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Egon Wellesz (1885-1974)

Chronicle of a Twentieth-Century Musician


Caroline C. Benser

This study covers Egon Wellesz's career as both composer and musicologist. Drawing on materials from the Wellesz Fonds housed in the Music Collection of the Austrian National Library in Vienna, and also on firsthand information from interviews and corres- pondence, the author follows Wellesz from his pre-World War I years in his native Vienna to his long tenure as a scholar and composer in Oxford.
In Vienna Wellesz had been one of Arnold Schönberg's first pupils. Alban Berg and Anton Webern were associates. At the University, Wellesz received a doctorate in musicology under Guido Adler. Recognition as a composer came with successful performances of his stage works throughout the Weimar Republic. Soon after immi- gration to England in 1938, he became a Fellow of Lincoln College. Unable to compose during the war, he returned to research in Byzantine music, producing A History of Byzantine Music and Hymnography. When he resumed composition, he followed the line of symphonic writing abandoned after Bruckner's work. He wrote his first symphony in 1945 at the age of sixty and completed his ninth symphony in 1971. One of his most cherished compliments was his designation as Bruckner's heir.
Contents: This work is a biography and study of the works of the Austro/English composer and musicologist Egon Wellesz. Most notably highlighted are Wellesz's achievements as a symphonic composer and his contributions to Byzantine music.