Othmar Schoeck

Othmar Schoeck: Life and Works

Chris Walton
Volume: 65
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 457
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt81qs2
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  • Book Info
    Othmar Schoeck
    Book Description:

    The work of the late-Romantic Swiss composer Othmar Schoeck (1886-1957) has in recent years enjoyed a surge of interest. His 300 songs with piano accompaniment are now all on CD, as are his orchestral song cycles and five of his eight stage works. Yet des

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-730-8
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. List of Musical Examples
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xix-xx)
  7. Introduction: Schoeck and the Swiss
    (pp. 1-12)

    Is there a topography of music? Some innate correlation between habitat and harmony, sound and space? Or is it mere conditioning that conjures up in our mind’s eye the glories of Prague at the close of Smetana’s Vltava, or swans circling above the endless Finlandian forests of Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony? Is it wishful thinking that the music of Elgar seems to mirror the very contours of the Malvern Hills, while the ballets of Copland somehow summon up visions of the vast plains of the American West, even to those who have never seen them? And why do certain works by...

  8. Chapter One Childhood and Youth
    (pp. 13-21)

    Birth may be an obvious place to begin the story of a life, but it is admirably finite; so we shall begin there. Othmar Schoeck was born in Brunnen in Canton Schwyz, in a villa overlooking Lake Lucerne, on 1 September 1886. The fact that the place of his birth is one of the most picturesque in Switzerland was no mere happenstance, for his father, an artist, had gone there in order to paint its landscapes. This Alfred Schoeck (1841–1931) was the only surviving child of a rich silk merchant from the city of Basel. His family, originally from...

  9. Chapter Two Wolf amidst the Sheep
    (pp. 22-25)

    When Schoeck returned to Zurich in the autumn of 1904, he and Ralph shared an apartment at Seegartenstrasse 14, not far from the lake, and a short bike ride from the conservatory. This institution had been founded in 1876 and was still run by its first principal, Friedrich Hegar, the long-standing conductor of the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra, a violinist and composer, a friend of Brahms, and the dominant figure in the city’s music life for over thirty years. He was also largely responsible for Zurich’s reigning Brahmsian aesthetic. Only in the City Theater, under Lothar Kempter Senior, did the music...

  10. Chapter Three Leipzig, Munich, and an Awful Little Moustache
    (pp. 26-31)

    Schoeck arrived in Leipzig on 7 April 1907. As he had promised back in February, Reger soon put him in touch with his own publisher, Lauterbach and Kuhn, though after hearing Schoeck play to them for three hours they still showed no interest. By contrast, the Leipzig representative of the Zurich publishing house of Hug, Alexander Bartusch, was very keen indeed. Schoeck had met him on his second day in the city and was immediately impressed. Bartusch not only provided free coffee whenever they met at his apartment but also recommended a Zurich family from whom Schoeck could rent a...

  11. Chapter Four Back in the Fold
    (pp. 32-40)

    In a letter of 31 March 1908 Schoeck wrote to his parents confidently of his future plans: he would seek out either a “little job” at an opera house, or, preferably, as a choral conductor, “which won’t be so difficult at all in Switzerland.”¹ Switzerland was certainly full of choirs. But while those in the metropolitan centers had the resources to put on occasional large-scale works with orchestra, their members were still amateurs and their repertoire largely dross. The principal alternative—a post at a small opera house in Germany—would have given Schoeck far more useful experience. Almost without...

  12. Chapter Five Hermann Hesse, via the Dentist
    (pp. 41-48)

    The first poet to offer Schoeck an opera libretto had been Hans Reinhart in 1908, whose “dramatic poem” Der Garten des Paradieses he had declined with all the tact necessary when dealing with a son of one of Switzerland’s richest industrialists. It was not what he was looking for, claimed the composer—though in fact, it is full of undigested Wagnerisms, and words cannot describe its awfulness (a decade later, Arnold Schoenberg would turn it down with equal tact).¹ But like many a composer fresh from conservatory studies in Germany, Schoeck was on the lookout for a possible text. Friedrich...

  13. Chapter Six Look Back in Melancholy
    (pp. 49-53)

    Schoeck’s String Quartet Op. 23 was premiered on 14 June 1913 at that year’s Tonkünstlerfest, held in St. Gallen. It is cast in three movements and, like the Violin Concerto, is marvellously tuneful while somewhat aimless. The composer Hans Huber, Schoeck’s elder by several years and one of the leading lights of the Swiss music scene, cried out after the quartet’s premiere: “You’re our Schubert!” referring to the work’s effortlessly melodious qualities.¹ Its layout is at times reminiscent of the piano accompaniments to Wolf’s Italian or Spanish songs, almost as if Schoeck had learnt to score for quartet, at least...

  14. Chapter Seven Chamber Music
    (pp. 54-56)

    Schoeck spent the weeks of his convalescence in Brunnen, where he completed the vocal score of Erwin und Elmire before embarking on its orchestration. A brief holiday in Brissago ensued before he had to return to Zurich for the autumn season. It was there, in October 1914, that he made the acquaintance of a young German violinist named Elsbeth Mutzenbecher (1891–1987). She had a teaching job in Italy, was on her way home to visit family in Hamburg, and had briefly stopped off in Zurich to visit a friend. The latter introduced her to Schoeck, only to find (to...

  15. Chapter Eight The Art of Counterpoint
    (pp. 57-64)

    In May 1915 Elsbeth returned to Zurich. Since she was a German citizen, Italy’s declaration of war on Austria on the twenty-third of the month made it awkward for her to remain in Turin (though it took another three months before Italy took the next logical step by declaring war on Germany itself). The war just beyond Switzerland’s borders was already intensifying. It was in spring 1915 that the Germans embarked upon chemical warfare on the western front and began their Zeppelin raids over London. The sinking of the Lusitania on 7 May, one of the major factors that turned...

  16. Chapter Nine Busoni
    (pp. 65-72)

    After Italy’s declaration of war on Austria in 1915, Switzerland had found itself completely surrounded by warring powers. The trenches of the Western Front reached from Basel to the North Sea, while battles less famous—but hardly less bloody—raged on its southern borders (the chaos on that front being vividly depicted by Ernest Hemingway in his A Farewell to Arms). Switzerland’s longstanding neutrality continued to be respected by the nations at war, so most of those in Central Europe who wished to avoid participation in the general slaughter inevitably endeavored to reach Swiss soil, with Zurich the city of...

  17. Chapter Ten The Picture on the Wall
    (pp. 73-77)

    With St. Gallen under his belt—bringing Fr. 3000 per annum plus travel expenses—and increasing success at home and abroad, Schoeck now felt confident enough to give up his last choral conducting post, that with the LGV. Giving up the Aussersihl Chorus alone had not reduced the burden that choral conducting had become to him. He used to compare his choir’s singing of a chord to the bullets peppered around the bull’s-eye during target practice, and when he later heard of Alois Hába’s experiments with quarter-tone music, he quipped: “We’ve had that in [Swiss] choirs for years.” Against the...

  18. Chapter Eleven Touch of Venus
    (pp. 78-81)

    Her name was Mary de Senger. She played him Bach’s Italian Concerto as her audition piece. He said just two words: “Quite perfect.” They then played piano duets together and presumably exchanged pleasantries of some kind. Then they had sex. And then she took the evening train home to Geneva, with Schoeck following, also by train, the next morning.

    Mary was the daughter of the Bavarian composer, conductor, and pedagogue Hugo von Senger (1835–92), who had settled in Geneva in 1869. He had assimilated swiftly, his “von” becoming a “de.” For the next twenty-three years of his life he...

