Schreker, Franz

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Schreker, Franz

Schreker, Franz, eminent Austrian conductor, pedagogue, and composer; b. Monaco (of Austrian parents), March 23, 1878; d. Berlin, March 21, 1934. His father, the court photographer, died when he was 10. The family went to Vienna, where he studied with Arnold Rosé; also received instruction in composition from Robert Fuchs at the Cons. (1892–1900). He first gained notice as a composer with his pantomime Der Geburtstag der Infantin (Vienna, Aug. 1908); that same year he founded the Phil. Chorus, serving as its conductor until 1920. He won great distinction with his opera Der ferne Klang (Frankfurt am Main, Aug. 18, 1912); outstanding among his later operas were Die Gezeichneten (Frankfurt am Main, Aug. 18, 1912); Der Schatzgräber (Frankfurt am Main, Jan. 21, 1920). After teaching composition at the Vienna Academy of Music (1912–20), he settled in Berlin as director of the Hochschule für Musik. Being of Jewish birth, he became a target of the rising Nazi movement; in 1931 he withdrew from performance his opera Christophorus in the face of Nazi threats; his last opera, Der Schmied von Gent, was premiered in Berlin on Oct. 29, 1932, in spite of Nazi demonstrations. Schreker was pressured into resigning his position at the Hochschule für Musik in 1932, but that same year he was given charge of a master class in composition at the Prussian Academy of Arts; he lost this position when the Nazis came to power in 1933. Shortly afterward, he suffered a major heart attack, and spent the remaining months of his life in poor health and reduced circumstances. As a composer, Schreker led the neo-Romantic movement in the direction of Expressionism, emphasizing psychological conflicts in his operas; in his harmonies, he expanded the basically Wag-nerian sonorities to include many devices associated with Impressionism. He exercised considerable influence on the German and Viennese schools of his time, but with the change of direction in modern music toward economy of means and away from mystical and psychological trends, Schreker’s music suffered a decline after his death.


Dramatic : Opera (all but the first to his own librettos): Flammen (c. 1900; concert perf., Vienna, April 24, 1902); Der ferne Klang (1901–10; Frankfurt am Main, Aug. 18, 1912); Das Spielwerk und die Prinzessin (1909–12; Frankfurt am Main and Vienna, March 15, 1913; rev. as Das Spielwerk, 1916; Munich, Oct. 30, 1920); Die Gezeichneten (1913–15; Frankfurt am Main, April 25, 1918); Der Schatzgräber (1915–18; Frankfurt am Main, Jan. 21, 1920); Irrelohe (1919–23; Cologne, March 27, 1924); Christophorus, oder Die Vision einer Oper (1924–27; Freiburg im Breisgau, Oct. 1, 1978); Der singende Teufel (1924–28; Berlin, Dec. 10, 1928); Der Schmied von Gent (1929–32; Berlin, Oct. 29, 1932). Pantomime: Der Geburtstag der Infantin for Strings (Vienna, Aug. 1908; rev. as Spanisches Fest for Orch., 1923). Dance Allegory: Der Wind for Clarinet and Piano Quartet (1908). Ballet: Rokoko (1908; rev. as Ein Tanzspiel, 1920). ORCH .: Love Song for Strings and Harp (1895; not extant); Intermezzo for Strings (1900; included in the Romantische Suite, 1902); Romantische Suite (1902; includes the Intermezzo for Strings, 1900); Ekkehard, overture (1902); Phantastische Ouverture (1902); Festwalzer und Walzerintermezzo (1908); Vorspiel zu einem Drama (1913; used as a prelude to his opera Die Gezeichneten); Kammersymphonie for 23 Solo Instruments (1916; Vienna, March 12, 1917); Kleine Suite for Chamber Orch. (1928; Breslau, Jan. 17, 1929); 4 Little Pieces (1930); Vorspiel zu einer grossen Oper (1933; Baden-Baden, March 11, 1958; symphonic fragments from an unfinished opera, Memnon). CHAMBER : Violin Sonata (1897); piano pieces. VOCAL : Der Holdstein for Soprano, Bass, Chorus, and Orch. (c. 1898); Psalm CXVI for Women’s Chorus, Orch., and Organ (1900); Schwanengesang for Chorus and Orch. (1902); Fünf Gesänge for Alto or Bass and Orch. (c. 1921; based on the song cycle, 1909); Vom ewigen Leben for Voice and Orch. (1927; based on Zwei lyrische Gesänge, 1924); some unaccompanied choral pieces; songs.


P. Bekker, F. S.: Studie zur Kritik der modernen Oper (Berlin, 1919; second ed., 1983); R. Hoffmann, F. S. (Leipzig and Vienna, 1921); J. Kapp, F. S.: Der Mann und sein Werk (Munich, 1921); F. Bayerl, F. S.s Opernwerk (Erlangen, 1928); S.-Hefl (Berlin, 1959); G. Neuwirth, F. S. (Vienna, 1959); H. Bures-Schreker, El caso S. (Buenos Aires, 1969; rev. Ger. tr. with H. Stuckenschmidt and W. Oehlmann as F. S., Vienna, 1970); G. Neuwirth, Die Harmonik in der Oper “Der ferne Klang” von F. S .(Regensburg, 1972); F. Heller, ed., Arnold SchönbergF. S.: Briefwechsel (Tutzing, 1974); O. Kolleritsch, ed., F. S. am Beginn der neuen Musik, Studien zur Wertungsforschung, XI (Graz, 1978); R. Ermen, ed., F. S. (1878–1934) zum 50. Todestag (Aachen, 1984); M. Brzoska, F. S.s Oper “Der Schatzgräber’; (Stuttgart, 1988); C. Hailey, F. S.: His Life, Times, and Music (Cambridge, 1993).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire