Composer declares that he’s written his last note

Composer declares that he’s written his last note


norman lebrecht

June 06, 2021

A distressing declaration today from the gifted Austrian composer, Albin Fries. He has clearly been poorly treated by the music biz.

My decision has long been made. I have finally withdrawn as a composer. I gave away my mistuned piano, destroyed most of my CDs, threw out thousands of manuscript pages of my works. For Margarita I composed 2 last song cycles, but now it’s over. I will not compose anything in this life anymore. Neither my 1st prize with Nora at the Bartok Opera Composition Competition nor the great success of Persinette at the Vienna State Opera had any consequences, there are no further performances or commissions in sight.

Of my works, despite the contract with a publishing house, there is not a single printed note so far, the DVD Persinette planned by the State Opera and almost completed has apparently fallen asleep because of Corona or change of management. Every once in a while, a loyal singer sings a song of mine, my piano music and my chamber music, which I love especially and has been freely downloaded ten thousand times on the internet is still shunned by local musicians, probably because they are melodious and not in 7/13 rhythm. This is not just about frustration. There are also other reasons that have prompted me to give up composing.


  • Novagerio says:

    “I have finally withdrawn as a composer. I gave away my mistuned piano, destroyed most of my CDs, threw out thousands of manuscript pages of my works.”
    Alan Hovhannes destroued thousands of manuscripts too.

    – Now, that’ a noble act I wish so many composers the last 75 years would have followed.

  • La plus belle voix says:

    Doblinger Musikverlag. Your move it would seem:

    (Announcement autumn/winter 2020)

  • Nijinsky says:

    How anyone can say: “I will not compose anything in this life anymore.” Apparently he did make a living with it. Is the poor farmer who has to find other means supposed to stop humming to himself, as well?

    Strange thing all of the fuss about how great of a composer Mozart was, when he didn’t compose anything. He listened, and he allowed it to happen. You might even call that God, if not nature (“God forbid”).

    First in reading someone has written their last note (not plus e), I thought (is it now decomposing) and then (is it like being underaged and proposing to Marie Antoinette who knows how many times, when the first is already one too many [jk]). Now I have read the whole thing.

    And I don’t really believe it at all…..

  • J Barcelo says:

    His story is the same as many thousands of composers in history. It may be more difficult for modern composers to get heard, but in the marketplace of ideas apparently his work just can’t compete. It may be fine music with many redeeming qualities. But that alone isn’t enough to attract an audience. Just ask Raff.

    • Ashu says:

      [It may be fine music with many redeeming qualities. But that alone isn’t enough to attract an audience.]

      No. You also need social skills and luck.

  • Jean says:

    Composing should be an inner compulsion, no matter if anyone listens or plays the music… But it is a good thing not to create anything by force.

  • RW2013 says:

    und tschüss!

  • La plus belle voix says:

    Doblinger Musikverlag, your call:

    (Announcement autumn/winter 2020)

  • Charles Clark-Maxwell says:

    “There are also other reasons..”
    That’s a bit of a teaser. I’m sure he’ll find other things to do

  • Ricardo says:

