Hans Pfitzner

Biography

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
Browse 1-25 of 119 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    The Romantic Cello Concerto Vol 4 - Hans Pfitzner / Alban Gerhardt
    Label: Hyperion   Catalog: 67906 Release Date: 03/11/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hans Pfitzner
    Performer:  Alban Gerhardt,  Gergana Gergova
    Conductor:  Sebastian Weigle
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
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  • 2.
    Lotte Lehmann: A 125th Birthday Tribute [4-CD Set]
    Label: Music & Arts   Catalog: 1279 Release Date: 02/25/2014   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Richard Strauss,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Charles Gounod,  Richard Wagner  ... 
    Performer:  Lotte Lehmann
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  • 3.
    Hans Pfitzner: Vom Fruh zum Spatwerk / Buhl, Sandman, Urban
    Label: Thorofon   Catalog: 2599 Release Date: 11/19/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hans Pfitzner
    Performer:  Ulrich Urban,  Reinhold Johannes Buhl,  Heidrun Sandmann
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  • 4.
    Pfitzner: Complete Lieder, Vol. 1 / Stallmeister,  Simon
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8572602 Release Date: 10/29/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hans Pfitzner
    Performer:  Britta Stallmeister,  Klaus Simon
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  • 5.
    Label: Gala   Catalog: 7705271 Release Date: 05/24/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Hans Pfitzner,  Richard Wagner,  Richard Strauss
    Performer:  Günther Treptow,  Trude Eipperle,  Heinrich Schlusnus,  Marcel Cordes
    Conductor:  Robert Heger,  Kurt Schröder,  Alfons Rischner
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  • 6.
    Electrola Recitals - Oper & Lied / Edda Moser [9-CD Set]
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 282812 Release Date: 05/21/2013   Number of Discs: 9
    Composer:  Richard Strauss,  Hans Pfitzner,  Robert Schumann,  Hugo Wolf  ... 
    Performer:  Erik Werba,  Edda Moser,  Christoph Eschenbach,  Peter Schreier  ... 
    Conductor:  Peter Schneider,  Wolfgang Sawallisch,  Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt,  Eugen Jochum
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Radio Orchestra,  Bavarian State Opera Orchestra,  Dresden Staatskapelle  ... 
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  • 7.
    Busoni: Nocturne Symphonique; Pfitzner: Piano Concerto; Reger: Romantic Suite / Barto, Thielemann
    Label: Profil   Catalog: 12016 Release Date: 04/30/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ferruccio Busoni,  Hans Pfitzner,  Max Reger
    Performer:  Tzimon Barto
    Conductor:  Christian Thielemann
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dresden Staatskapelle
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  • 8.
    Pfitzner: Palestrina / Ventris, Rose, Young [blu-ray]
    Label: Euroarts   Catalog: 2072524 Release Date: 02/26/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hans Pfitzner
    Performer:  Michael Volle,  Peter [bass voice] Rose,  Christopher Ventris,  Roland Bracht  ... 
    Conductor:  Simone Young
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian State Orchestra,  Bavarian State Opera Chorus
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  • 9.
    Label: Acanta/Pilz   Catalog: 233650 Release Date: 01/29/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Franz Schubert,  Robert Schumann,  Adolf Jensen,  Felix Mendelssohn  ... 
    Performer:  Wolfgang Anheisser,  Julius Severin
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  • 10.
    Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau - Voice Of The Century [23 CDs & 2 DVDs]
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 001792900 Release Date: 01/15/2013   Number of Discs: 25
    Composer:  Franz Schubert,  Robert Schumann,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Franz Liszt  ... 
    Performer:  Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau,  Daniel Barenboim,  Jörg Demus,  Gerald Moore  ... 
    Conductor:  Rafael Kubelik,  Karl Böhm,  Lorin Maazel,  Karl Richter  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 11.
    Label: Farao   Catalog: B108034 Release Date: 01/01/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard Strauss,  Hans Pfitzner
    Performer:  Markus Wolf,  Julian Riem
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  • 12.
    Gustav Klimt: Musik Seiner Epoche
    Label: Preiser Records   Catalog: 170286 Release Date: 12/11/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Alban Berg,  Franz Lehár,  Johannes Brahms  ... 
    Performer:  Kathryn Harvey,  Elisabeth Schwarzkopf,  Gerald Moore,  Frederick Thurston  ... 
    Conductor:  Bruno Walter,  Walter Goehr,  Otto Klemperer,  Herbert von Karajan  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic,  Zurich Radio Orchestra,  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra  ... 
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  • 13.
