Alfred Einstein

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Alfred Einstein (born December 30, 1880 in Munich , † February 13, 1952 in El Cerrito , California , USA ) was a German-American musicologist .


Origin, youth and scientific beginnings

Alfred Einstein came from a Jewish family in Munich . He was the third child of his parents after the siblings Max and Bertha. The father was a partner in the company C. Neuburger & Einstein, silk and velvet goods wholesale.

After four years of elementary school, Einstein attended the Luitpoldgymnasium for six years and then the Royal Theresien-Gymnasium in Munich . The well-read and hungry for education began to play the violin when he was nine or ten years old. After graduating from high school in 1899, Einstein studied law for a year - a concession to his parents. But then he followed his interests: for a while he took composition lessons with Anton Beer-Walbrunn at the Academy of Music and Music in Munich and began studying musicology , which he completed in December 1903 with a dissertation on the viola da gamba in the 16th and 17th centuries completed.

His doctoral supervisor Adolf Sandberger refused him the habilitation , according to Einstein's conviction because of anti-Semitic resentment. Nevertheless, Sandberger continued to involve him in his own research and in 1918 helped him become editor of the Zeitschrift für Musikwissenschaft . In addition to Sandberger's refusal to qualify for his habilitation, it is probably due to the anti-Jewish climate at the universities of the Weimar period that in the thirty years between his doctorate and his exile he was unable to pursue an academic career, despite a lively publication activity.

During the war, Einstein was admitted to a hospital because of “mental disorder”, where he wrote his first important musicological work, The History of Music (1917), completely without the aid of lexicons and musical aids.

Music critic in Munich and Berlin

After he had hopefully inquired in a letter to his friend Theodor Kroyer in May 1927 about his chances of a professorship in Heidelberg as the successor to Hans Joachim Moser , Moser let Kroyer know in writing that the lack of habilitation and Einstein's Judaism stood in the way of a professorship . So Einstein remained a private scholar and made a living as a music critic .

From 1909 to 1917 he worked for the Munich Latest News and between 1917 and 1927 for the Munich Post . In 1927, in a letter to Kroyer, he described a half-day teaching position at Dreimaskenverlag in Munich, probably from 1921 to 1927, as “slavery”. Between 1927 and 1933 he was an editor at the Berliner Tageblatt , where he became one of the most respected German-speaking critics.

Relation to Albert Einstein

During his time in Berlin his friendship developed with Albert Einstein , whose neighbor he became at the beginning of 1928 and with whom he sang in the school choir at the Luitpoldgymnasium he had attended. Albert Einstein later campaigned for Alfred Einstein's US emigration at the immigration offices, and the two occasionally saw each other in Princeton. The widely rumored assertion of a cousin of Alfred and Albert Einstein cannot be proven, although a distant relationship is obvious.

Exile and professorship in Northampton

Eva Einstein, the only child from her marriage to Hertha Heumann in 1906, remembered that her family had decided to emigrate after Hitler came to power . On June 24, 1933, the German Music Society resigned Einstein's post as editor of the music journal . At the beginning of August he received his dismissal from the Berliner Tageblatt , although the circumstances are not entirely clear.

At the end of July Einstein took part in a musicological congress in Cambridge , from which he never returned to Germany. He and his family spent the following years until they went into exile in the US in early 1939 in England, Italy, Austria and Switzerland. During this time Einstein devoted himself to his research in a financially difficult situation. In 1937, thanks to a special permit from the Reichsmusikkammer, the third edition of the Köchel directory, which he had revised, was allowed to appear on the cover with his name.

Three months after entering the United States, Einstein received an offer to teach at Smith College , the renowned women's university in Northampton , Massachusetts , where he stayed until his retirement in 1950. The low teaching commitment gave him plenty of freedom for guest lectures at other universities and for his research. In 1939, 58-year-old Einstein found the working conditions he had longed for since completing his doctorate in 1903.

During and after the war he looked at Europe with suspicion: In 1949, for example, he turned down an invitation from the Free University of Berlin because he felt no longing for a “visit to the Fourth Reich”. In the same year he also rejected the Golden Mozart Medal of the International Mozarteum Foundation in Salzburg, no longer published in Germany and furiously pursued the denazification processes of musicians and scientists.

His plans to work on a Mozart Complete Edition for a year after retiring from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor , were thwarted by a heart attack . The family moved because of the mild climate to El Cerrito near Berkeley, California, where Einstein pursued his research privately. In January 1952 he had another heart attack, the consequences of which he succumbed on February 13th.

Scientific work

Major works

The musicologist Alfred Einstein is still known even to musical amateurs today. The monograph Mozart , his character, his work (English 1945, German 1947), consisting of the investigations to the third edition of the Kochel directory grows up (1937), receives more than seventy years after its release its reputation as a Mozart expert upright. But also works such as Greatness in Music (English 1941, German 1951), The Romanticism in Music (English 1947, German 1950), Schubert (English 1951, German 1952) as well as numerous music- aesthetic essays are capable of their descriptive language, wealth of ideas and the originality of reaching a wide audience.

