Egon Wellesz

Egon Wellesz

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Wellesz, Egon, 1885-1974, Austrian composer and musicologist. Wellesz studied with Schoenberg at the same time as Berg and Webern. His early compositions show the influence of Mahler, but the clarity and articulation that characterize his later works are already evident. He is the author of studies of Byzantine and Arabic music, including Eastern Elements in Western Chant (1947) and A History of Byzantine Music and Hymnology (1948). From 1939 he lived in England; there he taught at Oxford and composed operas, ballets, chamber music, liturgical works, and symphonies.
Egon Joseph Wellesz (October 21 1885November 9 1974) was an Austrian composer, teacher and musicologist, a pupil of Arnold Schoenberg and an eminent scholar of Byzantine music.

Life

Wellesz studied 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 Denkmaler. These dual influences shaped much of his musical and scholarly life. In 1913, Wellesz embarked upon a lifelong interest in Byzantine music.

Wellesz left Austria for England in the wake of the Anschluss — more specifically, he was in Amsterdam at the time by good fortune, as Wellesz was there hearing Bruno Walter conduct his (Wellesz') orchestral piece Prosperos Beschwörungen on that day. Wrote nine symphonies and an equal number of string quartets, the former starting, in 1945, only with his arrival in England and the latter series of works spread throughout his life. Also wrote much other music including operas — of which Die Bakchantinnen was revived and recorded a few years ago; an octet with the same instrumentation as Schubert's, piano and violin concertos (one of each, and a suite for violin and orchestra besides), for instance. Stylistically his earliest music, somewhat like that of Ernst Krenek, is in a very harsh but 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, though still with something of a 20th-century feel and harmonies, and after his fourth symphony (the Austriaca) his music is more pan-tonal/non-tonal, serial in character. This is consistent, in for instance the 8th quartet, with hints of tonality.

Wellesz is principally remembered for his extensive scholarly contributions to the study of Byzantine music for which he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Oxford (where he later taught) in 1932.

Compositions

Wellesz’ works as a composer amount to at least 112 works with opus numbers as well as some 20 works sans opus number. He busied himself in a variety of mediums; composing for the stage as well as for the concert hall in the form of orchestral works, concerti, chamber music, piano music, songs, and choir works.

Recently, interest in Wellesz' music has increased. A complete recording of his nine symphonies is available, although his music has generally been sparsely represented on CD or LP. His 3rd symphony (1950-1), published posthumously, received its World Premiere in Vienna in 2000. Several of his symphonies have titles: the 2nd (The English), 4th, and 7th (Contra torrentum).

Works for Stage

Choral Works

  • 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 poem's from Mitte des Lebens by Rudolf Alexander Schröder
  • Quant'è bella Giovinezza, op. 59 (1937), for women's choir
  • Carol, 62a (1944) for women's choir
  • Proprium Missae, Laetare, op. 71 (1953) for choir and organ
  • Kleine Messe G-dur, 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) for Choir
  • To Sleep, op. 94 (1965) for Choir
  • Festliches Präludium, op. 100 (1966) on a Byzantinium Magnificat for Choir and Organ

Orchestral Works

  • Heldensang, op. 2 (1905), symphonic prologue for large orchestra
  • Vorfrühling, op. 12 (1912), symphonic mood picture for orchestra
  • Suite, op. 16 (1913), for orchestra
  • Mitte des Lebens, op. 45 (1931–32), cantata for soprano, choir, and orchestra
  • Piano Concerto, op. 49 (1933)
  • Amor Timido, op. 50 (1933), aria for Soprano and small orchestra. Text: Pietro Metastasio
  • Prosperos Beschwörungen, op. 53 (1934–36), five symphonic works for orchestra after William Shakespeares The Tempest
  • Lied der Welt, op. 54 (1936–38), for soprano and orchestra. Text: Hugo von Hofmannsthal
  • Leben, Traum und Tod, op. 55 (1936–37), for alto and orchestra. Text: Hugo von Hofmannsthal
  • Schönbüheler Messe C-dur, op. 58 (1937), for choir, orchestra, and organ
  • Symphony nr. 1, op. 62 (1945)
  • Symphony nr. 2, op. 65 (1947–48), The English
  • Symphony nr. 3, op. 68 (1949–51)
  • Symphony nr. 4, op. 70 (1951–53), Austriaca
  • Symphony nr. 5, op. 75 (1955–56)
  • Violin concerto, op. 84 (1961) dedicated to the violinist Eduard Melkus.
  • Four Songs of Return, op. 85 (1961), for soprano and chamber orchestra. After texts byElizabeth 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, in free adaptation of works by Friedrich Hölderlin
  • Symphony nr. 6, op. 95 (1965)
  • Vision für Sopran und Orchester, op. 99 , (1966), Text: Georg Trakl
  • Mirabile Mysterium, op. 101 (1967) for soloist, choir, and Orchester
  • Symphony nr. 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
  • Symphonic Epilogue, op. 108 (1969)
  • Symphony nr. 8, op. 110 (1970)
  • Symphony nr. 9, op. 111 (1970–71)

Chamber Music

  • String quartet nr. 1, op. 14 (1912)
  • String quartet nr. 2, op. 20 (1915–16)
  • Geistliches Lied, op. 23 (1918–19) for Singstimme, violin, viola, and piano
  • String quartet nr. 3, op. 25 (1918)
  • String quartet nr. 4, op. 28 (1920)
  • Sonata for violoncello solo, op. 31 (1920)
  • Two works for clarinet and piano, op. 34 (1922)
  • Sonata for violin solo, op. 36 (1923)
  • Suite for violin and chamber orchestra, op. 38 (1924)
  • Sonnet by Elizabeth Barrett-Browning for soprano and string quartet or large string ensemble, op. 52 (1934)
  • 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 nr. 5, op. 60 (1943)
  • The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo. Song for soprano, clarinet, violoncello, piano, op. 61 (1944). Text: Gerard Manley Hopkins
  • String quartet nr. 6, op. 64 (1946)
  • String quartet nr. 7, op. 66 (1948)
  • Octet, op. 67 (1948–49) for clarinet, bassoon, horn, two violins, viola, violoncello, and contrabass
  • 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 (1954)
  • Suite for solo oboe, op. 76 (1956)
  • Suite for solo bassoon, op. 77 (1957)
  • Fanfare for solo horn, op. 78 (1957)
  • string quartet nr. 8, op. 79 (1957)
  • 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 Violinen und Klavier, op. 93 (1965)
  • Partita in Honor of Johann Sebastian Bach, op. 96 (1965) for organ
  • string quartet nr. 9, op. 97 (1966)
  • Four works for string quartet, op. 103 (1968)
  • Four works for string trio, op. 105 (1969, 2. Fassung 1971)
  • Four works for string quintet, op. 109 (1970)
  • Prelude for viola solo, op. 112 (1971)

Bibliography

  • Benser, Caroline Cepin (1985). Egon Wellesz (1885-1974) : chronicle of twentieth-century musician. New York: P. Lang.
  • Wellesz, Egon; Kerridge, W. H., translator Arnold Schönberg. London: J. M. Dent & Sons.
  • Wellesz, Egon (1960). New Oxford history of music 1. Ancient and oriental music. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Wellesz, Egon (1961). A history of Byzantine music and hymnography. Clarendon Press.
  • Wellesz, Egon (1965). Fux. London; New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Wellesz, Egon; Conomos, Dmitri; Velimirović, Miloš (1966). Studies in Eastern Chant. London; New York: Oxford University Press.

References

  • Robert Scholium, "Egon Wellesz, Osterreichische Komponisten des XX. Jahrhunderu, II (Vienna, 1964)
  • Hans F. Redlich, "Egon Wellesz," The Musical Quarterly, XXVI (1940), 65-75
  • Rudolph Reti, "Egon Wellesz, Musician and Scholar," ibid., XLII (1956), 1-13.

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