Hugo Riemann

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hugo Riemann (Hamburg, 1889)

Karl Wilhelm Julius Hugo Riemann (born July 18, 1849 in Großmehlra near Sondershausen (Thuringia); † July 10, 1919 in Leipzig ) was a German music theorist, music historian, music teacher and music lexicographer. His best-known work, the Riemann Musiklexikon , is a recognized standard work to this day.


Hugo Riemann's parents were the manor owner and chief magistrate Robert Riemann (1824-1896) and his wife Luise Kleemann (1827-1910). His brother Otto (1853–1936) became lieutenant general, his brother Paul (1864–1909) also became a manor owner, his sister Anna (* 1862) married the court preacher and senior consistorial councilor Arnold Zahn (* 1842).



Hugo Riemann received his first musical education from his father, the manor owner and chief magistrate Robert Riemann, who was a music lover and from whom some songs, choral pieces and the opera Bianca Siffredi were performed in Sondershausen . His first theory teacher was the Kapellmeister Heinrich Frankenberger from Sondershausen. He also received lessons from August Bartel, Hartleb and the Liszt student Theodor Ratzenberger . Riemann attended the grammar school in Sondershausen and Arnstadt and the monastery school in Roßleben, where he obtained a well-founded scientific intellectual education with knowledge of the classical languages ​​and literatures. In 1868 Hugo Riemann passed his matriculation examination at the high school in Arnstadt. After completing his humanistic school attendance and his knowledge in the musical field, as well as his training on the piano, Riemann saw his professional future as a writer or composer.

Study time

From 1868 onwards, Riemann studied law, German and history in Berlin. From the cultural historian Wilhelm Scherer , Riemann received the important impetus to devote himself to art studies. He continued his studies in Tübingen in 1869 with the subjects philosophy with Christoph von Sigwart , history with Julius Weizsäcker , art history with B. von Kugler and aesthetics with Karl Reinhold von Köstlin . In Tübingen Riemann got to know two fundamental books that were formative for him, Moritz Hauptmann's System of Harmonics and Helmholtz's theory of tone sensations. Riemann had already devoted himself to poetry since he was nine years old. However, the attempt to publish a two-volume volume of poetry at Cotta failed . In 1870 the first strongly theoretical music-writing works appeared on Richard Wagner and Gaspare Spontini , which were published under a pseudonym in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik , followed in 1872 by further articles in the field of music theory, which appeared under the name Hugibert Ries. After his participation in the Franco-German War in 1870/71, he decided solely on music. He studied music theory with Ernst Friedrich Richter , composition with Carl Reinecke and music history with Oscar Paul at the Conservatory and the University of Leipzig . In Leipzig, his dissertation was rejected by the Hegelian Oskar Paul. In the same year Riemann submitted the dissertation on musical hearing at the University of Göttingen to the philosopher Rudolf Hermann Lotze and the music scholar Eduard Krüger and received the Göttingen philosophical doctorate on November 30, 1873. Since 1870 he was a member of the Corps Suevia Tübingen .

