Hugo Kaun – Zwei symphonische Dichtungen op.43, Minnehaha and Hiawatha
(b. Berlin, 21. March 1863 – d. Berlin, 2. April 1932)
The German composer and conductor Hugo Wilhelm Ludwig Kaun might seem an unexpected choice for the writer of several symphonic poems set in the U.S. State of Minnesota. After all, Kaun was born in Berlin, studied in Berlin, and died in Berlin. At the age of 23, however, he decided to try his fortune overseas in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the United States – just one state over from Minnesota.
Kaun’s chief musical education was completed at the Königlich Akademischen Hochschule für ausübende Tonkunst, a well-respected organization that has since been subsumed into the Universität der Künste Berlin (Berlin University of the Arts). These formal studies were followed by private studies with the composer Friedrich Kiel, a famous teacher of the time. Kaun was equally prolific in composing and conducting, managing to compose, perform, and publish numerous works while also founding and leading a Berlin choral society. Although still a young man, he set off for the United States as an experienced musical leader and entrepreneur – perfect for a city with rapidly growing musical appetites.
Kaun arrived in Milwaukee in 1887 to find a thriving German-American community in the middle of an economic and immigration boom. In the 1880s, 1.4 million Germans left their homelands for the Americas, most of whom settled in the United States. The schools, businesses, cultural societies – and, yes, the breweries –that they created made Milwaukee internationally famous, nicknamed “the German Athens”. It was also filled with avid musical amateurs, a growing number of professional ensembles, and ample opportunities for someone with talent, energy, and drive. …
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