Early warning

Christa Wolf’s story Kassandra (1983) contains the remarkable sentence: “One can know when war begins, but when does the pre-war begin? If there were rules, one would have to pass them on.” (WOLF 2011, P. 71). Today’s development, conflict and peace research focuses on the term “early warning” when examining Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s person and work: this is understood to mean the ability to perceive social (mis)developments that are not yet obvious, to detect their potentially fatal dynamics and to address them in art in a generally valid way. Hartmann demonstrated this ability in exemplary fashion.

Since the end of the 1920s, he made it unmistakably clear in word and tone that National Socialism meant a lack of freedom and would inevitably lead to the greatest evil, war. As the literary and theatre critic Karl Heinz Ruppel put it: “He was a born non-conformist when he saw his liberal and humanitarian convictions threatened from anywhere. […] He suffered unspeakably from the time, from the neglect and disregard for all humanity, from its hypocrisy, its brutality. He saw where the road was going.” (RUPPEL 1977, Booklet-back). Hartmann documented this in a special way in the last years of his life, for example through his participation in the joint composition „Jüdische Chronik“ (1960/61), which brought together composers from East and West Germany, or his last work, the „Gesangsszene“ for baritone and orchestra (1963): In frighteningly topical images, Hartmann conveys an apocalyptic vision of the end of a civilisation moving into a death spiral.


Further information on this topic can be found in the essay “Sounds of peace?!” by Dr Dr Dietrich Senghaas, based on a lecture on the occasion of the Hartmann Year 2013, available at https://www.hartmann-gesellschaft.de/archivalien/musikwissenschaftliche-texte/