Engelbert Humperdinck

Biography

Born: September 1, 1854; Siegburg, Germany   Died: September 27, 1921; Neustrelitz, Germany  
Though Engelbert Humperdinck wrote a great deal of music in a variety of genres, he is best remembered for a single opera, Hänsel und Gretel (1893), based on the familiar fairy tale. Humperdinck's musical style is infused with elements of the German folk tradition, but the composer's primary influence was clearly the music of Wagner; indeed, Humperdinck worked as an assistant to the older master for a time, even providing extra music for a scene Read more change in the premiere staging of Wagner's Parsifal in 1882. It is possible that Humperdinck's music remains, uncredited, as part of the score that has come down to posterity.

Following a conventional education at Paderborn, Humperdinck entered the Cologne Conservatory at the age of 18 and began studies in voice and composition. While a student there, he was the winner of the Mozart Stipend of Frankfurt in 1876; with the aid of its financial award, he went to Munich to study first with Franz Lachner and then with Rheinberger at the Royal Music School. While enrolled there (1877-1879), he won an award from the Mendelssohn Foundation of Berlin, following which he traveled to Italy and had the fortune to meet up with Wagner in Naples.

Written to a libretto by Humperdinck's sister Adelheid Wette (who added characters and scenes to expand the little story to operatic dimensions), Hänsel und Gretel was first presented in Weimar in December of 1893; it was quickly taken up in opera houses all over Europe, representing the perfect antidote to the chill, veristic winds blowing out of Italy at the time. Ostensibly a work for children, the opera has always found favor with audiences of all ages thanks to its odd blend of fable-like innocence and Wagnerian weight. Humperdinck's succesful blending of a children's story with his own, rather monumental, orchestral world has made Hänsel und Gretel the only post-Wagnerian work to be considered a succesful synthesis of the German master's style.

During the course of his musical career, Humperdinck supplemented his compositional activities with turns as a music editor, critic, and, at various times, a music teacher; Wagner's son Siegfried was one of his pupils. His other works, particulary the pleasant 1880 Humoreske for orchestra in E major, find occasional performances today. In the 1960s and 1970s, Humperdinck's name was again on the lips of the public; in this case, however, "Engelbert Humperdinck" was the new persona (chosen from a music dictionary) of a pop balladeer formerly known as Arnold Dorsey, fondly or not-so-fondly remembered for his stagey rendition of "Release Me." The two, needless to say, are not related. Read less
Humperdinck: Hansel und Gretel / Litz, Streich, Lehmann
Release Date: 06/01/2001   Label: Deutsche Grammophon  
Catalog: 459494   Number of Discs: 2
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Humperdinck: Hänsel Und Gretel / Fassbaender, Gruberova, Solti
Release Date: 01/10/2006   Label: Deutsche Grammophon  
Catalog: 00057609   Number of Discs: 1
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Humperdinck: Hänsel und Gretel / Hartelius, Nikiteanu, Welser-Möst
Release Date: 05/30/2006   Label: Kultur Video  
Catalog: 2940   Number of Discs: 1
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Humperdinck: Hänsel und Gretel / Hofstetter, Papoulkas, Gabler
Release Date: 04/24/2007   Label: Euroarts  
Catalog: 2055888   Number of Discs: 1
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Metropolitan Opera Live in HD - Humperdinck: Hansel und Gretel
Release Date: 09/16/2008   Label: Warner Classics  
Catalog: 6308   Number of Discs: 1
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There are 193 Engelbert Humperdinck recordings available.

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