Professional background

From 1874 Hugo Riemann worked as a piano teacher and conductor in Bielefeld , where he also published writings on piano lessons, musical syntax and harmony. It was here in 1876 that Riemann married Elisabeth Bertelsmann, who came from an industrial family and with whom he had five children. Under the reviewer Philipp Spitta , who also tried to promote him in the following years , Riemann completed his habilitation in the fall of 1878 at the University of Leipzig with studies on the history of musical notation . A professional consolidation and the aspired university career did not occur even after his habilitation and his compositional projects. Then Riemann worked briefly in Bromberg in 1880 , where he took over the mixed choir association as a conductor and also worked as a music teacher. At the same time, Riemann was a private lecturer in Leipzig from 1878 to 1880. Riemann worked as a teacher for all theoretical subjects and the piano from 1881 to 1890 at the Hamburg Conservatory, where he met Johannes Brahms, among others . At the Princely Conservatory in Sondershausen , where he was employed for three months in 1890, Max Reger became his pupil, who followed him to Wiesbaden , where Riemann was employed as a piano and theory teacher at Albert Fuchs' Conservatory for the next five years until 1895 . Hans Pfitzner took brief lessons from Riemann there. After that, Riemann finally returned to Leipzig. In 1901 he was appointed associate professor at Leipzig University , and in 1905 he was appointed professor . Finally, in 1908, he became director of the musicological institute he founded (Collegium musicum). In 1911 Riemann became honorary professor in Leipzig and finally in 1914 director of the “Saxon State Research Institute for Musicology”. Riemann was an honorary member of the Cecilia Academy in Rome since 1887, at the Royal Academy in Florence since 1894 and the Musical Association in London since 1900. In Leipzig he also became a member of the Phönix Masonic Lodge . The University of Edinburgh made Riemann an honorary professor in 1899. In 1905 his own arrangements of late baroque and classical chamber music were performed for the first time by the Collegium Musicum, which he initiated . Although Riemann tried to find a musicological chair in Berlin , Prague and Vienna in addition to Leipzig , such a reputation did not materialize, although even Hermann Kretzschmar stood up for him in Berlin , who initially strongly rejected Riemann personally and objectively. On the occasion of his 60th birthday in 1909, Riemann was presented with a commemorative publication from his students, who included both music researchers and interpreters. From 1903 onwards, Riemann reduced his compositional activities considerably, but his literary and editorial work remained constant for a long time. In the last years of his life, Riemann was dependent on a wheelchair due to two strokes and died at the age of 69.

useful information

Labor productivity

Until 1905, in order to support his family financially, Riemann had to work as a private lecturer as well as a private piano, singing and theory teacher in addition to the low income from his teaching activities. In addition, Riemann published numerous and wide-ranging publications in the form of reviews, mishaps, glosses, lexicon articles, music guides, arrangements and translations of musicological writings by other authors and music editions.

This unprecedented productivity can no longer be exactly reconstructed today. It was made possible by an 18-hour working day that began at 4 in the morning and required a high level of self-discipline from Riemann, which put him in the role of an outsider and meant a distance from life that was not conducive to his academic career. Riemann compensated for this by carefully examining the history of the subject and also by providing humorous, sarcastic comments on his idiosyncrasies . In 1898, for example, Riemann published a fictional medieval treatise including pseudoscientific commentary.

Teaching method

Hugo Riemann took the view of high-quality teaching that tried to integrate the various aspects of music in a holistic way. He understood piano lessons as comprehensive music lessons that, in addition to the purely technical side, also included ear training, harmony theory, phrasing and the development of a sense of polyphonic playing. His progressive ideas for the development of the technique of playing the piano brought an expansion of the one-sided emphasis on the training of the finger technique, as it was cultivated by the older methodology. The systematic description of the types of touch, the use of the pedals and other elements of piano playing influenced the development of a modern theory of piano playing. Although his phrasing editions did not have lasting success and sparked polemics, he was an influential stimulator in the neglected area of ​​phrasing, despite all the one-sidedness of his theory.
Riemann's composition lessons began with the analysis of masterpieces. This was followed by progressive attempts to imitate ideal models and finally the practice and development of the musical imagination, i.e. the creative imagination.


Most of Hugo Riemann's estate remained in family ownership. However, it was destroyed by an air raid in 1943. Only parts of Riemann's correspondence and personal notes from his eldest son, the literary historian Robert Riemann, have been preserved. Letters from Hugo Riemann from 1873 to 1916 are in the holdings of the Leipzig music publisher CFPeters in the Leipzig State Archives .


Hugo Riemann's tombstone in the Leipzig South Cemetery (2008)

A street in Leipzig's music district is named after Hugo Riemann . He lived in the immediate vicinity of it in today's Riemannstrasse (formerly Albertstrasse), which also runs partly in the district.

Hugo Riemann's grave is located in Leipzig's southern cemetery .


