Personalities | E.T.A. (Ernst Theodor Amadeus) Hoffmann | Early Romantic | Classical

(Arnst Ta’-o-dôr A-ma-da’-oos Hof’-man) 1776–1822
German writer and composer

E.T.A. Hoffmann’s wide-ranging talents were the source of great inspiration throughout the nineteenth century, and composers who drew on his stories include Schumann (Kreisleriana) and Offenbach (Les contes d’Hoffmann). He was also an astute and perceptive critic, and his review in 1810 of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is justly famous. As a composer he has been neglected, although there was a revival of interest in both his writings and his music around the turn of the twentieth century. Hoffmann followed a family tradition and studied law at Königsberg, becoming a civil servant while trying to pursue his musical ambitions. His compositions are mostly for the stage, although there are also vocal and instrumental works, and much of this body of work has languished in obscurity since his death. Hoffmann’s style draws on the dramatic characteristics of Gluck and Mozart, and his strengths lie in sustaining and developing his material rather than in the inherent beauty of the initial inspiration.

Recommended Recording:
Undine, soloists, Berlin Radio SO (cond) Roland Bader (Koch-Schwann)

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