Schillings, Max von


Schillings, Max von

Ingwelde Op. 3 (Vocal score with German libretto)

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Schillings, Max von

Ingwelde Op. 3 (Vocal score with German libretto)

Opera in three acts, op. 3 (1890-93)Information about the piece:

Some time around the year 1900 Richard Strauss, the newly appointed court conductor in Berlin, was summoned to appear before Emperor Wilhelm II. “So you are another of these modern musicians.” Strauss bowed. “I have heard Ingwelde by Schillings; it is detestable; there isn’t an ounce of melody in it.” “Pardon me, Your Majesty,” replied Strauss, “there is melody, but it is hidden behind the polyphony.” The Kaiser frowned: “You are one of the worst.” Again Strauss bowed. “All modern music is worthless; there is no melody in it; I prefer Freischütz.” “Your Majesty,” was Strauss’s eminently diplomatic riposte, “I too prefer Freischütz.”

This famous anecdote, handed down by Romain Rolland, not only foreshadows a lifetime of memorable bon mots by the famous creator of Salome and Der Rosenkavalier, it surprises us with Strauss’s spirited defense of an opera and a composer who are little remembered today. Yet, in their young years, Max von Schillings and Richard Strauss were comrades-in-arms in Munich, firebrands courageously arrayed against the city’s Philistine establishment. They eagerly exchanged and perused their latest scores, avidly explored fine points of instrumentation, debated possible opera subjects, and heaped scorn on conservative critics. It was to be a lifelong friendship that left behind a rich body of correspondence (published in 1987).

Yet it was the younger Schillings who first achieved his artistic breakthrough. Ingwelde, a post-Wagnerian creation set in a Viking milieu, made the twenty-six-year-old composer famous overnight in 1894 after its triumphant Karlsruhe première. At a stroke Schillings was placed in the front rank of the “modernists” on the musical stage, particularly as Strauss’s own essay in post-Wagnerian music drama, Guntram, failed dismally that same year and his operatic successes lay at least ten years in the future. By the end of the decade, after the première of Der Pfeifertag (1899), Schillings was widely regarded, in the words of the prestigious Allgemeine Musikzeitung (1 December 1899), as “the most remarkable and original musico-dramatic talent of our times.”

Ingwelde is based on a grisly Nordic legend of the ninth or tenth century handed down in a fragmentary fourteenth-century manuscript. First it was transcribed and paraphrased by the great Danish theologian and antiquarian Peter Erasmus Müller (1776-1834), who published it as “Svarfdälasaga” (The Tale of Scoured Valley) in his Sagabibliothek (Copenhagen, 1817-20). From there it was translated into German, with annotations and filler material, by Karl Lachmann in Sagenbibliothek des skandinavischen Alterthums (Berlin, 1816), where the few surviving scraps of the original story occupy pages 216 to 221. Then it was transformed into a verse epic consisting of well over a thousand rhymed couplets in iambic pentameter by a German military officer and littérateur with the impressive name of Philipp Gotthard Christian Karl Anton Freiherr von Zedlitz und Nimmersatt (1790-1862), who published it as Ingvelde [sic] Schönwang on pages 1 to 174 of his Altnordische Bilder (Stuttgart, 1850). This huge verse novel bears scant resemblance to the original tale, adopting at most the names the characters and a few narrative motifs, so that Zedlitz could rightly say that “it can be claimed in its entirety to be the property of the author, both in material and treatment.” The result was lauded by the Brockhaus Conversations-Lexikon of 1855 as “incontestably one of Zedlitz’s finest creations” (vol. 15/2, p. 449).

This was the material that confronted the minor literary figure Ferdinand von Sporck (1848-1928) when he set out to create an opera libretto for Max von Schillings. In Sporck’s hands, the rhymed iambic pentameters of Zedlitz’s original became Wagnerian Stabreim; the complex plot was squeezed into three acts more or less adhering to the Aristotelian unities; much space was granted to the character of Bran, who, as a professional musician (a bard complete with harp), slips somewhat into the role of a tragic Walther von Stolzing; and the finished product was given the lofty generic name of a “Dichtung” (poem) to emphasize its distance from run-of-the-mill opera librettos. The twenty-two-year-old Schillings, recently established in Munich as a freelance musician, set to work on the new libretto with gusto in 1890, and by 1893 the score was ready for performance.


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Score Data


Opera Explorer




210 x 297 mm


Vocal Score with German libretto



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