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Austrian poet, playwright, and librettist.

Already at the age of 17, Hofmannsthal was producing lyric poetry of astonishing beauty and purity. Later, he turned to drama, and in 1920 with Max Reinhardt founded the Salzburg Festival.

His association with Richard Strauss began in 1906 when Hofmannsthal suggested the latter might set his play Elektra (1903) to music; the two men collaborated to create Strauss's opera of that name (1908). Thereafter, Hofmannsthal provided the libretti for Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier (1910), Ariadne auf Naxos (1912), Josephslegende (1914, ballet scenario), Der Bürger als Edelmann (1917), Die Frau ohne Schatten (1918), Die ägyptische Helena (1927), and after his death Arabella (1932) and Die Liebe der Danae (1940). Other composers who set Hofmannsthal's material include Zemlinsky, Nilson, Wagner-Régeny, Tcherepnin, and Varèse.

Hofmannsthal and Schenker

There seems to have been no contact between the two men. Maximilian Harden mentioned the young Hofmannsthal's poetry to Schenker in 1896 (OJ 11/42, [27]), but we do know what Schenker replied.

Schenker wrote extensive and generally favorable comments on Hofmannsthal's play Der Schwierige in his diary for May 3, 1927. At Hofmannsthal's death he wrote in his diary for July 17, 1929: The course of his life is distressing enough; even more so, of course, its end. Clearly a natural talent, as evidenced by the achievements of his youth, which could not have been achieved by lengthy contemplation. The obituaries show that his sorrows about the past have been interpreted as a denial of his poetic powers, which is most certainly not the case. Many of his works from the period after his breakdown have great force, verily on account of the pain that continues to resonate in them. Even Der Schwierige cannot be praised too highly: precisely when set against the background of the time, it represents one of the best German comedies.


  • Grove Music Online


  • Ian Bent

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