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Ritter, Alexander

Ritter, Alexander

Ritter, Alexander , German violinist, conductor, composer, and poet; b. Narva, Estonia (of German parents), June 27, 1833; d. Munich, April 12, 1896. He was taken to Dresden in 1841, where he studied violin with Franz Schubert (namesake of the great composer), concertmaster of the Dresden Opera; then studied at the Leipzig Cons. (1849–51) with Ferdinand David (violin) and E.F. Richter (theory). In 1854 he married Wagner’s niece Franziska Wagner and settled in Weimar, where he entered into a close association with Liszt, Bülow, Cornelius, Raff, and others; was 2nd Konzertmeister in the orch. there (until 1856). He was conductor at the opera in Stettin (1856–58), where his wife was engaged as a soprano; he then lived in Dresden (1858–60), Schwerin (1860–62), and Würzburg (1863–82). When Bülow became conductor at the Hofkapelle in Meiningen (1882), Ritter followed him there and was made 2nd Konzertmeister of the orch.; after Bülow’s departure from Meiningen in 1886, Ritter moved to Munich. He wrote 2 operas, Der faule Hans (Munich, Oct. 15, 1885) and Went die Krone? (Weimar, June 8, 1890), to his own librettos, several symphonic poems in an intensely Romantic manner {Seraphische Phantasie, Erotische Legende, Karfreitag und Frohnleichnam, and Kaiser Rudolfs Ritt zum Grabe), a String Quartet, about 60 songs, and piano pieces. Ritter’s significance derives, however, not from his well-made but ephemeral compositions, but from his profound influence on young Richard Strauss; it was Ritter who encouraged Strauss in the creation of a new type of philosophical tone poem along the lines of “Musik als Ausdruck” (music as expression), a modern development of the art of Liszt, Wagner, and Berlioz. Ritter wrote the poem printed in the score of Tod und Verklärung.

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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