Karl Amadeus Hartmann


Born: August 2, 1905 Died: December 5, 1963
Karl Amadeus Hartmann has been proclaimed by supporters the finest German symphonist since Johannes Brahms, although he is a somewhat controversial figure among the more open-minded. Using Baroque, jazz and various other musical elements, he forged an eclectic style that divulged the influence of Reger, Stravinsky and Hindemith. He was versatile, producing operas, symphonies, various orchestral scores, chamber and choral music, and solo works for piano and violin.

Hartmann's first serious studies began in 1924 at Munich's Akademie der Tonkunst, chief among his teachers being Joseph Haas. After five years there he moved on to studies with conductor Hermann Scherchen and, later, with Anton Webern. By 1933, owing to the success of his Concerto for Trumpet and Wind Ensemble, he was gaining considerable recognition. Around this time, Hartmann adopted a firm anti-Nazi stance, avoiding military service and, some say, actively defying government policies.

One of his brothers was known to have distributed anti-Nazi leaflets, and while Hartmann's wife claimed her husband's resistance was passive, others reported that the composer helped political prisoners across the border. Whatever the level of his opposition to Hitler, he was harassed by the Nazis and his music was not played in Germany until after the war. Yet, he remained active in the field of composition throughout the Nazi reign, producing many scores, large and small, like the symphonic poem Miserae (1934), the Concerto funebre (1939), Sinfonia Tragica (1940-43), and the dark Symphony No. 2 (1945-46). Following the war Hartmann established a concert series in Munich called Musica Viva. He also took on the post as dramaturge at the Munich State Opera. He garnered a string of composition prizes, including the Munich music prize (1949) and ISCM Schoenberg Medal (1954).

In the final decade of his life, Hartmann turned to the influence of Boris Blacher, using his ideas concerning changeable meter, as exhibited in works like Hartmann's 1953 Concerto for Piano and 1955 Concerto for Viola. His reputation grew in the 1950s, reaching across the Atlantic: Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra premiered his Symphony No. 7 (1957-58). Still, Hartmann never quite reached the front rank of 20th century composers, despite the respect he had gained among conductors and musicians alike. He died of stomach cancer at the age of 58.

There are 43 Karl Amadeus Hartmann recordings available.

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