The Austrian opera composer Franz Schreker was born in Monaco on 23 March 1878 and studied at the Vienna Conservatory from 1892 - initially violin, and then composition with Robert Fuchs, graduating in 1900. During his time as a student he created the Verein der Musikfreunde Dobling and began conducting. In 1907 he formed the Philharmonic Chorus, and conducted first performances of works by Zemlinsky and Schoenberg.
He was first noticed as a composer by the dance work Der Gerburtstag der Infantin of 1908, and its success prompted three further works. The performance at Frankfurt in 1912 of his first opera Der ferne Klang put him firmly on the map as a composer, and brought him an appointment as professor at Vienna's Music Academy. A second opera, the weird and Freudian Das Spielwerk und die Prinzessin, was his only operatic failure, but the outrage caused in Vienna made his name even better known.
He went on to become director of the Hochschüle für Musik in Berlin, and became second only to Richard Strauss in the German speaking operatic world, with his operas Die Gezeichneten and Der Schatzgräber.
The rise of anti-semitism brought obscurity and failure for Schreker, however - his father had been a Jewish photographer at the Bohemian court. He lost his job in Berlin, the scheduled première of his penultimate opera Christophorus was cancelled, and his music became to be seen as irrelevant. He died in Berlin on 21 March 1934, aged 55, after having a heart attack.
A selection of M&V articles about Franz Schreker
Ensemble. A Top-notch Formation - Operas by Zemlinsky and Puccini, reviewed by Giuseppe Pennisi
Ensemble. Maximum Interest - A double bill from Los Angeles Opera impresses Maria Nockin
Ensemble. Seething with Evil - Franz Schreker's 'Die Gezeichneten', reviewed by Giuseppe Pennisi
Ensemble. Distant Sound - LA Opera's 'Recovered Voices', reviewed by Maria Nockin
Ensemble. A veritable wonder - Zemlinsky and Schreker at the Vienna Volksoper, appreciated by David Wilkins