Fleischmann, Aloys Georg (1910–92), composer, conductor, and musicologist, was born 13 April 1910 in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, only child of Aloys Georg Fleischmann (b. Dachau, Bavaria, 24 April 1880; d. Cork, 3 January 1964), who came to Cork city in 1906 as organist and choir master at St Mary's cathedral, and Maria Therese Matilde ('Tilly') Fleischmann (née Swertz) (b. Cork, 2 Apri1 1882; d. Cork, 17 October 1967), daughter of Hans Conrad Swertz, previous holder of the post.
The dichotomy of Aloys Fleischmann's life and work was foreshadowed by his birth in Munich, where his mother, a concert pianist, was on tour, and not in Cork, the city which was his spiritual birthplace. At the age of six he saw his father interned as a German national during the Great War. He was among the first pupils at St Ita's School, founded in September 1916 by Mary (qv) and Annie MacSwiney. His later schooling at Christian Brothers' College and St Finbarr's seminary, Farranferris, was that of a typical Cork schoolboy. He became a fluent Irish-speaker and excelled in history, Latin, music, and German. His early music education was provided by his parents: in particular, he was immersed in the romantic piano repertoire and the polyphony of the cathedral choir.
The Irish–German education pattern continued as he studied with Professor Frederick St John Lacy at UCC from 1927 to 1932, graduating with BA, B.Mus. and MA degrees, followed by postgraduate musical studies in Munich at the Staatliche Akademie der Tonkunst and at Ludwig-Maxmilian University from 1932 to 1934. Six months after Fleischmann's arrival in Germany, Hitler came to power. Against this dramatic backdrop, he studied composition with Professor Joseph Haas (1879–1960) and conducting with Dr Heinrich Knappe, attended lectures by Thomas Mann, and heard music by Richard Strauss, Bruckner and Schönberg. His interest in musicology was further developed through his studies with Dr Rudolf von Fricker (1886–1954), a medieval expert, and Dr Otto Ursprung (1879–1960), an authority on church music, whose expertise in deciphering musical notation encouraged Fleischmann to continue the research into neumes which he had first undertaken for his master's thesis.
Paradoxically, Fleischmann fully affirmed his identity as an Irishman while he was in Munich. Drawn strongly by what he called 'the Celtic pull', he returned to Cork in 1934 to become professor of music at UCC (a post that he held as acting professor till 1936, and then with tenure till 1980), and soon launched a revolutionary development programme that would impact on music performance and education in Ireland. The establishment by the young professor of the Cork Symphony Orchestra (1934), the Irish Music Teachers' Association (1935), and the Cork Orchestral Society (1938) signalled his determination to move outside the confines of the university. As editor of the landmark publication Music in Ireland: a symposium (1952), he encompassed the full spectrum of musical activity throughout the country.
From 1936 to 1977 he was guest conductor of Radio Éireann's station orchestra and of its successor, the RÉ/RTÉ Symphony Orchestra. He was chairman of Cork Ballet Company (1947–92), and served on the boards of Irish Theatre Ballet (1959–64), and of the Irish Ballet Company/Irish National Ballet (1973–85), all of which were founded by Joan Denise Moriarty (qv). In 1954 he co-founded the Cork International Choral and Folk Dance Festival, serving as director till 1987. From 1962 the festival was linked to the university through the seminars on contemporary music, which provided a platform for analysis and performance of commissioned choral works by both Irish and international composers.
Fleischmann's mission as professor of music at UCC was to provide the school system with teachers who would remedy the dearth of music education. Starting in 1934 with only two students, the intake remained in single figures till the introduction of free post-primary education in 1967, when numbers increased tenfold; a total of 301 graduates had qualified by the time of his retirement. From 1980, as professor emeritus, he continued to work on the index of printed Irish tunes which had been in progress since 1954. This monumental undertaking, which occupied him even during his final illness, was published posthumously as Sources of Irish traditional music, c.1600–1855 (2 vols, 1998).
In addition to his many other commitments, Aloys Fleischmann composed consistently across a wide range of genres. From his Sreath do phiano (Piano suite), composed in 1933 under the pseudonym 'Muiris Ó Rónáin', he sought to write in a modern style that was intrinsically Irish. His compositions reflected the duality of his Irish-German upbringing and education. While some of his works were based on Irish themes – e.g., Clare's Dragoons (1945) and Ómós don Phiarsach/Homage to Patrick Pearse (1979) – and frequently used Irish motifs and thematic elements, others fitted into the larger European context, e.g. Poet in the suburbs (1973), Sinfonia votiva (1977), and Games (1990).
