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Karl Scheidemantel

Karl Scheidemantel was born on 21 January 1859 in Weimar (Germany). His father was the local court cabinetmaker and so the family was well-off and part of the artistic circles in Weimar. After school Karl Scheidemantel first attended the teacher course but his singing abilities were soon discovered by Bodo Borchers. So Karl Scheidemantel quit his teacher course and studied singing under Bodo Borchers.


Already in 1878 he debuted as Wolfram in "Tannhäuser" at the Hoftheater in Weimar with immediate success. Dozens of performances followed in the next years and Karl Scheidemantel became a friend of Franz Liszt, who supported his career. From 1882 to 1883 Karl Scheidemantel completed his studies under Julius Stockhausen in Frankfurt and continued his position in Weimar. A year later he was awarded "Chamber Singer to the Saxon Grand Duke" (großherzoglich-sächsischer Kammersänger) and in 1886 moved to Dresden to become a member of the Semperoper, a position he held for 25 years.

In addition Karl Scheidemantel sang several times at the Bayreuth festivals (1886, 1888, 1891 and 1892) as well had performances at the major European opera houses like the Vienna Hofoper, the Scala in Milan or at Covent Garden in London.

Among the most notable performances of Karl Scheidemantel are his appearances at the Bayreuth festivals where was admired by Cosima Wagner and the conductors Levi, Mottl and Strauss. Scheidemantel also sang in the world premieres of "Feuersnot" and Rosenkavalier" by Richard Strauss. Other world premieres include operas by Ignacy Paderewski (Manru), Leo Blech (Das war ich!, Alpenkönig und Menschenfeind), Max von Schillings (Der Moloch), Reinhold Becker (Frauenlob), August Bungert (Homerische Welt) and Paul Umlauft (Evanthia).


In 1911 Karl Scheidemantel quit his singing career, but continued to work as dramatic advisor and director at the Hofoper in Dresden. He also gave private singing lessons and wrote books on singing education.


Karl Scheidemantel died on 26 June 1923 in Dresden (Germany).

Karl Scheidemantel as a composer


In my possession is a music book that includes a handful of handwritten compositions which I think were composed by Karl Scheidemantel. To prove how I come to this conclusion I have to describe the book:

In a collection of old printed music scores I found a hardback music manuscript book. It consists of 96 empty music sheets for own compositions. The front cover shows a label with the handwritten name "Charlotte Scheidemantel" and the date "April 1866". The first 20 pages contain copies of published piano compositions in a clean handwriting. These compositions are by Niels Wilhelm Gade (In the Flower-Garden op.34 No.1), Carl Czerny (No.9 from "Schule der Geläufigkeit" op.40, issue 2), Franz Schubert/Franz Liszt (Ständchen), Frederic Chopin (Impromptu op.29) and Adolf Henselt (Allegro from "Douze Etudes" op.2). Then 67 empty pages follow. The remaining 9 pages contain five musical compositions in a different handwriting. Two small untitled piano composition ("Moderato" and "Allegro") and three songs for voice and piano. These three songs are on the poems "O Liebe, deine Gedanken" and "Das Meer ist still, die Stürme schlafen" by Julius Sturm and on "Weil auf mir, du dunkles Auge" by Nikolaus Lenau.

As far as I could research these handwritten musical settings are not identical to published songs. Second the manuscripts also name only the author of the poem, not a composer. And third the compositions contain a few corrections and later additions. These three observations let me think that the five compositions are own works by the previous owner of the book. But who can it be?

If one look into the family of Karl Scheidemantel one notices that his father Hermann Scheidemantel (1833-1910) was married to a Johanne Christiane Charlotte Scheidemantel nee Bauch (1839-1906). So the Charlotte Scheidemantel from the front cover of my book could be the mother of Karl Scheidemantel. In the biography of Karl Scheidemantel by Paul Trede (published in 1911), the author describes the mother and the family situation during the childhood of Karl Scheidemantel as follows:


"His mother was of a fine and energetic nature; an enthusiastic theatergoer who was constantly stimulated by the personal contact with the artists. Scheidemantels lived for years in a house with Eduard Genast, the main director of the Weimar court theater, and almost all of them from the theater and the academy came to the studio. Otto Lehfeld, Lenbach, Böcklin, Gussow to get advice on frame issues." (p.5)


This proves that the mother of Karl Scheidemantel was highly interested in the different arts and there is a fair chance that she was an amateur pianist. So making copies of actual piano compositions for her leisure time or training makes sense. But it doesn't seem like Charlotte Scheidemantel was musical trained to compose music. So who could have used the book and write down some works? The Scheidemantels had four children: Karl Scheidemantel was the oldest and then followed Eduard (1862-1945, who became professor for literature), Elisabeth (1866-1881, who died with the age of 15) and Fritz (1867-1933, who became cabinetmaker and continued the studio of the father). From these four children Karl Scheidemantel seems to be the obvious one for composing own songs.


All these thoughts indicate that the five compositions at the end of the manuscript book were composed by Karl Scheidemantel. Another indication is the very similar handwriting. I compared some autograph letters by Karl Scheidemantel with the handwritten texts in the songs and they could be from the same hand:

So a possible story could go like this: Charlotte Scheidemantel - the mother of Karl Scheidemantel - took an empty music manuscript book in 1866 and copied a few piano pieces into the book for studies or pleasure. For unknown reasons she stopped filling the book and put it aside. Some years later - around 1875 - Karl began to study singing under Bodo Borchers but still lived at home. A part of the activities of Bodo Borchers were private recitals where he and his students sang (and where Karl was "discovered" in 1878). Maybe Karl Scheidemantel wanted to contribute to such an event with own songs. He took the former and mostly empty book of his mother and wrote down his compositions.


I think this is a very likely interpretation of the book and therefore I decided to typeset and publish the three songs under the name of Karl Scheidemantel. The scores can be found here:

PDF-Dokument [48.4 KB]
PDF-Dokument [54.3 KB]
PDF-Dokument [57.8 KB]
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