Behaviour within the Family
After a childhood spent witnessing the tense relationship between his strong tempered father and kind mother, Richard Strauss was able to find the happiness of his life in his marriage to Pauline. His son Franz and the grandchildren and family were supportive of the composer not only privately but also in his work.
The horn player Franz Joseph Strauss (1822 – 1905) was already 42 years old when his second wife gave birth to Richard (the first wife died from cholera). “He was a so-called character” – these words are written at the beginning of Richard Strauss’ memoirs “Memories of my father”.
Authoritarian Father, Oversensitive Mother
Although Strauss was thankful to his father for the education, training and skills that he received, there is also a certain quiet criticism of his father’s authoritative nature. “Due to his difficult childhood, my father was filled with bitterness […] At home he had a violent temper, he was tyrannical, and it needed the mild kindness and gentleness of my mother to keep the relationship between my parents smooth and harmonious.”
At least the later nervous illness of the sensitive mother Josepha (born Pschorr 1838-1910) was understood by the patriarchal family. “How far my mother’s nerves really suffered under this situation, I am now unable to say”. However both parents passed down the best of their personality traits to their son: musicality, frugality, being down to earth (from their father), and a sensitive and poetic predisposition from their mother.
The mother helped with the text transcript of the first composition attempts. The father introduced Richard into the chamber music society and performed the first works of his 13-year-old with his orchestra club "Wild Gung'l".
Thanks to his father, (from a certain point against his father), Richard Strauss developed very quickly into an exceptional and independent musician. However, although Franz disliked his son’s interest in Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt, he would still remain a tireless advisor.
Parents as Tireless Advisors
Numerous letters to and from his parents point towards a very close relationship, in which each detail would be discussed: the travel impressions of the adolescent, the care regarding his health, his - at the start - prominent conducting style, which his father tried to discourage, as well as the bold emerging composer’s talent that the senior tried to limit in the spirit of the Viennese classical style. Franz Joseph Strauss was never able to witness the performance of his son’s “operatic revolution” with “Salome”. He died seven months before the premiere.
Last but not least, his father advised him to be more diplomatic towards Pauline de Ahna: Miss de Ahna seems to have been a rather exalted lady and an educated man like you can see this without having to bear consequences…” Mother Strauss was also optimistic when Richard and Pauline committed their lives to each other. “With her cheerful disposition and intelligence, she will cheer you up and care for you so lovingly.”
Love of his Life Pauline
Although in his art work he was considered an “enfant terrible” “Bürgerschreck”, Richard Strauss none the less craved a normal family life. His wife, whom he would choose, would guarantee that daily life would be regimented, scheduled, and would run smoothly. The general’s daughter Pauline de Ahna, born on February 4, 1863 in Ingolstadt (she would make herself 11 years younger for professional reasons relating to her career) was not only a talented singer but also had a character with temperament.
When the emerging Kapellmeister proposed to Pauline in 1894 during a turbulent rehearsal of „Guntram“, the young girl was not aware what she would have to give up. She warned him: “You know yourself how many faults I have…Your parents and Hanna also know my moods: ah ok, and now I have to suddenly become the perfect role model of a housewife …” She did however become a perfect housewife, but her changing moods remained. On September 1894, the couple was married and went to Venice on their honeymoon.
Richard with his daughter in law Alice and his grandson Christian in Garmisch in 1932.
The Birth of Bubi
The couple’s son was born on April 12, 1897. The birth was life threatening for the mother. Richard Strauss who was on a concert tour in Stuttgart at the time, found out about the happy event by telegram. The “big boy” was named Franz (after the grandfather) Alexander (after the late friend Ritter). His nickname was Bubi for most of his life.
In 1906, Pauline Strauss (who was known as a world renowned “Lied” singer) left her career which she had always linked to her husband. It seems quite ironic when Richard Strauss writes: “It is too bad that she became such an exceptional house wife and mother so early!” The family, “Bauxerl” and “Bubi” were now indispensable in the busy work life of the conductor and composer.
Pauline and Richard with their son Franz in Marquartstein.
