Distler, Hugo, distinguished German composer, organist, choral conductor, and pedagogue; b. Nuremberg, June 24, 1908; d. (suicide) Berlin, Nov. 1,1942. He was a student of Martienssen (piano), Ramin (organ), and Grabner (harmony) at the Leipzig Cons. (1927–31). In 1931 he became organist at St. Jakobi in Liibeck. In 1937 he became a lecturer at the Wurttemberg Hochschule für Musik in Stuttgart, where he also conducted its two choirs. In 1940 he was called to Berlin as prof, at the Hochschule fur Musik, where he also conducted its choir from 1941. In 1942 he was also named conductor of the State and Cathedral Choir. Despite the prominence Distler achieved as a performing musician and teacher, the Nazi disdain for his work led him to take his own life. He is now recognized as one of the most significant German composers of his generation. While his works remain tonally anchored, they reveal an innovative harmonic sense.
ORCH.: Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings (1935; Hamburg, April 29, 1936); Konzertstuck for Piano and Orch. (1937; Oldenburg, Feb. 11,1955). chamber : Kammermusik for 6 Instruments (1927); Sonata iiber alte deutsche Volkslieder for 2 Violins and Piano (1938); String Quartet (1939). keyboard : Piano : Kleine Sonate (1927); Konzertante Sonate for 2 Pianos (1931); Elf kleine Klavierstiicke fur die Jugend (1936); Konzertstuck for 2 Pianos (1940). O r g a n : 2 partitas (1932,1935); Sieben kleine Orgelchoralbearbeitungen (1938); Sonata (1938–39).vocal:Sacred : Deutsches Choralmesse (1932); Derjahrkreis for Chorus (1932–33); Choralpassion for Soloists and Chorus (Berlin, March 29, 1933); Die Weihnachtsgeschichte for Soloists and Chorus (1933); Liturgische Satze for Chorus (1933–35); Wo Gott zum Haus nit gibt sein Gunst, cantata for Chorus, 2 Oboes, Strings, and Harpsichord (1934); Geistliche Chormusik, 9 motets for Chorus (1934–41); Drei geistliche Konzerte for Soprano and Organ or Harpsichord (1938); Nun danket all und bringet Ehr, cantata for Soloists, Chorus, Strings, and Organ (1941); many other works. S e c u 1 a r : An die Natur, cantata for Soprano, Chorus, Piano or Harpsichord, and Strings (Pyrmont, Aug. 16, 1933); Das Lied von der Glocke for Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (1933); Neues Chorliederbuch for Chorus (1936–38); Morike-Chorliederbuch for Chorus (1938–39; Graz, June 26, 1939); Lied am Herde, cantata for Bass or Baritone and Chamber Orch. (1941; Berlin, Feb. 3,1942; also for Baritone or Alto and Piano); Kleine Sommerkantate for 2 Sopranos and String Quartet (1942); various other works.
U. von Rauchhaupt, Die vokale Kirchenmusik H. D.s (Giitersloh, 1963); L. Palmer, H. D. and His Church Music (St. Louis, 1967); U. Herrmann, H. D.—Rufer und Mahner (Berlin, 1972); A Sievers, Der Kompositionsstil H. D.s dargestellt an Beispielen aus dem Mörike- Chorliederbuch (Wiesbaden, 1989); H. Grabner et al., H. D. (Tutzing, 1990); D. Lemmermann, Studien zum weltlichen Vokalwerk H. D.s (Frankfurt am Main, 1996); S. Hanheide, ed., H. D. im Dritten Reich (Osnabrück, 1997).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire