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Gustav Adolf Schlemm

Gustav Adolf Schlemm was born on 17 June 1902 in Giessen (Germany) and later moved with his parents to Wetzlar. From 1918 to 1923 Gustav Adolf Schlemm studied under Bernhard Sekles (composition), Ernst Engesser (piano) and Hans Bassermann (conducting) at the Hoch'schen Konservatorium in Frankfurt am Main.

After his studies Gustav Adolf Schlemm first worked as a repetiteur at the opera in Königsberg (now called Kaliningrad) for one year. In 1924 he became Opernkapellmeister at the theatre in Münster (Westphalia) and fulfilled this position until 1929. The next two years Gustav Adolf Schlemm was music director in Herford and Bad Salzuflen until he was appointed prinicipal Kapellmeister of the Staatskapelle Meiningen in 1931.


In this position Gustav Adolf Schlemm dared to conduct Jewish composers like Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Gustav Mahler and Bernhard Sekles. And in February 1933 - only a few days after the coming into poser of the Nazi regime - Gustav Adolf Schlemm presented a concert with the famous but (from the point of view of the Nazi regime) controversial and ostreperous Paul Hindemith. On the whole led this to the deposition of Gustav Adolf Schlemm in Meiningen for the next season.


Therefore Schlemm moved to Berlin and earned a living from occasional jobs. In 1935 he was appointed Kapellmeister at the Hamburg Broadcasting, a position he held for only one year. It is unknown why this appointment was discontinued, but in 1936 Eugen Hadamovsky, the national radio production director, also cancelled the programmed broadcasting of the "Christgeburtskantate" by Gustav Adolf Schlemm. It seems that Schlemm was a tolerated but undesirable person for the Nazi regime and so again he worked as a freelance composer and conductor till the end of World War II.


Then he moved back to Wetzlar and founded there the symphony orchestra and the choral society. Gustav Adolf Schlemm also continued his work as a composer. In 1970 he was awarded the German Cross of Merit for his lifetime achievements. Gustav Adolf Schlemm died on 12 July 1987 in Wetzlar (Germany).


The work catalogue of Gustav Adolf Schlemm contains 2 symphonies, several other orchestral compositions, concertos for violin, piano, cello and horn, the oratorio "In media vita" for soloists, choir and orchestra, the "Christgeburtskantate", a mass for choir and orchestra, chamber music like a viola sonata, a sonatina for oboe and piano, works for piano solo as well as songs.


In my possession is the autograph piano reduction of the "Christgeburtskantate" (Nativity cantata). The original version is scored for soloists, choir and large orchestra, was composed in 1934 and later published by Zimmermann. According to my manuscript the words are "compiled from texts of 5 centuries by Lotte Theile". The piano reduction was finished in Hamburg on 31 March 1936 and remains unpublished.

As I described above the world premiere of the cantata was scheduled for 1936 but was cancelled on short notice by Eugen Hadamovsky, most likely for "Nazi reasons". Therefore it is no surprise that the world premiere had to wait until 29 December 1947 when the Giessener Konzertverein premiered the cantata under Karl-Heinz Eckert.

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