LUDWIG THUILLE (1861 - 1907)
The German composer and teacher Ludwig Thuille seems to have been unjustly relegated to a footnote in accounts of the early life of his friend Richard Strauss. Thuille was born in 1861 in Bozen (Bolzano), the son of a book and art dealer, but was orphaned in childhood, with the death of his mother in 1867 and of his father in 1872. He had his early piano lessons from his father, and became a chorister at the Benedictine foundation at Kremsmünster, assuring him a free place at the associated gymnasium, where he studied the piano and violin, and developed his early interests in composition. In 1876 he settled in Innsbruck
with his married half-sister. Here he received encouragement from Pauline Nagiller, widow of the musician and composer Matthäus Nagiller, and was able to study with a pupil of Bruckner. The following year, through Josepha Strauss, mother of Richard Strauss, and her husband Franz, on holiday in Innsbruck, Thuille met Richard Strauss, with whom he struck up an important friendship, and it was through Franz Strauss that he later found a place at the Royal Music School in Munich. Three years Richard Strauss’s senior, Thuille continued to correspond from Innsbruck with Richard Strauss, and their correspondence has been much quoted as evidence of the young Strauss’s early conservative tendencies and prejudices, with only the letters of Strauss surviving. In 1879 Thuille moved to Munich, studying there at the Royal Music School under Rheinberger and Karl Bärmann. At the same time he was influenced, as was Strauss, by
contact with the Wagnerian Alexander Ritter, whom Strauss had first known in Meiningen. On graduation Thuille started work as a private music-teacher, before his
appointment in 1883 to the Royal Music School as a teacher of piano and harmony. In 1890 he was appointed professor and in 1893 succeeded his teacher Rheinberger as professor of composition. Thuille enjoyed an early career in Munich as a pianist, particularly in chamber music, and from 1889 won a reputation as conductor of a men’s choir, Liederhort, while earning distinction as a composer and as a teacher. It was in the latter capacity that he was chiefly remembered, his academic position tending to develop the more conservative aspect of his composition, distancing him from Strauss, with whom, nevertheless, he remained on friendly terms until his early death in 1907. A leader of the so-called Munich School that reflected the influences of Rheinberger and of Liszt and Wagner, Thuille wrote choral music and songs. His operas included two fairy-tale works, Lobetanz and Gugeline, with libretti by the writer and editor Otto Julius Bierbaum that had originally, it seems, been intended for Strauss, and his orchestral works include a piano concerto, a symphony and a Romantic Overture. At the same time he made a then significant contribution to chamber music and to a lesser extent to solo piano music. At the time of his death he was preparing for publication his important Harmonielehre, a collaboration with Rudolf Louis, a work later edited by his former pupil Walter Courvoisier, who
married Thuille’s daughter.