Hugo Distler

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For the Austrian figure skater, see Hugo Distler (figure skater).
Hugo Distler on a German stamp, in 1992.

Hugo Distler (Nuremberg, June 24, 1908 – Berlin, November 1, 1942)[1] was a German organist, choral conductor, teacher and composer.

Life and career[edit]

Born in Nuremberg, he attended Leipzig Conservatory from 1927 to 1931, first as a conducting student with piano as his secondary subject, but changing later, on the advice of his teacher, to composition and organ. He studied there with Martienssen (piano), Ramin (organ) and Grabner (harmony).[1]

He became organist at St. Jacobi in Lübeck in 1931. In 1933 he married Waltraut Thienhaus. That same year he joined the NSDAP, reluctantly, as his continued employment depended on his doing so. In October 1933 Distler was appointed head of the chamber music department at the Lübeck Conservatory, and at about the same time he began teaching at the Spandauer Kirchenmusikschule (Spandau school of church music.[2]

In 1937 Distler was appointed as a lecturer at the Württemberg Hochschule für Musik in Stuttgart, where he also directed its two choirs. In 1940 he moved to Berlin to teach and conduct at the Hochschule für Musik there, and in 1942 he was named the conductor of the State and Cathedral Choir.[1]

He became increasingly depressed from the deaths of friends, aerial attacks, job pressures, and the constant threat of conscription into the German Army, causing him to commit suicide in Berlin at the age of 34.[3] However, his suicide was probably not a direct result of antagonistic government pressure; "rather, it appears that he saw the futility of attempting to serve both God and Nazis, and came to terms with his own conscience unequivocally."[4]

Hugo Distler's grave marker.

Music[edit]

Distler enjoyed his first success in 1935 at the official Kassel Music Days (Kasseler Musiktage). He achieved his greatest public success in 1939, at the German Choral Music Festival in Graz, when the Stuttgart Hochschule choir gave the première of sections from the Mörike-Chorliederbuch; the event was regarded as the climax of the festival, but the dissemination of the work took place only after the war. His Mörike-Chorliederbuch is now recognized as "the most important German secular a cappella collection of the 20th century."[2]

He composed chamber pieces, works for solo piano and two concertos (one for harpsichord in 1935-36, and one for piano in 1937), but is known mostly for his sacred choral music and as a champion of Neo-Baroque music. His works are a re-invention of old forms and genres, rich with word painting, based on the music of Heinrich Schütz and other early composers.[2]

His music is polyphonic and frequently melismatic, often based on the pentatonic scale. His works remain "tonally anchored," while at the same time they "reveal an innovative harmonic sense."[1] Because of these characteristics, his music was stigmatized by some Nazis as "degenerate art."

He is now recognized as "one of the most significant German composers of his generation."[1] He is often associated with other German neo-Baroque choral composers, including Johann Nepomuk David, Ernst Pepping and Wolfgang Fortner.[5] His style was spread by choirs in Germany and abroad during the years after World War II, stimulating and influencing other later composers.[2]

In 1953 a choir in Berlin was named for the composer, the Hugo-Distler-Chor, an ensemble that is still active today.[6]

Writings[edit]

  • Postulat eines neuen musikalischen Lebens- und Gestaltungsprinzips, Der Wagen (1933), 77–84
  • Neue Unterrichtswege in der Berufsausbildung des praktischen Kirchenmusikers, Lübeckische Blätter, lxxvi (1934), 147–8
  • with E. Thienhaus: Die beiden Orgeln in St Jakobi zu Lübeck (Lübeck, 1935)
  • Gedanken zum Problem der Registrierung alter, speziell Bachscher Orgelmusik, Musik und Kirche, xi (1939), 101–6
  • Funktionelle Harmonielehre (Kassel, 1941)
  • Harmonielehre früher und jetzt’, Zeitschrift für Hausmusik, x (1941), 41–6

Musical compositions and dicography[edit]

