Haack [Haacke, Haak, Haake], Friedrich Wilhelm

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A term for a bagpipe used by Praetorius (PraetoriusTI). See Bagpipe, §7(ii).


(Ger.; Fr. humoresque).

The term first appeared in Germany early in the 19th century, when it was used for literary sketches. It seems to have been derived from the Latin word ‘humor’, used in its medieval sense; so the nature of these early sketches was not humorous in the modern sense of the word but pertained to human disposition. Schumann, the first composer to use the term as a musical title, may have had this original meaning in mind when he called his op.20 (1839) ‘Humoreske’; it is an extended work for piano solo in five contrasted sections and one of his most individual creations. The second of his four Phantasiestücke for piano, violin and cello op.88 is also a Humoreske. With later composers the style became more formalized, involving strongly marked rhythms and the frequent repetition of short-breathed tunes: the style is not unlike that of the scherzo but is less grotesque and more melodious. Most were written for the piano: the most famous example is Dvořák’s Humoreske in G, the seventh of eight Humoresken published in 1894 as his op.101. The form was a popular vehicle for a composer’s more genial and relaxed side, as in the following examples: Grieg, op.6 (1865), the pieces in which are dance-like in intention, as is shown by indications such as ‘di Valse’; Tchaikovsky, op.10 no.2 (1871); Humperdinck, Humoreske (1879); and Reger, Fünf Humoresken op.20 (1896), whose style is very scherzo-like. Probably the most unusual use of the form was by Loewe, who composed Fünf Humoresken for male-voice quartet op.84 (1843).



V. Silapabanleng: Studien zur Klavierhumoreske zwischen Robert Schumann und Max Reger (diss., U. of Vienna, 1979)

B.R. Appel: R. Schumanns Humoreske für Klavier op.20: zum musikalischen Humor in der ersten Hälfte des 19. Jahrhunderts mit besonderer Berücksichtigung des Formproblems (diss., U. of Saarbrücken, 1981)

H.J. Dill: ‘Romantic Irony in the Works of Robert Schumann’, MQ, lxxiii (1989), 172–95


Humperdinck, Engelbert

(b Siegburg, 1 Sept 1854; d Neustrelitz, 27 Sept 1921). German composer and teacher.

1. Life and works.

2. Style, reception.




Humperdinck, Engelbert

1. Life and works.

Humperdinck received piano tuition at an early age, and produced his first composition, Zu Mantua in Banden, for piano duet, at the age of seven and his first attempts at works for the stage, the Singspiele Perla and Claudine von Villa Bella at 13. Having attended elementary school in Siegburg (until 1869), he completed his schooling at the Theodorianum Gymnasium in Paderborn. He sang occasionally as a chorister in performances by the choirs of Paderborn Cathedral and music society. Musical influences at the time were wide-ranging, from the standard symphonic works of Mozart and Haydn to Mendelssohn and, particularly, Weber. During the Paderborn years, in addition to a Jubelhymnus for choir and orchestra he composed an Ave Maria for tenor and string quartet (both 1871); these and other youthful works were destroyed by a fire at the family home in November 1874.

In spite of his obvious talent, his parents did not approve of the developing conflict of interest between music and other school commitments and, after passing the Abitur in August 1871, he was made to study architecture. However, after a year he was allowed to change to a course at the Cologne Conservatory, through the influence of the director, Ferdinand Hiller.

During the next four years at the conservatory, his teachers included Hiller, Gustav Jensen and (until 1874) Friedrich Gernsheim for harmony and counterpoint, Eduard Mertke for piano and Franz Weber for organ. He was also able to hear Wagner's operas for the first time (Die Meistersinger and Die Walküre) and received the Frankfurt Mozart Prize in 1876.

With the help of this stipend, Humperdinck travelled to Munich in June 1877. There he entered the Königliche Musikschule, becoming a pupil of Joseph Rheinberger for counterpoint and fugue and, on Hiller's personal recommendation, a private pupil of Franz Lachner for composition. During his time at the Musikschule he composed the first versions of the cantatas Die Wallfahrt nach Kevlaar and Das Glück von Edenhall, which were given at end-of-term concerts in July 1878 and 1879 respectively. A Humoreske for small orchestra (1878–9), acquired by the court theatre at Munich as a comedy overture, also significantly featured as part of his work at the Musikschule. In December 1878 he became a member of the ‘Orden vom Gral’, a society led by his fellow student Oskar Mertz, consisting of young musicians, budding artists and academics, which, with the Munich Wagner Society, promoted Wagner's music and ideals. Through his membership, he was able to experience the first performance in Munich of Der Ring des Nibelungen.

