Karl Amadeus Hartmann

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Karl Amadeus Hartmann was a 20th Century German composer who was born in 1903. During his lifetime he experienced many life changing world events, including World War I, World War II, and the Great Depression. It was after the defeat of the Nazis that Hartmann started revising many of his works. Symphony No. 1 was one of them. The first symphony, “The Search for a Requiem,” gives evidence to the importance of Mahler. [ (Morgan, 1994) ] Symphony No. 1, “Essay for a requiem” was first written in 1936 as and solo alto piece with orchestra. Poems from Walt Whitman were used for the text of each movement. The work was later renamed “Our Life: Symphonic Fragment” and was used to bring forth the terrors that people had to face under the Nazi regime. After World War II, the piece was renamed “Symphonic Fragment: Attempt at a Requiem” to honor the millions killed in the Holocaust. Finally from 1954-1955 Hartmann modified his work and renamed it “Symphony No. 1.” Hartmann’s Symphony No. 1 is very visual and musically dramatic. Movement one, Introduktion: Elend, begins with a dark feeling given by the loud fast percussion rolls in the beginning. Then following is the brass with fanfare type chords that are loud and precisely articulated. When the solo voice enters, the singer sings in a low octave in a recitative style on the same pitch. This adds to the dramatic effect and the listener can gain a strong sense of misery right away. The melodic line then moves to other notes to add feeling. The text is depicted in the countermelody. in the emphasized by an expressively contoured melody and rapid declamation of the text, disconnecting the vocal line from the slow orchestral ostinato underneath. The melody reaches its apex and the movement closes with a return to the opening monotone style.

The second movement, Fruhling, begins somewhat like the first in that it is very dramatic and uses density within the orchestra for effect. Using the orchestra verses only percussion gives a more polytonal entrance thus giving off a slightly different emotion. The vocal part is split into three main sections. The first section is then split into three sections of its own. During these sections the winds and brass have an important lyrical passages alternating with the voice. At the beginning of the second section, marked Molto espressivo, the orchestra and the vocal part act more as one. Until this point, the vocal entrances have been more independent. When the text begins here to refer to the lilacs in the second person, the strings depict the text with the melodic line. Like the orchestra and vocal part in sync the phrases are parallel as well. The main thematic material returns in the end of the movement with slight adjustments. This is to go with the text.

The third movement, Thema mit vier Variationen, is strictly instrumental expressionism. During this movement the vocal part and most of the mass orchestra have dropped out. This makes the movement more of a chamber work.

avoids the expressive suggestiveness of the other movement titles. However, we know that the theme for this movement (Example 1.3), which enters in the solo cello after a short introduction, was of particular significance for Hartmann, appearing in one form or another in all of his extant works from the Nazi period.4 It is especially important to take note of the character of this theme if we are to make sense of the movement and its position within the symphony as a whole. It has a wandering, extemporaneous quality and a sad expressivity, similar in quality to Eastern European and Jewish folk music. The theme is first played by the solo viola in two parallel phrases and is repeated slightly lower by the solo cello. Variations 1 through 3 may be seen as one continuous unit, rather than as three distinct and closed sections. They are unified by a single teleology, an orientation toward a dramatic climax in the third variation at m. 73, each variation building on the...
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