In 1876 he married Elisabeth Bertelsmann (1856–1930) in Gadderbaum, a daughter of the industrialist and President of the Chamber of Commerce in Bielefeld Konrad Bertelsmann (1828–1901) and his wife Ferdinande Heuell . The couple had three sons and two daughters:

  • Robert Conrad Viktor (1877–1962), Germanist ∞ Marie Elisabeth Grossmann (1885–1961)
  • Conrad (1880–1955), doctor in Upper Silesia ∞ NN
  • Hans (1882–1953), District Councilor ∞ Thea Lindenberg (1892–1953)
  • Elsa (1879–1922), senior teacher in Hamburg
  • Ferdinandine (1895–1947), senior teacher


Hugo Riemann is one of the most distinctive and important personalities among musicologists. He has achieved his greatest merit in the field of music theory . He has made significant contributions to almost all areas, and has written treatises on many musical terms (for example " agogic ", "motif" or " phrasing " ). In North America, the Neo-Riemannian theory is based on Riemann's writings, a very well-known work by Riemann in German-speaking countries is the Riemann Music Lexicon ("Der Riemann") . Although the style of the Viennese Classic was exemplary for him, he showed himself to be open to the music of his time, although he did not spare any sharp criticism, as in the case of Arnold Schönberg . He was also pioneering in the field of music history, as he gave it comprehensive stylistic orientation.

With the harmonious dualism committed theory of "functions" Riemann created a new basis for harmonic analysis . In the second half of the 20th century, this functional theory in the form simplified by Max Reger , Hermann Grabner and published by Wilhelm Maler took a prominent position in Germany. Today, functional theory is still used in general education schools and music schools, but it has lost its importance in German-language music theory research. This has had consequences for the curricula of the theoretical and scientific subjects at many music training institutions. Here, functional theory usually forms a method from other analytical perspectives such as analysis with sentence models (initiated by Carl Dahlhaus's habilitation thesis), Schenkerian analysis , pitch-class set theory (e.g. for free tonal music) and the like. a.

In 2003 the connection between the reception of Riemann and National Socialism was examined.

Hugo Riemann's students include the composers Max Reger (1873–1916), Hans Pfitzner (1869–1949), Lothar Windsperger and Walter Niemann (1876–1953), as well as the musicologists Friedrich Blume , Hans Joachim Moser , Wilibald Gurlitt , Gustav Becking and Rudolf Steglich .


In addition to his music lexicon, Hugo Riemann's complete works include more than fifty monographs and over two hundred essays on all areas of musicology and music practice. As an editor, he has published over seventy works (including the controversial phrasing editions of famous works of piano music). The list of his now forgotten compositions goes up to op. 69 (some numbers are unoccupied).

