was published in NEUE ZEITSCHRIFT FUER MUSIK on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Franz Strauss death. The foregoing translation is by Bernhard Bruechle (slightly condensed). 
Literature: A more detailed article about Franz Strauss by Dr. Franz Trenner is to be found in the Richard Strauss Year Book 1959-60. Boosey &: Hawkes.
FRANZ STRAUSS BIBLIOGRAPHY supplemented by Bernhard Bruechle from the Franz Trenner article. Again supplemented by Hans Pizka. Richard Strauss Year Book 1959-60, Boosey & Hawkes 

FRANZ STRAUSS by Franz Trenner (Munich) English Translation by Bernhard Bruechle Reprinted by special permission of Gustave Bosse Verlag. Regensburg.

[Der Vater: Franz Strauss aus der Neuen Zeitschrift fuer Musik. Jahrgang 1955]

Stories about Franz Strauss, collected from various sources:
There is an incident reported about the premiere of "Die Meistersinger von Nuernberg". The first version: during a rehearsal Strauss complained about the terrible demanding horn part, but Hans Richter, Wagners secretary & former first horn at the Viennese Kaerntnerthor Theatre (Beethoven´s Sonata op.17 had been premiered there; forerunner theatre of the Imperial Opera House), was present as the director of the choir & asked Strauss to lend him his horn & played the passage from the endings of the second act flawless, but giving the horn back with the comment "With your B-flat-horn you will have difficulties always; the F-horn sounds much better."
I do not believe this anecdote to be true. Even an already warmed up horn player of excellent qualities might have difficulties with the "Pruegel   Szene". How can a conductor to be (Richter became the first world famous conductor; he led the first Ring in Bayreuth 1876), who had not played his horn for a while, play this passage flawless without any warm-up. A myth only ! Richter used this complain about B-flat horn also, when he conducted in Bayreuth. He recommended the use of the single F horn always. 

No wonder. He came from Vienna.

The second incident happened after the end of the dress rehearsal of "Mastersingers". Hans von Buelow wanted to repeat the ending of the 2nd Actagain, but Strauss refused to do so, telling von Buelow that "he could not do it again, as being exhausted already". "If you cant do it again, so you must better ask for retirement !" , replied von Buelow to Strauss. But Strauss left the pit & asked the opera administration for immediate retirement. So Hans von Buelow had to come to Strauss house at the Pschorr Estate, ask for pardon, which was granted, - so the premiere of Mastersingers was saved. One has to see the mouthpiece, which Strauss used. And the knife sharp rim ???
At one occasion, when the orchestra secretary still arranged the playing schedule for all musicians, he told Strauss after the performance of "Flying Dutchman", that he should play Mozarts "Cosi fan tutte" the next day. Strauss refused, saying, that he could not do it, because the lips were not ready for "Cosi fan tutte" after a performance of "Flying Dutchman". But the secretary insisted, arguments & name callings followed until Strauss lost control & smashed the secretary in his face. An investigation followed & Strauss became fined.
At another occasion of a private concert of the Woodwind-Octet for the King himself, Strauss & Carl Ernesti his partner did not appear, protesting against some extreme schedule perhaps. No fine followed.
Franz Strauss took part on the Salzburg Mozart Concerts every year. The other favorite composer C.M .v .Webers opera "Oberon" he had played about 80 times. He never let it be done by one of his colleagues. Strauss was one of the very first horn players who used nearly exclusively the single B-flat horn. He was the exception in the Munich horn section.
Another incident with Richard Wagner: Franz Strauss came back from a Wagner rehearsal in the Munich National Theatre and told his family, that they had a "dog barking", he & Wagner, he in the pit & Wagner on the stage. Finally Wagner left. "I have called him to flight !" Strauss stated proudly.
Franz Strauss did not hate Wagner, as often said. He was not prepared embouchure-wise for these exhausting big pieces. Mastersinger was the worst for him, as he had to do all the 26 rehearsals, everyday for a long month, and he had no other principal horn player that time, who could divide this big piece. If you have done it once (I did it several times), you know, how exhausting it can be. Franz Strauss participated on the Parsifal premiere in Bayreuth 1882, having Josef Reiter as his assistant. Because suffering of the aftermaths of a great cholera epidemic, Strauss was not able to play horn for 18 months, so he made his income on one viola chair. He participated on the Munich premiere of Tannhaeuser as viola player. He played first horn again for the Munich premiere of Flying Dutchman. Strauss played also the premiere of Tristan & Isolde; a golden leaf of the Laurel-Kranz given to Wagner, is attached to the last page of the original first horn part. This also might attest for Franz Strauss great respect for the great composer, whom he hated as a human being.
Franz Strauss was also involved with the development of the Wagner tuba, even the Rheingold premiere (a special commanded royal performance with 3 rehearsals only !!) had borrowed Euphoniums from the military band. But they had Wagner tubas for the Walkuere premiere on June 24th, 1870. Strauss also convinced his orchestra to accept to premiere Anton Bruckners Seventh Symphony.
His compositions: fstrau4.htm

His horn before restoration: fstrau2.htm

His horn after restoration: fstrau3.htm  (including all measurements of his horn and sound samples)

His mouthpiece: fstrau5.htm

links to: (all in German language)

Interesting programs & facts about the Court Concerts in Munich:  Hofkonz.htm

Franz Strauss special vacation & ill leave record:  Franz.htm

Interesting facts about the social status & the income of the musicians in Munich`s past:  MueSoz.htm

Interesting facts about the income of horn players of the past: sozial.htm (English) and sozial2.htm (German & English) and  Einkomm.htm

Ticket prices of the past:tickets.htm

The first pension fund for musicians, the Haydn Society in Vienna:  haydnsoc.htm list & datas of the horn player members.

Interesting facts about the Munich horn section (Opera):  BSTOrch.htm (who played what, premieres etc.)

Interesting facts about the Wagner Festivals held in Munich 1901 - 1911: Wagnerop.htm

 quotings are granted for academic use, but source should be mentioned.


© 2001 by Prof.Hans Pizka, D-85551 Kirchheim,Germany - last update 18.01.2006 16:09:05

 many of the links are not activated yet, but endFebruary 2006