Author Topic: Hans Pfitzner  (Read 22695 times)

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snyprrr

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Hans Pfitzner
« on: March 12, 2009, 07:28:21 AM »
i am very interested in hearing his str. qrts., understanding that he and Schmidt and Hartmann and Strauss represent the final flowering of the traditional german romantic tradition, which of course was overshadowed by the more forward looking composers that we're all familiar with.  i'm expecting him to be expertly crafted, and i've heard great things about the Violin cto.
but he has a str. qrt in c minor and c# minor, and i'm curious about those keys between '29-'49. anyone have these?
« Last Edit: March 12, 2009, 10:45:42 PM by Que »

nut-job

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Re: Hans Pfitzner
« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2009, 07:31:59 AM »
You need to spend less time worrying about Pfitzner and more time getting your "Caps Lock" key unstuck.

snyprrr

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Re: Hans Pfitzner
« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2009, 07:44:31 AM »
I AM getting a bad reputation, aren't I?

It's just as hard to quit smoking as it is to start flossing!

but, like Schumann, I have inserted devices of my own invention between my fingers so that my pinky automatically hits the shift key.

I suppose communication DOES gain from adhering to the Little, Brown Handbook!- you'll see, I'll get better.

Yes, I CAN feel all the disapproving looks. Forgive me.

Online The new erato

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Re: Hans Pfitzner
« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2009, 09:35:16 AM »
You need to spend less time worrying about Pfitzner and more time getting your "Caps Lock" key unstuck.

I think the Caps were spent when the subject line was safely finished.

Offline Cato

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Re: Hans Pfitzner
« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2009, 12:30:18 PM »
Pfitzner is a might-have-been, "could 'a' been a contenduh" but is best known for the opera Palestrina, which is mid-level Richard Straussian without the gift for motifs and melodies. 

The cantata Von Deutscher Seele desperately wants to be the Gurrelieder of the Weimar Republic, and it attains the same level of success as the Weimar!   0:)

Pfitzner is a German Glazunov in essence: some things will be attractive enough to warrant your attention, but you will sense that something deeper is missing.
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Dr. Dread

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Re: Hans Pfitzner
« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2009, 12:31:19 PM »
Pfitzner[/b is a might-have-been, "could 'a' been a contenduh" but is best known for the opera Palestrina, which is mid-level Richard Straussian without the gift for motifs and melodies. 

The cantata Von Deutscher Seele desperately wants to be the Gurrelieder of the Weimar Republic, and it attains the same level of success as the Weimar!   0:)

Pfitzner is a German Glazunov in essence: some things will be attractive enough to warrant your attention, but you will sense that something deeper is missing.

Now Cato is boldfacing everything!  :o :'(

Offline Cato

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Re: Hans Pfitzner
« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2009, 12:32:10 PM »
Now Cato is boldfacing everything!  :o :'(

Ack!  I just fixed it!   0:) 0:)

(Not meant as a commentary on the "Caps Lock" problem mentioned above!)
« Last Edit: March 12, 2009, 12:33:57 PM by Cato »
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

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snyprrr

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Re: Hans Pfitzner
« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2009, 09:14:02 PM »
i was just considering late Glazunov today. wish i could be pointed to ONE chamber work.

Pfitzner as Glazunov sounds like a warning, but i get it.  mid afternoon music.

there just aren't to many "old fshioned" german qrts. @ '38-49, and i was just wondering if pzitner's "nostalgia" for times irredeemably lost might, if not even touch myaskovsky, might have just a little of that good old muffled angst.

Offline Lethevich

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Re: Hans Pfitzner
« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2009, 09:46:23 PM »
i was just considering late Glazunov today. wish i could be pointed to ONE chamber work.

Pfitzner as Glazunov sounds like a warning, but i get it.  mid afternoon music.

there just aren't to many "old fshioned" german qrts. @ '38-49, and i was just wondering if pzitner's "nostalgia" for times irredeemably lost might, if not even touch myaskovsky, might have just a little of that good old muffled angst.

I think a member here (Brian) was very keen on one Glazunov chamber work on (if I recall correctly - it was certainly on Naxos) the following disc - and found it far better than the rest of his output. There could be potential there...



