Symphony in G minor, Op. 17
Johann Peter Emilius Hartmann
Symphony No. 1 in G-minor, op. 17
(b. Copenhagen, 14 May 1805 – d. Copenhagen 10 March 1900)
Johann Peter Emilius Hartmann is generally acknowledged as one of the most important and influential Danish musician of the romantic age. As a composer his diverse compositional output included three operas, two symphonies, three ballets, overtures, numerous choral works, as well as a copious amount of chamber music. Aside from his career as a composer, he was very active in much of Denmark’s musical life, performing as organist at the Copenhagen Cathedral, court composer to the Danish Royal family, director of the Royal Danish Academy of Music, as well as director for a time of the Musikforeningen (Music Society). Its objective was to help publicize and publish works by Danish composers and was also an important concert venue with its own symphony orchestra and chorus. As can be deduced from his name, his family originated in Germany, his grandfather, J.E. Hartmann, also a composer, was born in Silesia. The family migrated to Copenhagen in the 18th century, where JPE Hartmann was born. His father was also a musician and JPE received his initial musical instruction from him. Respecting his father’s wishes, JPE did not opt for a degree in music, instead studied law and upon graduation in 1829, was hired as a civil servant. He pursued his musical career simultaneously, as he did not relinquish his civil service position until his retirement in 1870. Although largely self thought as a composer, he did have the opportunity to take study tours to Germany, Italy and France, meeting and consulting with composers that included Chopin, Rossini, Cherubini and Spohr. Spohr especially continued to be an important mentor for Hartmann.
Hartmann‘s music steadily evolved from his earliest works, which have a close affinity to Mozart and early Beethoven, to his later works, which are in the great 19th century romantic tradition. A number of those works are also tied to Danish nationalism, with their incorporation of folk musical elements and Norse subjects. These along with his tireless propagation of national musical life made him a revered figure in Danish musical life.
His Symphony No. 1 dates from 1836; its musical language contains some echoes of the early classic/romantics such as Mendelssohn, Schubert and Weber. At the same time it is not a mere copy, but speaks a musical language all its own. It is music most worthy of repeated performances and wider dissemination. Rob Barnett states it very well in a review of an excellent recording of both Hartmann Symphonies by the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra: „The First Symphony declares its fealty to Weber and Schumann very early on. This is very fresh writing with limpid and inventive work for the woodwind especially the clarinet. This aspect reminded me of Berwald. There is also restlessness about the music, which sits oddly with its undoubted grace. The third movement has some Tchaikovskian accents – paralleled in the Suites rather than the symphonies. Another voice is that of Mendelssohn with a definite Nordic breeze and with floral romance.“ (Rob Barnett)
Karl Hinterbichler, University of New Mexico, 2016
For performance material please contact Hansen, Copenhagen. Reprint of a copy from the Musikbibliothek der Münchner Stadtbibliothek, Munich.