Felix Draeseke: A chronicle of his life
Part I: The early years (1835-1862)
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1835  Birthplace of Felix Draeseke in Coburg On 7 October, Felix August Bernhard Draeseke is born in Coburg to Theodor Draeseke and his wife Maria (born Hanstein).  Eight days later, Draeseke's mother, Maria, dies of a stroke.   

The baptism (Lutheran) of Felix Draeseke takes place on 25 November.  

1840  On 1 March, Theodor Draeseke marries Emilie Bähring and she becomes stepmother to Felix.   
1841-2  Felix Draeseke at age 7.Young Felix is taken on his first trip away from Coburg, to Meiningen and the following year the family brings Draeseke on an extended trip to Leipzig, Dresden and Potsdam.  

Felix makes the acquaintance of his grandfather, the theologian Bernhard Draeseke, and several aunts.

1843  Draeseke composes his first piece of music, a "Kleiner Marsch" (Little March) - now lost - for his father's birthday.  
1846  After living half of the year in the Coburg suburb of Rodach, the Draeseke family returns to Coburg and Felix finishes his elementary schooling.
1848  Draeseke enters the prestigious "Casimirianum" for completion of his secondary education and begins to seriously study music. 
1849 Felix's FatherDuring the summer Draeseke makes an extended journey around Germany with his grandfather and along the way is introduced to such musical illuminaries of the day as Ferdinand Hiller and Aloys Schmitt. It is declared that Draeseke was named after Felix Mendelssohn.  For his father's birthday Draeseke composes his Overture to "Niklas Zriny", a play by Theodor Koerner, for piano four hands, the earliest extant work of Draeseke (WoO 1).  
1850  For his father's 42nd birthday Draeseke composes the song "Vöglein, wohin so schnell" (Little Bird, Where Are You Off To So Fast, lost).   
1851  During the Christmas holidays, Draeseke, now 16 years old, declares his calling to be music and his intention to have a professional career in music. 

At the beginning of April, Draeseke passes the entrance examination for the Leipzig Conservatory. For the next three years he studies theory and harmony with Benjamin Papperitz and Friedrich Richter, piano by Louis Plaidy and Ignaz Moscheles, composition with Julius Rietz, and music history with Franz Brendel.

At Easter, Draeseke visits Weimar for one of the early performances of Wagner's "Lohengrin" (under Liszt) and is convinced that Wagner's direction is the one that he will follow. By July, Draeseke is already attempting to fashion a libretto from Emanuel Geibel's play "Sigurd Kind" (Child Sigurd) for a first attempt at opera. By the end of the year, Draeseke produces a string quartet in C minor, some piano pieces, songs, and possibly also a choral psalm setting, all of which are either destroyed or lost over the years. 


By February Draeseke completes the overture to his projected opera "König Sigurd" (King Sigurd) and, upon examining it, his father makes note of Wagner's influence.

In September Draeseke travels to Berlin where he is diagnosed with an ear infection, the effects of which eventually lead to deterioration of hearing and almost complete deafness in later years. While in Berlin, Draeseke makes the acquaintance of Hans von Bülow.   


Under Rietz's tutelage Draeseke begins his first attempt at a symphony, a Symphony in C major (Jugendsinfonie), as well as a "Lustpiel" Overture (Comedy Overture) and on his own, two other overtures which are the beginnings of the later symphonic poems, "Julius Caesar" and "Frithjof".

Draeseke becomes dissatisfied with the conservative outlook of the Leipzig Conservatory.

1855  Draeseke leaves the Leipzig Conservatory at Easter and completes his Symphony in C major shortly thereafter and by the middle of May a libretto for "König Sigurd" is declared finished. Impressed by his former student's insights and abilities, Franz Brendel engages Draeseke to write articles and reviews for the "Neue Zeitschrift für Musik", of which Brendel is general editor. 

Draeseke's first essay on Wagner, "Der Dichter und der Componist" (The Poet and The Composer) in Book 2 of Volume I of "Anregungen für Kunst, Leben und Wissenschaft"  (Stimuli for Discussion of Art, Life and Science), a recently founded publication by Franz Brendel.

Program 11 November 1856On 11 November, sandwiched between two comedies at the Court Theater in Coburg, Draeseke's Symphony in C major ("Jugendsinfonie") is given its premiere under, it is assumed, the direction of one, August Langert. The performance is reported as successful, but Draeseke destroys the work a few years later. All that is known of this performance comes from Draeseke's own and strangely cryptic account in his "Lebenserinnnerungen" (Reminiscences of My Life); Erich Roeder also makes reference to a review in the "Neue Zeitschrift für Musik" - 26 December 1856, p. 280. There is original material regarding this event in the Ebert collection. Click the icon to view those pages.  