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Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Hans Pfitzner
« Reply #9 on: March 13, 2009, 12:50:26 PM »
Oh I think that Hans Pfitzner deserves a little better than he has got so far ;D

The trouble with Pfitzner-and a number of other German composers working in a romantic or neo-romantic idiom in the 20th century-was that they suffered from a more violent reaction against their music than occured in any other European country. The German nationalism which Pfitzner espoused was so bankrupted by the events of 1914-45 that those who had been its more strident exponents were thrown aside with a particularly bitter and savage contempt. German music post 1945 embraced the avant-garde with particular enthusiasm. A few more conservative German composers' reputations survived but, usually, because they were either quite obviously musical giants(like Richard Strauss), had a 'clean' record from the 1930s like Hindemith, Hartmann or Blacher, or were sufficiently astute to cover their tracks(like Orff).

Pfitzner appears to have been a pretty dreadful character(most of the time!), combatative, argumentative, foul-tempered....but, occasionally, redeemed by a streak of curmudgeonly independence which got him into trouble even with the National Socialist regime. He died in 1949 in poverty and disgrace.

....but, he was a superb conductor and his music is most certainly not without merit. 'Palestrina' is-in my opinion-one of the masterpieces of the 20th century operatic repertoire. It is not the easiest opera to follow, dealing as it does with complex philosophical/theological issues, but it contains some absolutely sublime, visionary music. The three Preludes from the opera are worth anyone's time!

Pfitzner never equalled 'Palestrina', either in his other operas, or in his orchestral music(I am not equipped to comment on the chamber music) and I agree that the huge Cantata 'Von deutscher Seele' has its longuers although it does also include some very impressive passages. The Violin Concerto is, I think, a beautiful piece of late Romantic writing.

Pfitzner was not either a Mahler or a Strauss but in a more tolerant age those who appreciate Zemlinsky or Schreker, for example, might give his music a shot :)
« Last Edit: March 13, 2009, 03:12:17 PM by Dundonnell »

sul G

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Re: Hans Pfitzner
« Reply #10 on: March 13, 2009, 01:15:19 PM »
Great post. And this

Palestrina' is-in my opinion-one of the masterpieces of the 20th century operatic repertoire. It is not the easiest opera to follow, dealing as it does with complex philosophical/theological issues, but it contains some absolutely sublime, visionary music. The three Preludes from the opera are worth anyone's time!

is spot on. The first Prelude, in fact, seems to me to be unique - I don't know anything else remotely like it, anyway.

jlaurson

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Re: Hans Pfitzner
« Reply #11 on: March 13, 2009, 02:54:48 PM »
(From PlaybillArts)

 
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The composer Hans Pfitzner, born 140 years ago, remains a controversial figure even 60 years after his death. Not his music - an uncontroversially beautiful, high-romantic blend of Schumann and Wagner occasionally reminiscent of Humperdinck, Schoeck, Schreker, and Schmidt - but the political persona.

Somewhere between stubborn, naïve and ignorant, he uttered unambiguously racist phrases, was apologetic of Hitler and blamed everyone but Germany for World War II. He parroted anti-Semitic thoughts yet he went to great lengths to help and save "good Jews" (as he thought of them) like director Otto Ehrhardt, Felix Wolfes (a student of his) and his friend Paul Crossmann for whom he rang up Reinhard Heydrich to save (in vain).

He tried to ingratiate himself with the Nazi regime but was inconsistent about it and offended more with his arrogance than he pleased with his favors. The composer ended up ignored, if not shunned, by the officialdom of the Third Reich. He dedicated works to Jewish artists like Bruno Walter, Arthur Eloesser and Alma Mahler, yet was capable of writing a cantata to Hans Frank, Governor-General of Occupied Poland.

Thomas Mann, who admired his opera Palestrina (which he attended at its Munich premiere in 1917), thought him an "anti-democratic nationalist," Hitler spoke of him derisively as a "Jewish rabbi," and friend Bruno Walter stopped communicating with him when Pfitzner showed himself unrepentant after the war.

We gather that he was difficult to like. Bruno Walter probably said it best when he wrote to his publisher, after Pfitzner’s death: "Have we not found in [Pfitzner’s] personality the strangest mix of true greatness and intolerance that has ever made the life of a musician of such a rank so problematic?"

But the music of Pfitzner is too good to ignore, and in this anniversary year, three German Opera companies staged Pfitzner. Chemnitz tackled the largely forgotten, largely forgettable Die Rose vom Liebesgarten in a very professional staging. The Frankfurt and Munich Operas work on a different scale, of course, and they tackle Pfitzner’s Magnum Opus, Palestrina.

