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J.P.E. Hartmann
Sonata in D Minor, Opus 34
1. Allegro passionato
2. ROMANCE: Andantino, quasi allegretto
3. SCHERZO: Allegro molto assai
4. FINALE: Allegro

Etudes Instructives, Opus 53
5. No.1 in F Major: Allegro non troppo, grazioso
6. No.2 in A Minor: Allegro agitato assai
7. No.3 in E Major: Allegro giocoso
8. No.4 in B-flat Major: Andante con moto
9. No.5 in G Minor: Allegro vivace
10. No.6 in A Major: Allegro non troppo

11. Piano Piece in B flat Major, Opus 26 “INTRODUCTION and Andantino religioso”
Allegro non tanto – Andantino religioso

Three Genre Pieces
12. No.1 in D Minor: INTRODUCTION: Allegro – Allegro assai, con molto fuoco
13. No.2 in C Major: Allegretto giocoso
14. No.3 in G Minor: Allegro moderato

15. Piano Piece in C Minor “20th January 1848”
Moderato, non troppo

16. Piano piece in E-flat Major: “Old memories”

Johan Emilius Hartmann ©
by Claus Byrith

The composer Johan Emilius Hartmann was a member of a family of musicians and composers which for over 200 years left their distinctive mark on Danish music. His paternal grandfather, Johann Hartmann (1726-93) arrived in Copenhagen in 1766 from Germany. He was engaged as a violinist in what was later to become The Royal Danish Orchestra in 1766 and was rapidly promoted to being the leader of the orchestra. As a composer he achieved great success with the music for poet and dramatist Johannes Ewald’s “Balders Død” and “Fiskerne”. His sons, Johan Ernst and August Wilhelm, both pursued a musical career, Johan Ernst as the cantor of Roskilde Cathedral and August Wilhelm as the organist of the Garrison Church in Copenhagen. In 1805 he became the father of J.P.E. Hartmann. In the same year Hans Christian Andersen and August Bournonville were also born, the latter to become Denmark’s most famous creator of the Danish Ballet. Both of these men became friends of Hartmann and he enjoyed a fruitful collaboration with both of them. His long life – 95 years – under four kings, born while Haydn was still alive and not dying until both George Gershwin and Duke Ellington were born, meant that he more than anybody else influenced the development of Danish music in the romantic period.

The family’s later generation also left their mark in music. J.P.E. Hartmann’s son, Emil (1836-98), was a respected composer whose works today are once again claiming interest, and his great-grandchild was the composer Niels Viggo Bentzon who ended up being one of the 20th century’s most talkedabout Danish composers. Others in the family have also made an impression on the music life of Denmark. So here we are talking about a Danish musical dynasty. That Hartmann’s daughter married composer Niels W. Gade was also to be significant for the development of music in the 19th century.

During Hartmann’s childhood and youth, historical events were not favourable for the Kingdom of Denmark. One catastrophe led to another: The Bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807 and the loss of the Danish fleet, the national bankruptcy in 1813 and the loss of Norway in 1814 were events which were of immense significance for Danish literature, music and culture in the dawning of romanticism. Attempts were made to repress the present with reminiscences of better times in antiquity and the early Middle Ages. Legends and myths came to life in the dramas of the poet Adam Oehlenschlæger and others. Hartmann was also influenced by this. His most well-known contribution to the genre is the music which made Oehlenschlæger’s “Guldhornene” (The Gold Horns) from 1832 into a melodrama which found favour well into the 20th century and of which several gramophone recordings were made. The most well-known are the interpretations of Poul Reumert and Adam Poulsen, both actors at The Royal Theatre. In this work we meet for the first time the atmosphere which became known as “The Nordic Tone”. This can be described as serious, slightly sombre without actually being gloomy, often rhythmically divergent from the expected, and with a strain of folkmusic. It has almost become Hartmann’s name for posterity. We encounter it not only in the music for Oehlenschlæger’s Nordic tragedies such as “Hakon Jarl” and in the music for Bournonville’s ballets “Valkyrien” and “Trymskviden”, but also in symphonies and in many of the large number of occasional works he wrote during his long life, which today have been forgotten, precisely because they were occasional works. In one of the most loved and still performed Bournonville ballets, “Et Folkesagn” we see the collaboration between Hartmann and his son-in-law, Niels W. Gade, who wrote the music for the 1st and 3rd acts, while Hartmann provided the music for the 2nd act.

