The Frenzel  Gallery (portraits)

Although no one knows what Frenzel looks like, several artists have attempted to portray his likeness. The resemblance of the individual images is striking. Did each one copy from the other? Or was / is there a model after all?  See for yourself….

FX Frenzl Fuchs 250x350

 Frenzel-Porträt: Michael Fuchs (Bleistiftzeichnung)


“Frenzel bey der Ernte” Gerd Pechstein

From the “Weindeputat” (payment in wine)


This collection includes the most important works from a controversial creative period of Frenzel’s. There are a few references to the fact that the composer was paid in “a half pail of the best wine” (just under 30 litres) at a famous monastery in Lower Austria. Opinions differ about this undocumented period. The controversy begins with the question of which famous monastery is meant. So far, Klosterneuburg and Heiligenkreuz in Lower Austria have been mentioned but it could very well have been a different one.

content_bild_kuriosesIn his widely acclaimed essay,

“The Power of Silence – about the rests in Frenzel’s works”, F. Schwehla wrote that it would be rather improbable “for Frenzel to have been able to have consumed such huge amounts of wine daily. That would have permanently elicited grave changes in the arrangement of rests, which however is not detectable.” Schrapfeneder is also sceptical, and mentions that when one considers the grape harvest per hectare in the 18th century, the payment of such an enormous amount wine would have equalled the entire yield for one whole year.

F. Katt, on the other hand, stands by the theory of the payment in wine, the basis for the 1st Katt axiom, and uses this theory to conclusively explain the harmonic and rhythmic conception of several of Frenzel works. The 1st Katt axiom says that on 1st December 1776, in the monastery Stift Klosterneuburg, Franz Xaver Frenzel was awarded with remuneration for his compositions with several litres of the best wine on a daily basis. The amount of wine that Frenzel actually consumed correlates with the product of the number of composed bars and the square of the noted therein. (W=tn”). The consumption of wine lasted uninterruptedly until 28th September 1806. The period of payment in wine begins with the writing of the pieces for trumpet and organ, and lasts up to the “Stainprunner Codices”, or to be exact the “Hasty Retreat Minuet”, which represents Frenzel’s clear and self-imposed break with the period.

Sonata in Swing (Concert in G-Major)

According to Katt this is one of the main works of Frenzel’s artistic period during which he was paid in wine (the infamous Weindeputat). In the autumn of 1797, lost in reverie, he noticed the uniform stroke of the thrashers in the farm buildings of the monastery. The stirring feeling of the pounding transported him into an intoxicated condition and caused him to develop a vague vision of syncopated dance steps and jumps that he put down on paper and thus created a masterpiece that anticipated the harmonies and rhythms of the second half of the 20th century.

From the late 60s up to the 80s several musicians tried to imitate this period of Frenzel’s where he was paid in wine. Their inspiration for creating musical works of art, however, came through drugs. In doing so, they oriented themselves on themes that were clearly first penned by Frenzel. Undoubtedly the most famous cover version of a Frenzel theme is “Lady Madonna” by the Beatles. The jury is still out on these experiments and proof will not be final for around 200 years.

Stainprunner Codices

This title comprises various pieces that Frenzel originally created without any exterior context.

The name „Steinprunner codices“ was created by chance. Ever since F. Cikanek has been looking into Frenzel’s diaries in great detail, is has been well known that the master spent the turn of the century 1805-05 in a town known today by the name of Steinabrunn in the wine region of Lower Austria. At this time he completed the works and gave the collection this name. A short time later, after Frenzel sobered up he hastily took his leave of the wine region and, thus ending, as F. Katt believes, his artistic period of composing for payment in wine.

Right before he left Frenzel wrote a minuet for his host. But since its premier took place in bitterly cold weather, it was a disaster. A strong wind blew the sheet music from the conductor’s stand. The musicians abruptly stopped playing, tried to collect the sheets as they were flying around and fled inside out of the cold.

Frenzel made sure that this situation was saved for posterity by ending each individual part at the spot where it had been when this act of nature occurred. He named the piece “The Getaway Minuet” in reference to his abrupt departure and the unusual situation at the premier and added it to the “Stainprunner codices” as the final piece.

