Georg von Albrecht
was born in Kazan (Russia) on March 19, 1891 and died in Heidelberg (Germany) on March 15, 1976. He was the fifth child of the German mathematician Johann Gottlieb David von Albrecht, Privy Counsellor at St. Petersburg, and of Barbara, born Miscenko, a Russian pianist.
After completing his studies at the lyceum of Tsarskoe Selo with a gold medal he studied philosophy in St. Petersburg and piano and composition in Stuttgart with Max von Pauer, Theodor Wiehmayer, and Heinrich Lang (1911-1913; final examination as a performing pianist: 1913).
There followed studies of counterpoint with Sergey I. Taneev (Moscow, 1914-1915) and of composition and instrumentation with Alexander Glazunov and Jazeps Wihtol (St. Petersburg, 1917-1918), and with Ewald Straesser (Stuttgart, 1923). He taught at conservatories in Yalta (1918), Moscow (1921) and Stuttgart, first at Karl Adler's Conservatory (beginning in 1925), then at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik (1936 – 1956), where in 1946 he became Professor and Vice-Director. After 1956 he taught at Heidelberg. He was awarded the Glinka Prize in 1961, the Stamitz Prize in 1966, and the First Russian-German Cultural Prize (posthumously in 1991). He composed piano works, chamber music, orchestra works, songs, operas, choral works, and works for organ.
Albrecht loved to collect and analyze musical folklore; for instance, he discovered ancient Greek tetrachords in Byzantine church music. Because he did not reject any modern trends in his teaching, during the so-called Third Reich he was menaced by being banned from the classroom.
Having met A. Scriabin and V. Rebikov he furthered the development of modern music as a composer: He inquired into the polarity of overtones and of their specular reflection in our minds, the 'undertones'. These new dimensions were congenial to his striving for artistic 'economy' and transparency of structure. Even his twelve-tone compositions combine strictness of architecture with a melodic line. Polytonality and polyrhythms serve to underscore the independence of each single voice. In sonata developments and in fugues the simultaneous appearance of different keys helps to form a climax, which remains an innovative technique. Occasionally, the composer considered this phenomenon a symbol of peaceful coexistence of different peoples and world-views. His music lends a melodic foundation to non-functional harmony. Modal systems of folk music, together with overtones, undertones and serial techniques, form an individual musical language, which, despite its highly reflective character, has an immediate musical appeal.