Universal Edition - Franz Schreker – Vorspiel zu einer großen Oper

Franz Schreker

Franz Schreker
Vorspiel zu einer großen Oper

Year of composition: 1933
Subtitle: "Memnon"
Scored for: for large orchestra
Composer: Franz Schreker
Instrumentation: 3 3 3 3 - 4 3 3 1 - timp, perc(10), hp(2), cel, alto sax, str
Instrumentation details:
1st flute (+picc)
2nd flute (+picc)
3rd flute (+picc)
1st oboe
2nd oboe
cor anglais
1st clarinet in Bb (+cl(A)
2nd clarinet in Bb (+cl(A)
bass clarinet in Bb
alto saxophone in Eb
1st bassoon
2nd bassoon
3rd bassoon (+cbsn)
1st horn in F
2nd horn in F
3rd horn in F
4th horn in F
1st trumpet in C
2nd trumpet in C
3rd trumpet in C
1st trombone
2nd trombone
3rd trombone
1st percussion
2nd percussion
3rd percussion
4th percussion
5th percussion
6th percussion
7th percussion
8th percussion
9th percussion
10th percussion
1st harp
2nd harp
celesta (+ad lib.)
violin I
violin II
Duration: 21′
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Audio Excerpt

Vorspiel zu einer großen Oper

World Première

Location: Baden-Baden / Germany
Date: 11.03.1958
Orchestra: Südwest Funkorchester
Conductor: Hans Rosbaud

Work Introduction

„A great, boisterous piece of music with all the stops of the orchestra pulled out." This is how Schreker described to his wife his Prelude to a Large Opera. Written in Estoril during the summer of 1933 after he had been suspended from his post at the Prussian Academy of the Arts and was facing the likelihood of emigration, it was to be his last work. The unnamed subject of this imposing overture was Schreker's unfinished opera, Menmon, about an ancient Egyptian general and demigod who is torn between earthly ambition and a longing for enlightenment: ,,Erdgeborner, wandre und weile, Gottgeweihter, strebe zum Licht!" It is a theme that resonates with earlier Schreker operas, most particularly Der ferne Klang.

Schreker's Prelude to a Large Opera bears direct comparison with the concert overture to his opera Die Gezeichneten, the Vorspiel zu einem Drama of 1913. Both works employ a large orchestra to paint dramatic vistas of visionary' sweep. But the orchestra of Die Gezeichnelen, with its shimmering strings, refined instrumental doublings, and richly detailed surface, captures the nuances of a psychological drama. The orchestra of Memnon, in keeping with its subject, takes on a more austere, even monumental cast. There is greater timbral autonomy in the sinewy contrapuntal, lines that characterize its musical texture, and a battery of delicately deployed percussion instruments accentuates the beguiling hint of near-Eastern melos (the result of Schreker's study of recordings of Egyptian music).


“This late work shows the composer as a fine craftsman with a special talent for orchestral colour. The twenty-minute piece could also be described as a symphonic poem with an underlying programme. In fact, the attentive listener would have no difficulty in discerning the various stages of the 'plot', thanks to the graphic strength of the idiom. (....)

The form is articulated by a characteristic horn motif, marked by the same virtuosic mastery as is the splendid, richly colourful orchestral texture culminating in the final section, in a gripping dialogue between wind and strings, followed by a sprinkling of colour in the woodwind, harp and strings.

Stylistically speaking, the piece forms a bridge between Wagner's legacy and early Hindemith. (...) It illustrates the function of Schreker's art to act as a mediator between yesterday and today, as a catalyst in the transformation process of the elements of music." (Josef Häusler, Melos)

score - Vorspiel zu einer großen Oper

Vorspiel zu einer großen Oper
  • for large orchestra
  • Edition type: score

4 Ensembles that have played this work:

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