This anecdote that was written down by H. Ziolkowsko explains the title and the unusual form of the work and that it was influenced by an amorous adventure of the composer. It is highly entertaining but without any historical verification. Ziolkowosko’s criticism that Frenzel would have done better by underscoring the abrupt departure with a fugue does not lack a sense of humour, but given the true circumstances under which the work was composed it is more of a legendary nature.


Concerts for Trumpet and Organ

The concerts for trumpet and organ mark a decisive turning point in the development of the composer Franz Xaver Frenzel: in the summer of 1796 when Frenzel was already an accomplished composer, he received commissions for compositions from the Heiligenkreuz Monastery in Lower Austria. These commissions came after he had had informal contact with the monks who, on the recommendation of the Prince Archbishop of Salzburg, had been giving him accommodation at the monastery then and again since the spring of 1773. To compensate for his stays there, Frenzel composed various smaller works for festive church services, most of which have unfortunately been lost. In August 1796, Frenzel began working on the Christmas concert, which was originally planned for 6 trumpets. It could not be completed because in the few years after the death of Josef II the monastery could not yet achieve the earlier pomp and pageantry of festival church services. And so the required instruments and musicians could not be found and Frenzel was forced to resort to a piece for trumpet and organ.

In order to achieve a best possible sound effect with this down-sized version, Fremzel wrote to the Cologne Cathedral trumpeter Sebastian Leisentritt in September and asked him to come to Heiligenkreuz to take over the trumpet part at the high mass on the 25th of December. It was not at all easy for the elderly Leisentritt to convince the chapter in Cologne that his presence there at Christmas was not absolutely necessary. After numerous requests, he finally was granted leave in mid-November and was able to travel to Heiligenkreuz.

In the meantime, Frenzel had not been idle and thanks to his enormous experience and inspiration he was able to finish his work on the Christmas Concert on the 26th of November, 1796. On the evening of the 28th of November there was an approbation performance whereby Frenzel sat at the organ and at the same time played the trumpet part with his left hand.

In spite of this makeshift performance, the monks voiced unanimous enthusiasm. The only criticism came from the few who had indentified with the reforms of Josef II. Due to this success and the time frame in which it took place, Katt came to the conclusion that the system of payment in wine had started on 1st December, 1796, and had been established as compensation for Frenzel’s work as a composer. At the same time, this system would have been connected to the intention of committing Frenzel to working for the monastery, thereby keeping him there to create their church music.

Right after Frenzel finished the Christmas Concerto, he wrote a few more concerts for trumpet and organ which he wanted to perform together with Sebastian Leisentritt. However, except for the Birthday Concert, these pieces have all been lost and there is no record of the performances.

Sinfonia Concertante in G Minor

Under the direct influence of his studies of Concerti Grossi by Arcangelo Corelli, who had died around 100 years earlier, Frenzel drafted around 1770 long passages of a solo piece for cembalo but could not decide on its final, performable form. In 1776 the piece for cembalo was still unfinished when in Udine Frenzel, during an intensive but short affair with the wife of a prominent Venetian, was surprised and honoured to receive a contract for a composition for a string orchestra.
Finding himself in this sticky situation, he remembered his unfinished draft and in a hurry and plagued by a lack of concentration, honed it into a work that could be performed, fully conscious of the mistakes he was making, thinking that he could later revise the piece.

A few days after the premier of this piece Frenzel beat an unexplained hasty retreat from Udine, forgetting to take along with him a copy of the version for orchestra. Thus the work was never revised as planned and the piece has been passed down to us as a diamond in the rough.

In spite of, or perhaps even due to its shortcomings, the Sinfonia Concertante in G Minor is an example of the almost ingenious way in which Frenzel is able to use orchestral effects and surprise the listener with continuously new tones.

Eyne Wasser- und Jagdsymphonie

für großes und kleines Orchester

Das Werk stammt aus den Anfängen einer äußerst bewegten Periode. Aus verschiedenen Briefen wissen wir, dass Frenzel ab 1771 vermutlich zwischen Pressburg und Paris gänzlich ruhelos umherzog.

