Franz Schreker

was born in Monaco in 1878.  His father Ignaz (born Isaac) Schreker was a photographer at court, his mother came from a Catholic family.  When his father died in 1888, the family moved to Vienna, where Schreker was soon obliged to support the family; at age 14 he assumed the post of organist at a church in Döbling.  His musical studies were subsidized by the Countess Alexandrine von Windischgrätz, enabling him to first complete a violin course, and later graduate in composition at the Vienna Conservatory.  His teacher, Robert Fuchs, had already had such pupils as Hugo Wolf and Gustav Mahler.

Schreker, who was practically forgotten after 1945, was one of the most celebrated composers of the Twenties; among living opera composers, only Richard Strauss was more prominent than he.  Der ferne Klang (The Distant Sound, 1912), Die Gezeichneten (The Marked Ones, 1918), Der Schatzgräber (The Treasure Seeker, 1920) and Das Spielwerk (The Mechanical Toy, 1920) were great successes.  After having advanced to the position of professor of composition at the Vienna Music Academy in 1912, he became the Director of the Berlin Music Academy in 1920.  But even before the Nazis took over the government, he was forced by increasing anti-Semitism to resign from this post in 1932.  When he was removed from the lists of the Prussian Academy of the Arts in 1933, also losing his post as professor of composition, his health suffered permanent damage; he had a heart attack in December 1933, and died of its effects in March 1954 in Berlin, just before his fifty-sixth birthday.

The Scherzo for String Orchestra was written in 1900, at the time the composer obtained his first public performances.  While it shows the composer’s love of Brahms in its formal structure, its harmonies are decidedly Wagnerian, and one hears the striving for the increasingly lush harmonization that was to make his early operas such successes.  He was seen as a legitimate disciple of Wagner, which he commented upon as follows:

„...my music grows out of poetry, my poetry out of music, I am the antipode of Pfitzner, Wagner’s only true heir, a rival of Strauss and Puccini, I ingratiate myself with the public, only write in order to upset everybody, and recently found myself pondering the idea to emigrate  -  to Peru.“

(Musikblätter des Anbruch, Universal Edition 1921)