Fleischmann, Aloys Georg (1880–1964), composer, conductor, choir master and organist, was born on 24 April 1880 in Dachau, Bavaria, Germany. His father (also Aloys), a highly respected guild craftsman (a master shoemaker), was born in the nearby hamlet of Eisolzried in 1844 and became a citizen of Dachau in 1868, the year he married Magdalena, daughter of Josef Deger, a bookbinder in the town.
An only child, Aloys Georg attended school locally for the customary seven years. That he was musically precocious is attested by his being commissioned at the age of 15 to compose a choral work for the Dachau Journeyman's Association (Gesellenvereinigung). The following year (1896), he was admitted to the two-year preliminary course at the Royal Academy of Music in Munich, which prepared students for the academy's entrance examination, and in 1898 he commenced the full four-year course. His education as a church musician included studying the organ, conducting, and composition (under Joseph von Rheinberger), as well as the liturgy and the history of music. In 1901 the post of organist at Dachau's church of St Jakob became vacant, and Fleischmann was given permission to sit the academy's final examinations that autumn after completing only three instead of the prescribed four years, so that he might qualify for the position. He graduated with first-class honours, and was duly appointed organist and choir master in Dachau the following year.
Like his father, Fleischmann had a deep commitment to the cultural life of the town, particularly its musical life. Immediately upon his appointment, he set up a choir school, or Singschule, financed by the town council and local merchants, which initially provided free classes to the children of Dachau's two schools but was soon expanded to include tuition for adults. The success of this venture encouraged him to establish a school of music with the aim of providing high-quality instrumental teaching at low cost: he negotiated with a Munich firm to supply instruments at affordable rates and arranged for musicians from the Munich Court Orchestra to travel to Dachau each week to teach.
He also began to acquire a reputation as a composer, and the choral works and lieder that he wrote at this time evince both a sophisticated technique and a refined creative sensibility. His compositional abilities found a further outlet when he conceived the idea of presenting nativity plays with music as a showcase for the pupils of the Singschule. The first of these productions, for which he arranged existing music, took place in January 1903, with the cooperation of local musicians and three Dachau-based painters who supplied the costumes and the scenery. It was a resounding success, and the following year Ein Altes Weinachtsspiel, for which he wrote new music, received favourable coverage from the national press. The most ambitious production took place in January 1905. Based on a Christmas legend by Selma Lagerlöf, Die Nacht der Wunder was the most complex score Fleischmann had composed up to then, and he brought the Munich Court Choir and players from the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra to Dachau to supplement local performers. The entire town supported the venture. The event became something of a sensation and was reported not only nationally but also abroad. Fleischmann was invited to Berlin to arrange a performance there, but before that could take place changed circumstances had brought about his departure from Germany.
In 1901 Fleischmann had met Tilly Swertz (qv), who had just commenced her studies at the Royal Academy in Munich. She was visiting her relations in Dachau, where her mother had been born and where her father, Hans Conrad Swertz, had been organist before emigrating to Cork in 1879. The couple married in 1905 after her graduation and lived in Dachau. The following year, however, Tilly's father resigned his post as organist at the Roman catholic cathedral of St Mary and St Anne in Cork and left Ireland for Philadelphia. It is not known what provision he made for his family, but, as Tilly was the only one of his nine children qualified to earn a living, she felt obliged to return home to Cork. Her husband, who accompanied her, acceded to the position that his father-in-law had just vacated in order to help support the Swertz household.
Although Fleischmann had virtually no English when he took up his post, he quickly won the affection and respect of his choristers, and the high standard of the cathedral choir became a source of satisfaction and pride to clergy and laity alike. He had never envisaged settling permanently in Cork, however. In 1910 Tilly travelled to Munich to investigate the possibility of their returning to Germany and while she was there the couple's only child, also christened Aloys (qv), was born. The outbreak of the first world war in 1914 meant that Fleischmann's status changed to that of enemy alien, and he spent from January 1916 until the end of the war in internment camps (initially in Oldcastle, Co. Meath, and subsequently on the Isle of Man), after which he was deported to Germany. It was not until 1920 that he was finally permitted to return to Cork and to his family.
Fleischmann had suffered acutely from homesickness from the time of his first arrival in Ireland, and he always longed to return to Germany. After the war, however, such a move was no longer feasible and he reconciled himself to living in Cork. His work in the cathedral of St Mary and St Anne flourished, and his choir acquired a national reputation for the excellence of its performances, particularly of sixteenth-century polyphony. Its recitals were frequently broadcast on Radio Éireann, and when the BBC established its Empire Service (forerunner of the World Service) in 1932, it was the first Irish choir to be recorded by the station. Fleischmann joined the staff of the Cork Municipal School of Music in 1922 (his wife had been a staff member since 1919), where he remained for fifteen years until an unpleasant conflict with the administrators brought about their joint resignations in 1937. Aloys Fleischmann taught for forty years in St Finbarr's College, the diocesan seminary. He was also active as a conductor both in the city and the county, and sat on various local committees and musical advisory bodies.
As a composer, Fleischmann left behind a substantial body of work (about 400 compositions): much of it is liturgical music, but it also includes secular choral music, vocal music, and instrumental music. While a greater degree of both modal inflection and chromaticism is evident in his compositional style after the 1920s, his music always remained firmly rooted in the late-Romantic idiom of his youth. The restricted musical life of Cork in the early decades of the twentieth century almost certainly had an inhibiting effect on his creative development: several ambitious large-scale works were never brought to completion, and the few that were completed were never performed. His smaller works – particularly the sacred music and the lieder – were heard, however, and some of them were occasionally broadcast.
In 1954 Fleischmann was presented with the papal gold medal by the bishop of Cork in honour of his long service to music in the diocese. On Whit Sunday 1961 he conducted the cathedral choir for the last time. Now over 80, he had suffered poor health for some time. He died in Cork on 3 January 1964. 'Nocturne in commemoration of the late Aloys Fleischmann senior', broadcast by Radio Éireann on 16 June 1964, included his Vier Geistliche Gesänge performed by the Radio Éireann Singers and Radio Éireann Choral Society, conducted by Hans Waldemar Rosen (qv), and the first performance of Hölderlin songs by Seán Ó Riada (qv), written for and dedicated to Fleischmann. None of the many broadcasts of recitals relayed during Fleischmann's lifetime has survived, as the tapes were always wiped for re-use.
Fleischmann was 'rediscovered' in his home town in the early years of the third millennium. Material relating to his Dachau nativity plays was featured in an exhibition in the district museum (2003–04); in May 2006 he was the subject of a broadcast on Bavarian Radio; in July 2006, the centenary of his departure to Cork, a recital of his lieder took place in the town under the auspices of the museum. On 24 April 2010, during the celebrations marking the centenary of his son's birth, the Dachau Liedertafel Choir performed his music in the cathedral of St Mary and St Anne in Cork on his 130th birthday; an exhibition on Aloys and Tilly Fleischmann was opened by the Irish minister for foreign affairs in the Cork Public Museum on 9 July 2010. The Irish ambassador to Germany opened an exhibition during the Dachau Fleischmann Week in October 2010; his music was performed in the parish church of St Jakob and at a concert in Dachau Palace by the Fleischmann Choir of the Cork School of Music together with the Liedertafel. There is now a plaque on the house where he was born; his portrait and those of his parents hang in the museum, where the manuscript score of Die Nacht der Wunder is also on display. A project was initiated in 2010 in conjunction with the Fleischmann website hosted by Cork City Libraries to digitise the manuscript scores and prepare new electronic editions of his principal works.