Alexander Zemlinsky was born in Vienna and studied Piano and Organ from an early age at the Vienna Conservatory studying with Fuchs and Bruckner. After beginning writing early compositions at the age of around 20, he found a valuable supporter in Brahms who recommended him to Simrock for publication. He became close friends with Schoenberg musically and personally when Schoenberg married his sister. Mahler conducted the premier of his Opera (Once Upon a Time), sealing the young composer's reputation.

His reputation and career kept building until he escaped from the Nazis in 1938 and fled to the USA, settling in New York. His health deteriorated and he was neglected and he ceased composing up to his death in 1942.

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