Konzert in C für grosses Orchester mit obligatem Klavier
August Otto Halm
(b. Großaltdorf, 26. October 1869 – d. Saalfeld, 1. February 1929)
Konzert in C Dur für großes Orchester mit obligatem Klavier
Born in Großaltdorf, Germany, August Otto Halm was widely known in the early twentieth century as a versatile musician. An insightful writer on music, renowned educationist and engaging composer, Halm was described as the “musical conscience” of the time.1 He received his early musical training from his mother and subsequently at the Gymnasium in Schwäbisch-Hall. Later on he studied theology and composition at Tübingen University, where his music mentor Emil Kauffmann introduced him to Hugo Wolf, and during 1893 and 1895 he attended the Munich Akademie der Tonkunst to study with composer Joseph Rheinberger. He was then appointed conductor of the Society for Classical Church Music in Heilbronn, while at the same time working as custodian of the city’s music archive and private music instructor. In 1903 he was hired by a private country boarding school in Haubinda, Thuringia, and from 1906 to 1910 he was a core member of the newly founded Freie Schulgemeinde (Free School Community) in Wickersdorf, Thuringia. After leaving Wickersdorf, Halm took on several assignments as conductor and music critic and became an instructor at the Evangelische Lehrerbildungsanstalt (Protestant Teacher’s Institute) in Esslingen, Neckar in 1914. He resumed his former post at Wickersdorf in 1920 and stayed until his premature death.
Halm’s significance chiefly lies in his approach to musical form in both of his roles as analyst and composer. In his 1913 treatise “On Two Cultures of Music”, Halm identified the two “cultures” of music with J. S. Bach’s fugues and Beethoven’s sonatas. He considered the concepts of form and theme a dialectic in which they constitute a historical antithesis, i.e. a “culture of theme” in Bach’s fugues is in contrast to a “culture of form” in Beethoven’s sonatas. In a fugue the form is dependent upon the theme, whereas in a sonata the themes are subject to the formal design. For Halm, Bruckner nevertheless shows a “third culture of music” where the two comes together. He wrote, “Bruckner is the first absolute musician of great style and complete mastery since Bach, the creator of dramatic music—which is the enemy and the conqueror of music drama. If the fugue wanted to be fertilized by the spirit of the new music, it had to create contrast in the manner of treating the theme while leaving its thematic unity intact.”2 Halm saw Bruckner’s symphonic style as the “conqueror of music drama”, in which Bruckner incorporated the “dramatic” of Bach’s fugue into his sonata that is contingent on the contrasting themes. This interpenetration of fugue and sonata form Halm suggested is not merely a formal fusion. More importantly, it is an appropriation of the “culture of theme” in fugue to the “culture of form” in sonata that characterises Bruckner’s works.
Halm’s analytical pursuit and compositional activity complemented each other. He considered the relationship between the two as reciprocal in which both belong inseparably together. It is therefore not surprising that the “third culture of music” had become an important compositional principle in Halm’s own works. Often regarded as a traditionalist in the experimental early twentieth century, Halm built on the developmental path of tonality stretched across the nineteenth century and attempted to find his own voice by merging fugue and sonata. For him, originality in composition should be grounded in the natural laws of music, meaning the common-practice tonality based in nature, rather than the new, never-before aesthetic prevailing during the modernist era. Such a traditionalist tendency could be well seen in one of his major orchestral works, the Concerto in C Major, whose form and harmonic language shows the compositional principles he advocated in writings…
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