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Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt

I met Wolpe at Weimar in 1923 through Erwin Ratz, secretary to Gropius. Wolpe sat mostly by himself in a corner writing ecstatic piano pieces that he dedicated to Friedl Dicker, a highly gifted student at the Bauhaus, who came from Vienna to study with Johannes Itten. Wolpe sat in on lectures, especially of Itten, who had a great influence. [...]

We were not interested in politics, only the arts and philosophy. He read quite a lot, and had quite a good reference library. We played Milhaud, Le Boeuf sur le Toit a lot four hands. Stefan admired Antheil's piano playing but not his music. I had contact with all the Schoenberg pupils, but Stefan was never part of the Schoenberg group. He may have feared to become too dependent on Schoenberg. He was such a dominating personality that young people tended to become snobbish. But Stefan played all Schoenberg's piano music, op. 11, 19, 23, 25, played it, analyzed it, and talked about op. 19. The concentration of form, especially the last one. He played it at least ten times one after another. Of the orchestral works he liked the Five Orchestra Pieces especially. He had a chance to become Schoenberg's pupil when Schoenberg came to Berlin in 1927 [recte 1926], but he didn't. I couldn't tell why. Berg he admired very much, and Wozzeck was a revelation. Webern he respected.

He had a large group of friends and very close feelings for friends. When they needed something he would share anything with you, his last piece of bread. He was very critical of others and showed it. Of all the composers of his generation he had the most unmistakable idiom. His language was so personal that you could recognize it.

Notes from interview, AC: Berlin, 5 December 1979.

In 1925 Stefan had an apartment in a brand new block at the corner of Wiesbadenerstrasse and the Südwestcorso [18/19 Wilhelmshöher Strasse]. For some weeks I was a guest of Stefan's in his small apartment. It was in November and December of 1925, before the premiere of Berg's Wozzeck. Stefan had a Bechstein grand. He was a phenomenal piano player and sight reader, and filled with his explosive feelings the late sonatas of Scriabin and the piano works of Bartók--especially our favorites, the Suite, op. 14 and the Sonata. In December Erich Kleiber was to direct the first performance of Wozzeck at the Staatsoper. Stefan obtained the piano score and we plunged into the work. To begin with Wolpe played through it from the first to the last measure, and we were both dizzy from the greatness of the impact. We didn't understand anything of the precise construction of the three acts each with their five scenes, each of which is fitted to a different formal type. For a whole week we sat the whole day and half the night at the piano, making notes, looking for and finding the leitmotives, and finally memorized the entire work. Heinz Tiessen, a member of the Novembergruppe and leading modernist of the time, lived nearby. He thought highly of Wolpe and encouraged him very much. Tiessen joined us. He was a brilliant analyst and discovered at once the structural secrets of the most complex music. We hardly touched the food which Frau Tiessen brought us. We tried to get an idea of the orchestral sonorities, because the score contained rather detailed indications of the instrumentation. When the performance date was established, I wrote Kleiber and asked--also on behalf of Wolpe--whether we might hear the premiere and the dress rehearsal. I included a couple of essays which had recently appeared. Kleiber answered at once and arranged tickets for us. In early December Heinrich Strobel of Erfurt, who I did not yet know at the time, asked me whether I would write the review of Wozzeck for the Thuringer Allgemeine Zeitung. He was prevented from coming to Berlin. It was my first serious commission, and I accepted. The review has often been quoted.

In 1928 there developed with Wolpe a working relationship, which came into effect at the weekends. We made the most comical literary experiments, wrote crazy texts larded with high-flown, mostly homemade foreign words, composed popular tunes with atonal harmony and twelve-tone melodies, sketched new aesthetic philosophies, and more of the same.

Adapted and translated by the editor from H.H. S., Zum Hören geboren: Ein Leben mit der Musik unserer Zeit (Munich: Piper, 1979), 88-89; "Heinz Tiessen--der Freund," Für Her Heinz Tiessen 1887-1971, ed. Manfred Schlösser (Berlin: Akademie der Künste, 1979), 11.

Music critic and musicologist Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt (1901-1988) was born in Strasbourg. In the 1920s he was a freelance composer and worked as a journalist for a number of periodicals including Melos, Aufbruch, and Modern Music, and succeeded Adolph Weissmann as music critic of the Berliner Zeitung. He attended analysis classes of Schoenberg (1930-3) and then was forbidden by the Nazis from engaging in journalism. After the war he was appointed lecturer at the Technische Universität in Berlin where, in 1953 he became professor. His many publications include surveys of music in the 20th century and books on Blacher, Busoni, Ravel, Schoenberg, and Stravinsky. In 1974, he was named a member of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin.


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