Franz Schreker

Schreker was the oldest son of the Bohemian Jewish court photographer Ignaz Schrecker and his wife Eleonore von Clossmann, who was a member of the Catholic aristocracy of Styria. He grew up during travels across half of Europe and after his father's death the family moved from Linz to Vienna (1888) where in 1892, with the help of a scholarship, Schreker entered the Conservatory. Starting with violin studies, with Sigismund Bachrich and Arnold Rosé, he moved into the composition class given by Robert Fuchs and finally graduated as a composer in 1900. His first success was with the Intermezzo op.8 for strings which won an important prize sponsored by the Neue musikalische Press in 1901. Schreker had begun conducting in 1895, when he had founded the Verein der Musikfreunde Doebling. After graduating from the conservatory he spent several years taking various bread-and-butter jobs. In 1907 he formed the Philharmonic Chorus, which he conducted until 1920, and among its many premiéres were Zemlinsky's Psalm XXIII and Schoenberg's Friede auf Erden and Gurre-Lieder.

His "pantomime", Der Geburtstag der Infantin, commissioned by the dancer Grete Wiesenthal and her sister Elsa for the opening of the 1908 Kunstschau, first called attention to his development as a composer. Such was the success of the venture that Schreker composed several more dance-related works for the two sisters including Der Wind, Valse lente and Ein Tanzspiel (Rokoko). In 1912, the first performance in Frankfurt of the opera Der ferne Klang, on which he had been working since 1903, consolidated his fame and in the same year, Schreker was appointed as a professor at the Music Academy in Vienna. This breakthrough heralds a decade of great success for the composer. His next opera, Das Spielwerk und die Prinzessin, which was given simultaneous premières in Frankfurt and Vienna (March 15, 1913) was less well received (the work was subsequently revised as a one-act 'Mysterium' entitled simply Das Spielwerk in 1915), but the scandal which this opera caused in Vienna only served to make Schreker's name more widely known.

The outbreak of World War I interrupted the composer's success but with the premiére of his opera Die Gezeichneten (Frankfurt, April 25, 1918) Schreker moved to the front ranks of contemporary opera composers. The first performance of Der Schatzgraeber (Frankfurt, January 21, 1920) was the highpoint of his career. The Chamber Symphony, composed between the two operas for the faculty of the Vienna Academy in 1916, quickly entered the repertoire and remains Schreker's most frequently performed work today. In March 1920 he was appointed director of the Hochschule fuer Musik in Berlin and between 1920 and 1932 he gave extensive musical tuition in a variety of subjects with Berthold Goldschmidt, Alois Haba, Jascha Horenstein, Ernst Krenek, Artur Rodzinski, Stefan Wolpe, and Grete von Zieritz numbering among his students.

Schreker's fame and influence were at their peak during the early years of the Weimar Republic when he was the most performed living opera composer after Richard Strauss. The decline of his artistic fortunes began with the mixed reception given to Irrelohe (Cologne, 1923 under Otto Klemperer) and the failure of Der singende Teufel (Berlin, 1928 under Erich Kleiber). Political developments and the spread of anti-Semitism were also contributory factors, both of which heralded the end of Schreker's career. Right-wing demonstrations marred the premiére of Der Schmied von Gent (Berlin, 1932) and National Socialist pressure forced the cancellation of the scheduled Freiburg premiére of Christophorus (the work was finally performed in 1978). Finally, in June 1932, Schreker lost his position as Director of the Musikhochschule in Berlin and, the following year, also his post as professor of composition at the Akademie der Kuenste. In his lifetime he went from being hailed as the future of German opera to being considered irrelevant as a composer and marginalized as an educator. After suffering from a stroke in December 1933, he died on March 21, two days before his 56th birthday.

Although Schreker was influenced by a number of composers such as Richard Strauss and Richard Wagner, his mature style shows a very individual harmonic language, characterized by a combination of tonal with chromatic and polytonal passages.