  • Opus 1 - Konzertante Sonate für 2 Klaviere (Concert Sonata for 2 Pianos)
  • Opus 2 - Choralmotette "Herzlich lieb hab’ ich dich, o Herr", on Schalling's hymn ("I love you O Lord" on Schalling's hymn)
    • Hugo Distler Ensemble Lüneburg, cond. Erik Matz, Thorofon 1621194, Chorwerke (2008)
  • Opus 3 - Eine deutsche Choralmesse (a German choral mass)
    • Hugo Distler Ensemble Lüneburg, cond. Erik Matz, Thorofon 1621194, Chorwerke (2008)
  • Opus 4 - Kleine Adventsmusik (Little Advent Music)
  • Opus 5 - Dem Jahrkreis (The Year Circle)
    • Hugo Distler Ensemble Lüneburg, cond. Erik Matz, Thorofon 1621194 Chorwerke (2008)
    • Frederike Urban, Anja Daniela Wagner, Leipziger Universitätschor, Pauliner Kammerorchester (Leipzig University Choir, Paulist Chamber Orchestra), cond. Wolfgang Unger, Thorofon Classics CTH 2420, Liturgische Sätze (2001)
    • Sajella (women), Ensemble Nobiles (men), Rondeau ROP 6068 (2012) -- Op. 5 Nr. 12, 15, 38, 39, 51
  • Opus 5a
    • Op. 5a Nr. 2 Aus tiefer Not (Liedsatz für gemischten Chor) (Out of the depths (song set for mixed choir))
    • Op. 5a Nr. 3 Christe, du bist der helle Tag (Liedsatz für gemischten Chor) (Christ, you are the light of day (Partsong for mixed choir))
      • Hugo Distler Ensemble Lüneburg, cond. Erik Matz, Thorofon 1621194, Chorwerke (2008) -- Op. 5a Nr. 2 and 3
  • Opus 6/I - Kleine Geistliche Abendmusik (Small Sacred Evening Music)
  • Opus 6 Nr. 2 - Drei kleine Choralmotetten (Three Little Chorale Motets)
    • Frederike Urban, Anja Daniela Wagner, Leipziger Universitätschor, Pauliner Kammerorchester (Leipzig University Choir, Paulist Chamber Orchestra), cond. Wolfgang Unger, Thorofon Classics CTH 2420, Liturgische Sätze (2001)
  • Opus 7 - Choralpassion (Choral Passion)
    • Musica Vocalis, Beekman, Schoonenboom, Noordam, cond. Harm Jansen, NED Sound NS-CS 230501 (1993)
    • Kammerchor de Universität Dortmund (Chamber Choir of the University of Dortmund), Kooy, Jochens, Miehlke, cond. Willi Gundlach, Thorofon Classics CTH 2185 (1993)
    • Netherlands Chamber Choir, cond. Uwe Gronostay, Globe (2006)
  • Opus 8 Orgelwerke (Organ Works)
    • Op. 8 Nr. 1 - Orgelpartita "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland"
    • Op. 8 Nr. 2 - Orgelpartita "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme" (Organ Partita, "Sleepers awake uns die Stimme") (3 movements: Toccata, Bicinium, Fuge)
    • Op. 8 Nr. 3 - Kleine Orgelchoral-Bearbeitungen (Little Organ Choral Arrangements) (7 movements)
      • Rudolf Innig, Organ, Thorofon Classics CTH 2215, Totentanz (1994) -- Op. 8 Nr. 2
      • Armin Schoof / Kleine Jakobi-Orgel Lübec (the Small Jakobi organ in Lübeck), Thorofon Classics CTH 2293, Orgelwerke Vol. 1 (1995) -- Op. 8, Nr. 1, 2, 3
  • Opus 9 Nr. 1 - Das Lied von der Glocke (Song of the Bell)
  • Opus 9 Nr. 2 - An die Natur (Weltliche Kantate) (On Nature (Secular Cantata))
