Egon Wellesz

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Egon Wellesz
Born
Egon Joseph Wellesz

(1885-10-21)21 October 1885
Vienna
Died9 November 1974(1974-11-09) (aged 89)
Oxford, U.K.
Education
  • Musicologist
  • Composer
  • Academic teacher
OrganizationLincoln College, Oxford

Egon Joseph Wellesz (21 October 1885 – 9 November 1974) was an Austrian, later British composer, teacher and musicologist, notable particularly in the field of Byzantine music.

Life in Vienna[edit]

Wellesz was born in Vienna. Although both of his parents were Hungarian Christians, they also had Jewish ancestry. He received a Protestant upbringing, but later converted to Catholicism. Wellesz originally studied law in accordance with his father's wishes, but devoted himself entirely to music after attending a performance of Der Freischütz staged by Gustav Mahler at the Vienna Court Opera.[1] He studied in Vienna under Arnold Schoenberg – purportedly his first private pupil – as well as Guido Adler, who founded the musicological institute in Vienna and was a leading editor of the Austrian Denkmäler.[2] These dual influences shaped much of his musical and scholarly thought. In 1913 Wellesz embarked upon what would become a lifelong interest in the musical achievements of Byzantium.[3]

1913 was also the first year one of his compositions was publicly performed. The five movement String Quartet No 1, op 14 received its premiere on 31 October, showing the clear influence of Mahler and Schoenberg. Wellesz was the first pupil of Schoenberg to gain independent success as a composer, receiving a contract from Universal Edition before Berg or Webern.[4] Three further string quartets followed during the war years, establishing his preference for linear chromaticism, and some of them explicitly categorised as atonal.[5] However, it was with dramatic music that Wellesz really made his mark, starting with the ballet Das Wunder der Diana in 1914. In the following 12 years he completed five operas and three ballets, many of the libretti and ballet scenarios written by the important literary figures Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Jakob Wassermann. Operas such as Alkestis (1924) and Die Bakchantinnen (1931) take their subject matter from ancient mythology and, in contrast to the Wagnerian tradition, use techniques such as dance pantomime and coloratura singing derived from Claudio Monteverdi and Christoph Willibald Gluck.[5]

In 1922 Wellesz, along with Rudolph Reti and others, founded the Internationale Gesellschaft für Neue Musik (IGNM) following the Internationale Kammermusikaufführungen Salzburg, a festival of modern chamber music held as part of the Salzburg Festival.[6] This soon evolved into the International Society for Contemporary Music, founded in 1923 with its headquarters in London. The Cambridge academic Edward J. Dent, whom Wellesz had met on his first trip to London in 1906, was elected as its president.[7][8]

Life in England[edit]

His links to England turned out to be fortunate in 1938 when Wellesz was forced to leave Austria in the wake of the Anschluss. By good fortune he was in Amsterdam on 12 March 1938 to hear his orchestral suite Prosperos Beschwörungen ("Prospero's Invocation", after The Tempest) conducted by Bruno Walter.[9] Once in England he worked for a time on Grove's Dictionary of Music, but in July 1940 he was interned as an enemy alien, ultimately in Hutchinson Camp in the Isle of Man. He gained his release later that year, on 13 October,[10] thanks to intercessions by Ralph Vaughan Williams and H. C. Colles, the long-standing chief music critic of The Times.[11] Following his internment in 1940 Wellesz found himself unable to compose, a creative block eventually broken by the composition of the String Quartet No 5 (1943–44), the first important work of his English period.[2] His response to the great English poet Gerald Manley Hopkins also helped re-kindle his urge to compose, resulting in his setting of The Leaden and the Golden Echo in 1944.[12]

Grave of Egon Wellesz, his wife and other family members at the Zentralfriedhof in Vienna

Despite his composing, Wellesz remains best known as an academic and teacher, and for his extensive scholarly contributions to the study of Byzantine music and opera in the 17th century. These contributions brought for him an honorary doctorate from Oxford University in 1932 and later a Fellowship at Lincoln College, Oxford, where he remained until his death.[13] His pupils there included Herbert Chappell, Martin Cooper, Kunihiko Hashimoto, Spike Hughes, Frederick May, Wilfrid Mellers, Nigel Osborne and Peter Sculthorpe.

A portrait was made of Wellesz by Jean Cooke, who had been commissioned for the work by Lincoln College.[14][15] (There is also an early portrait, painted in 1911 by Oskar Kokoschka).[16] Wellesz continued composing until he suffered a stroke in 1972. He died two years later and was buried in the Zentralfriedhof in Vienna. His widow Emmy Stross, whom he married in 1908, returned to live in Vienna until her own death in 1987.[2]

Music[edit]

Wellesz composed at least 112 works with opus numbers as well as some 20 without numbers. His large scale dramatic works (including six operas) were mostly completed during his Vienna period (the main exception being the comic opera Incognita, written with the Oxford poet Elizabeth Mackenzie and first staged there in 1952). Robert Layton regarded Alkestis as "probably his most remarkable achievement for the stage. Its invention is marvellously sustained and organically conceived".[17] It was successfully revived in the 1950s and 1960s.

Altogether he wrote nine symphonies and an equal number of string quartets, the former starting in 1945[18] and the latter series of works spread throughout his life. Several of his symphonies have titles, including the second (the English), fourth (the Austriaca) and seventh (Contra torrentum). They were generally well received in Austria, Germany and England, but even so the Third Symphony (1950–1) was only published posthumously and only received its world premiere in Vienna in 2000.[19] Other compositions included the Octet (using Schubert's combination); piano and violin concertos (one of each); choral works such as the Mass in F minor; and a number of vocal works with orchestral or chamber accompaniment.

Stylistically his earliest music, somewhat like that of Ernst Krenek, is in a harsh but recognisably tonal style; there is a definite second period of sorts around the time of the first two symphonies (1940s) in which his music has a somewhat Brucknerian sound – in the symphonies sometimes an equal breadth,[18] though still with something of a 20th-century feel and harmonies – but after the Fourth Symphony his music became more tonally vague in character, with serial techniques used, though still with hints of tonality, as in the Eighth Quartet.

Rather than follow his teacher Schoenberg's Expressionist style, Wellesz found inspiration in music from the pre-modern era (with the exception of Mahler), becoming a forerunner to the anti-Romantic currents of the twenties.[1] As well as the dramatic works, the chamber and orchestral pieces with voice often use these "baroque" elements. An example is the cantata Amor Timido (1933), a favourite of Wilfrid Mellers.[20] Elsewhere, the neo-classical spirit of Hindemith is evident, as in the Piano Concerto (1931) and (still there much later) in the Divertimento (1969).[21]

He wrote:

In place of the infinite melody, the finite must return, in the place of dissolved, amorphous structures, clear, clearly outlined forms. The opera of the future must tie in with the traditions of Baroque opera. This is the natural form, the innermost essence of opera.[1]

Recordings[edit]

A complete recording set of his nine symphonies by Radio Symphonieorchester Wien conducted by Gottfried Rabl is available, and there are recordings of three of the quartets, choral works including the Mass, the violin and piano concertos, and other orchestral works including Prosperos Beschwörungen, Vorfrühling and the Symphonic Epilogue.[21][22]

  • Piano Concerto: with Triptychon, Op 98; Divertimento, Op. 107; Drei Skizzen, Op. 6; Eklogen, Op. 11. Karl-Andreas Kolly (piano), Luzerner Sinfonieorchester/ Howard Griffiths, Pan Classics 510104 (1999)
  • String Quartets: No. 3, 4 and 6. Artis Quartett Wien. NIMBUS NI 5821 (2008)
  • Symphonies No 1 - 9 (4 CD Set). Radio Symphonieorchester Wien/Gottfried Rabl, CPO 777183-2 (2009)
  • '20th Century Portraits': The Dawn of Spring; Sonnets from the Portuguese Op. 52; Song of the World, Op. 54; Life, dream and death Op. 55; Ode to Music, Op. 92; Vision, Op. 99; Symphonic Epilogue, Op. 108. Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/Roger Epple, Capriccio 67 077 (2004)
  • Violin Concerto: with Prosperos Beschwörungen, Op. 53. Andrea Duka Lowenstein (violin), Radio Symphonie Orchester Wien/Gerd Albrecht, ORFEO C 478 981 (1999)

Works[edit]

Stage

Choral

  • Drei gemischte Chöre, op. 43 (1930), text: Angelus Silesius
  • Fünf kleine Männerchöre, op. 46 (1932) from Fränkischen Koran by Ludwig Derleth
  • Drei geistliche Chöre, op. 47 (1932) for men's chorus based on poems from Mitte des Lebens by Rudolf Alexander Schröder
  • Zwei Gesänge, op. 48 (1932) based on poems from Mitte des Lebens by Rudolf Alexander Schröder
  • Mass in F minor, op. 51 (1934). Recorded by the choir of Christ Church, Oxford, 2010
  • Quant'è bella Giovinezza, op. 59 (1937), for women's choir
  • Carol, op. 62a (1944) for women's choir
  • Proprium Missae, Laetare, op. 71 (1953) for choir and organ
  • Kleine Messe in G major, op. 80a (1958) for three similar voices a capella
  • Alleluia, op. 80b (1958) for soprano or tenor solo
  • Laus Nocturna, op. 88 (1962)
  • Missa brevis, op. 89 (1963). Recorded by the choir of Christ Church, Oxford, 2010
  • To Sleep, op. 94 (1965). Recorded by the choir of Christ Church, Oxford, 2010
  • Offertorium in Ascensione Domini (1965). Recorded by the choir of Christ Church, Oxford, 2010
  • Festliches Präludium, op. 100 (1966) on a Byzantinium Magnificat for choir and organ

Orchestral

  • Heldensang, op. 2 (1905), symphonic prologue for large orchestra
  • Vorfrühling ('The Dawn of Spring'), op. 12 (1912), symphonic poem. Recorded by Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, 2004
  • Suite, op. 16 (1913), for orchestra
  • Mitte des Lebens, op. 45 (1931–32), cantata for soprano, choir, and orchestra
  • Piano Concerto, op. 49 (1933). Recorded by Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, soloist Margarete Babinsky, 2010
  • Amor Timido, op. 50 (1933), aria for soprano and small orchestra, text: Pietro Metastasio
  • Prosperos Beschwörungen, op. 53 (1934–36), five symphonic movements for orchestra after The Tempest. Recorded by Radio Symphonie Orchester Wien/Gerd Albrecht.
  • Lied der Welt, op. 54 (1936–38), for soprano and orchestra. Text: Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Recorded by Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, 2004
  • Leben, Traum und Tod, op. 55 (1936–37), for alto and orchestra. Text: Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Recorded by Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, 2004
  • Schönbüheler Messe in C major, op. 58 (1937), for choir, orchestra, and organ
  • Symphony No. 1, op. 62 (1945)
  • Symphony No. 2, op. 65 (1947–48), The English
  • Symphony No. 3, op. 68 (1949–51)
  • Symphony No. 4, op. 70 (1951–53), Austriaca
  • Symphony No. 5, op. 75 (1955–56)
  • Violin concerto, op. 84 (1961), dedicated to the violinist Eduard Melkus. Recorded by Andrea Duka Lowenstein in 1999 and David Frühwirth in 2010.
  • Four Songs of Return, op. 85 (1961), for soprano and chamber orchestra, after texts by Elizabeth Mackenzie
  • Duineser Elegie, op. 90 (1963) for soprano, choir, and orchestra after Rainer Maria Rilke
  • Ode an die Musik, op. 92 (1965) for baritone or alto and chamber orchestra, text: Pindar, adapted from Friedrich Hölderlin. Recorded by Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, 2004
  • Symphony No. 6, op. 95 (1965)
  • Vision for soprano and orchester, op. 99 (1966), text: Georg Trakl. Recorded by Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, 2004
  • Mirabile Mysterium, op. 101 (1967) for soloist, choir, and Orchester
  • Symphony No. 7, op. 102 (1967–68), Contra torrentem
  • Canticum Sapientiae, op. 104 (1968) for baritone, choir, and orchestra after texts from the Old Testament
  • Divertimento, op. 107 (1969), for small orchestra. Recorded by Luzerner Sinfonieorchester/Howard Griffiths, 1999
  • Symphonic Epilogue, op. 108 (1969). Recorded by Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, 2004
  • Symphony No. 8, op. 110 (1970)
  • Symphony No. 9, op. 111 (1970–71)