Primarily because of his work for the Cork International Choral Festival, Fleischmann was awarded the order of merit from the German Federal Republic (1966), the silver medallion of the Irish American Cultural Institute (1973), and the national endeavour award from the United Dominion Trust (1976). His contribution to the cultural life of Cork was recognised in 1978 when he was made a freeman of the city.
In 1990, together with the Cork Symphony Orchestra, which he had conducted for fifty-six years, he earned a citation in the Guinness Book of Records for 'durability'. Within the university he was active in college affairs, and from 1975 a leading member of the visual arts committee. He was chairman of the Cork Sculpture Park committee (1961–85).
Fleischmann was the recipient of various other awards and distinctions: D.Mus. (NUI, 1963), D.Mus. honoris causa (Dublin, 1964), honorary fellow of the Royal Irish Academy of Music (1991), honorary life membership of the Royal Dublin Society (1991), and life presidency of Cumann Naisiúnta na gCór (1982–92). Membership of professional and cultural bodies included the advisory committee on cultural relations in the Department of External Affairs (1955–63), the Irish commission for UNESCO (1962–80), the Royal Irish Academy (1966–92), the music advisory committee for the Irish episcopal commission (1983–8), and Aosdána (founder member, 1983–92). He died at Cork on 21 July 1992.
He married (4 June 1941) Anne Miriam Madden (b. Cork, 31 January 1912; d. Cork, 7 October 1990), medical doctor. They had five children: Ruth (b. 1942), author and lecturer at Bielefeld University, Germany; Neil (b. 1944), business executive, British Columbia; Anne (b. 1945), secondary school teacher, Killarney, Co. Kerry; Maeve (b. 1948), librarian, Cork School of Music; Alan (b. 1952), medical doctor, USA.
An annotated catalogue of the music of Aloys Fleischmann and a list of his writings are contained in the appendices of Séamas de Barra, Aloys Fleischmann (2006). In 1993 the Fleischmann family transferred the Fleischmann archive, containing approximately 350,000 to 400,000 items spanning the period 1890–1992/3, to the archives at UCC. When the archive is catalogued and accessible it will provide a unique resource for research into the socio-cultural history of Ireland in the twentieth century. Fleischmann's portrait by Virginia Sandon is displayed in the university's Aula Maxima, the location of many of his concerts.
During the year of celebrations in 2010 commemorating the centenary of Fleischmann's birth, which took place under the auspices of Cork City Council, and was opened by President Mary McAleese, 147 cultural groups and organisations put on 226 events in Ireland and in five countries abroad. The Aloys Fleischmann website, hosted by Cork City Libraries, was set up in 2010; it contains scans of all his manuscript scores and digital files of the entire oeuvre typeset for the Fleischmann digitisation project (2010–17).
Aloys Fleischmann was one of the most influential figures in the development of music in Ireland in the twentieth century. His unswerving determination to address the needs of music education and his efforts to raise public awareness of the arts were the driving forces of his life. As educator, composer, musicologist, teacher, campaigner, and organiser he has left an enduring legacy.
Commercial recordings of Fleischmann's compositions include: Piano quintet, Vanbrugh Quartet with Hugh Tinney (Marco Polo, 1996); Eilís Nic Dhiarmada Rua: lament for strings, Irish Chamber Orchestra, conductor Fionnuala Hunt (Black Box Music, 1998); Trí hamhráin (i), Kathleen Tynan (soprano), Dearbhla Collins (piano) (Black Box BBM 1022, 1998); Trí hamhráin (i) and (iii), Dermot Troy (tenor), Rhoda Coghill (piano) (RTÉ Lyric FM, 2007); Nochtraí for carillon, Luc Rombouts, Louvain (carillon), on The bells of Cobh (St Colman's Cathedral, Cobh, 2007); Aloys Fleischmann: orchestral works (Four Masters overture, An cóitín dearg suite, Sinfonia votiva, Clare's Dragoons) RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, conductor Robert Houlihan (RTÉ Lyric FM, 2010); Na trí captaení loinge (The three sea captains), National Chamber Choir of Ireland, conductor Paul Hillier, on Choirland: an anthology of Irish choral music (music scores with accompanying CD) (Contemporary Music Centre, 2012); Sreath do phiano (Suite for piano), Duncan Honeybourne (piano) on E. J. Moeran: The complete solo piano music, and works by his English and Irish contemporaries (EM Records, 2013).