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CCM, Composition, Musicology and TheoryCollege-Conservatory of MusicComposition, Musicology & TheoryUniversity of Cincinnati

CCM, Composition, Musicology and Theory

History in Brief

Louise Zemlinsky

Louise Zemlinsky

Alexander Zemlinsky Prize for Composition

Mrs. Louise Zemlinsky endowed the Alexander Zemlinsky Prize for Composition at the University of Cincinnati in 1990 to promote the music of young composers from around the world.  

Timeline of Alexander Zemlinsky's Life


October 14: Alexander Zemlinsky is born into a Jewish family in Vienna.


A friend of Alexander’s father begins giving Alexander piano lessons.


Alexander enrolls in the new synagogue choir.


Based on his musical ability, shown through his holiday performances on organ in the synagogue, Alexander is admitted to the Vienna Music Conservatory and enrolled in its preparatory school.


Alexander graduates to the Conservatory’s senior school, where he studies piano and takes courses in music theory.


Alexander wins the Conservatory's annual piano competition, for which he is awarded a gold medal and a grand piano. He is awarded the diploma for piano studies and enrolls in more theory and composition courses.

Sieben Lieder (Text by Heine, Eichendorff, Hoffmann, Renaud, Pfleger, and Prutz)


Alexander continues study of orchestration, vocal writing and score reading until 1892.


Das Rosenband (Text by Klopstock)


Zemlinsky meets Johannes Brahms several times.  Brahms is impressed with his piano playing and his compositional talents.

Completes Symphony No. 2 in D minor


Alexander forms an amateur orchestra, Polyhymnia, in which he meets a cellist.  This cellist is Arnold Schoenberg, who later takes counterpoint lessons from Zemlinsky.  Zemlinsky and Schoenberg remain lifelong friends.

Zemlinsky and Schoenberg

Zemlinsky and Schoenberg



Brahms recommends publication of Zemlinsky’s Clarinet Trio in D minor to the Simrock music publishing firm.

Lieder, Op. 2 (2 volumes) (Text by Heyse, Storm, Goethe, Rodenberg, Eichendorff, Siebel, Leixner, and Wertheimer)
Hochzeitsgesang (Text from Jewish liturgy)
First performance of Clarinet Trio in D minor, Op.3
First performance of String Quartet No. 1 in A Major, Op. 4


April 3: Johannes Brahms dies.

Gesänge, Op. 5 (2 volumes) (Text by Heyse, Pfau, Gensichen, Liliencron, and Evers)
Symphony No. 3 in B-flat Major


Fantasien über Gedichte von Richard Dehmel, Op. 9 (Fantasies on poems by Richard Dehmel)
Walzer-Gesänge nach toskanischen Volksliedern, Op. 6 (Text by Gregorovius)


Zemlinsky is named Kapellmeister of the Carltheater in Vienna.

Also in this year, Zemlinsky converts to Protestantism. 

Irmelin Rose und andere Gesänge, Op. 7 (Text by Morgenstern, Dehmel, Jacobsen, and Wertheimer)
Turmwächterlied und andere Gesänge, Op. 8 (Text by Jacobsen and Liliencron)


Ehetanzlied und andere Gesänge, Op. 10 (Text by Bierbaum, Wertheimer, Morgenstern, Jacobsen, Lingen, and Busse)


Zemlinsky is appointed First Kapellmeister at Vienna’s Volksoper, a privately owned space in which low-budget opera, operetta, and drama were performed.  He retains this position until 1911.


June 21: Alexander marries Ida Guttmann.


May 8: Ida gives birth to a daughter, Johanna.


Choral setting of Psalm xxiii, Op. 14


Because he is not granted the type of music position he feels he deserves, Zemlinsky leaves Vienna for Prague.  Zemlinsky is the opera conductor at Prague’s Neues Deutshes Theater.  He  retains this position until 1927.


First performance of Sechs Gesänge, Op. 13 (Text by Maeterlinck)


Louise Sachsel, fourteen-year-old daughter of a wealthy Jewish family, begins studying voice with Zemlinsky.

June 28: World War I begins.

String Quartet No. 2, Op. 15


Completes incidental music to Shakespeare’s Cymbeline


Harmonie des Abends (German text by Englert, based on a French text by Baudelaire)


First performance of the opera Eine florentinische Tragödie, Op. 16 (A Florentine Tragedy)


First performance of the opera Der Zwerg, Op. 17 (The Dwarf)


First performance of Lyrische Symphonie, Op. 18 (Lyric Symphony)

First performance of String Quartet No. 3, Op. 19


Zemlinsky leaves Prague and becomes Kapellmeister at Berlin’s Kroll Opera until 1930.

During the same year, Alexander begins teaching at Berlin’s Musikhochschule.  He maintains this position until 1933.


January 30: Ida Zemlinsky dies.

Symphonische Gesänge, Op. 20 (Symphonic Songs) (German text by Stern, Kaeser-Kesser, Nussbaum, and Siemsen)


Alexander marries his second wife, Louise Sachsel (his former pupil).


After Hitler takes power in Germany, Zemlinsky flees Berlin for Vienna.


Sinfonietta, Op. 23 for orchestra
Sechs Lieder, Op. 22 (Text by Morgenstern and Goethe)


Choral setting of Psalm xiii, Op. 24


Writes a short score of the opera Der König Kandaules (King Candaules)
String Quartet No. 4, Op. 25 (Suite)


Zwölf Lieder, Op. 27 (German text by George, Bethge, Siemsen, Stern, and Goethe)


After Hitler’s annexation of Austria, Zemlinsky flees to Prague to obtain papers for emigration.  Alexander and Louise leave Prague for America.


Zemlinsky lives in New York with his wife.  He is ill; by the end of his first year in America, he no longer composes.


March 15: Alexander Zemlinsky dies.

Louise is devoted to the memory of her husband, and she creates an archive of his creative work.


The LaSalle Quartet (ensemble in residence at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music from 1952 to 1988) releases the complete Zemlinsky string quartets on the Deutsche Grammophon label.


October 19: Louise Zemlinsky dies.

Prior to her death, Louise sets up a trust to establish the Alexander Zemlinsky Fund in Vienna (1989) and the Alexander Zemlinsky Prize for Composition at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music (CCM).


CCM announces the opening of the first international competition of the Alexander Zemlinsky Prize for Composition, for composers of any nationality, to be given every six years.