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Heinz Tiessen

Heinz Tiessen was born on 10 April 1887 in Königsberg (Prussia, today called Kaliningrad, Russia), but grew up in Bartoszyce. After school he studied law at the wish of his father and parallely music at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin. After only one semester Heinz Tiessen quit studying law and switched to philosophy. He nevertheless continued his music studies as well under Philipp Rüfer (composition), Wilhelm Klatte (music theory) and Arno Kleffel (conducting).
After his studies Heinz Tiessen stayed in Berlin and focussed on composing. His first two symphonies were immediately premiered in 1913 and 1914. From the very beginning Heinz Tiessen was an admirer of Richard Strauss and the renowned composer a patron of Heinz Tiessen. It was Richard Strauss who placed Heinz Tiessen in the position of a repetiteur at the Royal Court Opera in 1917 and he assisted Richard Strauss on his Mozart tour through Switzerland. Tiessen also worked as a critic in those days. From 1918 to 1921 he was kapellmeister at the Volksbühne, parallely also conductor of the Akademische Orchestervereinigung. Tiessen also got involved into the activities of the November Group and was founding member of the Gesellschaft für Neue Musik in 1922.
During the time of the late 1910s and 1920s Heinz Tiessen was one of the leading and most unique musical personalities in German-speaking world. His compositions were performed by renowned artist like conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, pianist Eduard Erdmann or violinist Georg Kulenkampff. His vanguard compositions finally earned him the position of composition teacher at the Staatliche Akademische Hochschule für Musik in 1925. His two most notable students of that time were Eduard Erdmann and Sergiu Celibidache.
The emergence of the Nazism forced a break in the career of Heinz Tiessen. Both his activities with leftist intellectuals and socialists and his modern, challenging compositions led to professional difficulties. Tiessen could work throughout the complete time of the Third Reich, but only as a censor for the state music inspection authority and the performance of his compositions was unwanted. In the last days of the war most of the performing material of his compositions was destroyed by bombs. Heinz Tiessen survived the war but as a broken man.
After World War II Heinz Tiessen first directed the former Stern Conservatory until 1949 and later the faculty for composition and music theory at the Berliner Musikhochschule until his retirement in 1955. But he did not regain his musical productivity and after nearly 20 years of unperformed Tiessen compositions, the post-war performers did not remember his works. For these reasons the composer Heinz Tiessen fell into oblivion and still is a common name only for experts.
Heinz Tiessen died on 29 November 1971 in West-Berlin.

 

Among the compositions by Heinz Tiessen are several incidental musics, 2 symphonies, several compositions for orchestra, the "Totentanz-Suite" for violin and orchestra, Concertante variations for piano and orchestra, a string quintet, a duo-sonata for violin and piano, the "Amsel-Septett", many pieces for piano, an oratorio, a cantata and a rhapsody for soprano and orchestra "Die Amsel".

Heinz Tiessen was - several years before Olivier Messiaen - interested in the song of birds, especially in those of the blackbird (German: Amsel). He wrote a book about birdsongs and composed several compositions with reference to the blackbird. The "Amsel-Septet op.20" (blackbird-septet) is one of his principal compositions. Others are his second symphony "Stirb und Werde!" op.12 and his "Natur-Triologie" for piano op.18.

 

In my possession is the autograph manuscript of the composition "Fünf Klavierstücke op.21" by Heinz Tiessen. This composition has a special history. The work was composed around 1915 and premiered by Eduard Erdmann on 11 May 1916. But shortly afterwards Heinz Tiessen much have withdrawn the work, because the "Fünf Klavierstücke" are not part of the official work catalogue and the opus 21 was re-used for the Rondo for orchestra.

Here are some information about the "Fünf Klavierstücke":

  1. (Vorspiel) Langsam und wuchtig, mit Energie
  2. (Elegie) Sehr langsam
  3. Mäßig
  4. (Amsel) Lustig und frisch
  5. Leidenschaftlich bewegt

The composition is dedicated to Dr. Bruno Haake. This could be the neurologist Bruno Haake (1874-1942), who is now best known for being forensic expert in the trial against Soghomon Tehlirian for his assasination of Talat Pasha in 1921. This Bruno Haake died 1942 in the Theresienstadt Ghetto.

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