Skip to main content

Fortner Wolfgang

Fortner Wolfgang

Fortner, Wolfgang, important German composer and pedagogue; b. Leipzig, Oct. 12, 1907; d. Heidelberg, Sept. 5, 1987. He studied in Leipzig, where he was a student of Grabner (composition) and Straube (organ) at the Cons., and of Kroyer (musicology) and Korff (literature) at the Univ. (1927–31). In 1931 he passed the state examinations as a teacher and joined the faculty of the Inst. of Church Music in Heidelberg, where he taught composition and theory until 1954. From 1946 he taught at the summer course in new music in Darmstadt. He was active with the Musica-viva-Konzerte in Heidelberg from 1947, and became director of the Musica-vivaKonzerte in Munich in 1964. From 1954 to 1957 he was prof. of composition at the North West German Music Academy in Detmold, and from 1957 to 1973 at the Freiburg im Breisgau Staatliche Hochschule fur Musik. In 1955 he was made a member of the Akademie der Kiinste in West Berlin, and in 1956 of the Bayerischen (Bavarian) Akademie der Schonen Kiinste in Munich. His music was marked by exceptional contrapuntal skills, with the basic tonality clearly present even when harmonic density reached its utmost; in some of his works from 1947, Fortner gave a dodecaphonic treatment to melodic procedures; in his textures, he often employed a “rhythmic cell” device. He was equally adept in his works for the musical theater and purely instrumental compositions; the German tradition is maintained throughout, both in the mechanics of strong polyphony and in rational innovations.


