Emil Hartmann had a heavy family heritage to lift, being the son of one of the true greats in Danish music life, the composer and organist J.P.E. Hartmann. In Denmark, Emil Hartmann had difficulty freeing himself from his father’s shadow, but in Germany, things were easier. On this release, Elisabeth Zeuthen Schneider and friends delve into his chamber musical key works, providing the perfect showcase for the romantic flair of Emil Hartmann, making his lines sing beautifully and virtuosic passages dance, and finding intimacy and eloquence at telling moments.
Message in a Bottle
by Elisabeth Zeuthen Schneider
A musician´s life moves on busily. Elements along the way are collected and stored as impressions. These can be intellectual, heartfelt, emotional or pragmatic, and they can lodge themselves in the back of your head.
When I was editing, performing and recording these works, I was catapulted back to my young days, to my first professional job as a member of the Royal Danish Orchestra at the lovely Old Stage of the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen. Lodged in the repertoire were the Danish Romantic ballets created by the Golden Age artists residing in Copenhagen in the first half of the 19th century. August Bournonville was the ballet master then, creating ballets that seemed to capture a spirit that was both Romantic and Danish/Nordic, using folktales and sagas. They incorporated a good deal of ‘hygge’ (cosy and simple fun!) and the ideals of the loving family unit.
From my place in the orchestra pit, I craned my neck to see the conductor – but more often I strained to see the stage where the dancers were not only dancing but also miming facial expressions, mimicking in a style that the Royal Danish corps de ballet made world-famous. Emil Hartmann’s music conjures up the dusty, resin-smelling orchestra-pit, the sound from the dancer’s feet and the whirling colours on the stage. And the heartfelt, simple Romanticism of the music of that time.
Emil Hartmann was headstrong, warm, talented, ambitious. And frustrated by the constraints of bourgeois Copenhagen. Initially overshadowed by his much-respected, solid father J.P.E. Hartmann and his smooth and successful brother-in-law Niels W. Gade. Hartmann was also fragile, subjecting himself to prolonged stays at the mental institution Oringe, situated on a peninsula south of Copenhagen. These stays led to breakdowns in his career, a career that otherwise looked promising.
There is a quote from the diaries of Hans Christian Andersen where Andersen complains about the energy and restlessness of the flat-occupant above, Emil Hartmann, who was playing the piano, singing loudly, pacing the floor, opening and shutting the windows. Emil Hartmann´s music is of the same calibre: moving forward with a youthful energy seeking release, but also – like almost all music of that time – profoundly influenced by the genius of Mendelssohn and Schumann. With Hartmann, this influence is enhanced by his simplicity and sincerity. These qualities are especially notable in his two unpublished early works, the Piano Quintet, op. 5 and the String Quartet, op. 14.
The ‘hygge’ and deep sentiment is heard in the slow movements, national pathos (in some interspersed sections, melodies resembling our national anthem are contained), trolls are dancing over the burial mounds from the Bronze Age, Mendelssohnian elves mocking the observer behind trees, and peasants stamping their feet in the barn.
When my generous colleague, pianist Nina Gade, introduced me to the family Waelbroeck, Emil’s greatgrandchildren, at their home in Ghent in Belgium, I was reminded of the above-mentioned stories, the gentle, loving family values and the aesthetics of olden times in Denmark. One of Emil Hartmann´s sons, Johannes Hartmann, built up an extraordinary horticultural business in Ghent, famous throughout Europe. The pictures on the walls in the beautiful house equal our finest collections in Denmark. The artistic traditions of the Hartmann family are upheld as the descendants continue as musicians, composers, painters.
I hope that the music contained in this release will bring joy, in addition to conveying a delightful message from the past. The music, and the music-making with my great colleagues from Thy Chamber Music Festival and producer Viggo Mangor, have been a true joy.
Elisabeth Zeuthen Schneider, 2019
An Exceptional Talent
by Claus Røllum-Larsen
Wilhelm Emilius Zinn Hartmann was born into music – for several generations, his family had included musicians and composers. To be the eldest son of the organist and composer J.P.E. Hartmann – the most important composer of the generation after Weyse and Kuhlau – must also have had a highly stimulating effect on a young man who, since his early youth, knew that music would be his profession.
Emil Hartmann was born in 1836, a child of J.P.E. Hartmann’s first marriage to Emma Sophie Amalia Zinn, daughter of one of the wealthiest Copenhagen merchants, the agent Johann Friederich Zinn. So, it was a well-to-do and extremely musical home that Emil Hartmann grew up in. Early on, he displayed musical talent and he received his first piano lessons from the pianist and composer Niels Ravnkilde, and later became a pupil of the prominent pianist Anton Rée. His father taught him music theory and gave him organ lessons.
