Alster river and city center. (Photo: C. Spahrbier)

From “Hamburgian Bach” to “Hamburger Schule”

Hamburg has an eventful musical history that reaches from the baroque to the present. 1678 sees the opening of the “Opern-Theatrum” at Gänsemarkt, making it the first ever civil German opera house. Georg Friedrich Händel is a member of the orchestra there; Georg Philipp Telemann runs the theatre as musical director until his death in 1767. Telemannn is superseded by his godson Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach, both as musical director and as cantor at the Johanneum. Johann Sebastian Bach’s most famous son is thus given the byname “Hamburgian Bach”.

The 19th century sees the births of such masters as Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy and Johannes Brahms in Hamburg. The latter publishes his early works under a pseudonym. Gustav Mahler becomes bandmaster at the Hamburg Opera in the 1890s. The Laeiszhalle, Germany’s most modern concert house at the time, is opened in 1908, with Richard Strauss, Sergei Prokofiev, Igor Stravinsky and Paul Hindemith performing and conducting their own works there. The bow to contemporary classical music is drawn by György Ligeti, who teaches composition at the Hamburg Music Academy from 1973 bis 1989.

Hamburg is also a pop metropolis. The Beatles begin their career there in the 1960s, Udo Lindenberg follows suit in the 1970s, and in the 1990s bands such as Blumfeld, Tocotronic and Die Sterne found the so-called “Hamburger Schule”.

Last but not least, the current construction of the Elbe Philharmonic Hall bestows an extraordinary concert house upon Hamburg and the world beyond.