Meyer, Ernst Hermann

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Meyer, Ernst Hermann

Meyer, Ernst Hermann, German musicologist and composer; b. Berlin, Dec. 8, 1905; d. there, Oct. 8, 1988. His father was a medical doctor of artistic interests who encouraged him to study music; he took piano lessons with Walter Hirschberg and played in chamber music groups. During the economic disarray in Germany in the 1920s, Meyer was obliged to do manual labor in order to earn a living. In 1926 he was able to enroll in the Univ. of Berlin, where he studied musicology with Wolf, Schering, Blume, Hornbostel, and Sachs; in 1928 he had additional studies with Besseler at the Univ. of Heidelberg, obtaining his Ph.D. in 1930 with the diss. Die mehrstimmige Spielmusik des 17. Jahrhunderts in Nord- und Mitteleuropa (publ, in Kassel, 1934). In 1929 he met Eisler, who influenced him in the political aspect of music. In 1930 he joined the German Communist party. He conducted workers’ choruses in Berlin and composed music for the proletarian revue Der rote Stern. He also attended classes on film music given by Hindemith. In 1931 he took a course in Marxism- Leninism with Hermann Duncker at the Marxist Workers’ School in Berlin. He also began a detailed study of works by modern composers; in his own works, mostly for voices, he developed a style characteristic of the proletarian music of the time, full of affirmative action in march time adorned by corrosive discords, and yet eminently singable. When the Nazis bore down on his world with a different march, he fled to London, where, with the help of Alan Bush, he conducted the Labour Choral Union. During World War II, he participated in the Chorus of the Free German Cultural Union in London and wrote propaganda songs; of these, Radio Moskau ruft Frau Kramer was widely broadcast to Germany. In 1948 he went to East Berlin, where he was a prof, and director of the musicological inst. of the Humboldt Univ. until 1970. He was acknowledged as one of the most persuasive theoreticians of socialist realism in music; he founded the periodical Musik und Gesellschaft, which pursued the orthodox Marxist line. He publ. English Chamber Music: The History of a Great Art from the Middle Ages to Purcell (London, 1946; in Ger. as Die Kammermusik Alt- Englands, East Berlin, 1958; new ed., rev, 1982, with D. Poulton as Early English Chamber Music), Das Werk Beethovens und seine Bedeutung für das sozialistisch-realistische Gegenwartsschaffen (East Berlin, 1970), and the autobiographical Kontraste-Konflikte (East Berlin, 1979). A Festschrift was publ. in his honor in Leipzig in 1973.


dramatic: opera:Reiter der Nacht (1969–72; Berlin, Nov. 17, 1973). other: Film music. orch.: Sym. for Strings (1946–47; rev. 1958); Symphonischer Prolog (1949); Sym. for Piano and Orch. (1961); Poem for Viola and Orch. (1962); Violin Concerto (1964); Serenata pensierosa (1965); Concerto Grosso (1966); Sym. (1967); Harp Concerto (1969); Toccata (1971); Divertimento (1973); Concerto for Orch. with Piano obbligato (1975); Kontraste, Konflikte (1977); Viola Concerto (1978); Sinfonietta (1980); Berliner Divertimento (1981); Kammersinfonie (1983; transcription of the 5th String Quartet); Sinfonische Widmung for Orch. and Concertante Organ (1983). chamber: Trio for Flute, Oboe, and Harp (1935); Clarinet Quintet (1944); Piano Trio, Reflections and Resolution (1948); 6 string quartets (1956, 1959, 1967, 1974, 1978, 1982); Sonatina Fantasia for Solo Violin (1966); Viola Sonata (1979); Piano Trio (1980); Violin Sonata (1984); piano pieces. vocal: chora 1 :Mansfelder Oratorium (1950); Nun, Steuermann, cantata, after Walt Whitman’s Now Voyager (1946; rev. 1955); Gesang von der Jugend for Soloists, Chorus, Children’s Chorus, and Orch. (1957); Das Tor von Buchenwald (1959); Der Staat for Chorus and Orch. (1967); Lenin hat gesprochen (1970). other: More than 200 mass songs.


K. Niemann, E.H. M.: Für Sie porträtiert (Leipzig, 1975); M. Hansen, ed., E.H. M.: Das kompositiorische und theoretische Werk (Leipzig, 1976).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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