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German composer, music historian, and theorist, and performer; member of Schenker's inner circle.

Career Summary

Oppel studied with Iwan Knorr at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankurt (1897-), subsequently working as organist and choirmaster in Bonn (1903-09), then completing a doctorate in Munich with a dissertation on the Renaissance composer Jacob Meiland (1911). From 1911 to 1924 he taught music theory at the Kiel Conservatory (with war service 1914-19, serving on the Russian and Western fronts). Having completed his Habilitation (Beiträge zur Melodielehre) in 1924, he taught music theory and history as a Privatdozent at the University of Kiel 1924-31, with a post also at the Leipzig Conservatory 1927-40.

Oppel and Schenker

Oppel appears in Schenker's lessonbooks as receiving instruction only daily from August 7 to 12, 1931 (OC 3/4), though he is mentioned there several times from as early as February 1914 on. However, his correspondence with Schenker began in October 1913, and contact between the two men was particularly strong in the 1920s, Oppel assisting Schenker in the preparatory work for the latter's Brahms, Oktaven und Quinten u. a. (1933). Oppel shared Schenker's belief in aristocracy and his fervent nationalism, though by 1933 he had become disenchanted with Hitler, and resisted joining Nazi organizations. He was the first to give officially advertized university and conservatory courses in Schenkerian theory in both Kiel and Leipzig, preceding by several years those given by Violin and von Cube in Hamburg and Weisse in New York, and he planned, but never completed, a manual in Schenkerian analysis. He had aspirations to bring Schenker to Leipzig to teach, but circumstances in Leipzig prevented it.

Schenker reported on Oppel frequently in letters to others, e.g.:

Our poor Dr. Oppel (Kiel), with countless private lessons, must yet play for movies!! And a thousand such examples. But a "regrouper" will never succeed in getting even as far as Dr. Oppel. [DLA 69.930/11, November 2, 1922, to Halm]

[...] it will give you encouragement to hear that Professor Reinhard Oppel [...] has been appointed Professor of Music Theory at the Leipzig Conservatory, in which capacity—so he tells me—he will officially teach my system. [vC 10, June 1, 1927, to von Cube]

At the end of July Prof. Oppel from Kiel visited me here. He has been engaged at Leipzig to teach theory, and there will implement my system completely—harmony, counterpoint, analysis etc. [OJ 89/1, December 8, 1927, to van Hoboken]

Prof. Reinhard Oppel [...] recently gave a lecture to the Society of Musicians in Halle on "Bach-Schenker," likewise underpinned by Urlinie [graphs]. He will be returning there, even setting up courses. [vC 23, May 15, 1929, to von Cube].

And in trying to interest Furtwängler in Oppel's compositions: Professor Oppel promised to visit me here in Galtür—an artist and person of great character. [Sbb 55 Nachl 13, [2], July 3, 1927]

Correspondence with Schenker and Others

Correspondence between Oppel and Heinrich Schenker spanning 1913-35, and between Oppel and Jeanette Schenker spanning 1933-39, survives as OJ 13/10 (225 letters, postcards, and other items), and three other letters as OC 24/9 (1921), 52/637 and 640 (1925). One letter survives from Oppel to Oswald Jonas (1935) as OJ 36/198, and one letter from Oppel to Moriz Violin (1931) as OJ 70/30. Several photographs of him and others survive as OJ 72/11.

Oppel's surviving papers have since 1998/99 been preserved at the Center for Schenkerian Studies, University of North Texas: href="


  • Articles in the Bach-Jahrbuch (of which "Das Thema der Violinchaconne und seine Verwandten," Bach-Jahrbuch (1918), 97-116 is preserved as OJ 34/6)
  • Articles in the Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik
  • Articles in the Zeitschrift für Musikwissenschaft


  • (Julius) "Reinard Oppel," in Schenker Traditionen: Eine Wiener Schule der Musiktheorie und ihre internationale Verbreitung, eds. M. Eybl & E. Fink-Mennel (Vienna: Böhlau, 2006), p. 244
  • Jackson, Timothy L., "Heinrich Schenker as Composition Teacher: The Schenker-Oppel Exchange," Music Analysis 20/1 (March 2001), 1-115
  • MGG
  • NGDM2 (2001 and online)

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