Hans Erich Apostel, born the 22nd of January 1901 in Karlsruhe (Germany) where he studied with Alfred Lorenz from 1916 till 1919. After beginning his career at the Karlsruhe Opera, he moved to Vienna in 1921, supporting himself by private teaching and later as a reader for a music publisher.
He studied with Arnold Schönberg and Alban Berg, two prominent members of the so-called Second Viennese School, whom he followed in a long phase of atonal expressionism (Kubiniana for piano). He used Schönberg’s 12-note method in all his later compositions, allied to clear formal structures, until in 1957 he became as absolute a serialist as Webern. He won the Hertzka Prize for his Requiem (1937), inspired by Berg’s death.
In 1938 Apostel’s music was banned as “degenerate” by the Nazis but he continued to write in his own manner, supporting himself through private teaching. After World War II he headed the Austrian section of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM). He was honored many times for his compositional work, including the Major Austrian State Prize in 1952 and the Major Monaco Composition Prize in 1968.
He started out as a lyrically romantic composer and progressed through atonal expressionism to absolute serialism. His Paralipomena Dodekaphonika is an example of his later work. Overall he remained essentially a romantic, finding much inspiration in the visual arts, though he was ambivalent towards applying programs to his music. Apostel believed in a connection between music and the visual arts and often tried to translate images into music in his compositions. The initial notation of his pieces were frequently graphic in nature and these sketches contained all the elements necessary for a complete composition.
His output includes the “Variations on a Theme of Joseph Haydn” (1949), two String Quartets (opus 7 of 1935 and opus 26 of 1956), a Piano Concerto (1958), the Chamber Symphony (1967), and several chamber pieces and songs (Drei Nachtgesänge opus 15 on texts by Stefan George). Apostel also edited performing versions of Berg’s operas “Wozzeck” and “Lulu”. He died in Vienna on the 30th of November 1972.
A note on his two String Quartets. In the 1950’s the members of the LaSalle String Quartet discovered a study score of his first string quartet in a New York music store and straightaway it seemed to them a work with an individual stamp worth studying. When they failed to get the parts from the publisher they made a direct appeal to the composer. Later, on their first European tour, they played the quartet to Apostel. After that they asked him to write a second string quartet and in 1956 it was ready for publishing and dedicated to the LaSalle String Quartet.
(Contribiution by Ton Regtop <alregtophotmail.com>.)
- Germany, Karlsruhe, Amalienstraße 39 — 22 Jan 1901