Wetzler, Hermann Hans

Suite from the Incidental Music to Shakespeare’s As You Like It, op. 7

SKU: 1913 Category:


Hermann Hans Wetzler

Suite from the Incidental Music
to Shakespeare’s As You Like It, op. 7 (1920)

(b. Frankfurt am Main, 8 September 1870 – d. New York, 29 May 1943)

I Pages’ Duet. Brisk tempo (p. 3)
II Love Scene. Andante con moto (p. 9) – Moonlit Night. Andante (p. 10) – Blackest Night (p. 17) –
Broad and massive (p. 20) – Flexible tempo (p. 22) – attacca:
III First Dance of the Shepherds. Introduction, Allegro ma non troppo, like an improvisation –
Dance (two young shepherdesses), leisurely but gracefully animated (p. 24) –
Vivace non troppo. Coarse and forceful (p. 27) – Leisurely but gracefully animated (p. 31) – Like an improvisation – Slightly faster (p. 34)
IV Rosalind’s Farewell. Adagio (p. 35)
V Second Dance of the Shepherds. Allegretto (p. 39) – Più animato (p. 44) – Even faster (p. 45) –
Increasingly calm – Andante quasi lento (p. 47) – Calm (p. 49) – Presto (p. 50)

Born into an affluent family in Frankfurt am Main, Hermann Hans Wetzler grew up in Chicago and Cincinnati. He learned to play the piano and violin in Cincinnati and gave public violin performances at an early age with his younger sister Minna at the piano. In 1885 the Wetzlers returned to Frankfurt, and the two siblings, after auditioning for Clara Schumann, enrolled at the Hoch Conservatory (it is unknown how regularly they studied with Clara Schumann). Wetzler also studied violin with Hugo Heermann (1844-1935), conducting with Bernhard Scholz (1835-1916) and Iwan Knorr (1853-1916), and above all composition with Engelbert Humperdinck (1854-1921). One of his fellow-students was Hans Pfitzner.

After finishing his degree Wetzler returned in 1892 to the United States, where he worked in New York as an organist, orchestral violist, choir conductor, and piano teacher. He also attempted, with his friend Carl Dienstbach (1870-1956) and a team of craftsmen, to build a dirigible. He married Dienstbach’s sister Lini and, in 1902, founded the Wetzler Symphony Orchestra, with which he appeared regularly for three years. When Richard Strauss visited New York in 1904, it was with Wetzler’s orchestra that he gave the première of his Sinfonia domestica.

In 1905 Wetzler was again in Germany, where he first worked at the Hamburg City Theater and was made principal conductor in Elberfelde (Wuppertal) in 1908. Other way-stations in his conducting career were Riga (1909), Halle (1913), Lübeck (1917), and finally Cologne (1919), where he worked side by side with Otto Klemperer and his assistant Paul Dessau. Reports allude to his frequent difficulties with orchestras, and in 1923 his Cologne contract was not renewed.

At this point Wetzler turned more attentively to composition and, beset by financial hardship, moved to the Italian-Swiss town of Brissago on Lago Maggiore in 1929 and to Basle in 1932. However, he was unable to find a permanent position in Switzerland. In 1933 his wife died, and he moved with his new life-companion Doris Oehmigen to Ascona, from whence he made trips to Germany, England, and America. Blacklisted in 1935 because of his Jewish ancestry, he returned once again in 1940 to New York, where he hoped in vain for the end of the war and a return to Europe. In 2006 his voluminous posthumous papers were transferred to Zurich Central Library. In addition to autograph scores and writings, they contain some ten-thousand letters, six-thousand reviews, and a large collection of photographs. The information given here is taken from the publications of the Wetzler scholar Heinrich Aerni.

During the first two decades of the twentieth century Wetzler’s compositions centered mainly on lieder, though he also produced a cycle of Twelve Ton-Pictures in the Form of Variations for solo piano (1901). Starting in 1917 he turned more intently to orchestral music, beginning with the Overture to Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” (op. 7), which was premièred by Richard Strauss in Berlin in 1918. It was followed by Symphonic Fantasy for orchestra (op. 10, 1922) and the six programmatic Visions (op. 12, 1923). The latter piece, originally entitled Silhouettes, was premièred by Hermann Abendroth in Cologne on 20 November 1923 and published by Max Brockhaus in 1924. His “legend,” Assisi, was followed by his only opera, Die baskische Venus (The Basque Venus, op. 14), completed in 1928 on a libretto by his wife Lini and also containing a large Symphonic Dance in the Basque Style. Among his unpublished autograph scores are two early works (a Concert Overture and his only Symphony in E-flat major, 1891) and others which are undated: an Angelic Concert (after a like-named painting by Hans Thoma) and Music for Chamber Orchestra. From his later years we find a Symphonie concertante for violin and orchestra, op.15 (1932), and an American Rhapsody (1942). All this music is completely unknown at time of writing, as are his Magnificat for soprano, boys’ choir, violin and organ, op. 16 (1937), Nunc dimittis (op. 20, 1939), many other short sacred pieces for a cappella chorus dating from his late years, and two string quartets, an early one and another in C minor, op. 18 (1939).

