Franz Schreker (1878-1934), Austrian Composer, Conductor, Violinist, and Teacher

Franz Schreker wrote to Heinz Moehn on 31 August 1925, evidently in response to a letter from Moehn. The letter gives some insight into the type of repertoire Moehn programmed in the concert series he was organising and conducting at the time, as in the letter Schreker writes: “I am sincerely pleased by your interest in my work and am especially so about the fact that you will now perform my Chamber Symphony.” (“Ueber Ihr Interesse an meinem Schaffen bin ich aufrichtig erfreut und ganz besonders auch darüber, dass Sie nunmehr meine Kammer-symphonie aufführen werden.”) The referenced piece, Schreker’s Chamber Symphony of 1916, is a lush work in a late-Romantic style that emphasised tone colour.

A composer and conductor, Franz Schreker conducted the premiere of his friend Arnold Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder in 1913 and was appointed the director of the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin in 1920. In the second and early third decade of the twentieth century, Schreker was hailed as a leading compositional figure, particularly in opera, but over the course of the 1920s his reputation declined amidst the economic turbulence that particularly impacted opera productions and the rising prevalence of anti-Semitism (Schreker’s father was Jewish by birth, but converted to Protestantism in early adulthood). This situation became more extreme in the 1930s, and Schreker found himself dismissed or forced to resign from his positions, while performances of his works were protested by right-wing groups or cancelled outright.

Schreker was one of the central targets of the Nazis’ Entartete Musik (Degenerate Music) exhibition in 1938, even though he had died of complications following a stroke in 1934. It is likely that he was under attack for his associations with other reviled composers (aside from having been Schoenberg’s friend and supporter, he had also been a teacher of Ernst Krenek) and his Jewish heritage as much as for the subject matter of his operas and his musical style, in which aspects of late Romanticism, Impressionism, Expressionism, and New Objectivity are blended and juxtaposed.

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Schrecker, Franz. Franz Schrecker to Heinz Moehn, 31 August 1925. Letter.

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