Ernst Emsheimer

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Ernst Emsheimer (born January 15, 1904 in Frankfurt am Main ; † June 12, 1989 in Stockholm ) was a Swedish musicologist of German origin who emerged primarily as an ethnomusicologist and organologist .


Early years

Emsheimer grew up in a middle-class Jewish family in Frankfurt am Main. His parents were open to the arts when the father later spoke out against his son studying music and in favor of a more traditional career as a lawyer or economist. Emsheimer instruction received in piano and music theory from Bernhard Sekles at Hoch Conservatory , where Theodor W. Adorno was one of his classmates.

Emsheimer then began studying music theory and musicology, first at the University of Heidelberg , then with Guido Adler and Wilhelm Fischer at the University of Vienna and finally with Willibald Gurlitt at the University of Freiburg . Gurlitt aroused Emsheimer's interest in historical instrument science. He was in Freiburg with a thesis on the 1927 Baroque composer Johann Ulrich Steigleder doctorate .

Emsheimer's early musicological interests were already broad. In 1931, following a study trip to Paris, he wrote a report on jazz music that he had discovered in the French capital. Anticipating the takeover of power by the National Socialists in Germany, he emigrated to the Soviet Union in 1932 with his future wife Mia . From 1932 to 1937 he was an assistant at the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in Leningrad and worked in the sound archive of the Ethnographic Museum.

During this time his interest in non-European musical traditions developed. In 1936 he took part with his wife on an extensive expedition to the Caucasus , during which he collected extensive material on Ossetian and Georgian folk music , which he could no longer evaluate in the remaining time in the Soviet Union.

In Sweden

In 1937 Emsheimer left the Soviet Union and followed his wife, who had gone to Sweden a year earlier. In Stockholm he had to be content with a badly paid job as an archivist in the Ethnographic Museum . However, the position enabled him to study materials that had been collected by the ethnographer Henning Haslund-Christensen during the Sven Hedin- led Sino-Swedish expedition (1927–1935) . This included transcriptions of Mongolian music. In order to deepen his knowledge in the new research focus, Emsheimer got in touch with leading Swedish and Danish ethnologists. He published the results of his years of research in 1943 in a methodologically groundbreaking study of Mongolian music and musical instruments .

During the Second World War , Emsheimer was in contact with prominent emigrants from National Socialist Germany, including Wolfgang Steinitz and Peter Weiss , and was a founding member of the Free German Cultural Association in Sweden. In fact, an academic career was hardly possible for the Jewish immigrant, but with the support of the musicologist Carl-Allan Moberg , Emsheimer finally succeeded in 1949 in becoming curator of the Museum of Music History (now the Musikmuseet ), a position he held until 1973.

Despite initially difficult circumstances and inadequate financial resources, during this time he succeeded in making the museum one of the international leaders of its kind. He bought historical exhibits, organized highly regarded exhibitions and held concerts with historical musical instruments, for example from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance , at which well-known musicians performed and leading musicologists gave introductions. Emsheimer advised the director Ingmar Bergman on the choice of music for the film The Seventh Seal ( Det sjunde inseglet , 1957), which is set in the Middle Ages.

Emsheimer continued to undertake international research trips. In the post-war period he was particularly interested in polyphony in Eurasian folk music, particularly in Georgian. One of the main areas of study was the cultic function of instruments, for example jew's harps in Siberia and Central Asia. He also published a study of the Sami cult chants . He was co-founder of the series Handbuch der Europäische Volksinstrumenten and initiated the Studia Instrumentorum Musicae Popularis , which has been published since 1969, and is dedicated to research into European and non-European musical instruments.

Even in his retirement from 1973, Emsheimer continued to work scientifically and published works on organology, music archeology and historical folk music research. He was still doing field research in different regions of the world. Among other things, he traveled to Berber groups in the Atlas (1973) and to the Bedscha in Sudan (1980).

Ernst Emsheimer died in June 1989 at the age of 85 as a result of several strokes . His wife had died in 1984.

Fonts (selection)

  • Johann Ulrich Steigleder . His life and his works. A contribution to the history of the south German organ composition. Bärenreiter-Verlag, Kassel 1928 (dissertation).
  • Social music in the city center of France. In: Music and Society. Volume 1, Issue 7, 1931. Reprinted in: Annette Hauber u. a. (Arr.): That's jazz. The sound of the 20th century. Institut Mathildenhöhe, Darmstadt 1988, pp. 333–334,
  • Preliminary Remarks on Mongolian Music and Instruments. Music of Eastern Mongolia. In: Reports from the Scientific Expedition to the North-Western Provinces of China under the Leadership of Dr. Sven Hedin ( The Sino-Swedish Expedition ). Publication 21, VIII., Ethnography . Vol. 4, The Music of the Mongols . Stockholm 1943, P. 1, pp. 69-100, 1-97.
  • Studia ethnomusicologica eurasiatica. Vol. 1. Musikmuseet, Stockholm 1964 (collected essays 1941–1961).
  • Studia ethnomusicologica eurasiatica. Vol. 2. Musikmuseet, Stockholm 1991 (collected articles 1964–1988).


  • Gustaf Hilleström (Ed.): Studia instrumentorum musicae popularis III. (Musikhistoriska museets skrifter 5. Festschrift for Ernst Emsheimer.) Musikhistoriska museet, Stockholm 1974
  • Jan Ling: In memoriam. Ernst Emsheimer (1904–1989). In: Ethnomusicology. Vol. 34, No. 3, 1990, ISSN  0014-1836 , pp. 425-428.
  • Albrecht Schneider: In Memoriam Ernst Emsheimer (1904–1989). In: Yearbook for Folk Song Research. Vol. 35, 1990, ISSN  0075-2789 , pp. 110-113.
  • Amnon Shiloah: Emsheimer, Ernst. In: Encyclopaedia Judaica . 2nd edition. Macmillan, Detroit et al. a. 2007. Volume 6, p. 398.
  • Svetlana Tantscher: Ernst Emsheimer: An academic wanderer in the shadow of political ideologies: Institute for Musicology, University of Vienna, 2015

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Gottfried Hamacher with the assistance of André Lohmar, Herbert Mayer, Günter Wehner and Harald Wittstock: Against Hitler. Germans in the Resistance, in the armed forces of the anti-Hitler coalition and the "Free Germany" movement, short biographies. Karl Dietz Verlag Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-320-02941-X online ( Memento of the original from October 5, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 894 kB) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /