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German composer, writer on music, music critic and theorist, influential figure in German music education, and advocate of Anton Bruckner.

Son of a pastor, Halm was tutored early in piano and violin, attended Gymnasium in Schwäbisch-Hall, then studied protestant theology and music composition in Tübingen. From 1893 to 1895, he studied under Rheinberger and Weingartner at the Königliche Musikschule in Munich. His first professional post, 1895-1903, was as conductor of the Society for Classical Church Music in Heilbronn, and custodian of that city's music archive. From 1903 to 1906 he worked as a music teacher at the private country boarding school in Haubinda, and then from 1906 to 1910 at the Freie Schulgemeinde in Wickersdorf, holding several appointments as a conductor and briefly becoming music critic of the Süddeutsche Zeitung in Stuttgart. From 1914 to 1920 he was a music instructor at the teachers' college in Esslingen am Neckar, returning to Wickersdorf in 1920. His wife from 1913 was Hilda Wyneken, sister of the founder of the Freie Schulgemeinde, Gustav Wyneken. Halm died unexpectedly of complications from an appendix operation.

As a composer, Halm wrote symphonies, incidental music, chamber music, keyboard works, vocal music, broadly speaking in late-Romantic style, and pedagogical works. In July 1910, Wyneken founded a "Society for the Publication of the Works of August Halm" to ensure the survival of Halm's compositions. Wyneken founded a Halm Society in summer 1929; it existed up until 1995, when it was absorbed into the Society for Music History in Baden Württemburg.

Halm and Schenker

From 1916 through late 1927, Halm and Schenker exchanged publications with one another, and conducted a correspondence that is of particular interest for its substantive discussions of aesthetic and music theoretical matters. The two men were in agreement that European music was in a period of decline and in need of revitalization. By contrast, they were in fundamental disagreement on many other issues, not least on their evaluation of the music of Bruckner. Yet each considered it worthwhile to maintain contact with the other for his own advantage: Schenker saw Halm as a useful spokesman for his work, while Halm was hopeful that Schenker would be a supporter of his music and writings.

Halm pays tribute to Schenker in the "Nachwort" to the third edition (1920) of his Von zwei Kulturen: "As works to which I am indebted here, I should name those of Heinrich Schenker with which I first became acquainted a few years ago, and who, particularly in his Harmonielehre, offers much directly relating to harmony conceived in structural terms" (p. 253). The "Nachwort" to the second edition (1923) of his Die Symphonie Anton Bruckners includes a much longer statement about Schenker which acknowledges Halm's debt to him but which, while declaring that Schenker's acute sense of synthesis in Beethoven comes close to genius, takes issue with the latter's dismissal of synthesis in the Brucknerian symphony: "Schenker fails to find synthesis in Bruckner, possibly out of inner necessity, possibly even merely because he has attuned himself wholly to the art of the classical composers" (pp. 243–44).

Correspondence with Schenker

Fifty items of correspondence are known to survive between Schenker and Halm; those from Halm to Schenker survive at OJ 11/35 (28 items: 1917-29), and OC 12/7-17 (3 items: 1923-24), those from Schenker to Halm in the Deutsches Literatur-Archiv as DLA 69/930 (16 items: 1917-27), and OC 1/B (3 items: 1916-22).

Bibliography (select writings by Halm):

  • Harmonielehre (Berlin: Göschen, 1900)
  • "Bruckner als Melodiker," Der Kunstwart xviii (1904-05), 242-7
  • "Über den Wert der Brucknerschen Musik," Die Musik vi/1 (1906-07), 3-20
  • "Die Musik in der Schule," Die Freie Schulgemeinde i (1910-11), 11-18, 45-52
  • "Musikalische Bildung," Wickersdorfer Jahrbuch ii (1911), 48-73
  • Von zwei Kulturen der Musik (Munich: G. Müller, 1913)
  • Die Symphonie Anton Bruckners (Munich: G. Müller, 1914, 2/1923)
  • Von Grenzen und Ländern der Musik: gesammelte Aufsätze (Munich: G. Müller, 1916)
  • "Heinrich Schenker," Die Freie Schulgemeinde viii (Oct 1, 1917), 11-15 (OC 2/p. 53; OJ 38/12, inscribed copy) [survey of Schenker's publications]
  • "Musik und Volk," in Musikalische Jugendkultur, ed. F. Jöde (Hamburg, 1918), pp. 9-22; repr. in Die Laute v (1921-2), 40-44
  • "Über J.S. Bachs Konzertform," Bach-Jahrbuch xvi (1919), 1-44 (OC 68/23)
  • "Heinrich Schenkers 'Neue Musikalische Theorien und Phantasien'," Der Merker xi (1920), 414-17, 505-07 (OC 2/p. 55) [reviews of Harmonielehre and Kontrapunkt 1]
  • "Chromatik und Tonalität," Neue Musik-Zeitung xlv (1924), 270-78; xlvi (1925), 44-6
  • Einführung in die Musik (Berlin: Deutsche Buchgemeinschaft, 1926)
  • "Genie und Zeit," Die grüne Fahne: Die. Monatsschrift für jugendliche Weltanschauung i (1924)
  • "Anton Bruckner," Die grüne Fahne: Die. Monatsschrift für jugendliche Weltanschauung i/6 (September 1924) [= OJ 34/4]
  • Beethoven (Berlin: Max Hesse, 1927)
  • "Musik als Volksgut?," Das Unterhaltungsblatt der Vossische Zeitung lx (March 19, 1927)
  • "Über den Wert musikalischer Analysen," Die Musik xxi (1928-9), 481-4, 591-5
  • Von Form und Sinn der Musik: gesammelte Aufsätze, ed. S. Schmalzriedt (Wiesbaden, 1978)
  • (and many other articles in periodicals)


  • MGG1 (1956)
  • NGDM2 (2001 and online)
  • Rothfarb, Lee, August Halm: A Critical and Creative Life in Music (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2009)
  • Rothfarb, Lee, "August Halm on Body and Spirit in Music," 19th-Century Music xxix/2 (2005), 121-41
  • Rothfarb, Lee, "Beethoven's Formal Dynamics: August Halm's Phenomenological Perspective," Beethoven Forum v (1996), 65-84
  • Rothfarb, Lee, "Energetics," in Christensen, Thomas, ed., The Cambridge History of Western Music Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 927-55
  • Rothfarb, Lee, "Music Analysis, Cultural Morality, and Sociology in the Writings of August Halm," Indiana Theory Review xvi (1995), 171-96
  • Rothfarb, Lee, "The 'New Education' and Music Theory, 1900-25," in Hatch, Christopher and Bernstein, David, eds., Music Theory and the Exploration of the Past (Chicago, 1993), pp. 449-72


  • Ian Bent with Lee Rothfarb

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