Einstein's books owe their widespread dissemination to his excellent knowledge of the respective complete works and the virtuosity of their presentation. Even today, his judgmental assessments encourage personal occupation and independent criticism.

Einstein's Mozart book was often read in Thomas Mann's later years. Einstein was in correspondence with a number of the most important musicians and writers of his time. The correspondence includes letters from Béla Bartók , Bruno Walter , Edwin Fischer , Stefan Zweig , Thomas Mann, Fritz Busch or Paul Hindemith and Wilhelm Furtwängler .

Journal of Musicology 1918 Titel.png


With his meticulous source work, which is reflected in the ninth to eleventh edition of Hugo Riemann's music dictionary (1919, 1922, 1929) and in the three-volume The Italian Madrigal (1949), and with the publication of the Zeitschrift für Musikwissenschaft (1918–1933) Einstein had established himself as a fixture in German music research, although he only got a university position in the USA in 1939.


Einstein's estate is located in the Alfred Einstein Collection 1 and 2 in the music library of the University of Berkeley, which also has its musicological library. The copies of the scores he made for his investigations are in the Josten Performing Arts Library at Smith College.


  • On German literature for viola da gamba in the 16th and 17th centuries. Diss. Munich 1903 (31 pages); Print version in: Publications of the International Music Society. Beih. F. 2, H. 1.
  • History of music. Teubner, Leipzig / Berlin 1917. ( From Nature and Spiritual World, Vol. 438) [further revised versions]
    • History of music. From the beginning to the present. Pan, Zurich / Stuttgart 1953. (last version with additions, music examples and a new final chapter yesterday and today ).
  • Heinrich Schütz . Bärenreiter, Kassel 1928 (39 pp. Sheet music examples).
  • Luck . His life - his works. Revised new edition: Bärenreiter, Kassel / Basel 1987, ISBN 3-7618-0810-0 .
    • English version: Gluck. By Alfred Einstein. Transl. by Eric Blom. JM Dent, London 1936.
  • Mozart and humanity. In: Measure and Value. Bimonthly publication for free German culture. Edited by Thomas Mann and Konrad Falke. 1st year: Issue 4 March / April 1938.
  • Greatness in music.
    • First in English: Greatness in Music. Oxford University Press, New York / London 1941.
    • German: Pan, Zurich 1953. 336 pages: numerous sheet music examples; 1980 dtv / Bärenreiter (with a foreword by Carl Dahlhaus ).
  • Mozart. His character, his work.
    • first in English: Oxford University Press, New York 1945.
    • Bermann-Fischer, Stockholm 1947. 636 pp.: Ill., Music examples (numerous revised editions).
    • Fischer Taschenbuchverlag, Frankfurt am Main 1991/2006.
  • The romance in music.
    • first in English: Music in the Romantic Era. Norton, New York 1947.
    • German: Liechtenstein-Verl., Munich 1950. 434 p .; most recently: Metzler, Stuttgart 1992.
  • The Italian Madrigal (The Italian Madrigal ), 3 vols. (Vol. 3 as tape). Princeton University Press, Princeton (New Jersey) 1949.
  • Schubert A musical portrait.
    • first in English: Schubert. A musical portrait. Oxford University Press, New York / London 1951.
    • German: Pan, Zurich 1952. 404 p. Sheet music examples.
  • From Schütz to Hindemith . Essays on music and musicians. Pan, Zurich / Stuttgart 1957. 271 pp.: Ill., Music examples.
  • National and universal music. New essays. Pan, Zurich / Stuttgart 1958. 274 pp. Sheet music examples. (The volume is the continuation of: From Schütz to Hindemith. )
  • Chronological-thematic index of all of Wolfgang Amadé Mozart's music works. In addition to information about the lost, started, transferred, dubious and superseded compositions. By Ludwig Ritter von Köchel . 4th edition / edited by Alfred Einstein. Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1937, reprint 1958. - XLIX, 984 p.: Mostly sheet music examples.


Scores (selection)

  • Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina : Missa Papae Marcelli. Introduced and ed. by Alfred Einstein. Three masks, Munich 1921.
  • Johann Christian Bach : Sinfonia D major / D major / Re majeur. Op. 18/4. Pocket Score. Edited for the first time and with Foreword (English and German) by Alfred Einstein. With a bilingual introduction by Alfred Einstein. Eulenburg, Leipzig 1934.
  • Arcangelo Corelli : Concerto grosso No.8 [Christmas Concerto] for 2 violins, cello and string orchestra. Edited and with Foreword by Alfred Einstein. Eulenburg, London undated (approx. 1965).
  • Giovanni Battista Viotti : Concerto No. 22 A minor for violin and orchestra. Edited with a forword by Alfred Einstein. Ernst Eulenburg, London undated

Other editions

  • Hugo Riemanns Musik-Lexikon (9th, 10th and 11th edition). Max Hesse, Berlin 1919/1922/1929.
  • The New Music Lexicon. According to the Dictionary of Modern Music and Musicians. Edited by A. Eaglefield-Hull, translated and edited by Alfred Einstein. Max Hesse, Berlin 1926.
  • Letters from German musicians. Bermann-Fischer, Stockholm 1938.
    • Pan, second edition: Zurich / Stuttgart 1953.


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