Year / Artwork Title Importance Medium
1899 Symphony in A minor Opus 1 4.00 stars 2 CD
Comments:
WDR Symphony Orchestra cond. Peter Guelke
1900 Psalm 116 Opus 6 4.00 stars 2 CD
Comments:
Peter Dicke - Organ
Chor Koehln
WDR Symphony Orchestra cond. Peter Guelke
1902 Schwanengesang 4.00 stars CD
Malec Comments:
Cologne Radio Symphony Chorus, Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra cond. Peter Guelke
1902
Symphonic Overture Ekkehard, Op. 12
4.00 stars CD
Comments:
Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra cond. Edgar Seipenbusch
1903 Ekkehard Overture for Orchestra, Opus 12 4.00 stars CD
Comments:
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra cond. Vassily Siniasky
1904
Fantastic Overture
4.00 stars CD
Comments:
Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra cond. Edgar Seipenbusch
1904 Fantastic Overture, Opus 15 4.00 stars CD
Comments:
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra cond. Vassily Siniasky
1908 Valse Lente, for Orchestra 4.00 stars CD
Comments:
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra cond. Vassily Siniasky
1908 Der Geburtstag der Infantin - Suite 4.00 stars CD
Comments:
Gewandhausorchester Leipzig cond. Lothar Zagrosek

ENTARTETE MUSIK

1908 Festwalzer und Walzerintermezzo 4.00 stars 2 CD
Comments:
WDR Symphony Orchestra cond. Peter Guelke
1908-1909 Ein Tanzspiel (Rokoko) 4.00 stars 2 CD
Comments:
WDR Symphony Orchestra cond. Peter Guelke
1901-1910 Der Ferne Klang, opera in 3 acts; Nachtstueck 4.00 stars CD
Comments:
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra cond. Vassily Siniasky
1913 Prelude to a Drama 4.00 stars CD
Comments:
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra cond. Vassily Siniasky
1914
Die Gezeichneten: Prelude
4.00 stars CD
Comments:
Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra cond. Edgar Seipenbusch
1911-1915 Die Gezeichneten 4.00 stars 3 CD
Comments:
Synopsis

The opera is set in 16th-century Genoa

Act 1

The young Genoan nobleman Alviano Salviago, hunchbacked and deformed, has renounced the love of women. He wants to donate to the people of Genoa the island paradise called "Elysium" he has created. His friends, a group of dissolute young noblemen, have been using an underground grotto on the island to celebrate orgies with young women abducted from prominent Genoan families, and intervene with Duke Adorno to stop the transfer of ownership. One of them, Count Tamare, has set his sights on Carlotta, daughter of the Podestà. Carlotta rejects him, as she is only interested in Salviago, whose soul she wants to paint.

Act 2

Infuriated by Carlotta's rejection, Tamare swears to Adorno that he will take her by force. He also reveals the secret of the grotto. In order to avoid the consequences of this secret becoming public, Adorno agrees to vetoing the transfer. While Salviago is sitting for Carlotta, she tries to bring out his soul, applying all her female charms. Salviago misinterprets these signs and thinks she is in love with him.

Act 3

The citizens of Genoa take possession of the island. Salviago asks the Podestà for Carlotta's hand in marriage. She evades him, wanders off alone, and in the grotto finally succumbs to Tamare. The Duke accuses Salviago of masterminding the abductions. Salviago, besides himself with worry for Carlotta, leads everyone to the underground grotto. Carlotta lies senseless on a bed, while Tamare prides himself on his conquering abilities. Salviago stabs him. Carlotta awakens, Salviago rushes to her side, but with her dying breath she calls for Tamare. Salviago, completely deranged, stumbles over Tamare's body as he makes his way through the stunned crowd.

Heinz Kruse
Elizabeth Connell
Monte Pederson
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin. cond. Lothar Zagrosek

ENTARTETE MUSIK

1915
Der Schatzgraeber Act 3 Interlude
4.00 stars CD
Comments:
Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra cond. Edgar Seipenbusch
1915-1918 Der Schatzgraeber, opera in 4 acts 4.00 stars CD
Comments:
Prologue and Epilogue

BBC Philharmonic Orchestra cond. Vassily Siniasky

1909-1922 Fünf Gesänge for low voice and orchestra 4.00 stars 2 CD
Comments:
Mechtild Geoerge - Soprano
WDR Symphony Orchestra cond. Peter Guelke
1932
Das Spielwerk: Prelude
4.00 stars CD
Comments:
Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra cond. Edgar Seipenbusch
1932-1933 Das Weib des Intaphernes 4.00 stars 2 CD
Comments:
Gerd Westphal - Speaker
WDR Symphony Orchestra cond. Peter Guelke
? Several works 4.00 stars 2 CD
Comments:
- Immer noch hatt'ich Gluck im Leben
- Wollte Ich hadern mit Gluck und Schiksal
- Heimweh
- Fagea
- Verschwiegende Liebe
- Die Sturmglocke
- Schwanensang Opus 11

Gerd Westphal - Speaker
Mechtild Georg - Soprano
WDR Symphony Orchestra cond. Peter Guelke