Hermann Hans Wetzler completed the revised fair score of his overture to William Shakespeare’s As You Like It in Lübeck on 8 September 1917 and dedicated it “to my beloved Lini.” He also wrote incidental music to As You Like It and reworked it into a five-movement orchestral suite for concert performance. The overture, the suite, and the incidental music were all published by F. E. C. Leuckart in Leipzig, the overture in the very year of its completion. During his years in Lübeck (1915-19), where he succeeded Wilhelm Furtwängler, he was much appreciated by audiences and critics alike. In particular his light-footed incidental music to As You Like It was very warmly received on all fronts and established his growing if short-lived fame as a composer. In its original form, the Overture, together with the rest of the incidental music, was premièred at Lübeck Municipal Theater on 14 March 1917, with the composer conducting the Lübeck Philharmonic. The revised version was given its first hearing in Essen on 9 November 1917 by the Essen City Orchestra, conducted by its general music director Max Fiedler (1859-1939). The work soon took hold: Arthur Nikisch conducted it seven times, including performances with the Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, and the City Orchestra of Baden-Baden, and before long it had received local premières in most of Germany’s major musical capitals under the batons of Siegmund von Hausegger, Richard Strauss, Fritz Reiner, Ewald Straesser, Ewald Lindemann, Hermann Abendroth, Hans Pfitzner, Ludwig Rottenberg, Wilhelm Sieben, and other leading conductors. Later it was conducted by Alfred Hertz in San Francisco, Nikisch in Latin America, Willem Mengelberg in Amsterdam, and Volkmar Andreae in Zurich (all 1921), Ossip Gabrilowitsch in Detroit (1922), Mengelberg in New York and Reiner in Cincinnati (both 1923), Abendroth in Edinburgh (1925), Felix Weingartner in Vienna (1926), Hans Knappertsbusch in Munich (1927), Abendroth in Liverpool (1928), and by Reiner in Pittsburgh as late as 1941, long after silence had fallen upon the overture beginning in 1930. All of this detailed information on the work’s performance history is taken from Heinrich Aerni’s exemplary monograph Zwischen USA und Deutschem Reich: Hermann Hans Wetzler, Dirigent und Komponist (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2015, ISBN: 9783761823583).

As with Mendelssohn’s Overture to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the stunning success of Wetzler’s Overture to “As You Like It” inspired the composer to produce incidental music for the entire play. Unlike the overture, it is impossible to say when this music was actually composed. Whatever the case, the five-movement Suite was finished by 1920 and appeared in full score that same year, published by F.E.C. Leuckart of Leipzig. Its première took place in Cologne on 16 November 1920, with the composer heading the Cologne City Orchestra. The success failed to match that of the overture, however, and the next two performances had to wait until 1922, again in Cologne, where it was given by the City Orchestra on 30 May (under Heinrich Anders) and the Orchestra of Cologne City Theater on 23 July. These were followed on 13 December 1925 by the American première, performed in New York by the Society of the Friends of Music under Artur Bodanzky, and repeated by the same musicians exactly one year later. Thereafter the piece was heard only in a few provincial towns.

The Suite is a valuable piece of music with a fine dramaturgical structure. The gossamer movements frame two especially impressive slow movements – the passionate and richly hued Love Scene and the adagio Rosalind’s Farewell. The piece’s legal history is convoluted: from Leuckart, with whom Wetzler was dissatisfied, it passed to D. Rahter of London, and a few years ago all of Rahter’s publication rights devolved upon Boosey & Hawkes. This faithful reproduction of the first edition is intended to further the dissemination of this delightful music, which, of course, can also be performed alongside the once so popular overture.

Translation: Bradford Robinson

For performance materials please contact the publishers Boosey & Hawkes, Berlin (www.boosey.de).

Score No.



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210 x 297 mm






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