Max Brand (composer)

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The Moogtonium synthesizer
The Moogtonium synthesizer

Max Brand (born April 26, 1896 in Lemberg ; † April 5, 1980 in Langenzersdorf ) was an Austrian-American composer and pioneer of synthesizer and electronic music .


Max Brand moved to Vienna with his parents Jakob and Ida Brand in 1907. After attending private schools in Vienna, Mürzzuschlag and St. Gallen (Switzerland), he studied composition with Franz Schreker from 1919, first in Vienna and then in Berlin (from 1921). In 1924 he returned to Vienna. In the same year he heard a performance of Schönberg's Wind Quintet Op. 26, which made a great impression on him. Since this formative experience, his oeuvre was in part clearly influenced by his twelve-tone technique, for example in his 5 ballads op.10 (based on Else Lasker-Schüler's Hebrew Ballads ) from 1927 or in the Kyrie eleison for a cappella choir from 1940.

Max Brand experienced his most successful period in the last years of the Weimar Republic . He reached the climax of the success curve with his opera Maschinist Hopkins , which premiered on April 13, 1929 in the Duisburg City Theater. Stylistically, this stage work combined elements of Schreker's operatic aesthetics, the constructivism of the Schönberg School and the New Objectivity in the sense of Weill ( Threepenny Opera ) and Krenek ( Jonny plays ). Brand's successful opera was put on the repertoire at 37 other locations by 1932 and translated into at least three languages ​​(but the success quickly ebbed away before 1933). In 1933 the premiere of his opera Requiem at the Berlin State Opera, planned with the conductor Karl Böhm, was banned by the new rulers because Brand was of Jewish descent.

In the early 1930s founded fire in Vienna Mimoplastische Theater for Ballet and the Vienna Opera production at the Raimund Theater . In 1938, as a Jew, he fled the Nazis via Prague and Switzerland, initially to Brazil. Here he met the composer Heitor Villa-Lobos and worked with him for a short time. In 1940 he emigrated to the USA, where he lived until 1975. Among other things, he worked there as head of a theater company and as Vice President of the American League of Authors and Composers from Austria . On May 23, 1944, his scenic oratorio The Gate (1941-43) premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. In New York, Brand set up a recording studio in his apartment. In the 1960s he met the synthesizer pioneer Robert Moog . Brand also contacted the electronic studio in Cologne. Brand was particularly interested in what he called "undertones", the frequencies of which are an integral fraction of the frequency of the fundamental. Together with Moog and Fred Cochran, he built the Moogtonium that was still preserved . The original drawings of many components of early synthesizers can also be found in Brand's estate.

In 1975 Max Brand returned to Austria (Langenzersdorf near Vienna). Brand tried in vain to get the transport insurance reimbursed for the damage suffered during the move to his studio. Nevertheless, he managed to make the studio partially operational with his own resources. In his last creative period, Brand was looking for a way to make electronic music adaptable to the changing tempo of ballet without changing the pitch. On April 4, 1980, Max Brand died as a largely unknown musician in Austria. He was cremated in the Simmering fire hall and buried there in the urn grove in an honorary grave (Department 5, Group 1, Number 3).


The Langenzersdorf Museum is home to Max Brands recording studio with the oldest still functional Moogtonium synthesizer .

The Max Brand Ensemble , which plays contemporary compositions, has existed since 2012 .

Works (selection)

Stage works

  • The seesaw (ballet), 1925
  • Tragödietta (Ballet), 1926, premiered at the Stuttgart Opera House in 1927
  • Machinist Hopkins , op.11 (opera, 3 acts, text: Max Brand), premiered at the Duisburg City Theater on April 13, 1929
  • Requiem (opera, 1 act, text: M. Brand), 1932
  • Cleopatra (opera, 1 act, text: M. Brand), 1934–37, unfinished
  • The Magic Journey (musical comedy, text: R. Goetz), 1934
  • Die Chronik (scenic cantata, text: M. Brand), 1938, unfinished
  • A Musical Freud (Songspiel, 1st act, text; M. Brand), 1941
  • The Gate (scenic oratorio, 2 parts, texts: M. Brand, MA Sohrab, J. Chanler), 1941–43, premiere on May 23, 1944 at the New York Met
  • Stormy Interlude (opera in one act, text: M. Brand), 1955

Vocal music

  • 3 songs for soprano and piano (text: Lao Tse), 1922
  • Night song for soprano and orchestra (Text: Friedrich Nietzsche: Also sprach Zarathustra ), 1922
  • 3 songs (text: J. Ringelnatz), 1924
  • 5 ballads for solo voice and 6 instruments (text: Else Lasker-Schüler), op.10, 1927
  • 4 songs (text: F. Hölderlin), 1935
  • Kyrie Eleison for four-part a cappella choir, 1940
  • The Ballad of Lidice for solo voice and piano, 1942
  • On the Day of Victory for solo voice and piano (text: L. Hughes), 1945

Instrumental music

  • Suite and fugue for piano, 1920
  • 3 pieces for piano, 1921
  • A night music for chamber orchestra, 1922 (revised 1931)
  • String trio , 1923
  • 5 dances from the ballet Tragödietta for orchestra, 1926
  • Peca for flute and piano, 1940
  • United Nations , March for Concert Band, 1942
  • The Wonderfull One-Hoss-Shay for orchestra, 1946

Electronic music

  • Notturmo brasiliero , 1959
  • Meditation , 1960
  • Rhinoceros , 1960
  • Triptych , 1960
  • The Astronauts: an Epic in Electronics , 1961
  • French folk songs for solo singing and electronics, 1962
  • 3 Pieces of Gordon Brown's Transparencies in Motion , 1963
  • 3 Pieces for Dance Group , 1963
  • Ilian I and II , 1966
  • Ilian IV , 1974


  • Mechanical music and the problem of the opera , in: Musikblätter des Anbruchs , viii / 1926, pp. 356–9.
  • The moving opera stage , in: Musikblätter des Anbruchs , ix / 1927, pp. 2–6.
  • On the situation of the opera , in: Blätter der Staatsoper , x / 1930, pp. 7–9.


  • Elisabeth Schimana (ed.): Machines for the opera. The composer Max Brand. With contributions by Thomas Aigner , Thomas Brezinka, Peter Donhauser, Christian Scheib, Elisabeth Schimana, Helmuth Schwarzjirg, Hollitzer Verlag, Vienna 2016, ISBN 978-3-99012-327-0
  • Charlotte Purkis:  Brand, Max (imilian). In: Grove Music Online (English; subscription required).
  • Thomas Brezinka: Max Brand (1896–1980). Life and work. Katzbichler Verlag, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-87397-134-8
  • Habakuk Traber and Elmar Weingarten (eds.): Displaced music. Berlin composer in exile. Argon, Berlin 1987, pp. 220 f., ISBN 3-87024-118-7

Individual evidence

  1. 1907 moved to Vienna
  2. Jew
  3. ^ Moog Foundation
  4. ^ Max Brand recording studio
  5. ^ Max Brand Ensemble
  6. Exhibition Opening The composer Max Brand. Visions, breaks and the insatiable longing for electronic opera

Web links