Books and writings

  • Musical logic. Main features of the physiological and psychological foundation of our music system (Leipzig, 1873); also as a dissertation on musical hearing (1874)
  • The auxiliaries of modulation (Kassel, 1875)
  • The objective existence of undertones in the sound wave (Kassel, 1875)
  • Vademecum for first piano lessons (Leipzig, 1876) l
  • Musical syntaxis. Outline of a harmonic sentence formation theory (Leipzig, 1877)
  • Studies on the history of musical notation (Leipzig, 1878)
  • Sketch of a new method of harmony theory (Leipzig, 1880); from the second edition in 1887 as a handbook of harmony
  • The development of our musical notation (Leipzig, 1881)
  • Music Lexicon (Leipzig, 1882); Completed and edited by Alfred Einstein (Berlin, 9th edition 1919; 11th edition 1929); as Riemann-Musik-Lexikon , 5 volumes, edited by Wilibald Gurlitt , Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht and Carl Dahlhaus (Mainz, 12th edition 1959–1975); 13th, updated new edition, 5 vols., Ed. by Wolfgang Ruf in connection with Annette van Dyck-Hemming (Mainz 2012)
  • The nature of harmony (Leipzig, 1882)
  • Elementary music theory (Hamburg, 1883)
  • New School of Melody (Hamburg, 1883)
  • Comparative theoretical-practical piano school , 3 parts (Hamburg / St. Petersburg, 1883), fourth edition 1912 in Leipzig as a comparative piano school
  • Expression in music (Leipzig, 1883)
  • Musical dynamics and agogics (Hamburg / St. Petersburg / Leipzig, 1884)
  • Practical instructions for phrasing (Leipzig, 1886), with C. Fuchs
  • Opera Manual (Leipzig, 1887- [1893])
  • Systematic modulation theory as the basis of the theory of musical forms (Hamburg, 1887)
  • Catechism of Music (General Music Teaching) (Leipzig, 1888), from the 5th edition as General Music Teaching (Handbook of Music)
  • Catechism of the history of music , 2 parts (Leipzig 1888, 1889), from the 5th edition in 1914 as an outline of the history of music
  • Catechism of musical instruments (instrumentation theory) (Leipzig, 1888), from the 5th edition as a manual of musical instruments
  • Catechism of the Organ (Leipzig, 1888), from the 4th edition as a manual for the organ
  • Catechism of Piano Playing (Leipzig, 1888), from the 5th edition 1916 as a manual for piano playing
  • Textbook of simple, double and imitating counterpoint (Leipzig, 1888)
  • How do we listen to music? Three lectures (Leipzig, 1888)
  • Catechism of the theory of composition , 2 parts (Leipzig, 1889), from the 2nd edition 1897 as an outline of the theory of composition
  • Catechism of the basso -Spiels (Leipzig, 1889), from the 2nd edition in 1903 as instructions for basso games
  • Catechism of the music dictation (Leipzig, 1889), from the 4th edition 1916 as a manual of the music dictation
  • Catechism of the Fugue Composition , 3 parts, parts 1 and 2: Analysis of Johann Sebastian Bach's “Well-Tempered Clavier” (Leipzig, 1890/91), from the 3rd edition 1914–1916 as a manual of the fugue composition , Part 3: Analysis from Johann Sebastian Bach's «Art of Fugue» (Leipzig, 1894), from the 2nd edition in 1917 as the same
  • Catechism of the theory of harmony (Leipzig, 1890), from the 2nd edition in 1900 as the catechism of the theory of harmony and modulation , from the 5th edition in 1913 as a manual of the theory of harmony and modulation
  • Catechism of Music Aesthetics (How do we hear music?) (Leipzig, 1890), from the 2nd edition 1903 as How do we hear music? Basics of the music aesthetic
  • Catechism of Phrasing (Leipzig, 1890) with C. Fuchs, from the 2nd edition 1900 as a Vademecum of the phrasing , in the 8th edition as a manual of the phrasing
  • Catechism of Acoustics (Musicology) (Leipzig, 1891), from the 2nd edition 1914 as a manual of acoustics
  • Catechism of Singing Composition (Leipzig, 1891), the 3rd edition 1921 as a manual of singing composition
  • Simplified theory of harmony (London / New York, 1893)
  • Preludes and Studies , 5 volumes, Volume 1 (Frankfurt / Main, 1895), Volume 2/3 (Leipzig, 1900/1901), Volume 4/5 Printing in preparation (edited by Robert Schmitt-Scheubel / Rudolph Stephan / Helga de la Motte-Haber)
  • Notation and printing of music (Leipzig, 1896)
  • History of music theory in the IX-XIX centuries Century (Berlin, 1898)
  • The elements of musical aesthetics (Berlin / Stuttgart, 1900)
  • Epochs and heroes of music history , in: Spemann's golden book of music, edited with the assistance of K. Grunsky u. a. (Berlin / Stuttgart, 1900)
  • History of music since Beethoven (1800–1900) (Berlin / Stuttgart, 1900)
  • Instructions for score playing (Leipzig, 1902)
  • Large Composition Theory , 3 volumes, Volume 1: The homophonic movement (Berlin / Stuttgart, 1902), Volume 2: The polyphonic movement (Berlin / Stuttgart, 1903), Volume 3: The orchestral movement and the dramatic vocal style (Stuttgart, 1913)
  • Catechism of Orchestration (Leipzig, 1902), from the 3rd edition 1919 as a manual of orchestration
  • System of musical rhythm and metrics (Leipzig, 1903)
  • Handbook of music history , 2 volumes in 5 parts, part 1.1: The music of classical antiquity (Leipzig, 1904), part 1.2: The music of the Middle Ages (Leipzig, 1905), part 2.1: The age of the Renaissance (Leipzig 1907), part 2.2: The thoroughbass age (Leipzig, 1912), part 2.3: The music of the 18th and 19th centuries (Leipzig, 1913)
  • Elementary textbook for harmony theory (Leipzig, 1906)
  • Normal piano school for beginners (Leipzig, 1906)
  • Lost things for granted in the music of the 15th - 16th centuries Century (Langensalza, 1907)
  • Outline of musicology (Leipzig, 1908)
  • Small handbook of music history (Leipzig, 1908)
  • Johannes Brahms and the theory of music (Munich, 1909)
  • Spontaneous imagination and intellectual work in sound art production (Leipzig, 1909)
  • Studies on Byzantine Music , 2 parts, Part 1: Byzantine musical notation in the 10th to 15th centuries (Leipzig, 1909), Part 2: New contributions to solving the problems of Byzantine musical notation (Leipzig 1915)
  • Beck-Aubry's "modal interpretation" of troubadour melodies, in SIMG 11, 1909/1910
  • Beethoven's Prometheus music. A work of variations , in: Die Musik 9, 1909/10
  • "Basso ostinato" and "Basso quasi ostinato" , in: Festschrift R. von Liliencron, 1910
  • Beethoven's string quartets (Berlin / Vienna, 1910)
  • Johann Stamitzs Melodik , in: Neue Musik-Zeitung 31, 1910
  • Compendium of musical notation (Regensburg, 1910)
  • 6 string quartets by Franz Xaver Richter , in: Blätter für Haus- und Kirchenmusik 15, 1910/1911
  • John Playford ’s Violin Division and Michel Farinelli's Folies d'Espagne , in: Die Musik 10, 1910/1911
  • When did Handel make the acquaintance of Steffani? , in: Merker 2, 1910/1911
  • Are there double harmonies? , in: Festschrift F. Pedrell, Tortosa, 1911
  • The "Basso ostinato" and the beginnings of the cantata , in: SIMG 13, 1911/12
  • Stumpf's «Concordance and Dicordance» , in: ZIMG 13, 1911/1912
  • Pitch consciousness and interval judgment, in: ZIMG 13, 1911/1912
  • Music history in examples (Leipzig, 1912)
  • The rhythmic structure of the basses dances of manuscript 9085 of the Brussels Kgl. Library , in: SIMG 14, 1912/1913
  • A seven-movement dance suite by Monteverdi dated 1607 , in: SIMG 14, 1912/1913
  • The clock freedoms in Brahms' songs , in: Die Musik 12, 1912/1913
  • Τε Τα Τη Τω and NoEANe , in: ZIMG 14, 1912/1913
  • Γιγνόμενον and Γεγονός while listening to music. An aristoxenic contribution to modern music aesthetics (Berlin, 1913)
  • Elongated ends in triple time of the old classics , in: ZIMG 15, 1913/14
  • The accompanying art song in the 14th century , 1914/1915
  • Ideas for a «doctrine of sound ideas» , in: JbP 21/22, 1914/15
  • Folkloric tonality studies , part 1: pentatonic and tetrachordal melodies (Leipzig, 1916)
  • New contributions to a doctrine of the concept of sound , in: JbP 23, 1916
  • L. van Beethoven's complete piano solo sonatas , 3 parts (Berlin, 1918, 1919, 1919)
  • The phrasing in the light of a doctrine of the tonal conceptions , in: ZfMw 1, 1918/19

