Rudi Stephan (29 July 1887 – 29 September 1915), was a German composer of great promise who shortly before the First World War was considered one of the leading talents among his generation. He died in the war aged 28.
Stephan was born at Worms, Grand Duchy of Hesse. He became a composition pupil of Bernhard Sekles at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt and of Heinrich Schwartz and Rudolf Louis in Munich, where he settled after completing his studies in 1908. He left only a few works: his liking for pointedly neutral titles along the lines of 'Music for ...' has caused him to be seen as a forerunner of the 'New Objectivity' of the post-war era, but his music is in fact in a hyper-expressive late-Romantic idiom which has more plausibly been seen by some as a kind of proto-Expressionism. His father, a Privy Councillor, was able to finance the performance of his early works, which at first met with incomprehension, but the premiere of his 1912 Music for Orchestra in Worms was a major critical breakthrough. He completed his only opera, Die ersten Menschen, shortly after the outbreak of the war, and it was eventually premiered in Frankfurt, five years after his death from a bullet in the brain fired by a Russian sharpshooter, at Chodaczków Wielki near Tarnopol on the Galician Front, now Ukraine.
List of works
- Opus 1 for Orchestra
- Liebeszauber for baritone and orchestra, after Hebbel (1907, rev. 1911)
- Music for Orchestra [No. 1] (1910)
- Grotesque for violin and piano
- Music for Violin and Orchestra (1910, rev. 1913)
- Music for Seven Stringed Instruments (2 violins, viola, violoncello, doublebass, harp and piano) (1907–11; unfinished revision for piano quintet, 1914)
- Music for Orchestra [No. 2] (1912, rev. 1913) [NB this work is often said to be a revision of the 1910 Music for Orchestra, but they are in fact unrelated]
- Die ersten Menschen (1909–14), opera after the erotic mystery-play by Otto Borngräber
- Brand, Juliane. "Rudi Stephan". In L. Root, Deane. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. (subscription required)
- Kerry, Gordon (2005). "Stephan: Orchestral Works" (CD liner). Chandos Records. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
- Barnett, Rob (April 2006). "Stephan: Orchestral Works CHSA5040" (Classical CD Reviews). MusicWeb-International. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
- Rudi Stephan at AllMusic
- Free scores by Rudi Stephan at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)
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