Chamber and instrumental

  • Der Abend, op. 4 (1909–10), four pieces for piano
  • Drei Skizzen, op. 6 (1911), for piano. Recorded by Karl-Andreas Kolly, 1999
  • Eklogen, op. 11, four pieces for piano. Recorded by Karl-Andreas Kolly, 1999
  • String Quartet No. 1, op. 14 (1912)
  • String Quartet No. 2, op. 20 (1915–16)
  • Idyllen, op. 21 (1917), five pieces for piano after poems by Stefan George
  • Geistliches Lied, op. 23 (1918–19) for singing voice, violin, viola, and piano
  • String Quartet No. 3, op. 25 (1918). Recorded by Artis Quartett Wien, 2008
  • String Quartet No. 4, op. 28 (1920). Recorded by Artis Quartett Wien, 2008
  • Sonata for violoncello solo, op. 31 (1920)
  • Zwei Stücke for clarinet and piano, op. 34 (1922)
  • Sonata for violin solo, op. 36 (1923)
  • Suite for violin and chamber orchestra, op. 38 (1924)
  • Sonnets from the Portuguese for soprano and string quartet or string ensemble, op. 52 (1934). Recorded by Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, 2004
  • Suite for violoncello solo, op. 39 (1924)
  • Suite for violin and piano, op. 56 (1937/1957)
  • Suite for flute solo, op. 57 (1937)
  • String quartet No. 5, op. 60 (1943)
  • The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo, cantata for soprano, clarinet, violoncello, piano, op. 61 (1944), text: Gerard Manley Hopkins
  • String Quartet No. 6, op. 64 (1946). Recorded by Artis Quartett Wien, 2008
  • String Quartet No. 7, op. 66 (1948)
  • Octet, op. 67 (1948–49) for clarinet, bassoon, horn, two violins, viola, violoncello, and contrabass[23]
  • Sonata for violin solo, op. 72 (1953/59)
  • Suite, op. 73 (1954) for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, and bassoon
  • Suite for solo clarinet, op. 74 (1956)
  • Suite for solo oboe, op. 76 (1956)
  • Suite for solo bassoon, op. 77 (1957)
  • Fanfare for solo horn, op. 78 (1957)
  • String Quartet No. 8, op. 79 (1957). Recorded by Artis Quartett Wien, 2008
  • Quintet, op. 81 (1959) for clarinet, 2 violins, viola, and violoncello
  • String trio, op. 86 (1962)
  • Rhapsody for viola solo, op. 87 (1962)
  • Musik for string orchestra in one movement, op. 91 (1964)
  • Fünf Miniaturen for violins and piano, op. 93 (1965)
  • Partita in Honor of Johann Sebastian Bach, op. 96 (1965) for organ
  • String Quartet No. 9, op. 97 (1966)
  • Triptychon, op. 98, three pieces for piano (1966). Recorded by Karl-Andreas Kolly, 1999
  • Four Pieces for string quartet, op. 103 (1968)
  • Four Pieces for string trio, op. 105 (1969, second version 1971)
  • Five Studies in Grey, op. 106, for piano (1969)
  • Four Pieces for string quintet, op. 109 (1970)
  • Prelude for viola solo, op. 112 (1971)

Decorations and awards[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Wellesz, Egon (c. 1925). Arnold Schönberg. Translated by Kerridge, W. H. London: J. M. Dent & Sons. OCLC 23799320.
  • Wellesz, Egon (1960). New Oxford History of Music 1. Ancient and Oriental Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press. OCLC 174194430.
  • Wellesz, Egon (1961). A History of Byzantine Music and Hymnography. Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0-19-816111-0. OCLC 3309386.
  • Wellesz, Egon (1965). Fux. London; New York: Oxford University Press. OCLC 302872.
  • Wellesz, Egon; Conomos, Dmitri; Velimirović, Miloš (1966). Studies in Eastern Chant. London; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-913836-79-8. OCLC 1126942.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Stephan, Rudolf (1975). "Egon Wellesz". Die Musikforschung. 28 (2): 153–156. ISSN 0027-4801. JSTOR 23230883.
  2. ^ a b c Benser, Caroline Cepin. 'Wellesz, Egon (Joseph)' in Grove Music Online (2001)
  3. ^ Miloš Velimirović. ''Egon Wellesz and the Study of Byzantine Chant, in Music Quarterly, April 1976, p 265-277
  4. ^ MacDonald, Calum. Notes to Nimbus CD 5821 (2008)
  5. ^ a b Hans Redlich and Arthur Mendel. 'Egon Wellesz' in Musical Quarterly, January 1940, p 65-75
  6. ^ "archives.nypl.org -- League of Composers/ISCM records". Archives.nypl.org. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  7. ^ Fauser, AnneGret. 'The Scholar behind the Medal: Edward J. Dent (1876-1957) and the Politics of Music History', in Journal of the Royal Musical Association Vol. 139, No. 2 (2014), pp. 235-260
  8. ^ Haas, Michael. 'Egon Wellesz: The Forgotten Modernist', in Forbidden Music, 4 June 2014
  9. ^ Krones, Hartmut (5 December 2001). "Notes to US Premiere of Wellesz Symphony 3". American Symphony Dialogues and Extensions. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 22 December 2007.
  10. ^ Peter Revers 'Wellesz in Oxford' in Friedrich Stadler, Vertiebene Vernunft - Vol. 2, Part 2: Emigration - Exil - Kontinuität (2004)
  11. ^ "Egon Wellesz | Amanda Holden".
  12. ^ Mellers, Wilfrid. 'Egon Wellesz: An 80th Birthday Tribute' in The Musical Times, Vol. 106, No. 1472 (October 1965), pp. 766-767
  13. ^ 'Lincoln College: Egon Wellesz and other Emigrées in 1930s Britain, Oxford Facility of Music
  14. ^ "Jean Cooke". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited. 22 August 2008. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
  15. ^ "Your Paintings: Jean Cooke paintings slideshow". Art UK. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  16. ^ Smithsonian Institution
  17. ^ Obituary, Musical Times, January 1975, p 68-9
  18. ^ a b Conway, Paul (June 1999). "An Austrian Symphonist in Britain". MusicWeb International. Retrieved 22 December 2007.
  19. ^ Conway, Paul (July 2000). "The long-awaited world premiere of the third symphony triumphs in Vienna". MusicWeb International. Retrieved 22 December 2007.
  20. ^ Mellers, Wilfrid. 'The Music of Egon Wellesz', in The Listener, 31 August 1950, p 33
  21. ^ a b Review of Pan Classics 510104 (1999) at MusicWeb International
  22. ^ Capriccio 67 077 (2004), reviewed at MusicWeb International
  23. ^ Continental Britons: The Emigre Composers NIMBUS NI 5730/1 (2007), reviewed at MusicWeb International