Explanations of works in the music guide

Edits and translations

  • AF Christiani: The Principles of Expression in Pianoforte Playing (New York, 1885), als: Understanding in piano playing (Leipzig, 1886)
  • FA Gevaert: Nouveau traité d´instrumentation (Paris / Brussels, 1885), as: New instrument teaching (Leipzig, 1887)
  • FA Gevaert: Les Origines du chant liturgique de l'église latin (Gent, 1890), as: The origin of the Roman church chant (Leipzig, 1891)
  • AB Marx: The theory of musical composition , 4 parts, edited by Hugo Riemann
  • G. Morphy: Les Luthistes espagnols du XVIe siècle (The Spanish lute masters of the 16th century) (French-German), 2 parts, 1902
  • J.-Ph. Rameau : De la mécanique des doigts sur le clavessin (1724), in German in an essay: J. Ph. Rameau as a piano teacher (Leipzig, 1889), in: H. Riemann, Präludien und Studien, Volume 2 (1900)
  • AW Thayer : Ludwig van Beethoven's life , 5 volumes, edited in German by H. Deiters, revised, edited and edited by H. Riemann
  • Ch.-M. Widor : Technique de l'orchestre moderne (Paris / Brussels, 1904), as: The technique of the modern orchestra (Leipzig, 1904)