Zusammentreffen mit Goethe in Wetzlar 1772 und mit Mozart in Salzburg 1773 finden zum Teil unmittelbaren Niederschlag in Frenzels Schaffen. Gerade Mozart dürften durch sein Beispiel Frenzels Interesse für symphonische Form geweckt haben. Gleichzeitig hat der Umstand, dass Mozart auf seiner italienischen Reise gerade einen hohen päpstlichen Orden erhalten hatte, zu einer gewissen Rückbesinnung Frenzels auf seine Wurzeln in der Kirchenmusik geführt.

Johann Gottfried Keller hat 1788 die “Wasser- und Jagdsymphonie” in der Form gehört, wie sie bis auf uns gekommen ist. Die Instrumentierung läßt erkennen, dass Frenzel bereits voll die Formatierung des Orchesterklangbildes durch die großen barocken Festsäle der einflussreichen europäischen Herrscherhäuser nutzte und die ursprünglichen Freiluftaufführungen nur mehr in Ausnahmefällen stattfanden.

Trotzdem hat Frenzel die Untertitel zum zweiten, dritten und vierten Satz entgegen der endgültigen Aufführungspraxis zumindest zum Teil unverändert aus der Originalfassung übernommen und dadurch bewußt aus dem Konzertsaal heraus den Kontakt zur freien Natur aufrecht erhalten. Dies dürfte auch damit zusammenhängen, dass er mit einigen musikalischen Ideen sehr persönliche Erinnerungen assoziierte, etwa die an seine Cousine Marie-Luise, die er 1772 kennenlernte. Sie dürfte es sein, die er durch das “Nixen-Motiv” im zweiten und dritten Satz der Nachwelt überlieferte.


String Symphony in F

The String Symphony in F Major was Frenzel’s attempt to make audiences forget the weaknesses of the lost Sinfonia Concertante in G Minor and create a masterpiece that he thought would not lose its significance, even in the distant future of music. For reasons we do not know, the work that was written in Au, Upper Austria and first performed in Linz was radically disapproved of by most of his influential contemporaries.

Most probably due to this disappointment, an embittered Frenzel locked the sheet music up in a secret compartment of his desk, where they were discovered by a restorer in 1976. Friedemann Katt, who just happened to be there when it was found, accurately attributed it to Franz Xaver Frenzel and took the papers with him.

The concurrence of two incidences – Katt’s lack of care in the handling of sheet music and the clumsiness of a messenger – led to the following scene: the bundle of sheet music of Frenzel’s earlier works including the symphony for strings that was meant to be taken to the printers fell to the ground and due to the incompetence of the messenger boy, the pages became mixed up with those of Katt which he had carelessly thrown on the ground.

This mistake could not be corrected before the piece went into printing. The work was originally thought to be a masterpiece by Katt, but now is unanimously credited to Franz Xaver Frenzel. Even Katt himself is of the opinion that he is not longer able to draw the line between the individual sections of the work.
With his successful anticipation of the elements of harmonies and rhythm in the 20th century Frenzel reached his goal and created a work that anticipated future developments in music.

Dances for the Organ

Already in 1771 and 1772, Frenzel occasionally composed dances for the organ. He wrote the major part of these short sacral inspired works almost immediately one after the other on the advice of his confessor, the monk Arbogast Paracelsus Irrberger.

Irrberger, who was an unknown doctor and mystic, is seen by experts as a forerunner of modern psychotherapy. He had detected that Frenzel was suffering from a guilt complex after having turned away from sacral music. The therapy he recommended was to compose profane dances for the most sacral instrument of all – the organ.

Concert for Tenor Horn and String Orchestra

In the very few letters that Franz Xaver Frenzel wrote one can read that he often complained about the fact that he very seldom was given leave from his duties at Heiligenkreuz monastery to undertake travels necessary for his music. However, when he finally did get away from his organ obligations and was able to travel as a composer he time and again had the most interesting encounters. In one particular case it was with a very unusual instrument: a converted metal ophicleide to which a skillful instrument maker had added sophisticated keys.

This „Baryton“ was being played be a very young, talented musician. He played it with such virtuosity and Frenzel was so enchanted that he cried, “He playeth as on a clarinet.” and immediately dedicated an entire concerto to him. “Forte, piano and groovy” is the notation in his original handwriting.