Oskar Fried

Biography

Born: August 1, 1871; Berlin, Germany   Died: July 5, 1941  
Oskar Fried was an important German conductor in the pre-war years of the twentieth century and a composer of considerable interest. Although he later claimed he was from a poor family, Fried attended an elite boarding school whose headmaster hired out his students as town musicians. At first he played the drum, but later taught himself how to play the horn. In 1889, he went to Frankfurt and, despite his lack of formal training, became horn Read more player in the opera orchestra there. After that, he had a succession of other orchestral jobs and in the meantime, his interest in composition grew, nutured under the watchful eye of composer Engelbert Humperdinck.

In 1904, Fried enjoyed a major premiere when Karl Muck conducted the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the chorus of the Wagnerverein in Fried's Das trunkene Lied. This favorable response the work received attracted a great deal of notice. Fried set Richard Dehmel's poem Verklärte Nacht for solo voices and orchestra; the same poem being the inspiration for a famous work for string instruments by Arnold Schoenberg. As a composer, Fried's major field was the lied. He showed a progress from solid tonality to a more unstable harmonic organization, but then shifted toward a newer sort of use of diatonic triads over long-held pedals. Fried's initial successes as a composer led to him being invited to conduct; he debuted in 1904 with Franz Liszt's Die Legende von der heligen Elisabeth, under the watchful eye of Gustav Mahler, who became a close friend. In 1905, Fried led the Neuen Konzerte in Berlin, in 1907 he was named conductor of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, and in 1908 he led the Blüthnerorchester. In 1913, Fried gave up composition in favor of conducting.

Fried was known for championing the music of Mahler, and was said to have retained Mahler's interpretive style. Fried was one of the few conductors of his time who included all of Mahler's completed symphonies in his repertory. He also was interested in the new music of his time and conducted works of Debussy, Sibelius, Delius, Richard Strauss, Stravinsky and Scriabin. In 1934, after the Nazis took power in Germany, Fried emigrated to the Soviet Union where he was appointed conductor of the Tbilisi Opera House in Soviet Georgia. Later, he became chief conductor of the All-Union Radio Orchestra in Moscow. Oskar Fried took Soviet citizenship in 1940, but died the following year. Read less
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