  • Symphonies of the Palatinate School (Mannheim Symphony Orchestra) , 3 parts, 1902, 1906, 1907
  • J. Schobert: Selected Works , 1909
  • A. Steffani: Selected Works , Part 2/3, 1911/1912
  • Mannheim chamber music of the 18th century , 2 parts, 1914/1915


  • Michael Arntz, Hugo Riemann (1849–1919) Life, work and impact . Concerto Verlag Johannes Jansen, Cologne 1999. ISBN 3-9803578-7-2
  • Michael Arntz:  Riemann, Hugo. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 21, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-428-11202-4 , pp. 592-594 ( digitized version ).
  • Ellen Jünger, Music + Science = Hugo Riemann , Leipziger Universitätsverlag, Leipzig 2008, ISBN 978-3-86583-296-2
  • Thomas Röder:  RIEMANN, Hugo (Karl Wilhelm Julius). In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 8, Bautz, Herzberg 1994, ISBN 3-88309-053-0 , Sp. 317-320.
  • Mikhail Kuchersky: About the "world domination of German music". Notes on Hugo Riemann's writings on the music of the 18th and 19th centuries , in: Stephanie Klauk, Luca Aversano, Rainer Kleinertz (eds.): Music and musicology in the context of fascism. German-Italian Perspektiven (= Saarbrücker Studies on Musicology 19), Studiopunkt-Verlag Sinzig 2015, ISBN 978-3-89564-170-1
  • Alexander Rehding: Hugo Riemann and the birth of modern musical thought . Cambridge, Cambridge University Press 2003, ISBN 978-0-521-09636-2 .
  • Willibald Gurlitt : Hugo Riemann (1849 to 1919) (= treatises of the Academy of Sciences and Literature. Humanities and social sciences class. Born 1950, Volume 25). Verlag der Wissenschaft und der Literatur in Mainz (commissioned by Franz Steiner Verlag, Wiesbaden)
  • Elmar Seidel: Hugo Riemann's theory of harmony . In: Martin Vogel [Hrsg.]: Contributions to the music theory of the 19th century . Gustav Bosse Verlag, Regensburg 1966 ( studies on the history of music in the 19th century ; 4 / research company of the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, work group musicology), pp. 39–92.

Web links

Commons : Hugo Riemann  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Kösener corps lists 1910, 197, 418
  2. The autobiography of Robert Riemann with a chapter on Hugo Riemann, is published in excerpts on the family website of the family. ( Digitized version ; PDF; 149 kB)
  3. See Lexicon of Leipzig Street Names . Edited by Leipzig City Archives , Verlag im Wissenschaftszentrum Leipzig, 1995, ISBN 3-930433-09-5 , p. 178
  4. s. the article Schönberg in Riemanns Musik-Lexikon , 9th edition, Leipzig 1919.
  5. See: Hans Aerts: “› Model ‹and› Topos ‹in German-language music theory since Riemann,” in: ZGMTH 4 / 1–2 (2007), Hildesheim u. a., pp. 143-158. Online version:
  6. Carl Dahlhaus: Investigations into the origin of harmonic tonality , Kiel 1966.
  7. Ludwig Holtmeier: From music theory to music theory. On the history of a subject without history . In: Journal of the Society for Music Theory (= ZGMTH) 1/1 (2003) Hildesheim, pp. 11–34. Online version:
  8. Information based on Michael Arntz, Hugo Riemann (1849–1919) life, work and effect . Concerto Verlag Johannes Jansen, Cologne 1999, page 25. There also the reference to the catalog raisonné in: Riemann Festschrift. Collected Writings. Hugo Riemann presented by friends and students for his sixtieth birthday . Leipzig 1909. S. XXV ff. Also: Max Unger: Hugo Riemann's work in the last ten years . In: NZfM / MW 86 (1919). Pp. 181-183.