Karl Amadeus Hartmann

September 13 2013


Picture: gemm.com

Karl Amadeus Hartmann (1905-63), from Munich, wasn’t Jewish, but voluntarily withdrew completely from musical life during the Nazi era while remaining in Germany.


From biography by Alexander Rothe at Orel Foundation:

1. Innere Emigration

“Karl Amadeus Hartmann, composer and organizer of Munich’s postwar contemporary music series Musica Viva, has received much attention in association with notions of inner emigration. Emerging in the postwar correspondence between Thomas Mann and Frank Thiess, the term ‘inner emigration’ refers to those artists that remained in Third Reich Germany but did not publish or participate in party events, whether for political or aesthetic reasons. As […] Michael Philipp suggests in his social history of the phenomenon, the concept remains highly elusive. Distinctions between collaboration and so-called ‘aesthetic resistance’ are often permeated by a politically charged postwar ideology that occludes the complexity involved in each artist’s case. The following article chronicles Hartmann’s life and output and will also survey the literature that presents Hartmann as the inner emigration composer par excellence.”

“Not in the financial position to emigrate to Switzerland (like many of his colleagues), Hartmann was compelled to remain in Third Reich Germany, supported by his wife’s family. As Michael Kater points out, although Hartmann ignored all Reichsmusikkammer letters requesting participation in official duties and for proof of his ‘Aryan identity,’ he was by default an RMK member. During this time, whether for political, social or artistic reasons, Hartmann neither published nor solicited performances of his works within Nazi Germany.”

Some “dedications and inscriptions […] were unambiguously subversive, like the dedication of […]China fights’ to the Russian author Sergej Tretjakov and the Chinese independence-fighter Den Shi-Hua. Further, as Hartmann scholar Andreas Jaschinski articulates, the use of extended slow symphonic movements serve as elaborate lamentations; and, to contrast this, Hartmann adopts quick, ostinato-driven movements that build up into chaotic climaxes, in turn satirically undermining their own monumentality.”

“Writing between the lines.” “Verdeckte Schreibweise.”

Cf Shostakovich’s encrypted music.

“The second movement of Symphonie L’oeuvre […] is based on an anti-war Chinese song by Confucius […].” Is that true or is he confusing L’œuvre (or the sixth symphony) with the fourth symphony? In what way based?

2. Communism

While exploring jazz sonorities and rhythms, early works “incorporated explicit messages of communism and did not shy from images of violent revolution”.

“Unlike many opportunistic composers during the immediate postwar period who selectively reinterpreted their works as exhibiting hidden messages of aesthetic resistance, Hartmann deemphasized and (as in the case of Sinfoniae Drammaticae) even erased those features that might be associated with political subversion and communist activity. This resulted in what some have considered to be a more subdued form of socialism, one that propounded an ethos of tolerance, love for humanity and ‘commitment’ against all tyranny. Here, Hartmann’s revised tone may be contextualized vis-à-vis his subsequent employment by the American military occupation, an environment that precluded communist sympathies and revolutionary activities.”

3. Musica Viva

“In the years following Germany’s […] surrender, Hartmann was employed by American military occupation forces to promote cultural reeducation and to combat Bavarian regionalism. Although a native of Bavaria, Hartmann was deemed sufficiently free of Nazi and local party sympathies to mediate in subsequent political decisions. Given America’s outstanding support and patronage, Hartmann was able to found and lead the concert series Musica Viva until his death in 1963. Here, Hartmann’s creative programming and his juxtaposition of past and present musical works presented a forum for active dialogue and critical confrontation with the past. Moreover, through his active commissioning of visual artworks for the Musica Viva program booklets, and through innovative stage productions, Hartmann effectively placed contemporary music within a larger artistic and cultural community. Thus, in some sense Hartmann’s Musica Viva was an anti-thesis to the contemporary festivals in Darmstadt and Donaueschingen, which stressed a ‘Zero Hour’ ideology of musical autonomy and a clean break with the past.”


From Hans Werner Henze, German Music in the 1940s and 1950s, in Peter Labanyi, translator, Music and Politics, Faber and Faber, 1982:

“[…] the finest composer of his generation, who lived in Munich and was supported by his relatives. He had always refused to allow his works to be published or performed under the Nazis. He was an anti-fascist, and his compositions, which one could get to know only after 1945, are beautiful, deeply-felt hymns of solidarity with the international anti-fascist movement. And they are of international standing from a technical and artistic point of view too. There was for instance an orchestral overture, China’s Struggle, an extremely fine piece, which has a different title now. Hermann Scherchen performed it at one of the first Darmstadt get-togethers, I think it was 1947. That was how we started off [in Darmstadt]. Later, things were different, much less ‘committed’.”

Is Hartmann’s music ignored in the English-speaking world because the twentieth century was just not this harrowing for most English-speaking people?

Cf Käthe Kollwitz. Both alluded to the Peasants’ War of 1524-25 in their work. So did Hindemith (who died in the same month as Hartmann).