On 13 October 1879, Humperdinck won the Berlin Mendelssohn Prize, designed to finance a year's study in Italy, and on 6 December he left for Rome, where he met and befriended the composer Giovanni Sgambati. On 9 March 1880, in Naples, he met Wagner for the first time. He then travelled around southern Italy and Sicily, absorbing local folksong and completing his incidental music for Aristophanes' comedy Die Frösche, which he had begun in Munich at the request of Karl von Perfall, Intendant of the court opera. In May he returned to Wagner's Villa Angri in Naples, spending several weeks there, and Wagner invited him to Bayreuth to assist with the preparation of Parsifal. From January 1881 until August 1882 he lived at Bayreuth, copying the score to Parsifal and, having become director of Anton Seidl's Bayreuther Musik-Dilettantenverein, introducing orchestral and chamber works into the normal programmes of choral music. When Wagner left for Italy during the winter of 1881–2, Humperdinck became responsible for training a boys' chorus for Parsifal.

After the first performance of Parsifal (26 July 1882), Humperdinck visited Rome briefly, then moved to Paris, where he gained acceptance into the Cercle St Simon, founded by Jean Jacques Gabriel Monod, thereby making contact with Chabrier, Lamoureux, Saint-Saëns and d'Indy. In December 1882 he was summoned by Wagner to Venice to replace Seidl in assisting with the preparation of Wagner’s Symphony in C, which was performed on 24 December. Humperdinck was to have conducted the work, but in the event, Wagner conducted it himself. Wagner intended that Humperdinck be offered a teaching post at the Venice Conservatory, but because of anti-German feelings in Italy at the time it was not thought wise to appoint a young German. In January 1883 Humperdinck returned to Paris. There the news of Wagner's death on 14 February deeply affected him, although he had always acknowledged that his own creative impulses were being stifled while he remained under Wagner's wing; over the next seven years he allowed time for Wagner's influence to recede.

In spring 1883, he undertook a scholarship tour of Spain, Gibraltar, Morocco and Tangiers, absorbing both Arabian culture and Moorish architecture, which held a special interest for him. In July he entered into an arrangement which involved duties as deputy Kapellmeister at the municipal theatre in Cologne. He took up the post in November, but was deprived of the inaugural works he was entitled to, including Tannhäuser. As a result, he withdrew from his contract after the first performance of his stage music for Calderón's Der Richter von Zalamea. About this time his applications for other posts, including municipal and university music director in Bonn, were unsuccessful, so he returned to Cologne (where he met Brahms for the first time). Franz Wüllner had succeeded Hiller at the Cologne Conservatory and had arranged for the first performance of the revised version of Humperdinck's Das Glück von Edenhall; Wüllner himself conducted the performance on 25 November, to great acclaim.

Towards the end of 1884, in recollection of his trip to Morocco, Humperdinck began to work on an orchestral suite, which he later reworked as Maurische Rhapsodie (ehwv 87.2). On 12 January 1885 he and Richard Strauss met at a rehearsal of Strauss's Symphony in F minor, establishing a lifelong artistic friendship. Acting on Strauss's advice, Humperdinck visited the industrialist Alfred Krupp on 24 January and was engaged by him as pianist at the Villa Hügel (he stayed there until 1 August). In March Wüllner suggested that he take up the position of tutor in theory and composition at the Barcelona Conservatory; he began his duties in November 1885, though soon wearied of the careless attitude of both staff and students, who regarded German music as merely a science. In spite of these conditions (Beethoven's piano sonatas were unheard of there) Humperdinck produced an elementary harmony tutor, Ensayo de un metodo del armonia, and worked on the second version of Die Wallfahrt nach Kevlaar. Beset by illness he quickly tired of Spain and left in July 1886. Humperdinck taught harmony and directed the choir at the Cologne Conservatory until Easter 1887. The second performance of Wallfahrt nach Kevlaar took place in Cologne (27 June), this time as part of the 24th festival of the Allgemeiner Deutscher Musikverein. The audience included not only Brahms and Sgambati (who had come from Italy) but also Dr Ludwig Strecker, the chief executive of Schott, the Mainz publishing house, which acquired the rights to Wallfahrt nach Kevlaar. Later that year Humperdinck worked on the Maurische Suite and arranged parts of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde for two pianos, eight hands, with voices. He suffered pulmonary disease during the winter of 1887–8 but occupied his time as concert critic for the Bonner Zeitung. After spending the summer of 1888 involved in the Bayreuth festival, he became a reader and editor for Schott's (the post lasted until May 1890). During his time with Schott's he edited new versions of Auber's opera La cheval de bronze (as Das eherne Pferd, ehwv 214) and a two-piano version of Bach's Das wohltemperirte Clavier. Having moved to Mainz, he also wrote opera critiques for the Mainzer Tageblatt.

In October 1889 Humperdinck became private tutor to Wagner's son Siegfried for a year; the teacher-pupil relationship developed into friendship, evidenced by extensive correspondence. During the winter Humperdinck undertook guest engagements as a conductor; at the same time his attempt to obtain the post of municipal director in Düsseldorf was unsuccessful.

Hugo Wolf's music was a major discovery for Humperdinck in April 1890 and he recommended the Mörike songs to Schott's for publication. This period also saw the germination of Hänsel und Gretel: four songs composed to his sister's words (ehwv 93.1), although there was then no indication that these might develop into an opera. In August, he took an apartment in Poppelsdorf, near Bonn, and spent September composing the Singspiel version of Hänsel und Gretel (ehwv 93.2), which consisted of 16 songs with piano accompaniment. On 23 October he and Wolf met; they became firm friends, and Wolf inspired in Humperdinck an interest in Bruckner's music. Also in October, he went to Frankfurt to take up a professorial post at the Hoch Conservatory that had been offered to him by its director, Bernhard Scholz. He spent several years there; he was also consultant for opera at the Frankfurter Zeitung and taught theory at Julius Stockhausen's school for singing.

Humperdinck became engaged to Hedwig Taxer at Christmas 1890 and presented her with the Singspiel version of Hänsel und Gretel as an engagement present. In January 1891 he started orchestrating it and began to consider turning it into a full-scale opera. From June to August he was occupied at Bayreuth both as a critic for the Frankfurter Zeitung and as a backstage helper for opera production. In December Humperdinck presented Hedwig with the draft of the full version of Hänsel und Gretel as a Christmas present. In January 1892 he began work on the full score. Around this time he developed a hearing affliction and remained partially deaf for the rest of his life.

On 19 May he and Hedwig were married and spent the summer at the Bayreuth festival. Humperdinck's duties as a teacher and critic, his marriage and fatherhood (his first child, Wolfram, was born on 29 April 1893), delayed the completion of the final version of Hänsel und Gretel until 17 September 1893. The first performance was given in Weimar on 23 December under Richard Strauss; its success was immediate and spread throughout Europe. Mahler, whom Humperdinck met in Weimar on 1 June 1894, gave the first performance in Hamburg on 25 September. Further performances of significance were under Felix Weingartner on 13 October in Berlin in the presence of the Kaiser and his wife, who granted Humperdinck an audience; on 30 November in Dessau, directed by Cosima Wagner; and on 18 December in Vienna, attended by Humperdinck, Brahms and Wolf.

In December Humperdinck met Heinrich Porges, who asked him to compose incidental music to Königskinder, a poem turned into a fairy tale play by his daughter, Elsa Bernstein-Porges (writing under the pseudonym Ernst Rosmer). After Humperdinck and his wife returned from a trip to Italy and Sicily in June 1895, he decided to revise Königskinder as a melodrama (ehwv 106.1). This melodrama features the first appearance of notated Sprechgesang (in which the voice approximates the position of the notated pitch without truly centring it). During July and August he continued working on it and from 21 to 30 September took part in the International Copyright Congress in Dresden, where he met the conductor Arthur Nikisch. He completed Königskinder the melodrama on 2 January 1897; its highly successful première was given in Munich on 23 January. By the time it appeared in its revised version as a full opera in 1910, it had received performances in 130 theatres.

Between 1897 and 1900 Humperdinck's compositions were almost exclusively songs for voice and piano, although he wrote sketches for a comic opera, St Cyr (which later became Die Heirat wider Willen), and completed the final, three-movement version of the Maurische Rhapsodie for large orchestra. He went to England to conduct the first performance of the Rhapsodie at the Leeds Musical Festival on 7 October 1898.

In November 1900 Humperdinck was made a member of the Royal Academy of Arts in Berlin and appointed principal of one of its associate schools of composition: as a teacher he was exceptionally tolerant, encouraging students to depart from formal rules in pursuit of their own style. At the same time he became a governor of the Allgemeiner Deutscher Musikverein and of the Genossenschaft Deutscher Tonsetzer. In December the whole family moved to Berlin, retaining their home in Boppard as a summer residence.

In April 1901 Humperdinck began work on the opera Dornröschen but, in general, compositions during the years 1901 to 1905 were sparse, consisting of several songs, an item for male-voice choir (Rosmarin) and a prelude for small orchestra (ehwv 129). Dornröschen was completed in July 1902; Humperdinck constructed an orchestral suite from it and, anticipating the full opera, it was performed in Krefeld later that month. The opera received its first performance in Frankfurt, on 12 November, to poor reviews.