  19. Chapter Twelve Silent Bronze
    (pp. 82-87)

    To compose the final scene of an opera before a word of the libretto has been written—indeed, before there is even really a plot—is one of the oddest things a composer could do. But this is precisely what Schoeck did in May 1919. He had set off for the Ticino once more, this time with Rüeger and their mutual friend Paul Loewensberg, his intention being presumably to relax after the turmoil of the Ranudo premiere. But just as had been the case with Erwin, the experience of seeing a new opera take to the stage had fired Schoeck...

  20. Chapter Thirteen Sucking Sweet Folly
    (pp. 88-94)

    Liar, liar—and through his teeth, no less. Ever deceitful toward his parents in matters of love, he outdoes himself this time. “Von Senger” refers implicitly to Alexander, the only member of that family known to the rest of the Schoecks. Mama von Senger “insisted” on feeding Schoeck because the room “she” had found him was in fact in her own house, and it would have been impolite to have denied food to the man who for two months was happily rogering her daughter on the other side of a thin wall. Although sixty years later her nephew remembered her...

  21. Chapter Fourteen Self Portrait, with Sandwich
    (pp. 95-111)

    “Damned Rüeger has left me in the lurch!” Schoeck wrote to his mother on 12 August 1920. Rüeger had delivered the second act of Venus before Schoeck’s departure for Geneva in June, but within only six weeks Schoeck was bombarding him with requests for the third. He managed to oblige, but in a letter of 19 August, Schoeck insisted on various changes and cuts. His description of what he needs—a duel between the hero Horace and his brother-in law Raimond, plus the latter’s curse on Horace—makes one wish that Rüeger had not given in so easily, for every...

  22. Chapter Fifteen Elegy
    (pp. 112-116)

    The summer of 1922 brought another bout of depression for Schoeck—not helped by Mary’s mother writing full of reproaches after his broken promise of marriage to her daughter. But again emotional turmoil brought songs in its wake. In July and August 1922 Schoeck wrote a total of seventeen—three to texts by Eichendorff, the rest by Lenau. In the midst of writing them he decided to add the two songs he had written the previous November and turn them all into a song cycle with orchestral accompaniment. It was at the beginning of this bout of prolonged activity that...

  23. Chapter Sixteen Goodbye to Geneva
    (pp. 117-121)

    In spring 1923 Schoeck was again contemplating an opera: this time his challenge was how to combine the Grimm fairy tales Meister Pfriem and Bruder Lustig into a single plot. Franz Wiegele wrote on his behalf to Hugo von Hofmannsthal, in the hope of procuring for him the man everyone acknowledged as the leading librettist of the age.¹ It was not to be, for Hofmannsthal was committed to Strauss alone, and he had in any case just begun working on his libretto for their Ägyptische Helena. So for now Schoeck put all his opera plans to one side. In the...

  24. Chapter Seventeen The Bee in the Rose
    (pp. 122-127)

    How does one cope with losing the love of one’s life, the woman whose very existence seems to define one, and without whom the mere fact of being seems to lose its purpose? The answer, felt Schoeck, was to have lots of sex with lots of other women as soon as possible. That is precisely what he did within a fortnight of losing Mary. In compensation for his loss, he also began to display a heightened sexual bravado among his (male) friends, once more claiming that fidelity was different for men and women: women remained faithful by remaining faithful, while...

  25. Chapter Eighteen Raging Queen
    (pp. 128-136)

    Since Mary had left him, Schoeck had on the one hand been stilling his physical needs with numerous willing women, but on the other hand he had begun to make loud pronouncements to his male friends about the wickedness of the weaker sex. It was in early November 1923, in the midst of one of these misogynistic tirades, that Corrodi suggested the drama Penthesilea by Heinrich von Kleist (1777–1811) as an opera topic. Schoeck was immediately attracted by the idea, so Corrodi set to work on a libretto. Kleist’s play is a variant of the story of Achilles and...