He started to compose when only a child, and at the age of 22, in 1858, his Passion Hymn for soprano, choir and orchestra was performed in Vor Frue Kirke (Church of Our Lady). This marked his debut as a composer. Shortly afterwards, he started collaborating with his future brother-in-law, the pianist and composer August Winding, on composing the music for the second act of August Bournonville’s ballet Fjeldstuen (The Mountain Hut), which had its first performance at the Royal Danish Theatre in 1859. After this, Hartmann went to Leipzig for further education, and six years later, in 1867, he received a portion of Det Anckerske Legat, a grant that enabled him to travel to Leipzig and Paris. In 1861, Hartmann was appointed organist at the newly consecrated Sankt Johannes Kirke (St. John’s Church) in Nørrebro, Copenhagen. He held this post until 1871, when he took over the position of organist at Christiansborg Slotskirke (Christiansborg Palace Chapel), succeeding the composer Herman Løvenskiold. He held this position until his death in 1898.
As is evident, Emil Hartmann’s life and work were very much anchored in Copenhagen, where he was an organist. In 1864, he married Bolette Puggaard, a daughter of the wealthy Copenhagen merchant Rudolph Puggaard. From the 1860s onwards, Hartmann had an increasing number of his works performed in Germany, particularly in Berlin, where in 1876 he attended performances of several Wagner operas.
It was around this time that Emil Hartmann’s nervous problems became evident. In 1874, at his own initiative, he was admitted to the mental hospital Oringe near Vordingborg, Zealand. His nervous condition came to mean lengthy stays in hospital and must have had a marked effect on his work as a composer. In his later years, he experienced several personal disappointments. He was, for example, passed over for both the post of cathedral organist in Roskilde in 1890 and, at the end of that year, as the successor to Niels W. Gade as organist at Holmens Kirke (the Church of Holmen) in Copenhagen. Gade was Hartmann’s brother-in-law, since Gade’s wife, Sophie, was Emil’s sister. The post was awarded instead to Thomas Laub – an appointment that was a thorn in the flesh for Hartmann and even met with strong protests from large sections of the professional organist circles in Copenhagen.
Shortly after these events, a successor was needed for Gade’s post as conductor of Musikforeningen (The Music Society), a post for which Emil Hartmann felt he was the obvious choice. He was initially given the appointment for one year only and when the permanent conductor was to be appointed in 1892, the Bohemian-born Franz Neruda was preferred. Emil Hartmann continued as organist at the Christiansborg Palace Chapel until his death in 1898.
When he died, Hartmann left behind him a considerable production: no less than three operas, several ballad operas, ballet music, theatrical music and various orchestral works, including seven symphonies and three instrumental concertos, not to mention chamber music and piano works as well as romances and hymn tunes.
It was particularly within the field of orchestral works that Emil Hartmann’s qualifications were done greatest justice. The musicologist Angul Hammerich, who was a highly esteemed music critic, gave Hartmann’s orchestral works the following critique in 1920: ‘excellent compositional technique, elegant structure and colourful instrumentation’. All this is also very much in evidence in what one hears when, for example, one listens to the symphonic poem Hakon Jarl, which is one of Hartmann’s later works, composed in 1887, and in the Dyveke Suite (published in 1892) and A Carnival (1882), both of which were extremely popular at venues such as the Tivoli Concert Hall. Widespread popularity was also enjoyed by the piano work Scandinavian Folk Music (1881), which contains a whole series of dances and so on in well-wrought arrangements. Excerpts of the work also became popular in orchestral versions. Two of Emil Hartmann’s perhaps greatest successes were the little lullaby Nu skal du kønt dig putte ned (Now You’re to Sweetly Go to Sleep) with Christian Richardt’s moving text, and the melody for N.F.S Grundtvig’s Easter hymn Som forårssolen morgenrød (As Springtime Sun in Morning Glow). Both became highly popular, and the latter is still one of the most frequently sung Easter hymns in the Danish church.
Hartmann’s works – as Hammerich has shown – are characterized by deft handling of instrumentation. But it is scarcely an exaggeration to claim that it is, in particular, the melodic quality that has carried his works. The warm and not infrequently delectable tone that typifies many of his melodies – and also the themes in, for example, the violin concerto and the overture Hærmændene paa Helgeland (The Vikings at Helgeland) – has undoubtedly enhanced the popularity they enjoyed during his lifetime. As something distinctive and quite striking, there are in a great many of Hartmann’s works undisguised quotations, or at any rate a clear influence, from works by other contemporary composers. One can, for example, clearly sense that sections of the second movement of his Symphony No. 3 (1887) were consciously referring to, or inspired by, Niels W. Gade’s Elverskud (The Elf King’s Daughter).
Emil Hartmann has long been a modest parenthesis in the history of Danish music. After his death, his music was played only to a limited extent, and the fact that it has recently become possible to gain an impression of Hartmann’s orchestral production is due almost exclusively to the many studio recordings that have been made from the 1960s onwards with ensembles from DR (Danish Broadcasting Corporation) and regional orchestras. These were followed by several CD recordings, and when the musicologist Inger Sørensen in 1999-2002 published the most detailed Hartmann family biography to date as well as an edition of their letters, one was finally able to gain some insight into Emil Hartmann’s life and work.
