Kurt Hessenberg was born on August 17, 1908 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, as the fourth and last child of the lawyer Eduard Hessenberg and his wife Emma, née Kugler. Among his ancestors was Heinrich Hoffmann, whose famous children's book Struwwelpeter Hessenberg was to arrange for children's choir (op. 49) later in his life. From 1927–1931 Hessenberg studied at the Leipzig Conservatory. Among his teachers were Günter Raphael (composition) and Robert Teichmüller (piano). In 1933 Hessenberg became a teacher at the Hoch'sche Konservatorium in Frankfurt am Main, where he himself had taken his earliest music lessons. In 1940 Hessenberg received the "Nationaler Kompositionspreis" (national prize for composition), joined the NSDAP in 1942, and in 1951 he was awarded the Robert-Schumann-Prize of the city of Düsseldorf for his cantata "Vom Wesen und Vergehen" op. 45. Hessenberg was appointed professor of composition at the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in 1953 and taught there until his retirement in 1973. Kurt Hessenberg died in Frankfurt am Main on June 17, 1994.
Hessenberg's work contributed significantly to the repertoire of the Protestant churches in the 20th century. Among his most noted students were Hans Zender and Peter Cahn.
^Ernst Klee: Das Kulturlexikon zum Dritten Reich. Wer war was vor und nach 1945. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2007, p. 242.
^Biographical information is taken from the "Brief Autobiography", which Hessenberg himself wrote in the late 1980s (Hessenberg 1990a). Information on awards and prizes, Hessenberg's career, as well as the date of death are taken from Kirchberg 2001.
Kirchberg, Klaus (2001), "Hessenberg, Kurt", in Sadie, Stanley, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians11 (2nd ed.), London: Macmillan, pp. 464–465.
Hessenberg, Kurt (1990a), "Kleine Selbstbiographie", in Cahn, Peter, Kurt Hessenberg: Beiträge zu Leben und Werk, Mainz: Schott, pp. 9–33. (English translation accessible online: "A Brief Autobiography". Cassandra Records. Retrieved 2008-02-27.)
Albrecht, Christoph (1969), ""… weil ich die Möglichkeiten der Tonalität noch nicht für erschöpft halte": Kurt Hessenberg (geboren 17.8.1908)", in von Brück, Ulrich, Credo musicale: Komponistenportraits aus der Arbeit des Dresdener Kreuzchores. Festgabe zum 80. Geburtstag des Nationalpreisträgers Kreuzkantor Professor D. Dr. h. c. Rudolf Mauersberger, Kassel; Basel: Bärenreiter, pp. 165–175.
Cahn, Peter, ed. (1990), Kurt Hessenberg: Beiträge zu Leben und Werk, Mainz: Schott.
Hensley, Robin Elmore (1992), The Solo Organ Works of Kurt Hessenberg, Ann Arbor, MI: UMI (Diss., University of Georgia, Athens, 1992)
Laux, Karl (1949), "Kurt Hessenberg", Musik und Musiker der Gegenwart, 1: Deutschland, Essen: Spael, pp. 117–126.
Mohrs, Rainer (2002), "Hessenberg, Kurt", in Finscher, Ludwig, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 8 (Personenteil), Kassel / Stuttgart; Weimar: Bärenreiter / Metzler, pp. 1484–1486.
Riemer, Otto (1953), "Unausgeschöpfte Tonalität: Gedanken zum Schaffen von Kurt Hessenberg", Musica7: 56–60.
Thomson, Virgil (1946) "German Composers", New York Herald Tribune, October 13, 1946. Reprinted in Thomson, Virgil (1981), A Virgil Thomson Reader, Boston, MS: Houghton Mifflin, pp. 284–287