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German composer, teacher, theorist, pupil of Schenker's.

Career Summary

Vrieslander studied piano and composition in Düsseldorf 1891-1900, at the Cologne Conservatory 1909-02, and composition in Munich 1904-1911. After brief study with Schenker in Vienna, he taught composition, piano, and theory in Ebersberg, nr. Munich 1912-24, then in Naples and Vienna. From 1929, he lived in Switzerland.

Vrieslander was a composer notably of Lieder (including a setting of poems from Giraud's Pierrot lunaire in O. E. Hartleben's translation, dating from 1904 - eight years before Schoenberg's melodrama cycle: both settings were commissioned by Albertine Zehme, but whereas Zehme performed Schoenberg's setting, she was dissatisfied by that of Vrieslander and never performed it).

Vrieslander and Schenker

Vrieslander was a pupil of Schenker only during the 1911/12 season: records survive only for January 5 to March 5, 1912, and Vrieslander took lessons twice a week (Mondays and Thursdays) between January 15 and February 29. He remained in contact with Schenker for the rest of the latter's life as a member of the inner circle of long-time friends, former students, and supporters (others include, e.g., Robert Brünauer, Walter Dahms (a pupil of Vrieslander), Herman Roth, Hans Weisse, Viktor Zuckerkandl, and Reinhard Oppel).

Vrieslander advocated several projects (all ultimately abortive): in 1915, a second edition of Schenker's Harmonielehre (which he used in his own teaching, and on which he wrote three unpublished commentaries between 1910 and 1925 and for which he compiled a list of typographical errors), and adding exercises and assignments (which Schenker resisted); in 1918, a Festschrift for Schenker's 50th birthday; in 1919-20, the founding of a Schenker Institute in Munich; in 1921, with Hoboken, the publishing of inexpensive Urtext editions and a periodical; in 1926-27, a Festschrift for Schenker's 60th birthday; in 1927-28 a monthly Schenker periodical planned by Weisse, Salzer, and Jonas; around 1927, a Schenker monograph-cum-anthology; and in 1932 a student edition (Schulausgabe) of Harmonielehre (of which he was then making a "concentrated" version) for use by Josef Marx at the Vienna Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst (=Conservatory). After Schenker's death, Jeanette Schenker wished Vrieslander to produce a new edition of the Harmonielehre, gave him Schenker's personal annotated copy for this purpose from which he copied out Schenker's numerous additions, and in 1938 signed a contract with him at UE for which he was paid an advance--but the annexation of Austria intervened.

It was Vrieslander who recommended Herman Roth, and Anthony van Hoboken to Schenker. He also advised Hoboken in the building up of the latter's collection of first editions. In 1920, Vrieslander served as intermediary with the publisher J. G. Cotta of Stuttgart by delivering the manuscript of Kontrapunkt 2 to them; and more importantly in 1924 as an intermediary with the Drei Masken Verlag of Munich in dealings that resulted in the publication of Schenker's Das Meisterwerk in der Musik (1925, 1926, 1930), the proofs of which he assisted in correcting.

Impact of Schenker on Vrieslander

After encountering Schenker's Hamonielehre, Vrieslander underwent a sharp break with his previous compositional style (even destroying copies wherever possible), his new beginning occurring in 1916. Schenker thought highly of Vrieslander's work from that time on, describing his Lieder as "the best since the death of [Hugo] Wolf," and "among the best that the Lieder repertory has to offer from the post-Brahms era." Schenker states in 1917 that he commissioned a work from Vrieslander and subsequently paid him money from the stipend fund created by Sofie Deutsch.

Under Schenker's influence, Vrieslander made a "critical edition with elucidatory appendix" (dedicated to Schenker) of C. P. E. Bach's Kurze und leichte Clavierstücke: Neue kritische Ausgabe mit erläuterndem Nachwort (Short and easy keyboard pieces: new critical edition with elucidatory afterword) (Vienna: UE, 1914), which the cover title significantly characterized as: Erläuterungsausgabe (elucidatory edition: the term that Schenker himself used for his publications on the late Beethoven piano sonatas); he also published the edition C. P. E. Bach: Lieder und Gesänge (Munich: Drei Masken Verlag, 1922) and wrote the monograph Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (Munich: Piper, 1923), and contributed the article "Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach als Theoretiker" to Von neuer Musik (Cologne 1925) and Ganymed iv (1922). Vrieslander also wrote articles about Schenker and his work: Musikblätter des Anbruch , February/March 1923; Die Musik , xix/1 (October 1926), 33-38; Deutsche Tonkünstler-Zeitung, March 5, 1928; and Der Kunstwart xliii (1930), 181-189.


The majority of the correspondence between Schenker and Vrieslander forms part of the Vrieslander Nachlaß, which is privately owned by Heribert Esser (the letters from Vrieslander to Schenker having been mostly returned by Jeanette Schenker). There are 18 letters from Vrieslander to Schenker in the Oster Collection (OC 18/5-22 passim; OC 54/11-140 passim (Cotta-Verlag); OC 69/2-3: 1925-26, 1932-33); 2 letters from Schenker to Vrieslander and 12 from Otto and Helene Vrieslander to Schenker in the Jonas Collection (OJ 5/42 and OJ 15/4: 1912, 1917-20, 1935-39), and 5 from the Vrieslanders and Herman Roth to Schenker (OJ 13/30: undated); 1 from Vrieslander to Violin (OJ 70/43: 1912), 1 from Vrieslander to Robert Brünauer (OJ 71/37: undated), 1 from Hans Weisse to Vrieslander (OJ 71/40: [1918], concerning the 50th birthday Festschrift), and a portrait of Vrieslander and Roth (OJ 72/13). The Vrieslander correspondence is an invaluable repository of biographical information about Schenker himself, his pupils, and contemporaries.

Vrieslander's list of errors in, and his copy of a portion of Schenker's additions to, Harmonielehre survive as OJ 18/6; his three commentaries (72pp, 468pp, 472pp), are in the possession of Mr. Esser.


  • Baker's1971
  • NGDM2 (2201 and online)
  • "Otto Vrieslander," in Eybl, M. & Fink-Mennel, E., eds, Schenker-Traditionen: Eine Wiener Schule der Musiktheorie und ihre internationale Verbreitung (Vienna: Böhlau, 2006), pp. 246-47, also pp. 188-89, 196-99 et passim
  • Oster Collection Finding List
  • Jonas Memorial Collection Checklist
  • Wason, Robert, "From 'Harmonielehre' to 'Harmony': Schenker's Theory of Harmony and its Americanization," in Cadwallader, A., ed., Essays from the Fourth International Schenker Symposium (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 2008), pp. 213-58
  • Private communications from Heribert Esser
  • Private communication from Robert Wason

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