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Video of the Day 
Hans Pfitzner, 3 Preludes from Palestrina

time: 22:14 / 41 words

Orchestra not credited, Christian Thielemann, conductor. Thielmann also conducts an excellent modern digital recording of these preludes on Deutsche Grammophon: Opera excerpts from Pfitzner (Palestrina; Das Herz; Das Kathchen von Heilbronn) & R. Strauss (Guntram; Capriccio; Feuersnot)


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  1. Donar van Holland
    Posted June 7, 2012 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    Thank you for drawing attention to this composer. I did not know anything about him. Happy to meet a relatively modern composer who has resisted the decline of classical music!

  2. Jacques Vendée
    Posted June 7, 2012 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Pfitzner has been neglected because of his Nationalism Socialism and his anti-modernism. His work is great. Much of it very hard to find. There is a collection of songs (5 discs) on CPO that is well worth buying. He belongs in the same category as Schubert and Wolf.

    And Thielemann might just be on our side:

  3. Posted June 7, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Ironically, I understand that Pfitzner was ignored during the 1000 Reich. Hitler couldn’t stand Pfitzner, simply because he [AH] thought he [HPf] looked like an old rabbi.

    WikiPedia, source of all knowledge, says:

    Sabine Busch, in a comprehensive study, “Hans Pfitzner and National Socialism” published in 2000, made a long-overdue examination of the ideological tug-of-war of the composer’s involvement with the National Socialists, based in-part on previously unavailable material.[4] She concludes that, although the composer was not exclusively pro-Nazi nor purely the anti-Semitic chauvinist as his image often projects, he engaged with Nazi powers whom he thought would promote his music only to be embittered when the Nazis found the “elitist old master’s often morose music” to be “little propaganda worthy.” Central to the Nazi treatment was a meeting between Pfitzner and Hitler during a hospital as early as 1923, not quite at Pfitzner’s own doing. Pfitzner was recovering from a gall bladder operation, when a mutual friend, Anton Drexler, arranged a visit. Hitler, unsurprisingly, did most of the talking, and Pfitzner dared to contradict him regarding homosexual and anti-Semitic thinker Otto Weininger, causing Hitler to leave in a huff. Unbeknownst to Pfitzner, Hitler communicated to Nazi cultural-architect Paul Rosenberg that he wanted “nothing further to do with this Jewish rabbi.”

    “Morose” is a good word for it. Good stuff in small doses, such as these Preludes [ I have Thielemann’s DG recording] but if forced to endure the entire length of Palestrina [which I also have, in the old DG 3 disc set with the late Fischer-Dieskau] I might jump off a balcony.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted June 7, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

      This is pretty much in accord with what I have read in Frederick Spotts’ Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics. I too like the Palestrina preludes and the other pieces on the Thielemann anthology, but I find the full opera to be stultifying — and yes, I listened to the same recording as you.

      The Spotts book, which I shall review at length anon, makes it very clear that Hitler’s aesthetic judgments were not based merely on politics. There were fervent National Socialist composers (Pfitzner), conductors (Karajan), and other artists whom he did not like on artistic grounds, whereas there were composers, conductors, etc. whom he did like on aesthetic grounds but who were politically incorrect on Nazi grounds, e.g., Thorak’s Communist affiliations, Lehar’s Jewish wife, Max Lorenz’s homosexuality and Jewish wife, etc. Hitler basically excused all these foibles on the grounds that artistic talents tend to be associated with being bohemian, homosexual, politically naive, and — in the old order, at least — the company of Jews. But he would not excuse bad art on the grounds of political convictions.

      Pfitzner is obviously derivative of Wagner, but in terms of his furious use of counterpoint, he reminds me more of Hindemith, another composer whom Hitler despised.

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