Franz Schreker (1878 – 1934). Son of an itinerant Jewish photographer, Franz Schreker graduated from the Vienna Conservatory in 1900 and promptly began seeking employment in an opera house. When he was hired, he wondered why he’d bothered – he found the work boring and singularly unsuited to his temperament. Quitting his job, Schreker founded the Vienna Philharmonic Chorus and hired himself as its conductor. The ensemble had remarkable success with modern works, and it premiered several important compositions (including Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder). Schreker also concentrated on composing, and his opera Der ferne Klang was a smash hit when it premiered in 1912. Several other remarkable triumphs followed, and he was eventually named director of the Berlin Hochschule für Musik – an institution he remade in his own image. Sadly, the combined pressures of the German depression and the National Socialist movement brought Schreker’s career crashing down in the early 1930s, and he succumbed to a stroke soon thereafter.
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