Johann Hartmann

Johann Ernst Hartmann (His real name was Johann Hartmann, but due to a confusion with his elder son, who was also a composer, he became known by posterity as Johann Ernst Hartmann; 24 December 1726, Głogów, Bohemian Crown – 21 October 1793, Copenhagen) was a Danish composer and violinist. He was first generation in a long line of composers in Denmark and is remembered in particular for his two operas on texts by Johannes Ewald in which he helped creating a national musical style. The first of these, Balders død, builds on the old Nordic mythology and uses dark colours when depicting the old Gods and Valkyries. The second, Fiskerne, describes contemporary fishermen’s lives, and uses melodies inspired by the Scandinavian folk style.

Most of the works of Hartmann were destroyed in the fire of Christiansborg Castle shortly after his death.

Two of Hartmann’s sons were composers, Johan Ernst Hartmann and August Wilhelm Hartmann, and a third, Ludvig August was a violinist. The composer Johan Peter Emilius Hartmann was the son of August Wilhelm Hartmann.

Johann Hartmann
Born December 24, 1726 Głogów
Death October 21, 1793 (66 years) Copenhagen
Burial site Assistens Cemetery
Citizen Germany
Children Ludvig August Hartmann ,

Johan Ernst Hartmann , August Wilhelm Hartmann

Language German
Employment Composer , musician
Information with the symbol is retrieved from Wikidata .

 [ edit on Wikidata ]

Table of ContentsEdit


Johann Hartmann was born in Groß-Glogau in Silesia on Christmas Eve 1726. No information is available about his parents, and it is also unknown where and by whom he received his education as a violinist and composer. In 1754 he started as violinist in the orchestra of the Archbishop of Breslau, Count Schaffgotsch; later he became concertmaster in the small town of Rudolstadt, and then in Plön under Duke Frederik Carl. When the Duke died in 1761, his Duchy became Danish, the Plön Chapel was dissolved and Hartmann together with some of the other orchestra musicians went to Copenhagen.

In Copenhagen he was immediately employed as a violinist in the Royal Chapel (Det Kongelige Kapel), became a sought after music teacher, including for the later King Christian VII. In 1768 he was promoted to concertmaster. He also quickly became a driving force in the chamber concerts held at the Court in the years around 1770 as well as participated in or conducted concerts in private gatherings such as the so-called Gjethus concerts, which began in 1774, or as leader of the concerts in the Harmonic Society.

The prevailing opera style at Hofteatret and Det Kongelige Teater was then still Italian-inspired, but the fashion was slowly shifting to a simpler French-inspired style and Hartmann was repeatedly encouraged to provide music for Danish-language Singspiele. In those years, Hartmann's first two attempts in the genre were performed on lyrics by Johannes Ewald. These were Balder's death and the Fishermen (in which the King's song "Kong Christian stod ved højen mast" was first heard), and both became immediate successes. Later, other works followed, thus laying the foundations for a tradition that unfolded over the next many years on Copenhagen stages.

Before his arrival in Copenhagen and in the first years there, Hartmann wrote instrumental music for chamber ensemble and smaller orchestras in a style towards Haydn. Most of these works have disappeared following Christiansborg's fire in 1794, as his music collection was bought by the King and placed in the castle shortly before the fire.  

Concertmaster of the Royal ChapelEdit

The creation of a Concertmaster post in the Royal Chapel concurred with its expansion and transformation from a chamber music corps to an actual orchestra.  In Hartmann, the Chapel found a knowledgeable and experienced conductor, but also his masterful violin playing contributed greatly to the chamber concerts which at the beginning of Christian VII's reign were highly popular. At the same time he participated as a soloist and orchestra conductor at the aristocracy's concerts founded in 1774 in Kjøbmagergade, and later in Gjethuset on Kongens Nytorv .

Taste change for the Copenhagen audienceEdit

In those days, the Italian opera had to give way increasingly to the French style. In 1778, the Italian Opera Company was dismissed. Simultaneously, there were expectations that new original Danish works be created. Attempts were made by several composers, but without success. Hartmann was initially reluctant to commit himself. As he wrote in 1778, "It has never been my main business to put music into singing matters". At the urging of the Theater Director, he nevertheless embarked on the task, and the experiment succeeded beyond expectation. Balder's Death was first performed on January 30, 1779, and Hartmann's music, in which he had understood to strike "the solemn, melancholy tone", which the poet himself considered to be a main feature of most of his poems, won general acclaim. Strikingly, Hartmann uses no less than two orchestras, the usual one in the pit and an additional band of 18 musicians back stage (including even three trombones and "corni rustici") . To this he adds three choirs. The "Old Nordic" atmosphere is reinforced by using the martial instruments far behind the scenes and con sordino. The work contains a daring Valkyries terzet as well as (following his research on Icelandic music) an aria "In gusto Nationale d'Islandia". The overture is drama in the high style and there are two entr'actes the first of which has been described as a true "Ride of the Valkyries".