*

The subject is the 16th century composer Giovanni Pierluigi Palestrina who prevents music being banned from church service at the council of Trent through his ingenious mass, the Missa Papae Marcelli, written under distress, angelic influence and breaking his writer’s block. A sub-plot has his student Silla decide that the old master’s traditional ways are not suited to his creative endeavors and plans to move to that secular sin-city of free roaming artists: Florence.

From WETA, Best of 2008:

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#9 – (New Release) – Pfitzner, “Von Deutscher Seele” (“Eichendorff Cantata”), Radio Choir Berlin, German Symphony Orchestra Berlin (RIAS), Ingo Metzmacher – Phoenix Edition 145

This is the first recording of the genial yet neglected Hans Pfitzner “Eichendorff Cantata” since Martin Sieghart’s (Arte Nova) in 1999, only the sixth ever made of this hour and a half-plus oratorio, and only the third made in the last 50 years. The neglect has political reasons, not musical ones, because Pfitzner’s high-romantic blend of Schumann and Wagner (the results occasionally reminiscent of Humperdinck, Schoeck, Schreker, and Schmidt) is here, as in his magnum opus, the opera “Palestrina”, as good as it gets. Unfortunately this friend of Bruno Walter’s was a rabid (though inconsistent) anti-Semite, and, in Thomas Mann’s words, an “anti-democratic nationalist”. Stubborn, naïve and ignorant, he uttered unambiguously racist phrases, was apologetic of Hitler, and blamed everyone but Germany for World War II. Yet he went to great lengths to help and save “good Jews” (as he thought of them) like director Otto Ehrhardt, Felix Wolfes (a student of his), or his friend Paul Crossmann for whom he went all the way to Reinhard Heydrich to save. In vain, in that case, Crossmann died in Theresienstadt. He didn’t make friends with the Nazis, despite agreeing with much of their philosophy, either: Hitler derisively spoke of him as a “Jewish rabbi” and Pfitzner was ignored, if not shunned, by the officialdom of the Third Reich. Perhaps Bruno Walter put it best, writing to his publisher after Pfitzner’s death: “Have we not found in [Pfitzner’s] personality the strangest mix of true greatness and intolerance that has ever made the life of a musician of such a rank so problematic?”

In any case, the obnoxious political undertones of Pfitzner have made his music less played than it should be on account of its musical merit (if we can listen to the murderer Gesualdo, can we listen to Pfitzner?). When the Munich Philharmonic chamber music series programmed the excellent Pfitzner Nonet (the Jewish community center might not have been a good venue of choice, admittedly), the concert had to be canceled due to pressure from the Central Council of Jews in Germany. When Ingo Metzmacher, a stalwart supporter of music suppressed by the Third Reich, performed the cantata in October of 2007 (from which this recording was taken), the Council protested again, claiming that in doing so, Metzmacher strengthened right-wing and nationalist activities. (Apparently more skinheads listen to Pfitzner than I thought possible.) Yet there is not an objectionable line or thought in this cantata (which in German has the additionally unfortunate title “Of the German Soul”), written in 1921 and premiered in ’22. Part one deals with “Man and Nature”, part two with “Living and Singing”, and Solveig Kringelborn (soprano), Nathalie Stutzmann (mezzo), Christopher Ventris (tenor) and Robert Holl (bass) do this as well and better (Stutzmann) than their predecessors from half a century ago. Phoenix Edition has superior sound to all previous releases, the finest mezzo along with Jochum (Christa Ludwig), a more engaged orchestra than all but Jochum (Orfeo, BRSO), and no intrusive audience noises. It’s great that ArkivMusic has made available again the (stodgy but star-studded) Keilberth recording with the BRSO, Fritz Wunderlich, Hertha Töpper, Agnes Giebel, and Otto Wiener, but unless price is an overriding argument (in which case Arte Nova wins out), this is the Eichendorff Cantata recording of choice.

and also from WETA (Christmas Music Part II):

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Hans Pfitzner didn’t make the reception of his music any easier by his confused and odious political utterances during the Third Reich
  • . But anyone who listens to any (Heribert Ritter von) Karajan recording might as well listen to Pfitzner compositions – especially because at their best, they offer the finest central European late romantic music that can be had next to Richard Strauss.


