Gottfried von Einem
Gottfried von Einem
From 1928 to 1937 he went to secondary school in Plön and Ratzeburg, travelling extensively on vacations to England and to Bayreuth. Discharged from military service in Vienna after only 14 days, he went to Berlin with the intention of studying composition with Hindemith. Hindemith, however, had already resigned from the Berlin Hochschule für Musik in response to the Nazi propaganda campaign against his work. Nonetheless, von Einem remained in Berlin, working as coach and assistant to Tietjen at the Berlin Staatsoper, a post he held from 1938 to 1943.
Declining the opportunity to become a conductor in Kassel, he also served as Tietjen’s assistant at the Bayreuth Festival from 1938. His professional activities were somewhat curtailed in 1938 when he was arrested by the Gestapo and subjected to brutal interrogation about his political activities. This experience occurred several times, occasionally resulting in imprisonment for some days, but no charges were proffered, and he was eventually allowed to resume his work as a musician. In 1941 von Einem began two years of composition study with Boris Blacher, whose influence was paramount to his career; the older composer soon became a close friend as well as the librettist of several of von Einem’s major operas. Between 1942 and 1943 von Einem completed his first mature compositions, the Capriccio for orchestra, performed by the Berlin PO in 1943, and the ballet Prinzessin Turandot which received a triumphant first performance at the Dresden Staatsoper in 1944, where von Einem worked as a musical adviser from 1943.
During the last years of the war Karajan commissioned the Concerto for Orchestra for the Berlin Staatskapelle. Performed for the first time in April 1944, it was roundly condemned by the Nazi authorities who objected to the composer’s use of jazz-like syncopations in the last movement. Von Einem left Dresden in 1944, settling in Styria, a region largely unaffected by the wartime activity. In 1945 he was briefly appointed a regional police chief in Ramsau and deputed to round up local members of the SS; but he soon resumed his musical activities, undertaking a period of study with Johann Nepomuk David in Salzburg. During this period von Einem was engaged in writing his first opera Dantons Tod, based on Georg Büchner’s play about revolutionary France.
First performed at the Salzburg Festival in 1947, the opera was widely acclaimed and it almost single-handedly established von Einem as one of the leading contemporary composers of the period. From 1946 onwards he played a prominent part in rebuilding Austrian musical life after the war. He served on the board of directors at the Salzburg Festival and the Wiener Konzertgesellschaft. However, he fell out of favour with the authorities in Salzburg in 1951, being falsely accused of communist sympathies for supporting Brecht’s application for an Austrian passport.
Although von Einem was removed from the directorate of the Salzburg Festival, he continued to enjoy prestigious commissions, in particular the ballet Rondo von goldenen Kalb (Hamburg, 1952), and his second opera Der Prozess (Salzburg, 1953) furthered his reputation. In 1953 he moved to Vienna, where he became a member of the board of the Wiener Festwochen (1960–64), professor of composition at the Vienna Music Academy (1963–72), and dramaturg at the Vienna State Opera (1964–71). Von Einem remained a controversial figure throughout his life, yet he was highly regarded in his native Austria and received numerous awards including the Prize of the City of Vienna in 1958, the Austrian State Prize for Music in 1965, honorary membership of the city of Vienna, the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde and the Wiener Konzerthausgesellschaft in 1988, and the Cultural Prize of Lower Austria in 1989. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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