|Alexander von Zemlinsky|
|Birth name||Alexander von Zemlinsky|
|Born||October 14, 1871|
|Died||March 15, 1942
Alexander Zemlinsky or Alexander von Zemlinsky, (October 14, 1871 – March 15, 1942) was an extremely prolific Austrian composer, conductor, and teacher who efficiently perfected the art of composition as well as becoming a well-known 'kapellmeister' and professor.
Alexander Zemlinsky was born in Vienna to a highly multicultural family. Zemlinsky's grandfather, Anton Semlinski, immigrated from Vojvodina, Hungary to Austria and married an Austrian lady. Both were from staunchly Roman Catholic families, and Alexander's father, Adolf, was reared as a Catholic. Alexander's mother was born in Sarajevo to a Sephardic Jewish father and a Bosnian Muslim mother. Alexander's entire family converted to the religion of his grandfather, Judaism, and Zemlinsky was born and raised Jewish. His father added an aristocratic "von" to his name, though neither he nor his forebears were ennobled. He also began spelling his surname with a "Z."
Alexander studied the piano from a young age. He played the organ in his synagogue on holidays, and was admitted to the Vienna Conservatory in 1884. He studied piano with Anton Door, winning the school's piano prize in 1890. Zemlinsky also studied composition and began to write music.
Zemlinsky had a valuable supporter in Johannes Brahms; it was he who recommended the younger composer's Clarinet Trio (1896) to the Simrock company for publication. Zemlinsky also met Arnold Schoenberg when the latter joined Polyhymnia, an orchestra in which he played the cello and helped found in 1895. The two became close friends—and later mutual admirers and brothers-in-law when Schoenberg married his sister Mathilde. Zemlinsky gave Schoenberg lessons in counterpoint, thus becoming the only formal music teacher Schoenberg would have.
In 1897 Zemlinsky's Symphony No. 2 (chronologically the third he had written, and sometimes numbered as such) was a success when premiered in Vienna. His reputation as a composer was further helped when Gustav Mahler conducted the premiere of his opera Es war einmal… (Once Upon a Time) at the Vienna State Opera|Hofoper in 1900. In 1899 Zemlinsky secured the post of Kapellmeister at Vienna's Carltheater.
In 1900, Zemlinsky met and fell in love with Alma Schindler, one of his composition students. She reciprocated his feelings initially; however, Alma felt a great deal of pressure from close friends and family to end the relationship. They were primarily concerned with Zemlinsky's lack of an international reputation and by an unappealing physical appearance. She broke off the relationship with Zemlinsky and subsequently married Gustav Mahler in 1902. Zemlinsky married Ida Guttmann in 1907, but the marriage was an unhappy one. Following Ida's death in 1929, Zemlinsky married Luise Sachsel in 1930, a woman twenty-nine years his junior, and to whom he had given singing lessons since 1914. This was a much happier relationship, lasting until Zemlinsky's death.
In 1906 Zemlinsky was appointed first Kapellmeister of the new Vienna Volksoper. From 1911 to 1927, he was conductor at Prague State Opera|Deutsches Landestheater in Prague, premiering Schoenberg's Erwartung in 1924. Zemlinsky then moved to Berlin, where he taught and worked under Otto Klemperer as a conductor at the Kroll Opera. With the rise of the Nazi Party, he fled to Vienna in 1933, where he held no official post, instead concentrating on composing and making the occasional appearance as guest conductor. In 1938, he moved to the United States and settled in New York City. While fellow émigré Schoenberg was celebrated and feted in the Los Angeles of the 1930s and 1940s—teaching at University of California, Los Angeles|UCLA and University of Southern California|USC and gaining a new generation of acolytes—Zemlinsky was neglected and virtually unknown in his adopted country. He fell ill, suffering a series of cerebrovascular strokes, and ceased composing. Zemlinsky died in Larchmont, New York of pneumonia.
Zemlinsky's best known work is Lyric Symphony (1923), a seven-movement piece for orchestra, soprano, and baritone, set to poems by the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore (in German translation), which Zemlinsky compared in a letter to his publisher to Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde. The work influenced Alban Berg's Lyric Suite, which quotes it and is dedicated to Zemlinsky.
Other orchestral works include the symphonic poem Die Seejungfrau (The Mermaid), premiered in the same 1905 concert in Vienna as Schoenberg's Pelléas et Melisande. A three-movement 1934 Sinfonietta, admired by Schoenberg, was written in a style comparable to its fellow contemporary symphonic works by Paul Hindemith, Kurt Weill, and Dmitri Shostakovich. Other works include: chamber music (e.g. four string quartets), operas (e.g. Eine Florentinische Tragödie (1915-16) after Oscar Wilde, and the autobiographical Der Zwerg (The Dwarf, 1921), and the ballet Der Triumph der Zeit (1901).
The influence of Brahms is evoked in Zemlinsky's early works (the ones that prompted encouragement from Brahms himself), while later works adopted the kind of extended harmonies that Wagner had employed, drawing influence also from Mahler. In contrast to his friend Schoenberg, he never wrote atonal music, and never used the twelve-tone technique.
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