Long before he composed his undisputed masterpiece Palestrina, a serious and moving opera of Wagnerian proportions and ambition, he had worked on “Das Christelflein” (The Little Christmas Elf), a work that might best be described as a music-for-fairy-tale (or Children’s-opera or simply “kitsch”) and bears a marked resemblance to the later “Radio Operas” of Hindemith and Eek. It’s set around a naïve story told in a mediocre libretto (Bruno Walter, his good friend, said that there wasn’t a child so childish nor a man so strange that they’d get anything from the story) and I’d prefer to listen to it without any dialogue between the numbers. Since both recordings (CPO, 2005 and Bavarian Radio / Orfeo 1979) use some (adapted) text, one would either have to skip the tracks, program the CD player accordingly, or – most conveniently – burn a backup copy of the Christelflein that doesn’t include the narration. A little effort – but worth it for the charming music that uniquely shows the sunny, lighter, and even childishly naïve side of Pfitzner.

[* It's not actually that simplistic. Pfitzner never, to our knowledge, said anything that tried to exonerate the Nazis, much less deny the gravity and horror of the Holocaust. He was unapologetic about the cultural greatness of Germany, though, at a time when such statements were most likely to be taken the wrong way.]

I'm just back from a terrific concert (well, two days ago, I guess...) of the Symphonic Suite of Pfitzner's "Eichendorf Cantate". Terrific stuff. And after hearing more of his works live, esp. Palestrina but also "Die Rose vom Liebesgarten", I'm more and more convinced that--as Pfitzner claimed--"Von Deutscher Seele" really is his undisputed masterpiece.

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Hans Pfitzner
« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2009, 03:20:52 PM »
Thanks, Jens, for these lengthy quotes :) They are exceptionally helpful! -particularly in fleshing out the complex relationship between Pfitzner and the Nazi regime which I tried to hint at.

I must admit that the version of 'Von deutscher Seele' I have is the cheap Arte Nova one. I have no doubt that the new Metzmacher will make out a better case for the work.

jlaurson

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Re: Hans Pfitzner
« Reply #13 on: March 13, 2009, 03:44:12 PM »
Thanks, Jens, for these lengthy quotes :) They are exceptionally helpful! -particularly in fleshing out the complex relationship between Pfitzner and the Nazi regime which I tried to hint at.

I must admit that the version of 'Von deutscher Seele' I have is the cheap Arte Nova one. I have no doubt that the new Metzmacher will make out a better case for the work.

Yes, maybe Metzmacher is a little better, but Sieghart is EXCELLENT, too. It was my first recording of it and the one I got hooked on. Hold on to it. However, as colleague of mine who has been exposed to several versions, too, lately, finds one from 1945 particularly gripping. I'm not sure which one it is...

Probably this one, but I have to ask again to make sure.

If you can wait, maybe DG will keep the mikes on when Thielemann will perform it in two years. I'm dreaming of a cast that includes Christian Gerhaher, Klaus Florian Vogt, A.Pieczonka, and some great mezzo.

Offline Cato

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Re: Hans Pfitzner
« Reply #14 on: March 13, 2009, 06:38:59 PM »
Quote
#9 – (New Release) – Pfitzner, “Von Deutscher Seele” (“Eichendorff Cantata”), Radio Choir Berlin, German Symphony Orchestra Berlin (RIAS), Ingo Metzmacher – Phoenix Edition 145

This is the first recording of the genial yet neglected Hans Pfitzner “Eichendorff Cantata” since Martin Sieghart’s (Arte Nova) in 1999, only the sixth ever made of this hour and a half-plus oratorio, and only the third made in the last 50 years. The neglect has political reasons, not musical ones, because Pfitzner’s high-romantic blend of Schumann and Wagner (the results occasionally reminiscent of Humperdinck, Schoeck, Schreker, and Schmidt) is here, as in his magnum opus, the opera “Palestrina”, as good as it gets.

(My emphasis)

Given that one should not be aping Schumann and Wagner c. 1920, (or ever?) and that aping 3rd and 4th level composers can never be good, I will submit that Pfitzner's cantata has indeed been neglected for musical reasons.

Check my "German Glazunov" comments above: are there some interesting and good moments?  Yes, but not enough to pull Pfitzner off the bench.

I suspect he is being rehabilitated as part of the desperate search to sell new tonal music to conservative philistines, as opposed to pushing e.g. Wyschnegradsky.
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Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Hans Pfitzner
« Reply #15 on: March 13, 2009, 06:56:30 PM »
Ouch!

