Militiades Caridis and The Vienna Symphony – Schreker: Vorspiel Zu Einer Grosser Oper (Memnon) – Austrian Radio – February 1974 –
Music of Franz Schreker this weekend, as performed in this broadcast concert by the Vienna Symphony led by Militiades Caridis from February 1974 and broadcast by Austrian Radio.
My first encounter with Franz Schreker was as a conductor and an astonishing performance of Bizet’s L’Arlésienne on a set of Polydor 78s recorded in the late 1920s. It wasn’t until the early years of Compact Disc that the music of Franz Schreker the composer started coming to light. It was a trickle at first, primarily orchestral pieces. But as more people discovered what a treasure had been hiding all these years, a flood of operas and other works began to appear. You’ll admit, the 80s were a bonanza for a lot of reasons, music was certainly one of them.
He was born as Franz Schrecker in Monaco, the eldest 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 the early death of his father, the family moved from Linz to Vienna (1888) where in 1892, with the help of a scholarship, Schreker entered the Vienna Conservatory. Starting with violin studies, with Sigismund Bachrich and Arnold Rosé, he moved into the composition class of Robert Fuchs, graduating as a composer in 1900. His first success was with the Intermezzo for strings, Op. 8, which won an important prize sponsored by the Neue musikalische Presse in 1901. After graduating from the conservatory he spent several years taking various bread-and-butter jobs. His first opera, Flammen, was completed in 1902 but failed to receive a staged production.
Schreker had begun conducting in 1895, when he had founded the Verein der Musikfreunde Döbling. In 1907 he formed the Vienna Philharmonic Chorus, which he conducted until 1920: among its many premières 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).
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 in Cologne in 1924 under Otto Klemperer and the failure of Der singende Teufel, given in Berlin in 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 première of Der Schmied von Gent in Berlin in 1932 and National Socialist pressure forced the cancellation of the scheduled Freiburg première of Christophorus in 1933 (the work was finally performed there 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 Künste.
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 in Berlin on 21 March 1934, two days before his 56th birthday.
If you aren’t already familiar, here is an introduction .
Note to fellow researchers – there are no dates on the tape box, but as you can hear at the end, an announcer comes on to identify the piece. Perhaps knowing who the announcer was might narrow the time-frame down – but any insights as to the date of this broadcast would be hugely appreciated.
Update: I hadn’t finished posting this piece and already I got a correct date on the performance – a HUGE thanks to Peter for your insights!
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