  • Opus 10 - Die Weihnachtsgeschichte (The Christmas Story) (for 4-part a capella choir and four soloists)
    • Thomanerchor Leipzig Hans-Joachim ROtzsch, Berlin Classics Eterna 0092462BC (1979)
    • Kammerchor der Hochschule der Künste Berlin (Chamber Choir of the University of the Arts Berlin), Stephanie Petitlaurent, Silvia Fricke, Klaus Thiem, Rudolf Preckwinkel, cond. Christian Grube, Thorofon Classics CTH 2281, Die Weihnachtsgeschichte (1997)
  • Opus 11 Choralkantaten (Choral Cantatas)
    • Opus 11 Nr. 1 - Wo Gott zum Haus nit gibt sein Gunst (Where God to the house nit gives his favor (accurate translation ?))
    • Opus 11 Nr. 2 - Nun danket all und bringet Ehr (Now Thank we All, and Bring Honor)
      • Frederike Urban, Anja Daniela Wagner, Leipziger Universitätschor, Pauliner Kammerorchester (Leipzig University Choir, Paulist Chamber Orchestra), cond. Wolfgang Unger, Thorofon Classics CTH 2420, Liturgische Sätze (2001) -- Op. 11 Nr. 1 and 2
  • Opus 12 - Geistliche Chormusik (Sacred Choral Music)
    • Op. 12 Nr. 1 - Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied (Sing to the Lord a new song) (3 movements)
    • Op. 12 Nr. 2 - Totentanz (Dance of Death) (14 movements with dialog)
    • Op. 12 Nr. 3 - O Gott, in deiner Majestat (O God, in your Majesty) (7 movements)
    • Op. 12 Nr. 4 - Singet frisch und wohlgemut (Sing fresh and cheerfully) (3 movements)
    • Op. 12 Nr. 5 - Ich wollt, dass ich daheime wär (I wish that I were daheime (translation?))
    • Op. 12 Nr. 6 - Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (Motette) (Awake, the voice calls us (motet)) (3 movements)
    • Op. 12 Nr. 7 - In der Welt habt ihr Angst (In the world ye shall have tribulation)
    • Op. 12 Nr. 8 - Das ist je grewißlich wahr (That is indeed ever true)
    • Op. 12 Nr. 9 - Führwahr, er trug unsere Krankheit (Lead True, he bore our sickness)
      • Kammerchor der Universität Dortmund, Krämer, Heesche-Wagner, Innig, Sprecher: Will Quadflieg, cond. Willi Gundlach, Thorofon Classics CTH 2215, Totentanz (1994) - Op. 12 Nr. 2, 6
      • Berliner Vokalensomble, cond. Bernd Stegmann, Cantate Reflections C 57007 (1994), Cantate C 58007 (1995) -- Op. 12 Nr. 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
      • MonteverdiChor München, cond. Konrad von Abel, Thorofon Classics CTH 2463, Geistliche Chormusik (2005), Op. 12 Nr. 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9
      • Netherlands Chamber Choir, cond. Uwe Gronostay, Globe (2006) -- Op. 12 Nr. 2, 14
      • Sajella (women), Ensemble Nobiles (men), Rondeau ROP 6068 (2012) -- Op. 12 Nr. 1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 9
  • Opus 13 - Liturgische Sätze über altevangelische Kyrie- und Gloriaweisen (Liturgical sentences On the High Church Kyrie- and Gloria ways) (3 movements)
    • Frederike Urban, Anja Daniela Wagner, Leipziger Universitätschor, Pauliner Kammerorchester, cond. Wolfgang Unger, Thorofon Classics CTH 2420, Liturgische Sätze (2001); also on the Adora label