Pauline an artistic example
The jokes about Pauline’s sharp tongue, her temperamental outbursts and her extravagant lifestyle are legendary. In her memoirs, Alma Mahler described – not too credibly - the rage of the other composer’s wife and Strauss’ comments in Austrian dialect: “My wife is often quite rough. But you know what? I need this”
Although one should be aware of the gossip of contemporaries, it is also important to listen to the works of Richard Strauss that he dedicated to his family: “A Hero’s Life” is a strong dedication to his wife and the “Sinfonia Domestica” describes the daily troubles, family issues and sensual reconciliations in the Strauss family home. The opera “Intermezzo” is inspired by an episode of unjustified jealousy on the part of Pauline. The many Lieder (Songs) that Strauss composed for his wife’s voice, must also be mentioned. In “Woman without a Shadow” Hoffmansthal was inspired by the energy- filled personality of Strauss’s wife for the character of the Dyer’s wife
Pauline outlives Richard by only a few months
Pauline was deeply and lovingly devoted to Richard and his art. On September 12, 1949, she accompanied him to his last resting place in the Munich cemetery “Ostfriedhof”.
Tief und liebevoll ist Pauline ihrem Richard und seiner Kunst ergeben. Am 12. September 1949 geleitet sie ihn zur letzten Ruhe auf dem Münchener Ostfriedhof.
In the trio from the "Rosenkavalier" "at the peak moment of the song she stretches her arms ecstatically away from her body, her hands cramp up and reach wildly towards the sky, as if she wants to hold on to something that was disappearing.“ (Alois Melichar). Pauline would die only a few months later on May 13, 1950.
Franz: Faithful son of his parents
Franz Strauss (1897) was an only child and thus very focused on his parents. His poor medical condition as a child only amplified this situation. The Strauss Biographer Kurt Wilhem (who knew Franz personally) would describe him: “He was a quiet, relaxed and kind man, sensitive and fragile, had a strong intuitive sense. He surely would have made more out of his life, had his will to succeed been stronger than the love between him and his parents.”
“Bubi” thus accompanied his father on trips, helped to close deals, and decided with a heavy heart not to study medicine. Instead he chose to study law and wrote his thesis about the Association of German Composers, which had always been a matter dear to his father’s heart. The 18 year old enlisted voluntarily in the military in 1915. He was dismissed –to his parents’ great relief –due to his unstable health condition.
Wedding to Jewish industrialist’s daughter Alice
In 1923 Franz Strauss became engaged to Alice von Grab-Hermannswörth. The families had met during a performance of “Salome” in Prague in 1907, where the industrialist owned several weaving mills. The wedding was held in Vienna in January 1924. Richard Strauss composed the “Wedding Prelude” for two harmoniums, in which he used motifs from "Domestica", "Guntram" and „Rosenkavalier”.
With the appearance of the modest but highly intelligent and hard-working daughter in law Alice, the “family business” benefitted not only from the addition of a loved one, but also from a valuable working assistant. Within a very short time, she became an irreplaceable secretary for Richard Strauss. Her father in law would once say to her: “Right, Alicerl, we are the only two in this household that really work.”
Sie macht sich in kürzester Zeit als Sekretärin für Richard Strauss unentbehrlich. Ihr Schwiegervater sagt einmal zu ihr: "Gelt, Alicerl, wir zwei sind die einzigen in dem Haus, die was arbeiten."
She proved herself in particular during the difficult war years. She saved the archives and numerous valuables from the threats of confiscation of destruction from Vienna to Garmisch. She maintained the priceless estate even after the death of the Maestro up until her own death in 1991.
Three Strauss generations: Grandfather Franz-Joseph, Son Richard and Grandson Franz.
Worry about the Grandchildren during the Nazi period
Franz and Alice settle in their Villa in the Jaquingasse in Vienna. It is there that their first son was born in 1927: Richard (Max Emanuel Hermann); in 1932 their second grandchild and composer was born: (Franz Adolf) Christian.
During the Nazi period, Richard Strauss protected the “Jewish-related” family of his son. Through every effort, he managed to make it possible for the grandchildren to attend Viennese school. The education of his grandchildren was of great importance to him. Near the end of the war, Richard Strauss gave “valuable Christmas gifts” to the boys. He made copies of some of his scores for them.
The Archives also stay in the Family
While the youngest grandson Christian pursued studies in medicine, the experienced opera director Richard looked after the works that his grandfather had left behind. He was married a second time to the daughter of Hans Hotter, Gabriele. She not only brought her “genetical” knowledge and passion for the music of Richard Strauss to the marriage, but she was also a trained librarian, who supervised the publications of the archives.