His earliest compositions were composed when he was 11, and in 1884 he wrote his first songs. From 1886 to 1890 he studied composition with Iwan Knorr and piano with James Kwast at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt. He taught at the Koblenz Conservatory from 1892 to 1893. In 1894 he was appointed conductor at the Stadttheater in Mainz.
His own music - which includes pieces in all the major genres except the symphonic poem - was respected by contemporaries such as Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss, although neither man cared much for Pfitzner's innately acerbic manner (and Alma Mahler reciprocated his adoration with contempt). Particularly notable are Pfitzner's numerous and delicate Lieder, influenced by Hugo Wolf, yet with their own rather melancholy charm. (Several of them were recorded during the 1930s by the distinguished baritone Gerhard Hüsch, with the composer at the piano.) His first symphony underwent a strange genesis: it was not conceived in orchestral terms at all, but was a reworking of a string quartet. Hans Pfitzner featured on a 1994 German postage stamp Easily the most celebrated of Pfitzner's prose utterances is his pamphlet Futuristengefahr ("Danger of Futurists"), written in response to Ferruccio Busoni's Sketch for a New Aesthetic of Music. "Busoni," Pfitzner complained, "places all his hopes for Western music in the future and understands the present and past as a faltering beginning, as the preparation.
But what if it were otherwise? What if we find ourselves presently at a high point, or even that we have already passed beyond it?" Increasingly nationalistic in his middle and old age, Pfitzner was at first regarded sympathetically by important figures in the Third Reich (in particular by Hans Frank, with whom he remained on good terms). But he soon fell out with chief Nazis, who were unimpressed by his long musical association with the Jewish conductor Bruno Walter. He incurred extra odium by refusing to obey the regime's request to provide incidental music to A Midsummer Night's Dream that could be used in place of the music of Felix Mendelssohn, who was also Jewish. Pfitzner maintained Mendelssohn's original was far better than anything he himself could offer as a substitute. After the war he ended up in an old people's home in Salzburg, Austria, where he died.
(Wilhelm Furtwängler conducted a performance of Pfitzner's Symphony in C major, at the Salzburg Festival with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in the summer of 1949, just after the composer's death.) Following long neglect, Pfitzner's music began to reappear in opera houses and concert halls, as well as recording studios, during the 1990s. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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