  • Opus 14 - Konzert für Cembalo und Streichorchester (Concerto for Harpsichord and String Orchestra)
    • Martin Haselböck (harpsichord and conducting), Wiener Akademie, Thorofon Classics CTH 2403, Cembalokonzert (1999)
    • Huguette Dreyfus (harpsichord), Deutsche Bachsolisten (German Bach Soloists), cond. Martin Stephani, Musicaphon M 56860 (2003)
  • Opus 15a - Sonate für zwei Geigen und Klavier (Sonata for Two Violins and Piano)
  • Opus 15b - Elf kleine Klavierstücke für die Jugend (11 Little Piano Pieces for Young People)
    • Annette Töpel Piano, Musicaphon (2008)
  • Opus 16 - Neues Chorliederbuch
    • Op. 16 Nr. 1 Kalendersprüche I (6 movements)
    • Op. 16 Nr. 2 Kalendersprüche II (6 movements)
    • Op. 16 Nr. 3 Kalendersprüche III (6 movements)
    • Op. 16 Nr. 4 Kalendersprüche IV (7 movements)
    • Op. 16 Nr. 5 Minnelieder I (3 movements)
    • Op. 16 Nr. 6 Minnelieder II (3 movements)
    • Op. 16 Nr. 7 Bauerenlieder (Peasant Songs) (3 movements)
    • Op. 16 Nr. 8 Fröliche Lieder (3 movements)
      • Carmina Mundi, Aachen, cond. Harald Nickoll EBS 6076 (1996-97) -- Op. 16 Nr. 1-8
  • Opus 17 - Drei geistliche Konzerte für Sopran und Orgel (Three Sacred Concertos for Soprano and Organ)
  • Opus 18
    • Opus 18 Nr. 1 - Dreissig Spielstücke für die Kleinorgel oder andere Tasteninstrumente (Thirty Pieces for Small Organ or Other Keyboard Instruments)
    • Opus 18 Nr. 2 - Orgelsonate (Organ Sonata) (Trio)
      • Armin Schoof / Restaurierte Hausorgel von Hugo Distler (Hugo Distler's house organ, restored), Thorofon Classics CTH 2294, Orgelwerke Vol. 2 (1996) -- Op. 18 Nr. 1 and 2
      • Annette Töpel Piano, Musicaphon (2008) -- Op. 18, Nr. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 12-17, 25-30
  • Opus 19 - Mörike-Chorliederbuch (Eine Auswahl) (Choral Song Book on poems of Mörike)
    • Berliner Vokalensemble, Bernd Stegman, Musicaphon M 51820 (1993)
    • Kammerchor d. Hochschule d. Künste Berlin, cond. Christian Grube, Thorofon Classics CTH 2231, Mörike-Chorliederbuch (1994) (24 songs)
    • Carmina Mundi, Nickoll, EBS 6074, Mörike-Chorliederbuch, Vol. 1 (1995)
    • Carmina Mundi, Nickoll, EBS 6077, Mörike-Chorliederbuch, Vol. 2 (1995)
    • John Brock, Organ, Complete Recordings Ltd 022 (1997) (the organ movements from op. 19 and 22, with works of Bach, Buxtehude, and Scheidt)
  • Opus 20 Nr. 1 - Streichquartett a-moll (String Quartet in A minor)
  • Opus 20 Nr. 2 - Konzerstück für 2 Klaviere (Concert Piece for 2 Pianos)
  • Opus 21 Nr. 1 - Lied am Herde (Kantate, Gedicht von Fritz Dietrich) (Song at the Herd (cantata poem by Fritz Dietrich) (translation?))
  • Opus 21 Nr. 2 - Kleine Sing- und Spielmusik (Little Music for Young Players)
  • Opus 22 - Orgelwerke (Organ Works)
    • John Brock, Organ, Complete Recordings Ltd 022 (1997) (the organ movements from op. 19 and 22, with works of Bach, Buxtehude, and Scheidt)