Chamber music is quite extensively represented in Hartmann’s production. There are string quartets, serenades for various ensembles, a piano trio and a piano quintet. Many of the works have not been published, and most of them have slept a long, enchanted sleep in the Music Collection at the Royal Danish Library.
The Piano Quintet in G minor, op. 5 is dated 29 March 1865, and it probably had its first performance in 1866. It is one of the earliest Danish piano quintets – a few years earlier than that of Peter Heise, which was composed in 1869. Like in Robert Schumann’s quintet of 1842, the first movement of Hartmann’s quintet is powerful and impetuous. Despite this, Hartmann’s quintet starts with a short cello recitative. The second theme contains a clear reference to Schumann’s piano concerto. Hartmann allows this theme to return ‘at full length’ in the development section, but leaves it to the strings to play it on their own in the recapitulation before the headlong coda begins. In the third movement, one notices the great instrumental balancing act. Emil Hartmann was able to display. The quintet as a whole is a work of exceptional calibre.
The Quartet in A minor, op. 14 opens with the somewhat luscious main theme in A minor, which is subsequently reworked and emerges in a slightly altered form as a gentle subsidiary theme in C major. This concludes the short exposition section. A hushed theme in A flat major then introduces the development section. The transition to the recapitulation takes place via the hushed theme, which links to the exposition section. It now concludes it and, extremely hushed, in piano pianissimo, the main theme returns, after which the recapitulation is completed. After the second movement, with a highly tuneful main theme, comes a minuet, noble and with a lively trio.
The Finale is introduced by eight bars, the texture being fugal, i.e. the theme is gradually introduced by the four instruments, one after the other. Hartmann often made use of this classical technique in short two-part or three-part sequences, of which this quartet also contains examples. The introduction anticipates the main theme in the Finale, which is a rondo. This does not, as would be the case in many string quartets of the classical period, mean a quick movement that virtually sweeps aside all that has gone before. On the contrary, the mood does not differ much from that of the first movement. Here too we find Emil Hartmann’s melodic vein as well as a mood of melancholy, perhaps with more than a touch of Biedermeier. Finally, all this is belied by a lively coda which concludes the work with bravura.
If the Quartet in A minor is friendly and gentle, the same is not true of the String Quartet in C minor, op. 37, which is smouldering and dramatic. Above the first bars, Emil Hartmann has written in Latin. ‘Tenax propositi’, which means ‘remains steadfast’ or ‘unshakeable’. This motto is very much lived up to in the quartet. The first movement begins with what one could call an initial – a short introductory phrase that immediately strikes a solemn, serious tone. The main theme is dramatic and has great momentum. The subsidiary theme in the first violin, on the other hand, unfolds calmly and life-assertingly, with the cello, also contributing. In the development section, the mood of the main theme section returns. In Emil Hartmann’s manuscript of the work, one does not find the usual repeat signs after the exposition section. This may, of course, be an oversight, but one could instead choose to take it as expressing the idea that the main theme, in particular, is so weighty that it does not need to be repeated. As a stark contrast to the nervous, impetuous first movement, the slow movement emanates a seraphic aura of beauty and harmony. A refined-sounding middle section has been inserted into the movement. Curiously enough, in this work, Hartmann has chosen to reuse ideas from the minuet movement from the String Quartet in A minor. But it is perhaps a fortunate choice, partly because the minuet is a beautiful and distinctive movement, and partly because it contrasts well with the two surrounding movements.
Three such well-written movements call for a really fine, high-profiled final one. And this is something Hartmann has been well aware of. The finale opens with the same initial as found at the beginning of the work, after which the lively main theme appears. A fine, singable subsidiary theme follows, after which the main theme is worked on in the development section. In this movement, Hartmann notably makes highly effective use of pizzicato. With this beautifully shaped and extremely varied string quartet, Emil Hartmann cuts a distinguished figure among Danish composers of quartets of his time. His father, J.P.E. Hartmann, did not have much success within this important genre, although Emil’s brother-in-law, Niels W. Gade, most certainly did. And it is also Gade’s quartets that the C minor quartet most resembles, although it is a strong, personal contribution to the genre which 19th-century composers often used as a yardstick for compositional skill.
Andante and Allegro in A minor, op. 12 , unlike the other works on this release, was published. Hartmann made use of the publisher Fr. Kistner in Leipzig, as did Niels W. Gade. The work in minor has the feel of a fantasia, introduced by a relatively long piano prelude. There is no obvious connection between the musical material used in this prelude (Andante) and the main section (Allegro ). The whole work has a somewhat improvisational feel to it, as expressed in a cadenza-like sequence for the violin placed between the Andante and the Allegro. And later on, in the middle of the Allegro, first the piano and then the violin has a short cadenza. Apart from the more extrovert, virtuoso passages, the work offers short sections of a sweeter nature. The quite personal feel conveyed by this work comes as no surprise when one sees that it is dedicated to Niels W. Gade.
Claus Røllum-Larsen, senior researcher at the Royal Danish Library, 2019