Hans Pfitzner


Born: May 5, 1869; Moscow, Russia   Died: May 22, 1949; Salzburg, Austria  
Hans Pfitzner was one of the composers who carried the German Romantic tradition well into the twentieth century. Unlike those of his contemporaries Mahler and Richard Strauss, his reputation never seemed to extend beyond the borders of his homeland. Yet there is much that is individualistic and much to admire from his body of work -- particularly in his best-known work, the opera Palestrina.

Born in Russia of German parents, Pfitzner
Read more moved with his family to Frankfurt when he was three. His musical talent manifested itself early on, and he received his first training from his parents. At 14 he entered the Hoch Conservatory, studying composition with Knorr and piano with Kwast. He then began his music career as a teacher, taking a position as a theater conductor in Mainz; the latter proved to be a strategic move, for although it was an unpaid position, it enabled him to have his first opera, Der arme Heinrich, performed. Paid positions now followed, culminating in a multi-position stay in Strasbourg; he became director of the conservatory there, as well as chief symphony and opera conductor. The security of a fixed income produced a creatively favorable environment; he composed prolifically in all forms, favoring opera.

The crown of Pfitzner's work is arguably his opera Palestrina (1915), based on the life of the Renaissance composer and quoting passages of that master's music. Pfitzner may have seen himself in the opera's protagonist, as a man who, sticking to his principles, upholds musical tradition against the depredations of power. (The opera treats the legendary effort on Palestrina's part to compose a work beautiful and spiritual enough to foretall the banning of polyphony under consideration by the architects of the Counter Reformation.) Also noteworthy is Pfitzner's cantata Von deutscher Seele (Of the German Soul) of 1920. Both works are in the highly chromatic, richly sonorous tradition of post-Romanticism, and could never be mistaken for mere throwbacks to the nineteenth century. That Pfitzner could work in a less imposing idiom can be gathered from such works as the concise, melodic Symphony in C (1940).

But much of the non-German world's reluctance to hear Pfitzner's music may have been been the result of his politics. Always an ardent German patriot, he became enmeshed with the rise of the Third Reich. Yet he counted among his Jewish friends and supporters Mahler, Bruno Walter, and Otto Klemperer, and he was an admirer of Mendelssohn. In any event, as Pfitzner became more disillusioned with Nazism, he expressed disapproval and was thus relieved of his life membership at the Munich Academy of Music in 1934. This and various family tragedies took a toll on the composer's sanity. The wartime destruction of his Munich home left Pfitzner an aging, half-insane street person, but after the war a pension and residence were procured for the composer. He died in Salzburg, officially denazified and with the ban on performances of his music lifted.

Although the Romantic revival of the 1960s did not do for Pfitzner what it did for many of his contemporaries, there is much of his output worth hearing. At his best, Pfitzner spoke with the eloquence and intensity of one who consciously lives during the close of a glorious era. Read less
Music For Cello & Piano - R. Strauss, Pfitzner / Guido Schiefen, Olaf Dressler
Release Date: 05/13/2008   Label: Arte Nova  
Catalog: 870720   Number of Discs: 1
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Pfitzner: Palestrina / Suitner, Deutsche Staatsoper
Release Date: 04/28/2015   Label: Brilliant Classics  
Catalog: 95113   Number of Discs: 3
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Pfitzner: Palestrina / Heger, Patzak, Hotter, Frantz, Et Al
Release Date: 03/04/2003   Label: Opera D'oro  
Catalog: 1377   Number of Discs: 3
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Pfitzner: Von Deutscher Seele / Sieghart, Vienna Singverein
Release Date: 06/12/2007   Label: Arte Nova  
Catalog: 794220   Number of Discs: 2
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Hans Pfitzner: Der Arme Heinrich / Rumpf
Release Date: 01/01/2004   Label: Capriccio Records  
Catalog: 60087   Number of Discs: 1
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There are 120 Hans Pfitzner recordings available.

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Hans Pfitzner

I. Allegro moderato -
II. Sehr langsam -
III. Presto
I. Pomphaft mit Kraft und Schwung - Bedeutend langsamer, sehr empfindungsvoll, schwer und ernst - Tempo I
II. Heiterer Satz. Ziemlich schnell, in einheitlich atemlosem Zeitmass
III. Ausserst ruhig, versonnen, schwarmerisch
No. 1. Stimme der Sehnsucht
No. 2. Michaelskirplatz
No. 1. Herbstbild
No. 2. Die Nachtigallen
No. 1. Abbitte
No. 2. Herbsthauch
No. 3. Willkommen und Abschied
No. 4. Die stille Stadt
Act I Scene 1: Schonste, ungnad' ge Dame (Silla)
Act I Scene 2: Ighino, gut, dass ich dich seh! (Silla, Ighino)
Act I Scene 3: Schonste, ungnad'ge Dame (Silla, Borromeo, )
Act I Scene 4: Der letzte Freund ()
Act I Scene 5: Part I: Fur ihn! Sein Wesen will's (The Masters, )
Act II Scene 3: Ein liebreich wurd'ger Herr (Borromeo, Novagerio)
Act II Scene 4: Zahlreich wird heut' die heilige Versammlung (Lorraine, Madruscht, Novagerio, Brus, Luna, The Spaniards, Budoja, Budoja's Group, Theophilus, Grosseto, A Doctor, Morone, Master of ...)
I. Allegro moderato -
II. Sehr langsam -
III. Presto

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