In Berlin, Richard Strauss was influential in Humperdinck's life during 1905; on 1 January he conducted the first performance of Humperdinck's version of Auber's Le cheval de bronze and on 14 April the first performance of Die Heirat wider Willen, which Humperdinck had completed on 1 March. 1905 also saw the beginning of a series of fruitful collaborations with the Berlin-based director Max Reinhardt, which involved writing incidental music to the plays of Shakespeare that Reinhardt was presenting at the Deutsches Theater. The first was Der Kaufmann von Venedig, which had its first performance on 9 November. Later in the series were Das Wintermärchen (1906), Der Sturm (1906) and Was ihr Wollt (1907). Towards the end of 1905, at the invitation of the director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Humperdinck and his wife went to the USA for the first performance there of Hänsel und Gretel, conducted by Alfred Hertz. At this time Humperdinck's only stage offering, apart from the incidental music, was Bübchens Weihnachtstraum (a setting of a nativity play, first performed on 30 December 1906).

In 1907 Humperdinck, his wife and their two eldest children visited Italy, where in Venice they met and made friends with the composer Wolf-Ferrari. On his return, Humperdinck continued to compose incidental music for Reinhardt's Shakespeare productions and wrote Parsifal-Skizzen (ehwv 237), a series in memory of his relationship with Wagner. In December, Elsa Bernstein-Porges gave Humperdinck permission to turn Königskinder into a fully fledged opera (ehwv 106.2) and on 20 March 1908 he made arrangements with the Metropolitan Opera, New York, to give the first performance. The composition and orchestration took another two years and it was not completed until 24 June 1910. During that time Humperdinck composed little else, but he was made an honorary member of the Académie Française (1908) and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Berlin (1910).

Humperdinck, his wife and his eldest daughter (Edith) set sail for New York on 28 November 1910. The first performance of Königskinder, conducted by Alfred Hertz, took place on 28 December before a hugely appreciative audience (fig.1). The opera completely outshone Puccini's La fanciulla del West which was also playing in New York (under Toscanini), but the two composers were generous in their praise for each other and became firm friends. The family returned to Berlin in early January 1911 and the first, equally successful, German performance took place there on 14 January at the Royal Opera House, conducted by Leo Blech. In February Humperdinck was appointed director of the department of theory and composition at the Königliche Hochschule für Musik in Berlin, in succession to Max Bruch. He spent most of 1911 composing the ‘mystery pantomime’ Das Wünder (also known as Das Mirakel) in collaboration with Karl Vollmöller and Max Reinhardt, and in December he was in London with his wife and his son Wolfram for its première in the Grand Hall at Olympia, conducted by Gustav Hollaender.

On 5 January 1912 Humperdinck suffered a severe stroke and, although he made a recovery, his left hand remained permanently paralysed. Shortly afterwards he was elected to the vice-presidency of the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin and he resumed his duties in October. Only two compositions emerged from 1913: a song and the two-act Singspiel Die Marketenderin, although this did not have its (successful) first performance until 10 May 1914, in Cologne, conducted by Gustav Brecher. On 7 February 1914 (with Debussy, Elgar, Goldmark, Pedrell and Saint-Saëns) Humperdinck was granted honorary membership of the Accademia di S Cecilia in Rome.

In the summer of 1915 Humperdinck began to compose what would be his final work for the stage, Gaudeamus, a three-act opera based on student life; even with the assistance of his son Wolfram, it was not completed until the end of 1918 (its first performance, on 18 March 1919 in Darmstadt, was conducted by Erich Kleiber). Humperdinck's wife died in March 1916, and the succeeding years saw a further deterioration in his own health. A new production of Königskinder was given at the Royal Opera House, Berlin, on 1 January 1919 (Richard Strauss was now Intendant), again under Leo Blech. Humperdinck continued to compose sporadically, producing several more songs and a three-movement String Quartet (ehwv 164), before finally retiring from his duties early in 1920.

In March 1921 he suffered another slight stroke, but this did not prevent him from composing, while convalescing, Six Children's Songs (ehwv 169) for chorus and piano, and his last work, a Sonatine in G major for four violins (ehwv 170). On 24 and 26 September, at the municipal theatre in Neustrelitz, he attended the opening and second-night performances of his son Wolfram's first production as a director, of Weber's Der Freischütz. He was taken ill with a heart attack during the second performance and during the night suffered another attack, with complications from pneumonia, and died shortly afterwards. He was buried on 1 October in Stahnsdorf, near Berlin. In his memory, Hänsel und Gretel and the last act of Königskinder were given a few weeks later by the Berlin State Opera.

Humperdinck, Engelbert
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