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Robert Heger

Robert Heger was born on 19 August 1886 in Strasbourg (at that time Germany, now France). He first studied music at the conservatory in Strasbourg under Franz Stockhausen, and later completed his composition studies in Zurich under Lothar Kempter, in Lyon under Antoine Mariotte and in Munich under Max von Schillings.


After his graduation Robert Heger first worked as a cellist, but soon started his conducting career. He became Kapellmeister in Strasbourg (1907), Ulm (1908), Barmen (1909) and at the Vienna Volksoper in 1911. Two years later he was appointed director of the opera in Nuremberg. In 1920 Robert Heger became the principal Kapellmeister of the National Theatre Munich, from 1925 to 1933 he took the same position at the Vienna State Opera. During this time Robert Heger conducted the world premiere of Maurice Ravel's "Piano concerto for the left hand" with pianist Paul Wittgenstein. With the rise of the Nazi regime in 1933 Robert Heger was appointed Staatskapellmeister at the Berlin State Opera and worked there until the end of World War II. In 1944 he was put on the Gottbegnadeten list and so was exempted from military service even at the home front. After the war Robert Heger continued his career as Staatskapellmeister first at the Deutsche Oper Berlin and from 1950 until his retirement at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. He also served as the president of the University of Music and Performing Arts in Munich from 1950 to 1954. Robert Heger died on 14 January 1978 in Munich (Germany).


Robert Heger received several awards during his lifetime among them are the Commander's Cross of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Bavarian Order of Merit, the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art 1st class, the Johannes-Brahms-Medal of Hamburg and he became honorary citizen of Munich in 1961.


Beside his career as a conductor Robert Heger was also a prolific composer. He composed several operas, among them are "Ein Fest zu Hadersley", "Der verlorene Sohn", "Lady Hamilton", "Der Bettler Namenlos", vocal compositions like his "5 Gesänge nach Versen von Lotte Lehmann, for voice and orchestra", 3 symphonies,
orchestral works like "Ernstes Praeludium und heitere Fuge", "Variationen und Fuge über ein barockes Thema" or "Chaconne und Fuge über eine Zwölftonreihe", concertos for violin and for cello, string quartet, piano trio, several songs and choral works like "Te Deum ad pacem glorificandam, for soloists, choir, orchestra and organ".


In my possession is the autograph manuscript of the full score of the "Fünf Gesänge nach Versen von Lotte Lehmann, für mittlere Stimme und Orchester op.24". The work was first composed in a version for medium voice and piano in 1933. This version was immediately published by Universial Edition. The orchestral version was created in 1944 and according to my autograph finished on 31 December 1944. The work consists of the five poems by Lotte Lehmann: 1. Ihr meine lieben sonnenhellen Träume, 2. Du den ich wachend nie gesehen, 3. Ich gehe mit geschlossnen Augen, 4. Die wilden Vögel meiner Sehnsucht and 5. So wie ein Schwan. The orchestral version calls for a large orchestra with harp and the work last around 18 minutes.

The world premiere of the orchestral version took place on 9 December 1951 with the Studio-Orchester Beromünster under Robert Heger and the soloist Ria Ginster (soprano). Subsequent performances followed nearly each year with the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra in Munich in the 1950s and 1960s. It is unknown when and by whom the world premiere of the original piano version was given.

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© Tobias Broeker