Heinrich August Marschner

Born slightly after Mozart died (and before Beethoven and Haydn died, too) in 1795, Heinrich August Marschner lived until 1861 and is often cited as being the most important or significant German Romantic opera composer before Wagner. As the New Groves (who insists on all three of his names!) puts it, bluntly: He was the most important composer of German opera in the generation between Weber and Wagner and was thus one of the central figures of the Romantic era. It has to be said, however, that for someone so central to the Romantic era, I doubt very many modern listeners are aware of his existence, unless prodded by vague recollections of such obscure works as Der Vampyr or Der Goldschmied von Ulm.

He was born in Zittau, a village in south-eastern Germany, sitting right on what would today be called the German/Czechia border, directly east of Dresden. He began his musical education in the town high school's choir and though his choral stint ended when his voice broke, he was busy writing songs by 1808 (when he was 13). A first ballet arrived two years later -though it was only after this that he realised he needed composition lessons!

He met Beethoven in Vienna in 1816; in 1821, he met Weber. He started his professional music career in Dresden, before moving thereafter to Leipzig (in 1827) and thence to Hanover (in 1831), where he settled down until his eventual death there in 1861. As he began his stint as conductor in the Hanover Hoftheater, his reputation as one of Germany's leading opera composers was secure. By the 1840s, however, his reputation started to be eclipsed a little by the rise of Meyerbeer and Wagner. His work after about 1855 met with little success: he sank into obscurity, though his major works remained a staple of the German operatic repertoire for many years. Nevertheless, Mendelssohn and Schumann thought highly of his work.

Marschner was keen to develop a German 'national' opera, and in his musico-nationalism, he can be thought of as laying a path that Wagner would later tread vigorously. His insistence on music serving the drama of his plots also foreshadows Wagner, as did his use of leitmotiv to reveal the psychological developments taking place within his dramas. As the New Groves puts it, His musical and dramatic techniques led directly to Wagner.

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Music Plays from my collection
(since January 9th 2021)

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Date of PlayTime of PlayGenreCompositionLengthPlay Count