Gottfried von Einem (24 January 1918 – 12 July 1996) was an Austrian composer. He is known chiefly for his operas influenced by the music of Stravinsky and Prokofiev, as well as by jazz. He also composed pieces for piano, violin and organ.
Einem was born in the Swiss capital Bern into an Austrian diplomat family. According to Einem's publisher, his father was William von Einem, military attaché of the Austro-Hungarian embassy. According to another source, however, he was adopted by Einem, his natural father being the Hungarian aristocrat Count László von Hunyadi. His mother, Baroness Gerta Louise née Rieß von Scheurnschloss, an officer's daughter from Kassel, led a lavish lifestyle between Berlin and Paris. The family moved to Malente in the Prussian Schleswig-Holstein Province, when Gottfried was four years old.
After his school days in Plön and Ratzeburg, Gottfried von Einem went to Berlin in 1937, to study at the State School of Music with Paul Hindemith, who nevertheless had just resigned his post in protest against the Nazi authorities. By the agency of the tenor Max Lorenz, he started an employment as a répétiteur at the Berlin State Opera, where in 1939 Herbert von Karajan became Staatskapellmeister. From 1938 onwards, Einem also worked as an assistant of director Heinz Tietjen at the Bayreuth Festival. In 1941 he began to take counterpoint lessons with Boris Blacher; at that time he wrote his first work, Prinzessin Turandot, at the suggestion of Werner Egk. The ballet was first performed at the Dresden Semperoper conducted by Karl Elmendorff in early 1944 and became a success. Previously in March 1943, Leo Borchard had first performed Einem's composition Capriccio (op. 2) with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
During World War II, in Berlin, Einem helped to both save the life and continue the professional development of young Jewish musician Konrad Latte by employing him as an rehearsal assistant for Prinzessin Turandot and later helping him obtain other employment. Einem obtained a ration book and membership card of the Reich Musicians' Chamber for Latte, and lent him his own pass to the State Opera as well as introducing him to friends who could help his underground existence.
Through Blacher, Einem met his first wife, Lianne von Bismarck, whom he married after the war in 1946. They had a son, Caspar Einem (born 1948), who is now a former Austrian cabinet minister who still sits in the National Council on the Social Democratic bench. In 1953, the family moved back to Vienna. Lianne von Bismarck died in 1962. In 1966 Einem married his librettist, the renowned Austrian playwright and author Lotte Ingrisch. Apart from Vienna, the couple spent much of their time in the Waldviertel of Lower Austria (specifically, at Oberdürnbach and Rindlberg/Großpertholz), a virtually pristine region that clearly inspired not only his own work, but also the literature of Ingrisch.
The composer died in Oberdürnbach in 1996.
Gottfried von Einem composed mainly operas based on dramas. He was internationally recognized after the premiere of his opera Dantons Tod at the Salzburg Festival of 1947. His last operas, starting with Jesu Hochzeit, are based on libretti by his wife.
In 1973 he wrote as a commission of the UN to commemorate the 30th anniversary of its foundation the cantata An die Nachgeborenen for mezzo-soprano, baritone, chorus and orchestra, based on diverse texts. The title is taken from a poem of Bertolt Brecht, translated as To Those Who Follow in Our Wake. The premiere in 1975 in New York with Julia Hamari, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, the Chorus of Temple University and the Wiener Symphoniker was conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini.
In England von Einem had two of his operas premiered within weeks of each other. In May 1973 The Trial (Der Prozess) received its premiere at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London, conducted by Leon Lovett, directed by Fuad Kavur. The following month, at Glyndebourne The Visit of the Old Lady (Der Besuch von Alte Dame) received its British premiere, conducted by John Pritchard and directed by John Cox.
- 1958: City of Vienna Prize for Music (Preis der Stadt Wien für Musik)
- 1960 Associate Member of the Academy of Arts, West Berlin
- 1965: Grand Austrian State Prize for Music (Großer Österreichischer Staatspreis für Musik)
- Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art (1974)
- 1975 Corresponding member of the Academy of Arts, East Berlin
- 1979 Member of the Academy of Arts, West Berlin
- 1993 Member of the Berlin Academy of Arts
- 2002: posthumously Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, for helping save the life of musician Konrad Latte
- Dantons Tod (1947) after the play by Georg Büchner
- Der Prozeß after the novel by Franz Kafka
- Der Zerrissene after Johann Nestroy
- Kabale und Liebe after the play by Friedrich Schiller
- Der Besuch der alten Dame (1971) after the play by Friedrich Dürrenmatt
- Jesu Hochzeit
- Der Tulifant
- Luzifers Lächeln