• Ian Bent
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    German pianist, conductor, teacher, composer, and editor; member of the Brahms circle.

    Career Summary

    After studying theology, philosophy and philology at the universities of Berlin and Leipzig, Rudorff embarked on studies in piano with Moscheles, Plaidy, and Reinecke, and composition with Moriz Hauptmann, E. F. Richter and Julius Rietz at the Leipzig Conservatory. Having taught for four years at the Cologne Conservatory, he was appointed through Joseph Jachim in 1869 to the newly founded Royal Hochschule for Music in Berlin as professor of piano, which position he retained until 1910. With Brahms, Joachim and Nottebohm, he was involved in the collected edition of Mozart's works (1876‒1907), and with Brahms the collected edition of Chopin's works, especially the Ballades, Waltzes and Etudes, (1879‒80) as well as being a member of the editorial committee of the Denkmäler Deutscher Tonkunst. As a composer he wrote symphonies and other orchestral works, piano music, solo songs and choral music.

    Rudorff's wife was Gertrud (née Rietschel), and the couple had one son, and two daughters, Elisabeth and Melusine. In addition to his professional musical career, Ernst Rudorff was also an early campaigner for protection of the countryside in Germany, a passion which Elisabeth was to pursue throughout her adult life.

    Rudorff and Schenker

    Schenker first approached him in January 1908 about a rhythmic interpretive issue in Chopin's second Ballade. He subsequently sent him copies of his Harmonielehre, Beitrag zur Ornamentik, J. S. Bach, Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue, Kontrapunkt 1, and Beethovens Neunte Sinfonie, and the two men corresponded vigorously between 1908 and August 1912. In thanking Schenker for the first of these works, Rudorff remarks: "When I put together what you have told me of your plans as a whole with what I have imbibed so far from your Harmonielehre, I believe and hope that you are the longed-for chosen one who will finally hurl the burning torch into the Tower of Babel [i.e. Wagner's world and 'modern' music]." (OJ 13/37, 3). The two men disagreed strongly on the merits of Gluck, whom Rudorff rated highly, but agreed in their critiques of Wagner and Bruckner; they were in agreement that a "disintegration" was taking place "socially and morally," and that an artistic regeneration was unlikely to occur (Federhofer, pp. 205‒06). These sentiments were reflected in the Niedergang der Kompositionskunst (Decline of the Art of Composition), on which Schenker was working and set great store at the time, though it ultimately remained unpublished.

    Correspondence with Schenker

    In all, twenty-four items of correspondence between Schenker and Rudorff survive: OJ 5/35 (1908-09: draft letters by Schenker to Rudorff : 7 items), OJ 13/37, 1‒5, 7‒10, 10a‒13 (1908-10: Rudorff to Schenker : 13 items), and from Gertrud, Elisabeth, and Melusine Rudorff to Schenker as OJ 13/36, [1]‒[3], OJ 13/37, 6 (1909–17: 4 items). In addition, there is an annotated inventory in Oswald Jonas's hand: OJ 59/15.


    • Baker's1971
    • NGDM2 (2001 and online)
    • MGG (1963) (Imogen Fellinger)
    • Federhofer, Hellmut, Heinrich Schenker nach Tagebüchern und Briefen ... (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1985), pp. 199-210 et passim
    • "Elizabeth Rudorff ‒ ein Leben für den lth"