  26. Chapter Nineteen Storms in the Pigeon Loft
    (pp. 137-146)

    Hilde Bartscher returned to Zurich in autumn 1924 with the consent of her parents, whom she had apparently convinced of her continued innocence. But the object of her attraction seemed to have lost interest in her. Schoeck’s thoughts were again with Mary, though his bodily needs were still being satisfied by Angelie and numerous other women—“wie in einem Taubenschlag,” as he boasted to Corrodi.¹ The literal translation thereof is “as in a pigeon loft,” though its meaning in English is conveyed more idiomatically by saying that his bedroom was “like Grand Central station.” Whether or not his lack of...

  27. Chapter Twenty Into the Vortex
    (pp. 147-154)

    In October 1926, out of the blue, Furtwängler wrote to ask for the score and parts of Lebendig begraben. Unfortunately Schoeck was still struggling with the scoring of the work and had to turn him down. Furtwängler never did conduct it. But then an opportunity for advancement of a different kind presented itself to Schoeck with the death of Hermann Suter, the conductor of the orchestra in Basel. This was a far more prestigious post than the one Schoeck currently held in St. Gallen, and several people now recommended him for the job, including Furtwängler. But Schoeck refused to kowtow...

  28. Chapter Twenty-One Wrong-Note Rag
    (pp. 155-165)

    Schoeck did not have time to mope, for he had to conduct a concert performance of Erwin und Elmire in Lausanne on 10 February 1927. His spirits might have already been buoyed by a concert of his works in Zurich on 6 February (repeated on the eighth), in which his old choir, the Lehrergesangverein, sang his Wegelied, Postillon, and Dithyrambe under his successor, Robert F. Denzler; the concert also included excerpts from Erwin and the whole first act of Venus. His Don Ranudo was then performed again at the Zurich opera on 13 February, receiving praise in the press both...

  29. Chapter Twenty-Two Hildebill
    (pp. 166-172)

    In late June 1928 Schoeck and Hilde retired to the Fluh for a few days. They were not alone. As usual, other guests of Reinhart were present, this time Hermann Burte and Wilfried Buchmann. On the evening of 29 June there was a heated discussion in which Schoeck vented his anger on the vogue for honors and titles, honorary doctorates in particular—“You just have to look at the people who’ve got them!” he cried. The next morning he was woken early and emerged at half past ten to go down to bathe in the lake. A line of fancy...

  30. Chapter Twenty-Three Variations and Fugue on an Age-Old Theme
    (pp. 173-179)

    A rocky marriage in an unwanted house was not Schoeck’s only problem in late 1929. He had offered his latest works to Breitkopf & Härtel, his most regular publisher of the past decade: the three songs Opus 35, the Bass Clarinet Sonata, Op. 41, Wandersprüche, Op. 42, and the Hesse-Lieder, Op. 44. But Breitkopf only agreed to take on the songs with piano, offered a one-off fee of 750 marks, and asked for more time to consider the sonata and the song cycle, which it deemed “difficult works in publishing terms.”¹ Schoeck was furious, withdrew all four works, and thus...

  31. Chapter Twenty-Four Put to the Wheel
    (pp. 180-183)

    Schoeck conducted the first-ever concert performance of Vom Fischer on 16 January 1931, in St. Gallen. The Swiss staged premiere followed eight days later at the Zurich City Theater, coupled with the revised Ranudo, as in Dresden, and on 7 February Schoeck conducted a concert performance of his new opera in Winterthur, as part of a “Schoeck evening” that also included the world premiere of his new song cycle, Wanderung im Gebirge. Stravinsky was also around this month, in order to conduct his Apollon musagète and The Fairy’s Kiss in Winterthur, and he stayed with Reinhart from 17 to 22...

  32. Chapter Twenty-Five Gisela
    (pp. 184-187)

    Despite all his outward successes in 1931, a year that closed with performances of the Elegie in Winterthur and Romanshorn by the excellent baritone Hermann Schey, Schoeck was descending into a severe depression. He would become enraged by the slightest criticism—as when the loyal Willi Schuh dared to suggest in December that a performance he gave of Bach’s Kreuzstab Cantata in St. Gallen had been overly “Romantic.”¹ But he readily put the blame on Hilde for almost everything that he felt was out of kilter. Corrodi called by to see them just after Christmas and was told by Othmar...

  33. Chapter Twenty-Six Lost in the Stars
    (pp. 188-194)

    Early June 1932 brought the festival of the German “Allgemeiner Musikverein” back to Zurich for the first time in more than twenty years. This was still, however, an innocent gesture without the political, overtly hegemoniacal overtones that any Swiss-based German cultural happening would soon acquire under the Nazis. The festival was to have taken place in Graz in Austria, but Graz had pulled out at relatively short notice, at which Zurich had stepped into the breach. The two main events were Hindemith’s oratorio Das Unaufhörliche, which opened the Festival, and then a performance of Schoeck’s Penthesilea under the baton of...

  34. Chapter Twenty-Seven Whores and Madonnas
    (pp. 195-203)

    Schoeck’s publishers were far from enamored with the Notturno. Breitkopf turned it down, as they had Wanderung im Gebirge. Hug took on the latter work, but Schoeck was reluctant to have the Notturno published at home, as he was sure that his compatriots would cease to take him seriously if his biggest works were not published abroad. Universal Edition had just accepted the Praeludium, and they now also agreed to publish the Notturno when the Swiss Musicians’ Association donated a thousand francs for the purpose. Hug did bring out his next opus number, however: the Cantata Op. 49, written in...

  35. Chapter Twenty-Eight “. . . he can write music all right . . .”
    (pp. 204-214)

    On 14 and 15 January 1935 Schoeck conducted his Lebendig begraben in the Zurich Tonhalle, with Loeffel as soloist; Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony comprised the rest of the program. A couple of days later, a man dressed as a tramp knocked at the door of Schoeck’s home on the Lettenholzstrasse. When the door opened, he asked, in German: “Does the man live here who composed Lebendig begraben? I’d like to meet him.”¹ It was James Joyce. He was visiting Zurich to see his opthalmologist, Alfred Vogt, and—being a music lover—had ventured into the Tonhalle for the concert on the...

  36. Chapter Twenty-Nine Tea with (Ms.) Hitler
    (pp. 215-222)

    Just a few weeks into 1937 Hilde received further confirmation of Schoeck’s gradual appropriation by the Nazis, when the University of Freiburg im Breisgau made a discreet approach to see if he would accept the first “Erwin von Steinbach Prize.” Recently founded by a German-American, its purpose was to honor artists from the Alemannic region who had made a particular contribution to German culture. “Alemannic” here refers to the old Germanic tribes from the geographical area that today covers southwest Germany, Luxembourg, eastern France, and northern Switzerland, and it is still used to denote the similar dialects spoken throughout the...

  37. Chapter Thirty Aryanizing Music
    (pp. 223-233)

    On Sunday 25 April 1937 Schoeck was awarded the Erwin von Steinbach Prize at a ceremony in the main hall of the University of Freiburg im Breisgau, just across the German border. The guests included representatives from the universities of Basel, Bern, and Zurich and from the Nazi Party and the Wehrmacht, plus various colleagues such as Werner Reinhart, Hermann Burte, Ernst Isler, and Hans Corrodi. The program began with a Bach Toccata for organ. Then Josef Peilscher played Schoeck’s Violin Sonata Op. 16, accompanied by Hans Rosbaud (better known today for his work as a conductor). Friedrich Metz, the...

  38. Chapter Thirty-One Arms and the Man
    (pp. 234-244)

    In August 1939 Schoeck assured Werner Reinhart that he would complete the orchestration of Das Schloss Dürande in the following winter. That would have made late 1940 a realistic date for the world premiere. But Burte was already impatient. Just over a month after delivering the fourth and final act to Schoeck, he had complained to Werner Reinhart that Schoeck was composing too slowly. This was absurd, given that Schoeck had all along been setting his text with remarkable rapidity and that the opera was his longest ever—some two and a half hours of music. His real reason was...

  39. Chapter Thirty-Two Castles in the Air
    (pp. 245-250)

    When Schoeck finished the scoring of Dürande in early October 1941, the premiere was still a long way off. One man at least, Corrodi, had summoned up the courage to tell him what he thought of Burte’s text. Early in the year he had offered to write the words into the score for Schoeck, was horrified at its “cataract of trivialities,” and wrote in his diary:

    I made no bones about my dislike of the libretto. Schoeck admitted that Burte loved rhymes . . . and that it was full of awful doggerel. “But you have no idea what I’ve...

  40. Chapter Thirty-Three Goering’s Bullshit
    (pp. 251-261)

    The premiere was followed by a reception offered by Frölicher. Goebbels had been invited but to Schoeck’s relief did not turn up. Elsbeth had come all the way from Hamburg for the event, and Hilde’s sister was also there. Ernst Isler telegraphed his first, brief impressions home, which appeared in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung on 2 April: “In libretto and composition the work is a markedly great opera.” The German reviews were hardly less enthusiastic. On 3 April Karl Holl wrote in the Frankfurter Zeitung:

    What the born song composer had to fear and avoid was the epic breadth of...

  41. Chapter Thirty-Four Collapse
    (pp. 262-264)

    There now came at least one concrete sign that Schoeck had not been wholly ostracized at home. This was the “Zurich Music Prize,” a newly created award of which Schoeck was made the first recipient. The presentation took place on 21 November 1943 and was accompanied by a short recital of Schoeck’s songs, in which he accompanied the contralto Elisabeth Gehri, a superb singer whom he rightly regarded as a worthy successor to Durigo.¹ (The extant recording of the event shows both pianist and singer at the height of their powers). The laudatio was given by the eminent Goethe scholar...

  42. Chapter Thirty-Five The People at Home
    (pp. 265-270)

    Some two weeks after his collapse, Schoeck was moved back home. This was just at the moment when a production of his Venus in Bern under Kurt Rothenbühler was receiving excellent reviews, especially for its Horace, Libero de Luca.¹ While this presumably cheered Schoeck up, he was too sick to attend in person. He further missed the world premiere of his Gesangfest im Frühling on 12 April, also in Bern under Rothenbühler. Paul Rossier, Schoeck’s doctor, ascribed his heart attack to excessive smoking and to rotting teeth roots. Schoeck had long had an inordinate fear of the dentist, and his...

  43. Chapter Thirty-Six The Reckoning
    (pp. 271-275)

    When one today reads contemporary reports of Switzerland’s concert life from the first half of 1945, it seems almost as if nothing untoward was happening in the world. But the world outside was rapidly collapsing. Warsaw fell to the Red Army in mid-January, the Americans and British crossed the Rhine into Germany in March, and by mid-April the Soviets had occupied Vienna. Fearful of his future in the splintering Nazi state, Wilhelm Furtwängler sneaked across the Austrian border into Switzerland in late January and was soon conducting as a guest in Winterthur. On 11 April Robert Heger conducted a concert...

  44. Chapter Thirty-Seven Transfigured Summer Nights
    (pp. 276-279)

    On 12 May 1945, just a few days before the premiere of Der Sänger, the Bern Music Society—the organization responsible for the Bern City Orchestra—wrote to Schoeck to ask for a new orchestral work for the coming winter concert season. Schoeck replied in non-committal fashion, pointing out his precarious state of health and refusing to say either yes or no. His dislike of commissions had still not left him. He soon began sketching out an orchestral piece all the same. Then Gisela came home one day from school, full of enthusiasm for a poem they had just read...

  45. Chapter Thirty-Eight Silent Lights
    (pp. 280-287)

    We do not know if Schoeck attended the world premiere of Richard Strauss’s Metamorphosen in Zurich on 25 January 1946 under Paul Sacher, though we can be sure that he attended the first performance of Strauss’s new oboe concerto under Andreae in the Zurich Tonhalle a month later, on 26 February, because the program also included the Zurich premiere of Sommernacht. Strauss’s new work naturally overshadowed everything else in the press. If Schoeck wondered why he had been so repudiated over Dürande while the former president of the Reichskulturkammer was being welcomed with open arms, one could not blame him....

