E. T. A. Hoffmann’s Only Symphony
E. T. A. Hoffmann is rightly regarded as one of the great writers of German romanticism but not as one of this epoch’s great composers. Nevertheless, this jurist by training and later Prussian Kammergerichtsrat repeatedly attempted to earn his livelihood as a composer and conductor because for him music was the most romantic art and thus the highest of all the arts. In his more than seventy compositions representing almost all the musical genres, Hoffmann demonstrated his knowledge of the compositional trade. For quite some time I have been interested (not least because I also studied German literature) to make at least some of his musical oeuvre available in audio form. This month we are releasing Hoffmann’s Symphony in E flat major and his two overtures to Undine and Aurora. From 1804 to 1807 Hoffmann was employed as a Regierungsrat in Warsaw. He later viewed these four years as the happiest time of his life: although his duties as a jurist were strenuous, he had enough time to compose and to dream of his career as a musician. It was in Warsaw that he also composed his only symphony, which he himself conducted during its premiere in 1806. Haydn was his clearly audible source of inspiration, and yet it has a Hoffmannesque character all of its own. Along with his Undine, it is surely his most successful work musically. This gem shines in this interpretation on original instruments.