Funebre, Trauer, Elend, Leid, Lamento, Miserae, Requiem, Tragica, Klagegesang


The core of Hartmann is eight symphonies (below), but his most performed piece must be:

Concerto funebre, violin and string orchestra (no accent because name Italian) (1939 as Musik der Trauer, revised 1959)

Also important:

Wachsfigurenkabinett, five short operas, three not completed, libretti by Erich Bormann (1929–30); Günter Bialas, Winfried Hiller and Hans Werner Henze later completed the cycle

Simplicius Simplicissimus, chamber opera in three scenes, libretto by Hermann Scherchen, Wolfgang Petzet and Hartmann, after Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen (1934-35 as Des Simplicius Simplicissimus Jugend, revised 1956-57)

Sonata 27. April 1945, piano; in German on the first page of the score: “On 27 and 28 April 1945 an endless stream of Dachau ‘prisoners of war’ trudged past us – unending was the stream – unending was the misery – unending was the sorrow”; “Am 27. und 28. April 1945 schleppte sich ein Menschenstrom von Dachauer ‘Schutzhäftlingen’ an uns vorrüber – unendlich war der Strom – unendlich war das Elend – unendlich war das Leid”; quotation via Schott

Friede anno 48 (Welt, rühme was du willst), cantata, soprano, mixed choir and piano, words by Andreas Gryphius (1948); refers to 1648, as Strauss’s Friedenstag had done

Lamento, cantata, soprano and piano, words by Andreas Gryphius, commissioned by Deutsche Grammophon (1936-37, revised 1955)

Ghetto, contribution to Jüdische Chronik, a kind of dramatic cantata, alto, baritone, male choir, two speakers and small orchestra, text by Jens Gerlach, co-written with Paul Dessau, Boris Blacher, Rudolf Wagner-Régeny, Hans Werner Henze (1960-61); inspired by a series of assaults in 1959 that culminated in the defacement of the newly reopened synagogue in Cologne

Gesangsszene, setting in German translation of part of Jean Giraudoux’s drama Sodome et Gomorrhe, orchestra and baritone, some of the text spoken (1962-63, unfinished)

Perhaps two string quartets (1933 and 1945-46), but one doesn’t think of him in connection with chamber music



Symphonic works

First six (of eight) symphonies derive from works written before or during the war.

Each numbered line below refers to a different incarnation of the material, but I haven’t distinguished between renaming (most if not all of the revisions are more than that), reuse and revision. Dates are of composition or revision. In some cases Schott are still selling the earlier pieces, as well as the final versions.

Symphonies with older roots are listed first. The post-war numbering just about makes sense once you take into account the reallocation of “1” from Miserae to a different work. Wikipedia says that he “withdrew” Miserae, but Schott are still selling it.

Symphony 5

1 Concerto for wind instruments and solo trumpet (1932-33)
2 Concerto for wind instruments and double basses (1948-49)
3 Symphony 5Symphonie concertante (Hommage à Strawinsky), orchestra (1950)

Symphonic poem

Miserae, symphonic poem, orchestra (1933-34)
called Symphony 1 until 1950, when the title was given to the Whitman piece, below
no further incarnation


Symphonie-Divertissement, bassoon, tenor trombone, double bass and chamber orchestra (c 1933-34, unfinished)
no further incarnation

Symphony 1

1 Kantate, soprano and orchestra, texts by Walt Whitman (1935-36)
2 Lamento (renamed thus when or is this a confusion with the cantata already mentioned?)
3 with subtitle Unser Leben, Symphonisches Fragment (1938)
4 Symphony 1, Versuch eines Requiems, alto and orchestra (1950-55)

Symphony 6

1 Symphony L’œuvre, after Zola, orchestra (1937-38)
2 Symphony 6, orchestra (1951-53)

Symphony 4

1 Symphonic Concerto, soprano and string orchestra, texts by Confucius, translated by Klabund (1938)
Symphony 4, string orchestra, no voice (1947-48)

Symphony 3

1 Sinfonia Tragica, orchestra (1940, revised 1943)
2 Symphony Klagegesang, orchestra (1944-47)
Symphony 3, orchestra (1948-49)

Symphony 2

1 Adagio, orchestra (1940-44) (was this called Symphony 2 then?)
Symphony 2, orchestra (1946)

Three dramatic symphonies

Sinfoniae Drammaticae (1941-43), consisting of

1 Overture China kämpft, orchestra (1942, revised 1947)
Symphonische Ouvertüre, orchestra (1962)

Symphonische Hymnen, orchestra (1941-43)
no further incarnation

Symphonic Suite Vita Nova, reciter and orchestra (1941-42, unfinished)
no further incarnation

Symphony 7

Symphony 7, orchestra (1957-58)
no further incarnation

Symphony 8

Symphony 8, orchestra (1960-62)
no further incarnation


Introduction to Hartmann (and Fabio Luisi) in German; remaining five clips are of a performance of the first symphony by Jane Henschel, alto, and Staatskapelle Dresden under Fabio Luisi given in the Dresden Opera on February 12 2006 in memory of the destruction of Dresden on February 13 1945:

2 Responses to “Karl Amadeus Hartmann”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    He makes the violin at the beginning of Concerto funebre sound like a mouth-organ in the trenches: memories of King and Country.

    I can’t help feeling that Vaughan Williams would have admired this piece.

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