    At one level I feel deeply with Mr. Fries, about whom I had not heard until today (I plead ignorance. I’m sure he has not heard about me either).
    At another, being ignored (both in the sense of “not being known about” or simply not being cared about) is part and parcel of the lives of all but very, very, very few composers. I have worked with some of them. Actual geniuses (yes folks, geniuses) who were treated very badly by the musical environment. We also know of many composers who died not having heard large portions of their music. And then there are weirdoes like Sorabji, who couldn’t care less whether his music was played outside of his house (“I wouldn’t cross the road” – direct quotation). He could afford to be gauche and eccentric and write unfathomably long and complex works, having received a large inheritance. Pianists had to get his permission to perform his works. I also resonate with that: I’d rather my music not be played than it being played badly. I am not the best composer but I am my favourite one (as I suspect all composers will say, if they are honest). I love my music. That’s why I write it. Compared to my composer’s career, Mr. Fries has been positively stellar. Like comparing an ant to an elephant. I also have stopped writing, except for friends and on commission (the latter tends not to happen very often). I have seen, up close, the suffering of much greater composers than I and will not moan about the fact that my music is not being taken care of. I fully understand that, knowing one has something of value to contribute to the world and no-one giving a jot about it leads to suffering. I have also sussed out the debatable fact that it tends to take 50-60 years for “the world” to catch up with work of real value. As a rule the artist who produced it is already dead by then.
    As for “I […] destroyed most of my CDs, threw out thousands of manuscript pages of my works”, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Geirr Tveitt, who lost about 80% of his manuscripts (of which no copies existed elsewhere) in a barn fire. It puts things in perspective.
    I respect Mr. Fries’ decision to stop writing, even if the concept is alien to a creator (I suppose I am not one either, then). Frustration is not a good enough reason, though. I suspect the reasons he is not telling us about are the more interesting ones.
    I wish him best of luck with his life.

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    He’s an accomplished pianist and teacher so he won’t starve. Life is hard – let’s not be too sorry for him

  • AlbericM says:

    He can’t say he’s forgotten, since there are 49 compositions which he has made available through IMSLP, some or all with recordings. This isn’t his first hiatus; he also took a 20-year break starting in 1985, resuming composing in a style he felt more true to himself. I’m always ready to try a new tonal piano piece, so I’m headed there to see if I can make casual friends with his music.

    As for other composers in an earlier style, those pieces by Jorg Demus in the style of Schumann are quite successful and appealing. Now if I could just find the score of those lost Haydn sonatas which the late Robbins Landon thought he had discovered (fresh from the pen of, I believe, another Austrian composer).

    • John Borstlap says:

      There is the music of Jerome Ducros, a brilliant pianist who writes music of the late 19th century:

      It is very difficult to write such music well, as Ducros obviously does, who understands all the dynamics of the language. The fact that this trio is written today, is irrelevant, just a historic fact. The music creates its own stylistic context: Paris 1880 – 1900.

  • James Cook says:

    The pain of not being able to hear the music you have created is indescribable to anyone who is not a composer. Perhaps by stopping composing, he is simply stopping the pain.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Here is a chunk of an opera:

    It is music à la early 20th century, like Strauss, Zemlinsky, Korngold, Schreker, and well-made. ‘Unacceptable’ if it is not written in 1905. if it were dug-out from that period, it were entirely OK and probably quite successful in production.

    But the aesthetics of the music, its style, sounds like a sweet imitation, does not have much personality of its own.

    • Alan Overton says:

      You’d know, John!

      • John Borstlap says:

        I was just saying this! All that stuff sounds the same, but that’s also true of all that old fogey music anyway. There’s just no progress in all that repetition, all those triads etc. etc.


  • I am not sure this is something you can just turn on and off. I stopped composing for two decades, convinced for much the same reasons Albin Fries states, but eventually the muse came back.

    • John Borstlap says:

      She is quite busy nowadays and seems to have a complex schedule, so she cannot serve everybody at the same time.

  • Caznac says:

    You must be one of those people who thinks that composers live on air and sunlight.

  • Rob Keeley says:


  • Duncan Macmillan says:

    I’m guessing you’re not going hungry then.

  • The View from America says:

    … but has he gotten his last haircut?

  • Leonard says:

    He has my sympathy – as do the seemingly legion numbers of composers, administrators and musicians in classical music who have no idea how the basic economic realities of supply and demand might affect their chosen path.

    Declaring to the world that your work or ideology has absolute value and deserves to be rewarded, does not make it so.

  • Gatano says:

    I don’t understand the destroying of a CD collection. It seems petulant. Funny thing is he is featured in a Slipped Disc article. I’d be happy to have an article about me in slipped Disc. No one listens to my music, my CD collection is intact and the public has never heard of me even though I have a fine tenor voice. Yup, that would never make an interesting article.