Draeseke, Felix


Draeseke, Felix

Columbus, Cantata for Soloists, Male Chorus and Orchestra op. 52

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Felix Draeseke – Columbus, Cantata for Soloists, Male Chorus and Orchestra op. 52 (1889)

(b. Coburg, 7 October 1835 – d. Dresden, 26 Februar 1913)


Instrumental Prelude – Chorus (p. 3)
Columbus, Diego (p. 29)
Columbus, Diego, Chorus (p. 48)
Columbus alone (p. 95)
Columbus, Diego, Choruses and several Voices (p. 103)
Columbus, Diego, Chorus (p. 152)

Felix Draeseke was one of the great church composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His two Great Masses (op. 60 and op. 85) and two Requiem settings (op. 22 and WoO 35) – in each case the earlier with orchestra, the later a cappella –, the Adventlied after Friedrich Rückert for soloists, choir and orchestra op. 30, several a cappella motets in Latin and three psalms in German, and not least his magnum opus Christ. A Mystery in an Introduction and three Oratorios op. 70–73 prove the special importance he attached to sacred music and how creative his work in this field was regarding to genres, instrumentation and choice of texts (Protestant as well as Catholic!). Draeseke’s secular choral works do not occupy such a central place in his oeuvre. Nevertheless, there are also notable works among them, such as two settings of Goethe’s Faust for mixed choir and orchestra (Osterszene op. 39 with baritone solo, Faust in Schlaf gesungen WoO 32), or the Concert Piece for mixed choir a cappella Die Heinzelmännchen op. 41, which was widely sung during the composer’s lifetime. Draeseke’s most important secular vocal composition, however, is without doubt the cantata Columbus for soprano, baritone, male choir and orchestra op. 52, written in 1889.

Felix Draeseke’s curriculum vitae reflects like few others the turbulent development of German music between the mid-19th century and the First World War. Born in Coburg on 7 October 1835 as son of the ducal court preacher and grandson of two distinguished Protestant theologians, the young Draeseke did not continue the family tradition and decided to become a musician in spite of a persistent recurrent middle ear infection that made him hard of hearing at an early age and almost deafened him by the end of his life. The academic atmosphere of the Leipzig Conservatoire, which he had entered in 1852, soon disappointed him. He felt all the more drawn to the music of Richard Wagner, whose Lohengrin he heard under Franz Liszt’s direction in Weimar in the same year. In 1855 he left the conservatoire with a crushing report and began to work as a critic and publicist for the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik and the Anregungen für Kunst, Leben und Wissenschaft, whose editor-in-chief was the music writer Franz Brendel (1811–1868), who was close to Liszt and Wagner. Draeseke wrote articles on Liszt’s Symphonic Poems and Wagner’s work as a poet and composer. In 1857 he met Liszt personally through their mutual friend Hans von Bülow (1830–1894) and became a member of his circle of students in Weimar. On behalf of Liszt, who held his early compositions in high esteem, Draeseke undertook a journey to Lucerne in 1859 to visit the exiled Richard Wagner. There he experienced the composer of Lohengrin not only as “by far the most original spirit I have encountered”, but also witnessed the completion of Tristan und Isolde. The year 1861 brought a deep break: at the Tonkünstlerversammlung in Weimar, where Draeseke gave a lecture on “Die sogenannte Zukunftsmusik und ihre Gegner” (The so-called Music of the Future and its opponents), his Germania-Marsch, peppered with noisy orchestral effects – according to Richard Wagner, a “truly wretched composition by the otherwise so gifted man, which looked as if it had been written in mockery” –, was performed and caused a scandal. Draeseke’s memoirs say of it: “With this piece I was portrayed throughout the whole of Germany as the terror of humankind. Every newspaper hastened to pass a judgment of condemnation on the school [of Liszt] en bloc and to label me as the especially dangerous beast.” Draeseke was now considered the “most extreme leftist” in music – and he felt that he had overstepped the mark: “The fear of becoming trivial had led us more or less to hyper-wittiness and unnature – but while with most others this expressed itself in a soft, partly powerless, but therefore less repulsive way, my music was thoroughly masculine, pithy, proud, but also brusque, even disturbing, bizarre and bombastically exaggerated.” …


Read full preface / Komplettes Vorwort lesen > HERE

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