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Oskar Fried (1871 - 1941)

Oskar Fried showed strong musical ability as a child, learning to play the piano, violin and horn. Coming from a humble background he was soon encouraged to earn money through his musical skills, which he did by playing in amateur orchestras in Berlin. He left Berlin for Frankfurt in 1889, where he initially played the horn in the Palmgarten Orchestra before joining the orchestra of the Frankfurt Opera House and taking composition lessons with Engelbert Humperdinck. He wrote an orchestral fantasy based on Humperdinck’s best-known work, the opera Hänsel und Gretel, and also made piano and orchestral arrangements of the same work for the publisher Schott. Fried also spent some time in Munich, where he was given tuition and advice by several musicians, including Hermann Levi. His first major composition, a setting of Richard Dehmel’s Verklärte Nacht for mezzo, tenor and orchestra, appeared in 1901, not long after Arnold Schoenberg’s 1899 work of that name for string sextet, inspired by the same text. More compositional studies followed with Scharwenka in Berlin, where Fried enjoyed great acclaim in 1904 when Karl Muck conducted the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Wagnerverein Chorus in his setting of Nietzsche’s Das trunkene Lied, taken from Also Sprach Zarathustra. He followed this with another Dehmel setting, Erntelied for male chorus and orchestra.




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