Works without opus number

  • Orchestra and/or concerto
    • Stage Music to "Knight Bluebeard" by Ludwig Tieck
      • Katharina Wingen, Stefan Livland, Neubrandenburger Philharmonie (New Brandenburg Philharmonic Orchestra), cond. Stefan Malzew, Musicaphon M 56860 (2008)
    • Konzert für Cembalo und 11 Solo-Instrumente (Concerto for Harpsichord and 11 Solo Instruments) (1930-32)
      • Martin Haselböck (harpsichord and conducting), Wiener Akademie, Thorofon Classics CTH 2403, Cembalokonzert (1999)
  • Organ works
    • Erhalt uns Herr bei deinem Wort (handschriftl. überliefert) (Keep us Lord (from handwritten manuscript)) (2 movements)
      • Armin Schoof / Kleine Jakobi-Orgel Lübec, Thorofon Classics CTH 2293, Orgelwerke Vol. 1 (1995)
    • Wie schön leucht uns der Morgenstern (handschriftl. überliefert) (How Beautifully Luminous Is the Morning Star (from handwritten manuscript))
      • Armin Schoof / Kleine Jakobi-Orgel Lübec (Small Jakobi organ in Lübeck), Thorofon Classics CTH 2293, Orgelwerke Vol. 1 (1995)
      • Armin Schoof / Restaurierte Hausorgel von Hugo Distler (Hugo Distler's house organ, restored), Thorofon Classics CTH 2294, Orgelwerke Vol. 2 (1996)
    • Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her (From Heaven High (translation?))
      • Armin Schoof / Restaurierte Hausorgel von Hugo Distler (Hugo Distler's house organ, restored), Thorofon Classics CTH 2294, Orgelwerke Vol. 2 (1996)
  • Piano works
    • Three-Part Invention, for piano
    • Largo for piano
    • Piano Sonata in C ("Kleine Sonate") Work
      • Annette Töpel Piano, Musicaphon (2008)
  • Choral works
    • Die Sonne sinkt von hinnen (Liedsatz für gemischten Chor) (The sun goes down from here (song set for mixed choir))
    • Der Tag hat sich geneiget (Liedsatz für gemischten Chor)
    • Ach Herr, ich bin nicht wert (Motette) (Oh Lord, I am not worthy (motet))
      • Hugo Distler Ensemble Lüneburg, cond. Erik Matz, Thorofon 1621194, Chorwerke (2008)
    • Wacht auf, es tut Euch not! (1936)
      • MonteverdiChor München, cond. Konrad von Abel, Thorofon Classics CTH 2463, Geistliche Chormusik (2005)
    • Liedmotetten zur Weinacht (Song motets for Christmas)
      • Kammerchor der Hochschule der Künste Berlin (Chamber Choir of the University of the Arts Berlin), Stephanie Petitlaurent, Silvia Fricke, Klaus Thiem, Rudolf Preckwinkel, cond. Christian Grube, Thorofon Classics CTH 2281, Die Weihnachtsgeschichte (1997)

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Slonimsky & Kuhn, Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, v. 2, p. 889
  2. ^ a b c d Klaus L. Neumann, "Hugo Distler," Grove online
  3. ^ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, p. 371
  4. ^ Strimple, Choral Music in the Twentieth Century, p. 39
  5. ^ Strimple, p. 36
  6. ^ http://hugo-distler-chor.de/ueber-uns/

References[edit]

For further reading[edit]

  • Wolfgang Jennrich: Hugo Distler. Berlin 1970.
  • Ursula Herrmann: Hugo Distler. Rufer und Mahner. Berlin 1972.
  • Ursula v. Rauchhaupt: Die vokale Kirchenmusik Hugo Distlers. Eine Studie zum Thema „Musik und Gottesdienst“. Gütersloh 1963.
  • Alexander L. Suder (Hgrs.): Hugo Distler. In: Komponisten in Bayern. Band 20. Tutzing 1990.
  • Casper Honders: In der Welt habt ihr Angst. In: Dietrich Schuberth (Hrsg.): Kirchenmusik im Nationalsozialismus. Kassel 1995, S. 144-153.
  • Dirk Lemmermann: Studien zum weltlichen Vokalwerk Hugo Distlers. Analytische, ästhetische und rezeptionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des Mörike-Chorliederbuches. Frankfurt am Main 1996.
  • Stefan Hanheide (Hrsg.): Hugo Distler im Dritten Reich. Osnabrück 1997.
  • Bettina Schlüter: Hugo Distler. Musikwissenschaftliche Untersuchungen in systemtheoretischer Perspektivierung. Elektronische Resource CD-ROM. Stuttgart 2000.
  • Winfried Lüdemann: Hugo Distler. Eine musikalische Biographie. Augsburg 2002.
  • Barbara Distler-Harth: Hugo Distler. Lebensweg eines Frühvollendeten. Schott Music. Mainz 2008.

External links[edit]