Education and first compositions
Vienna 1884–1892

Talent emerging everywhere”
Johannes Brahms

Zemlinsky spent eight years studying at the Conservatory of the Society of the Friends of Music in Vienna. After the pre-education school, where from 1884 he attended the piano class of Wilhelm Rauch, he went on to undertake parallel studies in piano (now with Anton door) and harmonic theory (with Robert Fuchs), from 1888/89 chamber music and orchestral practice as well as counterpoint. Finally from 1890-92 he studied composition under Johann Nepomuk Fuchs, brother of Robert Fuchs. Zemlinsky was an excellent student and only once throughout his entire studies did he not receive top marks for a subject. In the last two years of his studies he participated in the composition competition held by the conservatory and in 1890/91 won first prize for the song Des Mädchens Klage, and in 1891/92 second prize for Der Morgenstern. In 1890 he was awarded the Society Medal for outstanding pupils. Zemlinsky received a training that was not very progressive but solid and practical from the Fuchs brothers. Composers such as Mahler, Wolf, Schreker, Sibelius, Enescu and Franz Schmidt also studied for certain periods under Robert Fuchs, who based his teaching in form and counterpoint on an analysis of the classical composes from Fux to Beethoven. Johann Nepomuk Fuchs taught Zemlinsky the craft of composing and as an experienced conductor introduced him to the art of orchestration. Zemlinsky had a close relationship with him and dedicated the score edition of his opus 1, the Ländliche Tänze for piano to him.

However, it was outside the conservatory where Zemlinsky gained more important impressions for the development of his compositional style. Performances of works by Brahms, Wagner, Strauss and Mahler but also the intensive preoccupation with the writings of Schnitzler, Hofmannsthal, Dehmel or Bahr made a decisive mark on his style and own artistic awareness. Some of the early songs, but more especially the Symphony in D minor (1892) composed as the final examination piece of his studies, reveal Zemlinsky's clear, richly coloured and, particularly in the melodic invention, very personal signature.