Fantasy on Humperdinck’s Hänsel & Gretel for orchestra
(born Berlin, 10 August 1871 – died Moscow, 5 July 1941)
Fantasy on motives from Hansel and Gretel
by Engelbert Humperdinck
The Fairytale-Opera Hansel and Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck is one of the most popular of its kind. Since its world premiere on 23 December 1893 in Weimar, conducted by Richard Strauss1, it has been staged regularly and is today, like Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet, often performed during the Christmas season. The work also owes its popularity to the existence of more than a hundred different versions for various instruments and ensembles2. One of these is this arrangement as a Fantasy for Orchestra by the Berlin born conductor and composer Oskar Fried. This publication should not only reintroduce Fried’s arrangement to a wider public, but should also awaken a general interest in Fried as an artist whose fascinating and bizarre personality has so far attracted far too little attention and research.
Fried came from a not particularly wealthy background, and the story of his life, with its sometimes fantastical events, begins with the City Pipers of Nowawes near Potsdam (Babelsberg today) where the obviously musically gifted boy learned to play the horn and violin3. After a period of travel in Russia and Germany and before he had reached the age of twenty he obtained a permanent position as a horn player with the Palm Garden Orchestra in Frankfurt/Main and later with the Frankfurt Opera Orchestra4. According to the vivid descriptions from Paul Stefan’s biography of 1911, the boy, whilst still a pupil, had played the drums through the night and […] as a twelve year old […} had to be kept awake with beer, spirits and cigars5. But now, during his stay in Frankfurt he received an excellent training and education. …
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