96 years old – This great composer has left us for good


96 years old – This great composer has left us for good

The great Austrian composer Friedrich Cerha died on Tuesday in a Viennese hospital. Cerha, who had a major influence on the European avant-garde music of the post-war period and also worked as a conductor and scientist, would have celebrated his 97th birthday on Friday.

Among the most famous works of his rich oeuvre are the completion of Alban Berg’s opera fragment “Lulu”, to which Cerha added the third act, the opera “Baal” and his major music-dramatic works “Spiegel” and “Netzwerk”. Cerha has also received numerous awards, including the Grand Austrian State Prize (1986) and the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize (2012).

Already played the violin at the age of 6
Cerha was born on February 17, 1926 in Vienna. The musically talented boy started playing the violin at the age of six. It was not until two years later that the first compositions followed and he took lessons in harmony and counterpoint on his own initiative. In 1943, before graduating from high school, Cerha was drafted into the Wehrmacht. However, the declared opponent of the Nazi regime deserted and fled to a Tyrolean alpine hut.

After the war he studied composition with Alfred Uhl and violin with Vasa Prihoda and music education at the Vienna University of Music and Performing Arts. The doctorate in German also maintained contacts with the “Art Club”, which was dominated by avant-garde painters and writers. From 1959 Cerha taught at the Vienna Music Academy, from 1976 to 1988 also as a professor for composition, notation and interpretation of new music.

In 1958, Cerha co-founded the ensemble “die reihe”, which, as a chamber ensemble for new music, alludes with exemplary performances to the aridity prevailing in Austria with regard to 20th-century music and thus brings contemporary compositions to a large audience. Last but not least, Cerha’s affinity with the second Viennese school around Berg, Webern and Schönberg was sharpened during this period. A consequence of this was the completion of Alban Berg’s opera fragment “Lulu”, to which Cerha added the third act and which was premiered in 1979 by Pierre Boulez in Paris.

Years would pass before the first real own opera “Baal” would appear. The work, based on a drama by Bertolt Brecht, eventually led to Cerha’s international breakthrough and premiered in 1981 at the Salzburger Festspiele. In addition, the (semi-)musical dramatic works “Spiegel” and “Netzwerk” as well as the literary opera “The Pied Piper” by Carl Zuckmayer are among his most famous compositions. Cerha preferred to compose works for large orchestras, which are still stylistically rooted in the Second Viennese School.

A few years before his death, the composer himself was no longer on stage, apart from occasional performances such as in 2007 as part of the Vienna Festival with the Klangforum or on the occasion of the festive concert in honor of 50 years “die reihe”. . He had already given up conducting in favor of his composition work.

Source: Krone


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