Josef Matthias Hauer – Apokalyptische Phantasie op. 5 (1913)


Josef Matthias Hauer (March 19, 1883 – September 22, 1959) was an Austrian composer and music theorist. He is most famous for developing, independent of and a year or two before Arnold Schoenberg, a method for composing with all 12 notes of the chromatic scale. Hauer was also an important early theorist of twelve-tone music and composition.

Hauer “detested all art that expressed ideas, programmes or feelings,” instead believing that it was “essential…to raise music to its highest…level,” a, “purely spiritual, supersensual music composed according to impersonal rules,”and many of his compositions reflect this in their direct, often athematic, ‘cerebral’ approach. Hauer’s music is diverse, however, and not all of it embraces this aesthetic position.

Hauer was born in Wiener Neustadt and died in Vienna. He had an early musical training in cello, choral conducting, and organ, and claimed to have been self-taught in theory and composition. In 1918 he published his first work on music theory (a tone-color theory based on Goethe’s Theory of Colours). In August 1919 he published his “law of the twelve tones”, requiring that all twelve chromatic notes sound before any is repeated. This he developed and first articulated theoretically in Vom Wesen des Musikalischen (1920), before the Schoenberg circle’s earliest writings on twelve-tone technique.

Hauer wrote prolifically, both music and prose, until 1938, when his music was added to the touring Nazi “degenerate art” (Entartete Kunst) exhibit. He stayed in Austria through the war, and, in fear, published nothing. Even after the war, however, he published little more, although it is thought that several hundred pieces remain in manuscript. Hauer continued to write twelve-tone pieces while also teaching several students his techniques and philosophy. At the time of his death, Hauer had reportedly given away most of his possessions, living simply while retaining a copy of the I Ching.

Josef Matthias Hauer: Apokalyptische Phantasie op. 5 (1913)

Symphonieorchester Wien, Gottfried Rabl


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