Oliver Hilmes

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Oliver Hilmes (born 1971 in Viersen, Germany) is a German author who has written several historical biographies. His study of Cosima Wagner,[1] the daughter of the 19th century composer Franz Liszt and his biography of Alma Mahler a Viennese-born socialite, have been translated into English.


Oliver Hilmes studied history, political science and psychology at Marburg University, the Sorbonne in Paris and the University of Potsdam. He earned his doctorate with a dissertation on the history of the 20th century and has worked since 2002 for the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. He has been active as personal adviser to the general manager on such projects as the introduction of the Berlin Philharmonic's Education Program and the conversion of the orchestra into a foundation.


Oliver Hilmes achieved prominence through his biographies of Alma Mahler-Werfel, Cosima Wagner,[2][3] Franz Liszt and Bavarian King Ludwig II.[4]

Tilman Krause, the literary critic of the German daily newspaper “Die Welt” described him in 2007 as the “Wunderkind among the German biographers”.[5]

Oliver Hilmes is on the board (from 1996–2013 as executive director) of the Karg-Elert Society, which promotes the study of the artistic and academic works of composer and music theoretician Sigfrid Karg-Elert.[6]

In 2016 he discovered the residency card of Richard Friedländer in Berlin archives; the card stated that Magda Goebbels was Friedländer's biological daughter.[7]


  • 2008: Geisteswissenschaften International – Preis zur Förderung der Übersetzung geisteswissenschaftlicher Literatur for: Herrin des Hügels. Das Leben der Cosima Wagner (Siedler)[8]
  • 2013: Prix des Muses (prix spécial du jury) for: Cosima Wagner. La maîtresse de la colline (Perrin)[9]


  • Berlin 1936. Sechzehn Tage im August. Siedler, Munich 2016, ISBN 978-3-8275-0059-5
  • Malevolent Muse: The Life of Alma Mahler. Northeastern University Press, 2015, ISBN 978-1555537890.
  • Cosima Wagner: The Lady of Bayreuth. Yale University Press, 2010, ISBN 0300152159.
  • Ludwig II.: Der unzeitgemäße König. Siedler, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-388680-898-4.
  • Liszt: Biographie eines Superstars. Siedler, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-88680-947-9.
  • Cosimas Kinder: Triumph und Tragödie der Wagner-Dynastie. Siedler, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-88680-899-1.
  • Im Fadenkreuz. Politische Gustav Mahler-Rezeption 1919–1945. Eine Studie über den Zusammenhang von Antisemitismus und Kritik an der Moderne. Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2003, ISBN 3-631-51041-1.
  • Der Streit ums „Deutsche“. Alfred Heuß und die Zeitschrift für Musik. Von Bockel, Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3-932696-43-3.
  • Mit Gustav Mahler in Viersen. In: Elke Heidenreich (Ed.), Ein Traum von Musik, 46 Liebeserklärungen. Edition Elke Heidenreich bei C. Bertelsmann, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-570-58014-1.

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