    Weil, Pfitzner, Barber: Sonatas For Violoncello & Piano / Viersen, Avenhaus
    Label: Etcetera Records   Catalog: 1315 Release Date: 11/13/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Kurt Weill,  Hans Pfitzner,  Samuel Barber
    Performer:  Quirine Viersen,  Silke Avenhaus
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  • 14.
    Pfitzner: Symphony In C; Schumann: Konzertstuck For 4 Horns / Schwarz, Seattle Symphony
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8572770 Release Date: 09/25/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hans Pfitzner,  Robert Schumann,  Johannes Brahms,  Anton Webern  ... 
    Performer:  Robert Bonnevie,  Mark Robbins,  David C. Knapp,  Scott [french horn] Wilson
    Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
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  • 15.
    Pfitzner: Cello Concerto; Mayer: Praghanda, Ragamalas / Rohan De Saram
    Label: First Hand Records   Catalog: 14 Release Date: 05/08/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hans Pfitzner,  John Mayer
    Performer:  Rohan de Saram,  Druvi De Saram,  Rohan de Saram,  John Mayer
    Conductor:  Bohumil Gregor
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra
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  • 16.
    Pfitzner: Palestrina / Petrenko, Frankfurt Opera And Museum Orchestra
    Label: Oehms   Catalog: 930 Release Date: 04/24/2012   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Hans Pfitzner
    Performer:  Magnus Baldvinsson,  Alfred Reiter,  Peter Bronder,  Britta Stallmeister  ... 
    Conductor:  Kirill Petrenko
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Frankfurt Opera House and Museum Orchestra,  Frankfurt Opera Chorus
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  • 17.
    Apres Un Reve - Reger, Strauss, Pfitzner, Wolf-ferrari, Respighi / Maeder, Wyss
    Label: Guild   Catalog: 7373 Release Date: 04/10/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Max Reger,  Richard Strauss,  Hans Pfitzner,  Gabriel Fauré  ... 
    Performer:  Sarah Maeder,  Gérard Wyss
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  • 18.
    Stimme Der Sehnsucht / Christianne Stotijn, Joseph Breinl
    Label: Onyx   Catalog: 4075 Release Date: 01/10/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hans Pfitzner,  Gustav Mahler,  Richard Strauss
    Performer:  Christianne Stotijn,  Joseph Breinl
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  • 19.
    Label: Archipel   Catalog: ARPCD0400 Release Date: 01/01/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Hans Pfitzner
    Performer:  Gerhard Taschner
    Conductor:  Rudolf Kempe
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  • 20.
    Label: Ars Produktion   Catalog: 385197 Release Date: 01/01/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms,  Norbert Burgmüller,  Franz Liszt,  Robert Schumann  ... 
    Performer:  Andreas Reibenspies,  Eckart Sellheim
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  • 21.
    Cello Jewels
    Label: Divox   Catalog: 55257 Release Date: 09/27/2011   Number of Discs: 7
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Johannes Brahms,  Ernö von Dohnányi,  Robert Fuchs  ... 
    Performer:  Gérard Wyss,  Esther Nyffenegger,  Annette Weisbrod
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  • 22.
    Pfitzner: Von Deutscher Seele / Metzmacher, Kringelborn. Stutzmann, Ventris, Holl
    Label: Capriccio Records   Catalog: 5092 Release Date: 09/27/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Hans Pfitzner
    Performer:  Solveig Kringelborn,  Christopher Ventris,  Robert Holl,  Nathalie Stutzmann
    Conductor:  Ingo Metzmacher
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Chorus,  Berlin Symphony Orchestra
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  • 23.
    Hermann Prey: Liederabend 1963
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 93713 Release Date: 05/31/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Peter Cornelius,  Hans Pfitzner,  Wolfgang Fortner,  Johannes Brahms  ... 
    Performer:  Hermann Prey,  Günther Weissenborn
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  • 24.
    Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Pfitzner, Strauss / Anton Dermota
    Label: Orfeo   Catalog: 683102 Release Date: 03/29/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Hans Pfitzner,  Dmitri Shostakovich  ... 
    Performer:  Anton Dermota,  Elisabeth Schwarzkopf,  Erich Kunz,  Lisa Della Casa  ... 
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler,  Karl Böhm,  Hans Knappertsbusch
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 25.
    Label: Membran International Gmbh   Catalog: 232763 Release Date: 02/15/2011   Number of Discs: 10
    Composer:  Albert Lortzing,  Christoph W. Gluck,  Hans Pfitzner,  Richard Strauss  ... 
    Performer:  Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau,  Rita Streich,  Lisa Della Casa,  Rudolf Schock  ... 
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Schüchter,  Arthur Rother,  Richard Kraus,  Joseph Keilberth  ... 
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