The shoulders on which we stand

125 Jahre Technische Universität Berlin

[TU Berlin]

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Carl Dahlhaus (1928-1989)Carl Dahlhaus (1928-1989)

Carl Dahlhaus was born in Hanover the son of an engineer on 10 June 1928. He displayed an early interest in music and obtained piano lessons for himself. During World War II, his education was interrupted by his service as an anti-aircraft auxiliary, community work and at the front. He was able to complete his school exams only after attending a course for those engaged in combat. He became acquainted with banned literature at an early age through a family friend. By 1947, he was unusually well-read as he started studying law, and then music and literature in Göttingen and Freiburg. On the recommendation of Bertolt Brecht, he became a dramatic advisor at the Deutsches Theater in Göttingen while still a student. It was at the University of Göttingen that he took his doctorate in 1953 with a dissertation on the Renaissance composer Josquin des Prés.

In 1960 Dahlhaus became the musical editorof the Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper. This enabled him to attend premieres of significant works in the New Music movement. At the same time, he researched Renaissance music, musical aesthetics, theory and analysis. Between 1962 and 1966 he worked as research associate at the University of Kiel, where he gained the grade of professor of musicology in 1966 with "Studies on the Origin of Harmonic Tonality." After a short period at the University of Saarbrücken he succeeded Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt (q.v.) as professor of musicology at the TU Berlin, where he remained until his death. He turned down all job offers from other universities, though he did teach at Princeton as a visiting professor for two semesters.

As an inexhaustible teacher and a spirited debater Dahlhaus earned high esteem for his rather esoteric field of expertise. He wrote 25 books, more than 400 articles and over 150 glosses, pieces of criticism and book reviews. He co-founded and edited the Neue Handbuch der Musikwissenschaft, Pipers Enzyklopädie des Musiktheaters and supplementary volumes to Riemanns Musiklexikon. He also co-edited four academic journals.

He was a co-founder of the Darmstädter Musiktage music festival and served intermittently as president of the Gesellschaft für Musikforschung (Society for Music Research) and was a member of the Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung (Literary Academy) and of the Musikrat (Music Council). As a writer, academic and administrator, the German state awarded him the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic and he was also a member of the Orden Pour le Mérite.

Dahlhaus set out a new basis for musicology by enriching its methodology to include historical theory, musical aesthetics, musical theory and musical analysis. His study of the prehistory of the New Music - he took part in the publication of the works of Arnold Schönberg - led Dahlhaus to his 1980 work "Musik des 19. Jahrhunderts" ("Nineteenth-Century Music"), a musical period which he opened up to the music world not only with the complete works of Richard Wagner, but also in terms of musical theory and musical aesthetics. His thought grew increasingly historical, and, while he recognised the autonomy of music, he also conceived of it as an artform that participates in the ideas of the era in which it takes place. Widely educated, humourous, clear-thinking and endowed with a fine sense of judgement, Dahlhaus was a stimulating presence in any discussion.

His amiable nature and joie de vivre left many unaware of his serious illnesses, on which he drew for his fundamental, spiritually-rich works. He died in Berlin on 13 March 1989 after a long illness.

Lit.: H. Danuser (ed.) et al.: Das musikalische Kunstwerk. Geschichte, Ästhetik, Theorie. Festschrift Carl Dahlhaus zum 60. Geburtstag, Laaber, 1988. - Rudolf Stephan: Carl Dahlhaus (1928-1989), in: Die Musikforschung 42 (1989), p. 203-206

[B. E.]


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