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Composers

Ingeborg Bronsart von Schellendorf

(1840- 1913)

Ingeborg Bronsart von Schellendorf, née Starck (1840-1913), was born to Swedish parents in St Petersburg. In the late 1850s, she studied with Franz Liszt, who greatly encouraged her; in 1861 she married the composer-conductor Hans Bronsart von Schellendorff (1830-1913)

In the years immediately after her marriage, von Bronsart maintained a glittering concert career across Europe which was halted by her husband’s appointment as Intendant of the Hanover Court Theatre in 1867. No longer permitted to perform in public, she turned her considerable energies to composition and running her influential salon in Hanover, which hosted many of Europe’s leading musicians, writers and artists. While she adhered to some of the traditional gender restrictions of her day, she managed to get her work published by prestigious houses like Breitkopf & Härtel and Schott, and her operas were performed across Germany. Von Bronsart moved to Weimar in 1887 for her husband’s work, and later to Munich.

An ambitious figure, von Bronsart championed an aesthetic shared by Liszt and Wagner, the so-called New German School. Her piano concerto, probably lost, was performed under Joseph Joachim in Hanover in 1863. Having concentrated initially on chamber music for her own performances, she increasingly turned to vocal music from the mid-60s. Her opera Jery und Bätely was performed with great success in Weimar in 1873 before performances in over ten other German cities. Her Kaiser-Wilhelm March was written in 1871 for the triumphant re-entry of the German troops to Berlin after the Franco-Prussian War; it was also performed for the opening of the Women’s Section of the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893.

Her work fell into obscurity after her death and to date, there is still no thorough study of her compositions and very few recordings. However, she composed four operas in total and approximately eighty Lieder, which were published from 1865 onwards. Her style is lavish, dramatic, free in form and reveals her excellent pianistic skills.

Her choice of poets and poetry includes established favourites such as Heine’s ‘Die Lorelei’, as well as figures like Goethe and Rückert; famous Orientalists like Platen and especially Bodenstedt (whose Russian translations were highly influential); and Klaus Groth, who wrote in Low German dialect, and was a good friend of Brahms. Much unpublished music is held in the Berlin State Library and the Deutsches National Theater und Staatskapelle Weimar.

© Natasha Loges, 2022

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Die Loreley

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