His life’s external circumstances were undramatic. His father wished him to study law rather than devote himself to music. He did both and graduated in law, but succeeded his father as the organist of the Garrison Church in 1824. During the whole of his life he pursued his organist career and reached the top of the tree when in 1843 he was appointed as C.E.F. Weyse’s successor to the country’s most prestigious organist’s post at Copenhagen Cathedral, Our Lady’s Church, a position he held right up to a few months before his death. The post at the Garrison Church was, however, still occupied by a Hartmann, namely his cousin Søren!

Hartmann manifested himself within all musical genres, but much has been forgotten today. Among the works he is still remembered for, is the little opera “Liden Kirsten” with the libretto by Hans Christian Andersen. It was an immediate success, and throughout the whole of the 20th century it has been performed again and again. It also attracted attention in other countries, for example when Liszt had it performed In Weimar! The Sulamith and Solomon songs, inspired by The Song of Songs from The Old Testament, are still in the repertory of numerous singers. Many of his hymn tunes are still in use, and as already mentioned, “Guldhornene” is also part of the Danish musical heritage.

The piano works also occupy a significant place in his production. He wrote several sonatas and Hartmann also wrote a number of short piano pieces intended for use not only in the concert hall, but also in the drawing-room, since the growing and economically steadily more influential middle classes were able to afford not only a piano, but also tuition, especially for their daughters. These short pieces resulted in a not insignificant income for the composer, but they were certainly not hack work. This is clearly evident from a letter he wrote to his friend the musicologist Angul Hammerich: “This distinction between large and small forms does not clarify the matter, since when one knows what Mendelssohn, Schumann, Chopin, Stefan Heller, Gade and many others have given us in smaller forms, one will see how important much modulatory and harmonic knowledge, subtlety of design etc. are in order to be able to create something which can stand on its own feet in smaller forms, also without the agency of the piano virtuosity of recent times.”

These short pieces reveal a wholly different side of the composer from that which we find in his orchestral works. Here we encounter joie de vivre, intimacy and gaiety, indeed often almost hilarity, for which we have to search for diligently in the rest of his production. One senses the influence of Schumann and Mendelssohn, but even so Hartmann has his own style.

During the period from the middle of the 18th century until the deaths of Beethoven and Schubert in 1827 and 1828 respectively, the piano sonata was for many composers an important mode of expression, and the quantity of sonatas is enormous. Just think of the 32 by Beethoven, the many by Mozart and Schubert and the more than fifty by Haydn. But after these masters were no longer alive, things changed radically. Now it was rare for a composer to write more than a few sonatas; many, including Liszt, who is normally known as a composer of piano music par excellence, only wrote one sonata. A centre of gravity had clearly shifted. In the romantic era piano music was governed by atmosphere and emotions which could not be fitted into the rigid formal structure of the sonata. Examples which immediately spring to mind are, for example, Schumann’s “Kinderszenen”, Liszt’s “Années de Pelerinage” and Brahms’s Fantasias and intermezzi, just to mention a few. Common to these is that they can be considered to be atmospheric “tone-pictures”.

In a letter to his German publisher Hartmann wrote among other things: “I am not a pianist by profession, and I have always been more interested in orchestral and vocal compositions than those for the piano, but many composers now use this instrument for the development of compositional ideas, and had I not had an eye for this, I would hardly have been able to call myself a piano composer, but the most important thing for me has never been the pianistic element, but alone the compositional.”

In spite of his reservations Hartmann wrote four sonatas and one sonatina. This is more than all other Danish composers wrote during the same period. Perhaps he is the only composer between F. Kuhlau and Niels Viggo Bentzon to have written more than one or two sonatas. There can be little doubt that especially during the years from 1840 to the beginning of the 1850s Hartmann was the Danish composer who manifested the greatest personal commitment and the greatest originality in his innumerable piano works.

A major work from this period is the so-called “Priis-Sonate” (Prize Sonata) from 1841. Hartmann had become acquainted with the music publisher Schuberth from Hamburg, and when Schuberth told him that a piano sonata competition arranged by Nord Deutscher Musikverein to be adjudicated by a jury was also open to foreigners, this immediately sparked Hartmann’s interest. However, the closing date for handing in the sonata was in less than four weeks’ time, so Hartmann got busy, very busy. The situation was so stressed that the fair copy was not quite finished when it had to be sent off, so part of the lengthy first movement had to be submitted in Hartmann’s own manuscript. Altogether about fifty works were submitted, and Hartmann won a shared second prize. Schuberth later told Hartmann that several members of the jury thought that the sonata was not “pianistic” enough. Hartmann could well understand this opinion because, as he put it, he did not see himself primarily as a composer for the piano, but more as an orchestral composer, also, however, as a composer of songs, naturally with piano accompaniment. He emphasized again and again that for him the piano was an extremely useful implement for trying out ideas.

According to Schuberth, two members of the jury, the composer Louis Spohr and the organist Johann Friedrich Schwenke, had been of the opinion that Hartmann should have won the first prize, but it is perhaps more significant that in the respected “Neue Zeitschrift für Musik” Robert Schumann had this to say about the sonata:

“One immediately senses a sharp disposition.

The composer moves within a beautiful flow of ideas; new thoughts appear, old ones reappear; they intertwine. Everything dissolves into a beautiful constellation and disappears as lightly and gracefully as it began. After hearing this piece, it is as though one shakes hands with an artist, only for him will such a thing succeed. After a somewhat bluff

Photo of Hartmann prelude follows a romance, which with tender seriousness tells us something we feel that we already know. It captivates the whole time, even though it does not cause us to forget the first movement. A scherzo of the most charming kind follows; strong and weak voices alternate in graceful sequence, approaching and fleeing; the trio sounds like a friend’s admonition, but then the teasing begins again.”

Schumann thought that with regard to content the last movement distanced itself from the first three movements, but said even so: “one notices after all the skill of a musician who wishes to create something artistic” and finishes by saying that the sonata had certainly deserved the first prize, because Hartmann “is a master of form and no slave of his emotions, and who all along the line understands how to move and captivate us.” Regarding the other smaller pieces on this CD, it should just be mentioned that in my opinion the six studies are nothing less than brilliant. Despite their unbelievable brevity they all contain a musical spark which is bound to captivate anyone who plays them. Each piece; however short, is a whole world in itself, and a pianist who plays them without prejudice will most certainly find himself being rewarded both musically and pianistically. Concerning the three genre pieces, it is perhaps worth knowing that originally there should have been four pieces which, cut down to only three, were sent off for publication by the German publisher Hoffmeister, who, however, thought that “they were too dry, and that the artistic elaboration did not succeed in compensating for this.” Well, there is no limit to the number of stupid remarks made in the course of time! The three pieces have many motifs in common. It is possible to hear them as a sonata in three movements with a lyrical middle movement framed by two more dramatic outer movements. Three moods experienced by one person within a short period of time as a kind of earnest for what sonatas of the future had to offer, and it seems clear that thoughts of this kind were not foreign to Liszt.

The short elegy with the title “20th January 1848” was written on the occasion of the death of King Christian VIII. Little did Hartmann know that this date would come to mean a turning-point in the history of Denmark!


November 2022