Clemens Erwein Heinrich Karl Bonaventura, Freiherr von und zu Franckenstein
Rhapsodie, op. 47
(b. 14 July 1875, Wiesentheid, Kitzingen – d. 19 August 1942, Hechendorf am Pilsensee)
Although born in Bavaria, Baron Franckenstein grew up in Vienna – in fact his younger brother Georg would become Austrian ambassador to London – but moved to Munich to pursue a musical career, studying with Ludwig Thuille, before he entered the Hoch Konservatorium in Frankfurt. There he studied with Iwan Knorr, and met fellow student Hans Pfitzner, and became a sort of honorary member of the ‘Frankfurt Group’ of Percy Grainger, Cyril Scott, Henry Balfour Gardiner, Roger Quilter and Norman O’Neill – for instance he sang in a private concert of Grainger’s choral works in London in May 1903, conducted by the composer.
While in Vienna, Franckenstein had been admitted to the circle of the poet Stephan George, and had met Hugo von Hofmannsthal – a friendship that was to last all his life (Franckenstein would set several of Hofmannsthal’s poems in his opus 14 and opus 35 songs). But it was as an opera conductor that he began his career, in America (1900-1901), Britain (1902-1907, with the Moody-Manners Opera), at the Wiesbaden Hoftheater, and at the Royal Prussian Opera in Berlin – the latter appointment at the invitation of Richard Strauss. In 1912 he became the last Hofintendant at the Munich Opera, where he introduced Bruno Walter as Generalmusikdirektor and arranged for premieres of operas by von Klenau, Korngold, Braunfels, Courvoisier, Graener and Pfitzner. He was unemployed during the Räterrepublik, but became Bayerischer Staatsintendant in 1924. He profoundly disliked the rise of Hitler and the Nazis and made his views known (for instance, Hitler visited him in his Bavarian home, accompanied by the President of the Reichsmusikkammer, Richard Strauss. When they left, Franckenstein went round the entire house, opening every window to let in fresh air – something that wasn’t lost on the other guests). Because of this, in 1934 he was forced to retire from public life.
Franckenstein’s music is broadly post-Romantic, especially post-Wagnerian. His four operas – Griseldis (1896–7), Fortunatus (1901–3), Rahab (Budapest, 1909) and Des Kaisers Dichter Li-Tai-Pe (Hamburg, 1920) – inhabit much the same world as Zemlinsky and early Schoenberg. His songs and piano pieces are lyrical and gently modal. And then there are a number of short orchestral works from the 1920s and 1930s, which exhibit a strong affinity with neo-classicism.
The Rhapsodie was composed the mid-1920s. It was first performed in London at a Royal Philharmonic Society concert in 1926. A report of the concert noted that Franckenstein’s Rhapsodie “ honoured a musician who once did a good deal of work for music in England. This was between 1902 and 1907, when, coming to London as a young man, and beginning in a small way, he became conductor of the Moody-Manners Opera Company touring the provinces, and later composed and directed the music for Sir John Martin-Harvey’s plays”.
Phillip Brookes, 2019
For performance material please contact Universal Edition, Vienna. Reprint of a copy from the Musikbibliothek der Münchner Stadtbibliothek, Munich.