Early warning

In Christa Wolf’s novel Kassandra (1983), the remarkable sentence is found: „Wann Krieg beginnt, das kann man wissen, aber wann beginnt der Vorkrieg? Falls es da Regeln gäbe, müsste man sie weitersagen.“ (WOLF 2011, p. 71) [“When war begins, you can know, but when does the pre-war begin? If there were rules, they should be passed on.”]. Today’s development, conflict and peace research focuses on the concept of “early warning” when considering Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s person and work. This is defined as the ability to perceive (mis)developments in society that are not yet obvious, to detect their possibly fatal dynamics and to address them as a generally valid theme in art. Hartmann demonstrated this ability in an exemplary fashion.

Since the end of the 1920s, he made it unmistakably clear in word and sound that National Socialism meant lack of freedom and would inevitably lead to the greatest evil: war. The literary and theatre critic Karl Heinz Ruppel formulated: „Er war der geborene Non-Konformist, wenn er seine freiheitliche und humanitäre Gesinnung von irgendwoher bedroht sah. […] Er litt unsäglich an der Zeit, an der Verwahrlosung und Achtung aller Humanität, an ihrer Verlogenheit, ihrer Brutalität. Er sah, wohin der Weg ging.” (RUPPEL 1977, booklet back) [“He was a born non-conformist when he saw his liberal and humanitarian convictions threatened from somewhere. […] He suffered unspeakably from the time, from the neglect and respect of all humanity, from its mendacity, its brutality. He saw where the road was going.”]. Hartmann documents 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 through his last work, the “Gesangsszene” for baritone and orchestra (1963): in appallingly topical images, Hartmann conveys an apocalyptic vision of the end of a civilization ecstatically moving into a death spiral in a frenetic state.