Egon Wellesz, Dr.

21.10.1885 – 9.11.1974
born in Wien, Austria died in Oxford, United Kingdom

Egon Wellesz had graduated at the Philosophical School at the University of Vienna in Musicology on June 24th, 1908 with the academic degree 'Dr. phil.' (dissertation: 'Die Opern und Oratorien Guiseppe Bonnos. [printed in: anthologies of the internationale Musikgesellschaft, Bd. 11, Leipzig 1909, with the title: 'Guiseppe Bonno (1710-1788). Sein Leben und seine dramatischen Werke']'). 

The composer and musicologist, student of Arnold Schoenberg and Guido Adler, friend of Anton von Webern turned in his scientific work from baroque music to Byzantine studies around 1920. He authored basic studies of this discipline and became lecturer ('Privatdozent'), later extraordinary professor ('ao. Prof.') of music history at the Philosophical School of the University of Vienna in 1929. In 1932 he received a honorary doctorate of the University of Oxford.

He was persecuted in times of Nazism as a Jew lost his position and was thrown out of the university in 1938. He was able to emigrate to Oxford/GB together with his wife Emmy Wellesz and their daughters Magda and Elisabeth, where he taught as a professor again.  

On July 22nd, 1943, he - like his wife Emmy Wellesz - was deprived of his academic degree with the racist argument, that he as a Jew was not considered dignified an academic degree of a German university ('eines akademischen Grades einer deutschen Hochschule unwuerdig'). It took 12 years since the deprivation – and a very long time since the end of Nazism – until the regranting of the doctorate took finally place on May 15th, 1955.

He was author of more than 10 works for stage, e.g. Alkestis, 1923 (textbook Hugo von Hofmannsthal); Die Bakchantinnen, 1931. - music for chorus and orchestra, mass, songs, chamber music, many publications, e.g.  Arnold Schönberg, 1921; Der Beginn des musikalischen Barock und die Anfänge der Oper in Wien, 1922; Byzantinische Kirchenmusik, 1927; Die neue Instrumentation, 2 Bände, 1929; A History of Byzantine Music and Hymnography, 1949; Die Hymnen der Ostkirchen, 1962 and he was Co-Editor of the Monumenta Musicae Byzantinae, 1935ff.

Lit.: R. Schollum, Egon Wellesz, 1964; G. Schneider, Egon Wellesz, 1980; Autobiographie, 1981; C. Cepin Benser, Wellesz, 1985; D. Symons, Egon Wellesz, 1997; H. Heher (Redaktion), Egon Wellesz, Ausstellungskatalog, Wien 2000; Neue Österreichische Biographie.

Herbert Posch

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