Richard Strauss (Critical Lives Series)

No other composer divides opinion as sharply as Richard Strauss (1864-1949). The towering figure of his generation, Strauss's dizzying success across European and American stages has elicited praise, envy and vitriol in equal measure. Even today, a deep-seated ambivalence about his legacy lingers despite several eminent British and American critics having hailed him as the most important composer of the twentieth century.

Whether critical or apologetic, previous Strauss biographies exhibit an unsettling degree of consistency when approaching his life and works, as well as a tendency to gloss over the multi-layered complexities of his eight-decade-long career as it traversed a dramatic sequence of political ruptures in European history, including the Third Reich.

To recontextualize Strauss as both a contested and celebrated figure of his milieu, this biography moves beyond conventional narrative approaches to life-and-works biographies to recast this "enigmatic" titan of music history - arguably the last thoroughbred representative of the German musical tradition stretching back to J.S. Bach - in a new light.

Drawing upon recent German and Anglo-American scholarship, and a wealth of newly discovered sources, this work carefully presents Strauss through a rich selection of new archival evidence, unpublished correspondence, contemporary reviews and lesser-known compositions. It also provides in-depth discussions of the composer's Übermensch-like career ascent in Berlin during the final decades of the Wilhelminian Empire, his much-misunderstood operatic collaborations with Hugo von Hofmannsthal (refracted through the prismatic lens of Der Rosenkavalier), and his oft-overlooked role as cultural functionary for various high-profile musical institutions, including the Salzburg Festival (1917-24) and Joseph Goebbels's Reichmusikkammer (1933-5).

Reaktion Books, London