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Friedrich Cerha

The composer and educator Friedrich Cerha is one of the most widely honored musical figures in contemporary Austria. He has been closely identified with the perpetuation of the legacy of the Second Viennese School, but his activities extend into many other areas. Cerha was born in Vienna on February 17, 1926. He took up the violin at age seven, tried his hand at composition two years later, and quickly progressed, taking counterpoint and harmony classes at Vienna's Realgymnasium in his early teens. At 17, Cerha was drafted into a German Luftwaffe unit. He was able to study at the University of Vienna for one semester but was sent to an officer training program in Denmark. While there, he stole a stack of blank military order documents and deserted, successfully making his way across Germany until he was impressed into a German brigade as Russia neared the German border. He deserted again, walked into Austria, and hid out in the mountains until it was safe to return to Vienna. After completing his education in violin, composition, and general studies at the University of Vienna, Cerha in 1958 cofounded Die Reihe, an ensemble that often performed works of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern (its name means "the row"), and in general he has a strong reputation as an interpreter of their works on the violin. Cerha may be best known for his 1979 completion of Alban Berg's opera Lulu, principally involving his orchestration of the unfinished third act. He has been involved with entirely different kinds of music, however; in 1960 he founded a Camerata Frescobaldiana, and he was a cofounder of a society honoring tonal composer Joseph Marx. As a full professor at the Vienna Conservatory of Music since 1976, Cerha has had distinguished students including Karlheinz Essl. His own works include the opera Der Reise vom Steinfeld, commissioned by the Wiener Staatsoper, Impulse for large orchestra, performed at the 150th anniversary celebration of the Vienna Philharmonic in 2006, and concertos for violin and soprano saxophone. He received the Great Austrian State Prize in 1986, as well as many other Austrian regional and national awards
© James Manheim /TiVo
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