  46. Chapter Thirty-Nine Fair Measure
    (pp. 288-292)

    Hilde was due to give the Swiss premiere of the first group of the Mörike songs in October 1949, but this had to be postponed when she became ill with migraines and neuritis in the late summer. She entered hospital in October but was soon allowed to move to Alma Staub’s villa to recuperate. Othmar was already there, preferring the comfort of the Villa Alma to coping wifeless at home. He was also composing this autumn, having accepted a commission for the centenary of the Singing Association of Canton Schwyz. He chose a short, mildly patriotic poem by Gottfried Keller,...

  47. Chapter Forty Rather Nice Horn
    (pp. 293-299)

    The postwar surge of interest in Schoeck’s operas in his native land continued in the 1951–52 season, when the Bern City Theater put four of them on its program: Don Ranudo, Das Wandbild, Vom Fischer, and Erwin und Elmire. He had never before had his operas performed with such regularity. But still he swung in and out of depression, convinced that his music was being ignored. Hindemith’s triumphant return to Europe to take up the Chair of Musicology at Zurich University prompted much envy. He had been the man of the moment in Zurich when his Mathis der Maler...

  48. Chapter Forty-One Sleepless in Wollishofen
    (pp. 300-302)

    The successful premiere of Befreite Sehnsucht did nothing to alleviate Schoeck’s general depression. He was again having difficulty falling asleep, and when he did, he was plagued by nightmares from which he would awake bathed in sweat. He would then wash in cold water and return to bed, lying awake until the cycle of sleep, nightmares, and waking would finally begin again. There was an undeniable, terrible irony in that what had for years been the bane of his wife’s existence—his inability to sleep normal hours—was now his own. He tried reading at night to occupy himself, with...

  49. Chapter Forty-Two Echoes and Elegies
    (pp. 303-307)

    Schoeck spent most of August 1954 in Brunnen with Ralph. The summer saw Dennis Brain play the British premiere of his Horn Concerto at the Edinburgh Festival, in an all-Swiss concert given by the Collegium Musicum Zürich under Paul Sacher. W. R. Anderson wrote in the Musical Times that the concerto was “an easier-going, older-fashioned piece, in which Dennis Brain made the mastery of this intensely difficult instrument sound as simple as shelling peas.”¹ Schoeck’s health made it impossible for him to attend. But he was also busy composing. October saw him back in Brunnen, this time to work on...

  50. Chapter Forty-Three Running on Empty
    (pp. 308-316)

    Schoeck had experienced few real setbacks in the past five years. Admittedly, it was not always easy to find a music publisher, but this was understandable in postwar Europe when publishers were flush with money only if they happened to have a blockbuster or two in their catalogue, such as Orff’s Carmina Burana in the case of Schott. And while Schoeck was not enjoying many international performances, he was privileged in that international artists of the calibre of Fischer-Dieskau, Dennis Brain, Annelies Kupper, Ernst Haefliger, and Elsa Cavelti were singing and playing his works. 1956 was the year of his...

  51. Epilogue
    (pp. 317-326)

    The compositional development of Othmar Schoeck mirrored that of many of his contemporaries, from Strauss to Bartók: Romantic beginnings in the wake of Wagner and Brahms led inexorably to the cusp of atonality (and occasionally beyond it), from which there was then a retreat (an admittedly loaded word) into an aesthetic variously neoclassical or neo-Romantic or both. The return to tonality of Bartók, Strauss, Stravinsky, and others has been much investigated, and in the case of those composers who emigrated to the United States in the 1930s it has often been postulated that it was the need to make a...

  52. Othmar Schoeck: Concise Work Catalogue and Discography
    (pp. 327-382)
  53. Notes
    (pp. 383-402)
  54. Bibliography
    (pp. 403-412)
  55. Index
    (pp. 413-444)
  56. Back Matter
    (pp. 445-449)