DRAMATIC Opera : Bluthochzeit, after Garcia Lorca (1956; Cologne, June 8, 1957; rev. 1963; a reworking of a dramatic scene, Der Wald for Voices, Speaker, and Orch., Frankfurt am Main, June 25, 1953); Corinna, opera buffa (Berlin, Oct. 3, 1958); In seinem Garten liebt Don Perlimplin Belisa, after Garcia Lorca (1961–62; Schwetzingen, May 10, 1962); Elisabeth Tudor (1968–71; Berlin, Oct. 23, 1972); That Time, after Samuel Beckett (Baden-Baden, April 24, 1977). B a 1 1 e t : Die weisse Rose (1949; concert perf., Baden-Baden, March 5, 1950; stage perf., Berlin, April 28, 1951); Die Witwe von Ephesus (Berlin, Sept. 17, 1952); Mouvements (1953; Essen, Feb. 26, 1960; also as Mouvements for Piano and Orch., Baden- Baden, Feb. 5, 1954); Ballett blanc (1958; Wuppertal, Dec. 30, 1959; also for 2 Solo Violins and Strings, Zurich, Dec. 5, 1958); Triplum (1965–66; also for Orch. and Piano Obbligato, Basel, Dec. 15, 1966); Carmen, after Bizet (1970; Stuttgart, Feb. 28, 1971). I n c i d e n t a l M u s i c T o : Aristophanes’s Lysistrata (1945). ORCH.: Suite, after Sweelinck (Wuppertal, Oct. 10, 1930); Concerto for Organ and Strings (Frankfurt am Main, April 27, 1932; also for Harpsichord and Strings, Basel, Oct. 2, 1935); Concerto for Strings (Basel, Dec. 8, 1933); Concertino for Viola and Small Orch. (1934); Capriccio und Finale (1939; Mannheim, Oct. 29, 1940); Ernste Musik (1940); Piano Concerto (1942); Streichermusik II for Strings (1944; Basel, Feb. 1945); Violin Concerto (1946; Baden-Baden, Feb. 16, 1947); Sym. (1947; Baden-Baden, May 2, 1948); Die weisse Rose, suite after the ballet (1949; Heidelberg, Oct. 8, 1951); Phantasie iiber die Tonfolge b-a-c-h for 2 Pianos, 9 Solo Instruments, and Orch. (Donaueschingen, Sept. 10, 1950); Cello Concerto (Cologne, Dec. 17, 1951); Mouvements for Piano and Orch. (1953; Baden-Baden, Feb. 6, 1954; as a ballet, Essen, Feb. 26, 1960); La Cecchina, overture after Piccini (Braunschweig, Nov. 12, 1954); Impromptus (Donaueschingen, Oct. 20, 1957); Ballet blanc for 2 Solo Violins and Strings (Zurich, Dec. 5, 1958; also as a ballet, Wuppertal, Dec. 30, 1959); Aulodie for Oboe and Orch. (Cologne, June 16, 1960; new version, Baden-Baden, May 27, 1966); Triplum for Orch. and Piano Obbligato (1965–66; Basel, Dec. 15, 1966; also as a ballet); Immagini for Large String Orch. (1966–67; Baden- Baden, Sept. 1970; also for Small String Orch., Zagreb, May 13, 1967); Marginalien (1969; Kiel, Jan. 12, 1970); Zyklus for Cello, Winds, Harp, and Percussion (1969; Graz, Oct. 26, 1970; also for Cello and Piano, Diisseldorf, Nov. 10, 1964); Prolegomena, suite after the opera Elisabeth Tudor (1973; Nuremberg, April 19, 1974); Prismen for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Harp, Percussion, and Orch. (1974; Basel, Feb. 13, 1975); Triptychon (1976–77; Diisseldorf, April 6, 1978); Variationen for Large Chamber Orch. (1979; Basel, March 27, 1980); Klangvariation for 4 Violins and Orch. (1981; Stuttgart, June 6, 1982). CHAMBER: 4 string quartets: No. 1 (1929), No 2 (1938), No. 3 (1948), and No. 4 (1975; Saarbriicken, Oct. 14, 1977); Suite for Cello (1932); Violin Sonata (1945); Serenade for Flute, Oboe, and Bassoon (1945); Flute Sonata (1947); Cello Sonata (1948); Trio for Violin, Viola, and Cello (1952); New-Delhi-Musik for Flute, Violin, Cello, and Harpsichord (Doneaueschingen, Oct. 18, 1959); 5 Bagatellen for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Horn, and Bassoon (Donaueschingen, Oct. 15, 1960); Zyklus for Cello and Piano (Diisseldorf, Nov. 10, 1964; also for Cello, Winds, Harp, and Percussion, 1969; Graz, Oct. 26, 1970); Thema und Variationen for Cello (1975; Zurich, May 2, 1976); 9 Inventionen und ein Anhang for 2 Flutes (1976); Trio for Violin, Cello, and Piano (Freiburg im Breisgau, Nov. 28, 1978); Capricen for Flute, Oboe, and Bassoon (1979; Freiburg im Breisgau, Dec. 29, 1980). KEYBOARD : Piano : Sonatina (1935); Kammermusik (1944); 7 Elegien (1950); Epigramme (1964); 6 spate Stiicke (Cologne, Oct. 24, 1982). Organ : Toccata und Fugue (1928); Preambel und Fuge (1932); Intermezzi (1962); 4 Preludes (1980; Tholey, April 12, 1981). VOCAL: Fragment Maria, chamber cantata for Soprano and 8 Instruments (Konigsberg, Dec. 12, 1929); Grenzen der Menschheit, cantata for Baritone, Chorus, and Orch., after Goethe (1930; Heidelberg, June 9, 1931); 4 Gesange for Voice and Piano, after Holderlin (1933); 3 geistliche Gesange for Chorus (Dresden, June 24, 1934); Eine deutsche Liedmesse for Chorus (1934); Nuptiae Catulli for Tenor, Chamber Chorus, and Chamber Orch. (1937; Basel, April 5, 1939); Herr, bliebe bei uns for Voice, Chorus (Violin, Cello, and Double Bass ad libitum), and Organ or Harpsichord (1945); Shakespeare-Songs for Middle Voice and Piano (1946; Darmstadt, July 25, 1947); An die Nachgeborenen, cantata for Speaker, Tenor, Chorus, and Orch., after Brecht (1947; Baden-Baden, April 4, 1948); 2 Exerzitien for Soprano, Mezzo-soprano, Alto, and Chamber Orch., after Brecht (1948; Heidelberg, May 6, 1949); Mitte des Lebens, cantata for Soprano and 5 Instruments, after Holderlin (1951; Basel, May 7, 1952); Isaaks Opferung, oratorio-scene for Alto, Tenor, Bass, and 40 Instruments (Donaueschingen, Oct. 12, 1952); The Creation for Middle Voice and Orch., after James Weldon Johnson (1954; Basel, Feb. 18, 1955); Chant de naissance for Soprano, Violin, and String Orch. (1958; Hamburg, April 12, 1959; also for Soprano and 7 Players, 1975; Hamburg, June 15, 1976); Prelude und Elegie, parergon to the Impromptus for Soprano and Orch., after Holderlin (Donaueschingen, Oct. 18, 1959); Die Pfingstgeschichte for Tenor, Chorus, and 11 Instrumentalists or Chamber Orch. and Organ (1962–63; Diisseldorf, May 7, 1964); Der 100. Psalm for Chorus, 3 Horns, 2 Trumpets, and 2 Trombones (Hamburg, Nov. 1963); Terzinen for Man’s Voice and Piano, after Hofmannsthal (1965; Berlin, Oct. 5, 1970); Versuch eines Agon urn…? for 7 Singers and Orch. (Hannover, Nov. 8, 1973); Gladbacher Te Deum for Bass-baritone, Chorus, Tape, and Orch. (1973; Monchengladbach, June 6, 1974); Machaut- Balladen for Voice and Orch. (1973; Saarbriicken, Jan. 19, 1975); Petrarca-Sonette for Chorus (1979; Schwetzingen, May 13, 1980); Farewell for Middle Voice, 2 Flutes, Cello, and Piano (1981); Widmungen for Tenor and Piano, after Shakespeare (1981).


B. Weber, Die Opernkompositionen von W. F. (diss., Univ. of Hannover, 1992).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Fortner Wolfgang." Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians. . 19 Jul. 2019 <>.

"Fortner Wolfgang." Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians. . (July 19, 2019).

"Fortner Wolfgang." Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians. . Retrieved July 19, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.