Further reading[edit]

  • Hans F. Redlich, "Egon Wellesz", in: The Musical Quarterly, XXVI (1940), 65–75.
  • Rudolph Reti, "Egon Wellesz, Musician and scholar", in: The Musical Quarterly, XLII (1956), 1–13.
  • Robert Scholium, Egon Wellesz, in: Österreichische Komponisten des XX. Jahrhunderts, vol. 2, Vienna: Elisabeth Lafite 1964.
  • Caroline Cepin Benser, Egon Wellesz (1885–1974): Chronicle of a Twentieth-Century Musician, New York: P. Lang, 1985 ISBN 978-0-8204-0138-6.
  • Otto Kolleritsch (ed.), Egon Wellesz, Studien zur Wertungsforschung, vol. 17, Graz and Vienna: Universal Edition 1986.
  • Lorenz Wedl, "Die Bacchantinnen" von Egon Wellesz oder das göttliche Wunder, Wien/Köln/Weimar, Böhlau 1992.
  • Harald Kaufmann, Gespräch mit Egon Wellesz, in: Harald Kaufmann, Von innen und außen. Schriften über Musik, Musikleben und Ästhetik, ed. by Werner Grünzweig and Gottfried Krieger. Wolke: Hofheim, 1993, p. 181–182.
  • Knut Eckhardt, Das Verhältnis von Klangfarbe und Form bei Egon Wellesz, Göttingen: Edition Re, 1994.
  • David Symons, Egon Wellesz. Composer, Wilhelmshaven, Florian Noetzel 1996.
  • Snowman, Daniel, The Hitler Emigrés, Penguin, 2002
  • Marcus G. Patka/Michael Haas (eds.): Hans Gál und Egon Wellesz: Continental Britons. Ausstellung "Continental Britons – Hans Gál und Egon Wellesz des Jüdischen Museums der Stadt Wien vom 25. Februar – 2. Mai 2004 (= ''Musik des Aufbruchs''). Im Auftrag des Jüdischen Museums Wien. Vienna: Mandelbaum-Verlag, 2004, ISBN 978-3-85476-116-7.
  • Jürgen Maehder, Das Quiché-Drama »Rabinal Achí«, Brasseur de Bourbourg und das Tanzdrama »Die Opferung des Gefangenen« von Egon Wellesz, in: Peter Csobádi, Ulrich Müller, et al. (eds.), Das (Musik)-Theater in Exil und Diktatur und seine Rezeption. Vorträge und Gespräche des Salzburger Symposiums 2003, Anif/Salzburg: Müller-Speiser 2005, p. 628–644.
  • Pietro Massa, Antikerezeption und musikalische Dramaturgie in »Die Bakchantinnen« von Egon Wellesz, in: Peter Csobádi, Ulrich Müller et al. (eds.), Das (Musik)-Theater in Exil und Diktatur und seine Rezeption. Vorträge und Gespräche des Salzburger Symposiums 2003, Anif/Salzburg: Müller-Speiser 2005, p. 418–435.
  • Michael Hass, Forbidden Music: The Jewish Composers Banned by the Nazis, Yale University Press, 2013
  • Jörg Bierhance, The Observation of Form: The form analysis method of Constantin Bugeanu in reference to the 1st and 5th Symphonies of Egon Wellesz, Academia, 2018

External links[edit]