Draeseke, Felix (August Bernhard)

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Draeseke, Felix (August Bernhard)

Draeseke, Felix (August Bernhard), distinguished German composer and pedagogue; b. Coburg, Oct. 7, 1835; d. Dresden, Feb. 26, 1913. At age 17, he became a student at the Leipzig Cons., where he studied with Rietz. His advanced proclivities met with opposition, so in 1855 he left the Cons, to continue private training with Rietz. His first opera, Konig Sigurd (1856–58), won the highest praise from Liszt, who planned to stage it in Weimar. However, Liszt’s resig-nation in 1858 led to the cancellation of the production. In 1861 Draeseke met Wagner, who also praised his creative talents. The failure of several of his works, however, led him to Vevey in 1862 to teach piano. From 1864 to 1868 he taught at the Lausanne Cons. After serving as director of the Munich Cons. (1868–69), he again taught at the Lausanne Cons. (1869–74). In the meantime, Draeseke was afflicted with a deterioration in his hearing (from 1865) and a lack of appreciation of his compositions. In 1876 he returned to Germany, and in 1884 he became a teacher of composition at the Dresden Cons. On Nov. 5,1885, his opera Gudrun was premiered in Hannover, the first of his operas to be staged. His opera Herrat was first performed in Dresden on March 10, 1892. That same year Draeseke was officially named prof. of composition at the Dresden Cons. In 1898 he was elevated to the title of Hofrat. His most ambitious work was his Christus (1897–99), which he called a mysterium consisting of a prelude and oratorio trilogy. In effect, it was his homage to Wagner’s Ring cycle. Draeseke’s early progressive inclinations were soon moderated by his adherence to classical precepts. His works reveal a notable command of contrapuntal writing. In his last years, he became an ardent upholder of conservative musical values. His article, “Die Konfusion in der Musik,” Neue Stuttgarter Musikzeitung, XXVIII (1906), attacked the modern trends evident in the early years of the 20th century. Although Draeseke’s music remains generally unknown outside Germany, an Inter-national Draeseke Soc. was founded in Coburg in 1986 to further its propagation. The Soc. commenced publishing a critical ed. of his works in 1987.


Anweisung zum kunstgerechten Moduliren (Freienwalde, 1876); Die Beseitigung des Tritons (Leipzig, 1880); Die Lehre von der Harmonia in lustige Reimlein gebracht (Leipzig, 1883; 2nd edv enl., 1887); Der gebundene Styl: Lehrbuch fur Kontrapunkt und Fuge (Hannover, 1902); “Die Konfusion in der Musik,” Neue Stuttgarter Musikzeitung, XXVIII (1906; also publ. separately).


DRAMATIC O p e r a : Konig Sigurd (1856–58); Dietrich von Bern (1877); Herrat (1879; Dresden, March 10, 1892); Gudrun (1879; 1882–84; Hannover, Nov. 5, 1884); Bertram de Born (1893); Fischer und Kalif (1894–95; Prague, April 15, 1905); Merlin (1900; 1903–05; Gotha, April 18, 1913). I n c i d e n t a l M u s i c To: Kleist’s Hermannsschlacht (1860; rev. 1897–98; Dresden, March 3, 1905). ORCH.: 3 symphonic poems: Frithjof (1859–65), Julius Caesar (1860; rev. 1861 and 1865), and Der Thuner See (1903; Bonn, March 27, 1913); Germania- Marsch (c. 1860); Ouverture zum Namenstag des Fursten Constantin zu Hohenzollern-Hechingen (1862); 4 syms.: No. 1 (1868–69; 1871–72; Dresden, Jan. 31,1873), No. 2 (1876; Dresden, Feb. 15, 1878), No. 3, Symphonia tragica (1866; Dresden, Jan. 13, 1888), and No. 4, Symphonia comica (1912); Symphonische Andante for Cello and Orch. (1876); Violin Concerto (1881; Leipzig, April 11, 1886); Piano Concerto (Sondershausen, June 4, 1886); Jubilaums-festmarsch (1886); Serenade (1888; Dresden, Oct. 21, 1889); 3 symphonic preludes: Das Leben ein Traum (1888; Dresden, Jan. 25, 1889), Penthesilea (1888; Eisenbach, June 19, 1890), and Der Traum ein Leben (1904; Dresden, Oct. 13, 1905); Akademische Festouverture (Dresden, Dec. 19, 1890); Jubel-Ouvertilre (Dresden, April 19, 1898); Trauermarsch (1906); Feenzauber for Horn and Orch. (1910). CHAMBER: Ballade for Piano and Cello (c. 1867); Barcarole for Cello and Piano (1872); 3 string quartets: No. 1 (1880; Dresden, March 28, 1887), No. 2 (Dresden, Oct. 8, 1886), and No. 3 (1895; Dresden, Dec. 28, 1896); Adagio for Horn and Piano (1885); Romanze for Horn and Piano (1885); Clarinet Sonata (1887); Quintet for Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Horn (1888; Dresden, March 18, 1889); Cello Sonata (1890; Dresden, Oct. 10, 1892); 2 viola sonatas (1892, 1902); StelznerQuintett for 2 Violins, Viola, Violetta, and Cello (Dresden, Dec. 6,1897); Szene for Violin and Piano (1899); Quintet for 2 Violins, Viola, and 2 Cellos (1900–01; Basel, June 13, 1903); Suite for 2 Violins (1911); Kleine Suite for English Horn or Oboe and Piano (1911); many piano works, including a Sonata (1862–67), concert waltzes, and fantasies. VOCAL : Germania an ihre Kinder, ode for Soprano, Men’s Chorus, and Orch. (1859; Altenburg, May 1876); Germania- Kantate for Men’s Chorus and Orch. (1859; Weimar, Aug. 4–7, 1861); Schur im Rutli for Soprano, Men’s Chorus, and Orch. (1862–68); Osterszene nach Goethes Faust for Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (1863–65; 1886–87; Dresden, Dec. 9, 1889); Adventlied for 4 Soloists, Chorus, and Orch. (1875; Dresden, Nov. 22,1878); 2 Requiems: No. 1 for 4 Soloists, Chorus, and Orch. (1877–80; Dresden, Oct. 26, 1881) and No. 2 for 5 Voices (1909–10; Chemnitz, Oct. 30, 1913); Columbus, cantata for Soprano, Baritone, Men’s Chorus, and Orch. (1889; Leipzig, Feb. 16, 1891); 2 Grosse Messe: No. 1 for Soloists, Chorus, and Orch. (1890–91; Leipzig, Nov. 18, 1892) and No. 2 for Chorus (1908–09; Chemnitz, Oct. 17, 1909); Sachsen-Hymne for Men’s Chorus and Orch. (1893); Christus, mysterium consisting of a Vorspiel: Die Geburt des Herrn and an oratorio trilogy Christi Weihe, Christus der Prophet, and Tod und Sieg der Herrn (1896–99; 1st complete perf., Berlin, Feb. 6, 13, and 20, 1912); Faust in Schlauf Gesungen for Chorus and Orch. (1907); Psalms’, choruses; lieder.


H. Platzbecker, F. D. (Leipzig, 1900); O zur Nedden, F. D.’s Opern und Oratorien (diss., Univ. of Marburg, 1925); E. Roeder, F. D. (2 vols., Dresden, 1932 and Berlin, 1937); A. Krueck, The Symphonies ofF. D. (diss., Univ. of Zurich, 1967); M. Gutierrez-Denhoff, F. D.: Chronik seines Lebens (Bonn, 1989).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire