Magazine article Musical Times

In Memoriam: Alfred Schlee

Magazine article Musical Times

In Memoriam: Alfred Schlee

Article excerpt

In the still to be written history of 20thcentury music, the important, though largely shadowy, role of the music publisher will probably assume greater significance than is commonly acknowledged. As the main outlet for the works of Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, Bartok, Szymanowski, Janacek and Weill, Universal Edition, founded in 1901, played a crucial part in shaping the agenda of modern art music. It was the privilege of its longest-serving employee, Alfred Schlee, who has died in Vienna at the venerable age of 97, to have borne witness at first hand to the musical revolutions that swept through Europe and beyond both in the early decades of the century and. with similar ferocity, soon after the end of the Second World War.

Given his legendary privacy - his death was not announced, even to UE, until well after his funeral - it is probably too early to determine the exact nature of Schlee's role in this. What is clear, however, was his knack, often under the most adverse conditions, for tracking down the best and the most durable new music, and the high esteem in which he was held throughout his life. On the occasion of his 90th birthday, at a concert given in Vienna's Konzerthaus by the Arditti String Quartet, no less than 20 distinguished composers whom he had tirelessly promoted, including Berio, Boulez, Kurtag, Messiaen and Part, offered tribute pieces in his honour. And, although visibly frail and officially retired, he continued to support his proteges, attending the Viennese premiere of The second Mrs Kong, the Glyndebourne opera by a composer whom he had supported and published long before he acquired international renown - Sir Harrison Birtwistle.

Alfred Schlee was born in Dresden on 19 November 1901 and studied piano, cello and music theory from an early age. He continued his studies, of musicology, composition, philosophy and theatre, in Munich, Leipzig and Vienna. At the same time he pursued the interest in modern art which was to remain with him all his life. During the 1920s he became involved with the Bauhaus movement (collaborating with Oscar Schlemmer on his Triadisches Ballett), met Erich Kleiber during the premiere of Berg's Wozzeck in Berlin, made contact with the Brecht circle and worked as a dance critic, repetiteur and, at theatres in Munster and Gera, as a dramaturg.

Family and financial problems meant that he was unable to complete his doctoral studies, but he had the good fortune to make contact with Universal Edition, where a number of independent projects, including the editorship of its influential modern music journal Anbruch, prepared him for the permanent relationship with the company into which he was soon to enter and to which he devoted the rest of his long life, one which stretched from the period of composition of Berg's Lulu in the 1920s and 30s to its triumphant, Parisian, premiere in toto some fifty years later. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.