Austrian poet, dramatist, essayist, and librettist, who became internationally famous for his collaboration with the German composer Richard Strauss. Hofmannsthal entered the literary scene very young, at the age of Hugo von Hofmannsthal was born in Vienna into an old Spanish-Jewish family. His father, Dr. Hugo von Hofmannsthal, was a bank director, whose fortunes had dwindled during the depression of However, he had been awarded the noble 'von', and had converted to Catholicism.
Hofmannsthal's father noted his son's literary talents early. There Hofmannsthal started his aesthetic education. In the circle of young poets, known as Jung Wien , Hofmannsthal and Stefan Zweig were the most distinguished stars.
His first poems and essays Hofmannsthal published at the age of 16 under the pseudonym Loris, borrowed from the Russian general, Count Michael T. At that time he was still a schoolboy at the renowed Viennese Akademisches Gymnasikum. In Hofmannsthal became a student of law at the University of Vienna, but he abandoned law in favor of Romance philology, and obtained his doctorate in After this he devoted himself entirely to writing.
At the age of seventeen Hofmannsthal met the German poet Stefan George, from whom he adopted the idea of 'art-for-art's sake' for a period. However, in the question of involvement, Hofmannstahl parted with the elite circle of George.
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In Gestern the hero realizes that reality doesn't circle around his ego. Nacht Hofmannsthal expressed his fear that the world may deceive the aesthete. In his poetry Hofmannsthal used three major metaphors for life: the dream, the game, the drama. He viewed the poet as a synthesis of man the dreamer, man the actor, and man the gameplayer. Hofmansthal wrote two versions of the play, in which the hero, Sigismund reacts differently to chaos and corruption of power. Hofmannsthal's most famous essay was Ein Brief , a fictive letter of Philip, Lord Chandos, the younger son of the Earl of Bath, to Lord Francis Bacon , the English statesman, historian, and philosopher.
Chandos confesses a major philosophical crisis. Subsequently all social and cultural constructs are called into doubt.
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Hoffmannstahl's approach to Chandos's crisis is Wittgensteinian: the limits of language are the limits of thought. During his journey to France in , Hofmannsthal met among others Auguste Rodin and the poet Maeterlinck. The next year he married Gertrud Schlesinger, a banker's daughter. The couple settled in a country house at Rodaun, near Vienna, where they lived for the rest of their lives.
At the age of twenty-six Hofmannsthal abandoned poetry, feeling that the theatre offered a better change to influence on political developments. The growth of anti-Semitism worried him, and several of his plays and librettos were about political leadership — the duty of rulers is to preserve arts which control irrationality.
As a public figureHofmannsthal advocated conservative social values, but he never wanted to enter the world of politics. Because some of his earlier plays had received lukewarm reviews, Hoffmannsthal wanted to stage his works more successfully. In Hoffmannsthal formed friendship with Max Reinhardt in Berlin.
Fascinated by spectacular effects, Reinhardt and Hofmannsthal turned plays into spectacles, which fused poetry, arts, drama, and music in a total work, as in Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk.
German incertitudes, 1914-1945 : the stones and the cathedral
For the Salzburg Festival Plays Hofmannsthal reworked the morality play Jedermann , Everyman , which dealt with faith and salvation. It could be said that Salzburg was a counterpart to Wagner's Bayreuth; it aimed at spiritual regeneration of the German nation through art. Jederman was an ideal play for the festival. The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius wrote music for the play in , combining expressionistic and archaic motifs. During two decades, Hofmannsthal and Richard Strauss cooperated in six operas, in spite of their contrasting temperaments and different backgrounds, Hofmannstahl's aestheticism and Strauss's down-to-earth attitude.
Max Reinhardt was often in charge of the staging.
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He had started the work already in , but the opera did not premiere until on 25 January Hoffmannsthal's "demonic, ecstatic" image of the ancient Greece inspired Strauss to "set mania to music", use over one hundred players, and create his famous "blood chord", "E-major and D-major mingled in pain". Elektra also reflected elements that were familiar from the writings of Freud — father fixation, recurring hallucinations, and disturbed sexuality.
Hofmannsthal himself considered Strauss's Salome , which was inspired by Oscar Wilde's poem, the "most beautiful and distinctive work". Article PDF first page preview. Issue Section:. You do not currently have access to this article. Download all figures.
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German Incertitudes, 1914-1945: The Stones and the Cathedral
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