I said that those who like Zemlinsky or Schreker or, for that matter, Franz Schmidt "might give his (Pfitzner's) music a shot".
I certainly don't want to "sell new tonal music to conservative philistines" :)

Unless, of course I am a 'conservative philistine'.....which is entirely possible(well, the conservative bit anyway ;D)

jlaurson

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Re: Hans Pfitzner
« Reply #16 on: March 13, 2009, 10:59:41 PM »
Given that one should not be aping Schumann and Wagner c. 1920, (or ever?) and that aping 3rd and 4th level composers can never be good, I will submit that Pfitzner's cantata has indeed been neglected for musical reasons.

Check my "German Glazunov" comments above: are there some interesting and good moments?  Yes, but not enough to pull Pfitzner off the bench.

I suspect he is being rehabilitated as part of the desperate search to sell new tonal music to conservative philistines, as opposed to pushing e.g. Wyschnegradsky.

No one is barred from having opinions, of course. But when they are so grossly uninformed and so gratuitously inane, it might be best to keep them closer to oneself. Ignorance, no matter how proudly trumpeted as virtue, remains ignorance, after all. From what I can tell, there are four or five statements in your five sentences, and every one of them brims with juvenile pointlessness. May I submit that you haven't actually heard any Pfitzner--live or on record? (Or worse: that you'd not be able to judge the 'value' of his music, given that you flatter yourself with the "I'm-just-as-badass-as-Glenn-Gould-and-declare-Wagner-a-fourth-rate-composer" attitude...)

Offline Cato

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Re: Hans Pfitzner
« Reply #17 on: March 14, 2009, 03:31:49 AM »
No one is barred from having opinions, of course. But when they are so grossly uninformed and so gratuitously inane, it might be best to keep them closer to oneself. Ignorance, no matter how proudly trumpeted as virtue, remains ignorance, after all. From what I can tell, there are four or five statements in your five sentences, and every one of them brims with juvenile pointlessness. May I submit that you haven't actually heard any Pfitzner--live or on record? (Or worse: that you'd not be able to judge the 'value' of his music, given that you flatter yourself with the "I'm-just-as-badass-as-Glenn-Gould-and-declare-Wagner-a-fourth-rate-composer" attitude...)

No, you may not submit that!   $:)   And if you read carefully, you will note that the 3rd and 4th level composers are Schreker, etc.  The review is not particularly wrong, but what the reviewer believes is a recommendation, I consider to be just the opposite: Pfitzner is derivative.  For those who want somebody to continue "aping" 19th and early 20th-century tonal composers, then Pfitzner apparently will be fine.  Hans Zimmer comes to mind as well!

So tell us, please: when should composers who aspire to greatness imitate and sound like Schumann, Wagner, Schreker, Humperdinck, etc?
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sul G

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Re: Hans Pfitzner
« Reply #18 on: March 14, 2009, 04:35:17 AM »
IIRC Pfitzner was around couple of decades older than Schreker and Schoeck, so a suggestion that he was aping them needs careful examination.

I'd also suggest, in passing, that Schoeck in particular is more than just the 4th-rate composer Cato implies him to be, or if that's not acceptable that at any rate he's more than just another late Romantic, which is the implication elsewhere. I say that firstly because Schoeck has one of the most individual melodic and harmonic styles of any late Romantic - which I can't in honesty claim for Schreker or Schmidt or (the much earlier) Humperdinck, or indeed for Pfitzner - and secondly because he explored mainly in the limits of a small, specific area (lieder) which to my mind places him somewhat apart from most of those in whose company his name is often brought up.

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Hans Pfitzner
« Reply #19 on: March 14, 2009, 07:09:50 AM »
I must admit that when heated debate becomes so angry I am deterred from continuing to contribute :(

I would just say that a composer who could write the sort of music contained in Act I of 'Palestrina' is endowed with a quite superb talent. To my ears-and I can speak only for myself-that first act of the opera contains music of sublime and visionary beauty.

Now it is arguable whether or not Pfitzner ever reached such heights again(Jens obviously thinks very highly of 'Von deutscher Seele') and I am certainly not going to claim that Pfitzner was a 'great composer'(although I personally would rather listen to him than to Glazunov ;D).

Pfitzner is 'derivative'? Yes, probably....but do I care? The answer is no, I don't! I can listen with huge enjoyment, appreciation, and admiration to so many great composers whose music was ground-breaking and original. Sometimes I find others too complex for my own personal tastes. But equally I can enjoy the music of less original, perhaps even second-rate composers. I don't expect everyone else to suddenly hail such a composer as a forgotten genius but, if there are some fellow-spirits who share broadly similar tastes to my own, then I have no difficulty and indeed every intention of drawing the music to their attention :)