Personalities | Hans Pfitzner | Modern Era | Opera

1864–1949, German

Russian-born, yet once a popular German composer, Pfitzner has shrunk into the recesses of memory, not least because his esteemed position was promoted by a Third Reich that, like him, believed German culture was threatened by international Jewry. His works Von deutscher Seele (‘Of the German Soul’, 1921) and Das dunkle Reich (‘The Dark Realm’, 1929) were written as a means of expressing his interest in creating ‘pure’ German music.

Pfitzner’s late-Romantic style was influenced, in large part, by Schumann and Wagner, the latter’s presence being especially obvious in Pfitzner’s first two operas: Der arme Heinrich (‘Poor Heinrich’, 1891–93) and Die Rose vom Liebesgarten (‘The Rose from the Garden of Love’, 1897–1900). Soon, along with Engelbert Humperdinck and Richard Strauss, he was regarded as one of Germany’s leading opera composers, and this position was solidified when, as director of the Strasbourg Opera, Pfitzner wrote his masterpiece Palestrina. A large-scale work that, like Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler, questions the artist’s position within society, Palestrina clings to the past and its cultural traditions. It was hailed by German intellectuals throughout the next few decades, until 1945 when the country lay in ruins along with the remnants of Pfitzner’s career.

Introduction | Modern Era | Opera
Major Operas | Palestrina by Hans Pfitzner | Modern Era
Personalities | Ezio Pinza | Modern Era | Opera


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