1857  Draeseke resides in Berlin and becomes involved in Bülow's concert activities on behalf of the New German School and Liszt's music in particular. On 25 February Draeseke meets Liszt for the first time, at a concert of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig. On 2 March, Draeseke shows Liszt the almost completed score of his opera "König Sigurd" which makes a deep impression on Liszt; the opera is completed 31 July and its libretto is printed in October. At the beginning of September Draeseke takes up his first residence in Dresden, contemplates a symphonic poem "Das zerstörte Jerusalem" (Jerusalem Destroyed, after Torquato Tasso) but abandons the idea despite already assembled materials.    

Draeseke continues his analyses of Liszt's symphonic poems for Brendel's "Anregungungen für Kunst, Leben und Wissenschaft" begun with "Prometheus" in November, 1857. During the summer Draeseke makes the acquaintance of Hans von Bronsart (Hans Bronsart von Schellendorf).

Liszt invites Draeseke to Weimar because of interest in "Sigurd". A piece d'occasion from the visit, a setting of Heinrich Heine's "König Wiswamitra" (King Wiswamitra), has disappeared. In December, after visits to Coburg and Berlin, Draeseke travels to Weimar and witnesses the catastrophe and scandal attending Liszt's premiere of "Der Barbier von Bagdad" of Peter Cornelius. Liszt's withdrawal from Weimar dashes all hopes for a production of Draeseke's opera "König Sigurd" (WoO 2).   

1859  Draeseke completes his official Opus 1, "Helges Treue" (Helge's Faithfulness) for voice and piano on a ballad by Moritz von Strachwitz, which is dedicated to Franz Liszt. Liszt is so enthusiastic that he arranges for the work's publication and later makes it over into a melodrama. Draeseke travels to Luzern andLeipzig. With a letter of introduction from Liszt, Draeseke is introduced to Richard Wagner in July for the first time and is privileged to witness the finishing of Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde". A month's association with Wagner alters Draeseke's ideas concerning the essence of melody. After returning to Dresden, Draeseke completes his setting for soprano, male chorus and orchestra of "Germania an ihre Kinder" (Germania To Her Children) an ode by Heinrich von Kleist. Soon thereafter he begins the symphonic poem "Frithjof", begins and abandons a similar project involving Heine's "Die Loreley", and completes an overture to the comedy "Rubens und der Bauer" (Rubens and the Peasant) by his friend Adolf Stern. This is later turned into the "Carnevalsouvertüre" (Carnival Overture), though no score for either survives.   
1860  The year opens with mention that Draeseke has begun a symphonic poem on the subject of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" which, in its first version, is completed 11 May. After a trip with Hans and Cosima von Bülow to Prague in early summer, Draeseke composes incidental music for a projected Dresden performance of Kleist's drama "Die Hermannsschlacht" (Hermann's Battle or The Battle of Arminius), WoO 4. A "Germania" Cantata after Strachwitz for Male Chorus and Orchestra (WoO 3b) is composed but is later destroyed. 
1861  Felix Draeseke, December 1861 By 1861 Draeseke completes the three volumes of songs intended for publication as Op. 2; only the first two volumes are published with that opus, "Märzblumen" and "Cypressen" (March Flowers and Cypresses); the third, "Heliotropen" (Heliotropes) appears much later as Op. 76 and with a different title; WoO 5, "Frage und Antwort" (Question and Answer) is dropped from this third volume and published without opus number in a music magazine in 1886. Draeseke orchestrates "Helges Treue" for a later performance that year at Weimar, but the orchestra materials do not arrive in time. Draeseke instead makes his debut as conductor in the premiere of his "Germania" Cantata (WoO 3b); the same concert closes with von Bülow conducting the "Germania" March (WoO 3c). The concert causes an uproar and earns Draeseke the countenance of the "besonders gefährliche Bestie" (the especially dangerous beast) among the members of the New German School. He accompanies Wagner to Eisenach in August, and in November is able to hear orchestral music of Berlioz, which impresses him greatly. On 18 November he completes his revision of "Julius Caesar" (WoO 6).   
1862  During a visit to Leipzig in February, Draeseke writes an overture (WoO 8) for the birthday  of Prince Constantine of Hohenzollern-Hechingen which, when performed, is not well received, either by the audience or the dedicatee. Draeseke completes few new works after June and in September decides to move to Switzerland, an undertaking evidently much influenced by his Coburg friend and colleague August Langert. On 17 October Draeseke leaves Germany for Switzerland, but for the French-speaking part, la Suisse romande. Among the works completed before the end of the year are the "Fantasiestücke in Walzerform" (Fantasy Pieces in Waltz Form, Op. 3), and one of the two "Konzertwalzer" (Concert Waltzes, Op. 5), and a first version of the Op. 6 Sonata quasi Fantasia in C# minor for Piano.  
Note: Ebert Collection icon: This icon indicates that there is original material regarding this event in the Ebert collection. Click the icon to view those pages.
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