Hugo Distler


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(b Nuremberg, 24 June 1908; d Berlin, 1 Nov. 1942). German composer, choral conductor, organist, and teacher. He was organist at St Jakobi in Lübeck (1931); from 1937 he was lecturer and choir conductor at the Württemberg Hochschule für Musik, Stuttgart, before going on to the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin. His sympathy for early German masters such as Schütz and Lechner allowed him to coexist uneasily with the Nazis, who found his music bordering on the unacceptably modern; and though he shared their enthusiasm for choral singing, his Lutheran faith invited official suspicion. Well-placed friends initially enabled him to avoid call-up; when in 1942 he received the order to join a panzer division, he committed suicide. His music is liberally dissonant within a strongly tonal framework, the asperity resulting from the play of contrapuntal lines rather than from wilful experiment. His output includes two harpsichord concertos (the second only recently rediscovered) and a number of organ works; the bulk of it is for chorus, setting both religious and secular texts.

From The Oxford Companion to Music in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Music.

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