Saint Foix op. 20 (with German libretto)
(b. Braunschweig, 20. July 1837 – d. Braunschweig, 26. April 1922)
Saint Foix op.20
The fact that Hans Sommer (1837-1922 ; in reality Hans Friedrich August Zincken, known as Sommer), one of the founding fathers of modern German musicians’ copyright, was also a composer, is largely unknown today. The predisposition of the educated middle class for music went without saying in those days of course, but to indulge in ‘dilettante’ activity oneself, or even to make composition one’s main profession was still a hazardous business; hardly anybody succeeded in concentrating entirely on composition without additional income from giving concerts and lessons. Sommer had first received composition lessons from Julius Otto Grimm during the 1850s whilst studying Maths and Physics in Göttingen, and then from Adolf Bernhard Marx during an extended stay in Berlin; following his return to his home city of Braunschweig in the 1860s he continued his studies with Wilhelm Meves (1808-1871). When Sommer retired at the age of 47 from an established scientific career (among other things he had worked with the famous camera firm of Voigtländer) to private life in order to pursue his musical inclinations unhindered, the history of music was undergoing a distinctly radical change. Historiographers are fond of defining the stylistic diversification that occurred at the time in terms of selected composers or schools – but in the process it is often forgotten that on the whole there were more trends than we are aware of today. The German-language Lied was able to develop in the manner of a Hugo Wolf, a Gustav Mahler or a Richard Strauss (not to mention Conrad Ansorge, Ludwig Thuille or Max Reger), but at the same time we should not forget the prevailing trends of the Russians, the Italians and the French, each of which made its own distinctive mark on the solo Lied. In orchestral music there were constant, sometimes partly contrary trends (which were crushingly defeated in the violent struggles between the Brahms-disciples and the devotees of the so-called New German School); but at the same time there was a Gabriel Fauré, an Alexander Borodin or an Anton Bruckner, who resisted over-simple classification. In the field of opera, at least since the spectacular Munich premiere of Wagner’s Tristan, innovations in just this area had been a focal theme of discussion far beyond German-speaking countries. In conservatories, “modern music” of the “New German” trend was regarded in many places as harmful to developing composers up to the early 20th century, since the “absolute” value of music (in the sense of not being inspired by words or a poetical idea) and with it the ideals of form for absolute music would be set at a disadvantage.
The pluralistic opening up of music which, one the one hand, was based on intimate knowledge of the achievement of “yesterday’s men” (as Max Reger formulated it) – and later “the day-before-yesterday’s men” – and on the other hand conscious and deliberate composing “with a finger on the modern pulse” which was definitely intended to be provocative, and to find new paths, brought forth a multiplicity of trends, which these days remain to some extent inadequately established in public consciousness. Today it is just these diverse approaches of individual composers that are a more than adequate means of preserving musical life from a dusty fate on museum shelving
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210 x 297 mm