Exile in the Hometown

Vienna 1933–1938


"Am I not Viennese? Not one of the truest in every respect?"
Zemlinsky

Zemlinsky loved his hometown more than anything else. This may also have been a decisive reason why in autumn 1933 he left Berlin and returned to Vienna, unlike Schoenberg who fled to find a safer refuge in foreign territory. Although in the mid 1930s there was no immediate danger for Zemlinsky and his family, the signs of political repression especially in the arts were very evident. Despite his great renown as a conductor Zemlinsky was no longer able to obtain a permanent position in musical life in Vienna. Increasingly the city proved to be for him a "sinking lifeboat".

At first the family lived in an apartment in the Mariannengasse (9th district). In 1934 they had a house built in the Kaasgrabengasse in the elegant 19th district (Grinzing) according to plans by the Hoffmann pupil Walter Loos, whose modern style allegedly aroused the attention of some visitors. In 1933 Zemlinsky took over as director of the Vienna Concert Orchestra which had been founded in 1931 by Hermann Scherchen. Zemlinsky only conducted for one season because in 1934 Paul Breisach was appointed "permanent conductor". In 1935 the orchestra had to be disbanded because of lack of funding. Nevertheless Zemlinsky continued to have several engagements as a guest conductor abroad.

Zemlinsky was finally able to fulfil at least one wish: he could devote himself entirely to composing. As a result his late œuvre was very varied and in all genres he as it were reflected his entire forty-year long career and again found new forms of expression. He concentrated his work on the opera Der König Kandaules (1935-38), encouraged by the great success of his opera Kreidekreis which had received its world premiere on 14 October 1933. He also wrote the Sinfonietta (1934), the Fourth String Quartet (1935) and Psalm 13 for Choir and Orchestra (1936). However, from 1937 the political situation became so oppressive that it was impossible for him to continue working. After Hitler's invasion of Vienna the family planned to escape in spring 1938.



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Police de-registration, issued on 27 September 1933 in Berlin-Schöneberg, signed by Louise Zemlinsky. After the seizure of power by the Nazis and the prohibition of employment for Jews in state service decreed in 1933, Zemlinsky resigned his position at the Berlin Academy of Music. On 27 September 1933 he left the city with his wife and daughter for Vienna.