Franz Schreker was among those composers whose works were eclipsed by the rise of National Socialism in the Germany of the 1930s. His first stage work was the one-act Flammen, given a concert performance in 1902. It appears that he had already begun work on Der Ferne Klang (The Distant Sound) at that time, but concerns (his own and those of others) over the work's highly charged eroticism resulted in hesitation and delay. The sensation surrounding the premiere of Richard Strauss' Salome in 1905, however, caused Schreker to gather courage and move ahead with composition, first completing the interlude separating the two scenes of Act Three. When this Nightstück was included in a Viennese concert in 1909, earning a warm response, Schreker resolved to move forward with the rest of the opera, completing it within a month's time in September 1910.
Additional delays occurred when the composer sought an opera house to mount the work. It was rejected by the Budapest Opera, but later accepted by Felix von Weingartner for production by the Vienna Court Opera. Following Weingartner's retirement, management delayed, feeling that they were no longer obligated to pursue bringing the work to their stage. Finally, Ludwig Rottenburg undertook a production at Frankfurt-am-Main in August 1912, and the opera enjoyed success beyond the imagination of all involved. This triumph, along with the enthusiastic reception of his later Die Gezeichneten (1918) and Der Schatzgräber (1920), would secure his reputation. This was all to be short lived: the rising influence of the Nazi party caused increasing problems for the composer, and in 1933 he was dismissed from his position at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik. His music was banned in Germany. The stress from these events led to a fatal heart attack in 1934.
Renewed interest in Schreker's music in general, and in Der Ferne Klang in particular, stems largely from his skillful orchestrations -- an uncommon ability to manage the very large forces in his orchestra, and his genuine gift for realizing in musical terms elusive and ephemeral feelings. In Der Ferne Klang, Fritz pursues his distant, blessed sound, forsaking his youthful love Grete. When he finds her again, she has become a courtesan, hardened in her need to survive Fritz's having abandoned her. Reunited with her at the opera's conclusion, happiness is fleeting, for Fritz, finally hearing the music of his imagination, dies in Grete's arms.