The following year he was equally successful with the music for The Fishermen (Fiskerne), whose subject allowed him to use lighter and festive colors.  The work is as different from the Death of Balder as can be. The overture alternates between pastoral moods and dramatic emotions. The material is constantly varied and the first Act which describes the reactions to a shipwreck taking place off stage concludes with a Sextet in which the conflicting emotions of the characters are contrasted. In the second Act, the rescue by the fishermen is played on the stage, culminating in a final Chorus, where the music alternates between the men and women, gathering speed for the concluding jubilant music when the fishermen come safely onshore. Act Three contains the famous romance Liden Gunver and culminates in a beautiful Quartet between the two couples. The Singspiel ends with a Chorus in rondo form, followed by a dance of fishermen and fisherwomen.

In his compositions for these plays, Hartmann succeeded in creating a new national style, inspired by Gluck. For the theater, Hartmann still composed various other Singspiele, such as The Shepherdess of the Alps (Hyrdinden paa Alperne) in 1783, Den Blinde i Palmyre in 1784, and Gorm the Old (Gorm den Gamle) in 1785. A work of a different kind was the second part of the cantata for Princess Louise Augusta's composition with the Prince of Augustenborg (1786); Part 1 was composed by Johann Gottlieb Naumann . The list of his surviving works is given below.

Work for the musical clubsEdit

In this period of the musical clubs, Hartmann was highly solicited and became Concertmaster of "Harmonien", presumably in 1784, as well as composed cantatas for the festivities of several other clubs. Among the vocal works by Hartmann, which were performed in his later years, reference can be made to the music for Storm's Højtidssange , performed in Kongens Klub in 1787, and for the same poet's passion song Jesu Dødsangest i Urtegaarden. He also wrote Forløserens Død, Opstandelse og Himmelfart , to lyrics by Christian Hertz .

Last yearsEdit

The end of his life was overshadowed by domestic sorrows that the loss of an adult daughter who was the support of the home made even more burdensome. He died on October 21, 1793.


Hartmann claimed to be "a man who knew himself and who was not possessed by himself".  The scores of his works also testify that he was not easily satisfied, but returned to them again and again. Balder's Death was almost completely rewritten after the first performances; for some pieces, several different versions exist.


With his wife, Margarethe Elisabeth born Wilcken, daughter of jeweler Wilcken in Plön, Hartmann had three musical sons. The oldest of these, Johan Ernst Hartmann , was born on March 2, 1770 and was employed in 1795 as an organist at Frederik's German Church in Christianshavn . In 1807 he came to Roskilde, where he became cantor at the Cathedral and died December 16, 1844. Some of his compositions, including a few club cantatas, were performed in the years 1789-97. Brother August Wilhelm Hartmann, born November 6, 1775, composed some piano pieces. He entered the Royal Chapel as a violinist and then became organist, later cantor, at Garrison Church in Copenhagen; he died on November 15, 1850. He was the father of composer JPE Hartmann, a central figure in Danish 19th century music, and whose son was Emil Hartmann, himself a conductor and in his days an illustrous composer. In addition, JPE Hartmann's daughter Sophie married composer Niels W. Gade and another daughter Clara married composer August Winding. Another son, Carl Christian Ernst Hartmann, was a renowned sculptor. The composer Niels Viggo Bentzon was the great-great-grandson of Johann Ernst Hartmann. His son the jazz pianist Nikolaj Bentzon as well as the Belgian composer Jean Pierre Waelbroeck are the latest scions in this long line of musicians.

Emil Hartmann's daughter Bodil Hartmann married de Neergaard, was a soprano and held musical gatherings from 1885 to 1959 at the manor Fuglsang between Nykøbing Falster and Nysted on Lolland. Edvard Grieg and Carl Nielsen, among others, participated. In addition, mention should be made of Emil Hartmann's son Oluf Hartmann, a painter, for whose funeral Carl Nielsen wrote At the Bier of a Young Artist. Also the director Lars von Trier is a descendant of Johann Hartmann.


  • Sørgekantate ved hertug Friedrich Karl af Plön’s død (1761)
  • Symphony No 1 in D major (published as Simfonie Périodique N° 7 in 1770)
  • Symphony No 2 in G major
  • Symphony No 3 in D major
  • Symphony No 4 in G major
  • Trios for two violins and cello, Op. 1
  • Baldur's Death (Balders Død, Syngespil 1779)
  • Cantata on the Occasion of Copenhagen University's 300-year Jubilee (1779)
  • Fiskerne (1780)
  • Violin concerto (1780)
  • Hyrdinden på Alperne (1783)
  • Sørgemusik ved Ludwig Harboes død (1783)
  • Den blinde i Palmyre (1784)
  • Høytidssange (1787)
  • Gorm den Gamle (skuespil 1785)
  • Kantate til Prinsesse Louise Augustas Formæling med Prinsen af Augustenborg (together with J. G. Naumann 1786)
  • Jesu Dødsangst i Urtegaarden (1793)
  • Forløserens død (1783)

See alsoEdit


  • This article was translated from Danish Wikipedia.
  • Mulvad, Johannes, The Death of Balder, by Johann Ernst Hartmann, Edition Egtved, Danmark
  • Mulvad, Johannes, Fiskerne, by Johann Ernst Hartmann, Edition Egtved, Danmark
  • Soerensen, Inger, Hartmann. Et Dansk Komponistdynasti, Koebenhavn Gyldendal 1999
  • Soerensen, Inger, J.P.E. Hartmann og hans Kreds. En Komponistfamilies breve 1780-1900, bd. 1-4, Koebenhavn Museum Tusculmanum Forlag,1999-2002.

External linksEdit