Peter Petersen (musicologist)

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Peter Petersen (born July 17, 1940 in Hamburg ) is a German musicologist .


Petersen first studied school music, then historical musicology and German at the University of Hamburg . In 1971 he received his doctorate with a thesis on the tonality in Béla Bartók's instrumental work . After completing his habilitation with a paper on Alban Bergs Wozzeck , he taught as a professor at the University of Hamburg from 1985. In 2001 the university honored him with the Fischer Appelt Prize for outstanding achievements in academic teaching. Petersen has been retired since 2005.

He is married to the violin teacher Marianne Petersen and lives in Hamburg.


One focus of Petersen's research is in the field of music of the 20th century (including Bartók, Berg, Hölszky , Lutosławski ). Several monographs and numerous articles deal with the work of Hans Werner Henze .

Thanks to Petersen's commitment, the Musicological Institute of the University of Hamburg became a center for exile music research: Petersen founded and led the “Exile Music Working Group”, which had existed for almost 30 years, and won over numerous students and colleagues to investigate the effects of Nazi rule, exile and the Holocaust on the To work through musical life. Petersen is editor of the series "Music in the 'Third Reich' and in Exile" and co-editor of the online lexicon of persecuted musicians (

Petersen perfected the process of "semantic analysis" of subject-related compositions and especially of works of music theater . Based on meticulous score analyzes, which are then contextualized, his investigations open up the contextual relationships of such compositions in a completely new way - for example the meaning of Alban Berg's Wozzeck or, more recently, of Richard Strauss ' Peace Day .

In the field of music theory, Petersen developed a fundamentally new rhythm theory (" component theory "), which removes the concept of duration from the individual tone and assigns rhythm-generating potential to all sound phenomena ("components") (sound, pitch, diastematics, articulation, dynamics, timbre, harmonics, Texture, phrase, language). The “component rhythms” are visualized in multi-line “rhythm scores”. The accumulation of the component rhythms results in single-line “rhythm profiles” which precisely depict the “rhythmic weight” in the musical course. Petersen's method for rhythmic fine analysis allows u. a. recognize that even unison notes can already have a complex rhythm. The relationship between rhythm and metrics will also be examined anew .



  • The tonality in the instrumental work of Béla Bartók (= Hamburg Contributions to Musicology Vol. 6), Hamburg: Wagner 1971.
  • Alban Berg: Wozzeck. A semantic analysis including the sketches and documents from Berg's estate (special volume on music concepts), Munich: text + kritik 1985.
  • Hans Werner Henze. A political musician. Twelve lectures, Hamburg: Argument 1988.
  • Hans Werner Henze. Works from 1984-93 (= Kölner Schriften zur Neue Musik, Vol. 4), Mainz: Schott 1995.
  • Orientation musicology. What she can do, what she wants, Reinbek: rowohlt 2000 (together with Helmut Rösing ).
  • Music and rhythm. Basics, history, analysis, Mainz a. a .: Schott 2010.
  • Music and Rhythm. Fundamentals - History - Analysis, revised and expanded version of the original German edition, translated by Ernest Bernhardt-Kabisch, Frankfurt am Main u. a .: Lang 2013.
  • Hans Werner Henze - Ingeborg Bachmann . "Undine" and "Tasso" in ballet, story, concert and poem, Schliengen: Argus 2014.
  • “Peace Day” by Stefan Zweig , Richard Strauss and Joseph Gregor . A pacifist opera in the “Third Reich” (= Music and Dictatorship Vol. 2, Ed. F. Geiger), Münster: Waxmann 2017.
  • Isolde and Tristan. On the musical identity of the main characters in Richard Wagner's "plot" Tristan and Isolde , Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann 2019.


  • MUSIC CULTURAL HISTORY. Festschrift for Constantin Floros on the occasion of his 60th birthday, Ed. P. Petersen, Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Härtel 1990.
  • Music in exile. Consequences of Nazism for International Music Culture, Hg. H.-W. Heister , C. Maurer Zenck and P. Petersen, Frankfurt a. M .: Fischer Taschenbuchverlag 1993.
  • Igniting songs - burned music. Consequences of Nazi fascism for Hamburg musicians. Completely revised edition [of the first edition from 1988], edited by P. Petersen and the Exilmusik working group, Hamburg: VSA 1995.
  • “Voices” for Hans Werner Henze. The 22 songs from "Voices", edited by P. Petersen, H.-W. Heister and H. Lück, Mainz a. a .: Schott 1996.
  • Music in the “Third Reich” and in exile. Series of publications. So far 20 vols. Hamburg: von Bockel 1996 ff. (Up to vol. 11 co-editor: Hanns-Werner Heister)
  • The “Reichs Brahms Festival” in Hamburg in 1933. Reconstruction and documentation, edited by the Exile Music Working Group at the Musicological Institute of the University of Hamburg, Hamburg: von Bockel 1997.
  • Büchner operas. Georg Büchner in the Music of the 20th Century, Ed. P. Petersen and H.-G. Winter (= HJbMw Bd. 14), Frankfurt a. M .: Lang 1997.
  • 50 years of the Musicological Institute in Hamburg. Inventory - current research - outlook, Ed. P. Petersen and H. Rösing (= HJbMw Bd. 16), Frankfurt a. M .: Lang 1999.
  • Life paths of female musicians in the “Third Reich” and in exile, Ed. Working group on exile music at the Musicological Institute of the University of Hamburg, Hamburg: von Bockel 2000.
  • Hans Werner Henze. The lectures of the international symposium at the Musicological Institute of the University of Hamburg June 28-30, 2001, Ed. P. Petersen (= HJbMw Vol. 20), Frankfurt a. M .: Lang 2003.
  • Berthold Goldschmidt . Composer and conductor. A musician's life between Hamburg, Berlin and London, Ed. P. Petersen and the Exile Music Working Group at the Musicological Institute of the University of Hamburg, Hamburg: von Bockel 1994. - Second, corrected and supplemented edition 2003.
  • Music theater in exile during the Nazi era. Report on the International Conference at the Musicological Institute of the University of Hamburg February 3 to 5, 2005, Ed. P. Petersen and C. Maurer Zenck (= Music in the "Third Reich" and in Exile, Vol. 12), Hamburg: von Bockel 2007 .
  • Lexicon of persecuted musicians from the Nazi era, online lexicon [1] , edited by C. Maurer Zenck, P. Petersen and S. Fetthauer, Universität Hamburg 2005 ff.

Festschriften for Peter Petersen

  • Composition as communication. On the music of the 20th century, ed. C. Floros, F. Geiger and T. Schäfer (= HJbMw vol. 17), Frankfurt a. M .: Lang 2000.
  • Focus on German Miserere by Paul Dessau and Bertolt Brecht . Festschrift Peter Petersen on the occasion of his 65th birthday, eds. N. Ermlich Lehmann, S. Fetthauer, M. Lehmann, J. Rothkamm, S. Wenzel and K. Wille, Hamburg: von Bockel 2005.

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