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WEIMAR

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Originally appearing in Volume V28, Page 496 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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WEIMAR, a city of Germany, the capital of the grand-duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. It is situated in a fertile valley on the Ilm, a small tributary of the Saale, 5o m. S.W. of Leipzig and 141 m. S.W. of Berlin, on the main line of railway to Bebra and Frankfort-on-Main, and at the junction of three lines to Jena, Gera and Berka and Rastenberg. Pop. (1885) 21,565, (1905) 31,1 21. Weimar owes its importance not to any industrial development, which the grand-dukes discourage within the limits of their Residenz, but to its intimate association with the classical period of German literature, which earned for it the title of the " poets' city " and " the German Athens." The golden age of Weimar, covered by the reign of Charles Augustus (q.v.) from 1775 to 1828, has left an indelible impress on the character of the town. In spite of its classical associations and of modern improvements, Weimar still retains much of its medieval character. The walls survive, indeed, only in isolated fragments, but the narrow winding streets of the older part of the town, and the market-place surrounded by houses with high-pitched gables and roofs are very picturesque. Of the churches the Stadtkirche (parish church), of which Herder became pastor in 1776, is a Gothic building dating from about 1400, but much altered in detail under " classical " influences. It contains the tombs of the princes of the house of Saxe-Weimar, including those of the elector John Frederick the Magnanimous and his wife, and of Duke Bernhard of Weimar, a hero of the Thirty Years' War. The altar-piece is a triptych, the centre-piece representing the Crucifixion; beside the cross Luther is represented, with the open Bible in his hand, while the blood from the pierced side of the Saviour pours on to his head. The picture is regarded as the masterpiece of Lucas Cranach (q.v.), who lived for a time at Weimar, in the Bri ck'sches Haus on the market-place. In front of the church is a statue of Herder, whose house still serves as the parsonage. The other church, the Jakobs- or Hofkirche (court church)" is also ancient; its disused churchyard containsthe graves of Lucas Cranach and Musaeus. The most important building in Weimar, is the palace, a huge structure forming three sides of a quadrangle, erected (1789—1803) under the superintendence of Goethe, on the site of one burned down in 1774. A remnant of the old palace, with a tower, survives. The interior is very fine, and in one of the wings is a series of rooms dedicated to the poets Goethe, Schiller, Herder and Wieland, with appropriate mural paintings. Of more interest, however, is the house in which Goethe himself lived from 1782 to 1832. It was built by the duke as a surprise present for the poet on his return from his Italian tour, and was regarded at the time as a palace of art and luxury. It has therefore a double interest, as the home of the poet, and as a complete example of a German nobleman's house at the beginning of the 19th century, the furniture and fittings (in Goethe's study and bedroom down to the smallest details) remaining as they were when the poet died? The house is built round a quadrangle, in which is the coach-house with Goethe's coach, and has a beautiful, old-fashioned garden. The interior, apart from the scientific and art collections made by Goethe, is mainly remarkable for the extreme simplicity of its furnishing. The Goethe-Schiller Museum, as it is now called, stands isolated, the adjoining houses having been pulled down to avoid risk of fire. Of more pathetic interest is the Schillerhaus, in the Schillerstrasse, containing the humble rooms in which Schiller lived and died. The atmosphere of the whole town is, indeed, dominated by the memory of Goethe and Schiller, whose bronze statues, by Rietschel, grouped on one pedestal (unveiled in 1857) stand in front of the theatre. The theatre, built under Goethe's superintendence in 1825, memorable in the history of art not only for its associations with the golden age of German drama, but as having witnessed the first performances of many of Wagner's operas and other notable stage pieces, was pulled down and replaced by a new building in 1907. The most beautiful monument of Goethe's genius in the town is, however, the park, laid out in the informal " English " style, without enclosure of any kind. Of Goethe's classic " conceits " which it contains, the stone altar round which a serpent climbs to eat the votive bread upon it, inscribed to the " genius hujus loci," is the most famous. Just outside the borders of the park, beyond the Ilm, is the " garden house," a simple wooden cottage with a high-pitched roof, in which Goethe used to pass the greater part of the summer. Finally, in the cemetery is the grand ducal family vault, in which Goethe and Schiller also lie, side by side. Wieland, who came to Weimar in 1772 as the duke's tutor, is also commemorated by a statue (1857), and his house is indicated by a tablet. The town has been embellished by several other statues, including those of Charles Augustus (1875); Lucas Cranach (1886) ; Marie Seibach (1889) ; the composer Hummel (1895) and Franz Liszt (1904). Among the other prominent buildings in Weimar are the Gritnes Schloss (18th century), containing a library of 200,000 volumes and a valuable collection of portraits, busts and literary and other curiosities; the old ducal dower-house (Wittumspalais); the museum, built in 1863–1868 in the Renaissance style with some old masters and Preller's famous mural paintings illustrating the Odyssey. In 1896 the Goethe-Schiller Archiv, an imposing building on the wooded height above the Ilm, containing MSS. by Goethe, Schiller, Herder, Wiel nd, Immermann, Fritz Reuter, Morike, Otto Ludwig and others, s,-s opened. Weimar possesses also archaeological, ethnographic. 1 and natural science collections and the Liszt Museum (in the gardener's house in the park, for many years the musician's home). Among the educational establishments are a gymnasium, and Realschule, the Sophienstift (a large school for girls of the better cless, founded by the grand-duchess Sophia), the grand-ducal school of art, geographical institutes, a technical school, commercial school, music school, teachers' seminaries, and deaf and dumb and blind asylums. An English church was opened in 1899. There are a few industries, printing, tanning and cloth-weaving. Various points ih the environs of Weimar are also interestingfrom their associations. A broad avenue of chestnuts, about 2 m. in length, leads southwards from the town to the grand-ducal chateau 1 To be strictly accurate, they thus remained until the death of Goethe's last descendant in 1884. The house, which had been left to the grand-duke for the nation, was then found to be so structurally rotten that the interior had to be largely reconstructed. Everything was, however, replaced in the exact position it had previously occupied. of Belvedere, in the gardens of which the open-air theatre, used in Goethe's day, still exists. To the north-east, at about the same distance from the town, are the tiny chateau and park of Tiefurt, on the banks of the IIm, the scene of many pastoral court revels in the past. To the north-west is the Ettersberg, with the Ettersburg, a chateau which was another favourite resort of Charles Augustus and his friends. The history of Weimar, apart from its association with Charles Augustus and his court, is of little general interest. The town is said to have existed so early as the 9th century. Till 1140 it belonged to the counts of Orlamunde; it then fell to Albert the Bear and the descendants of his second son. In 1247 Otto III. founded a separate Weimar line of counts. In 1345 it became a fief of the landgraves of Thuringia, to whom it escheated in 1385 with the extinction of the line of Otto III. At the partition of Saxony in 1485 Weimar, with Thuringia, fell to the elder, Ernestine, branch of the Saxon house of Wettin, and has been the continuous residence of the senior branch of the dukes of this line since 1572. Under Charles Augustus Weimar became a centre of Liberalism as well as of art. It had previously narrowly escaped absorption by Napoleon, who passed through the town during the pursuit of the Prussians after the battle of Jena in 18o6, and was only dissuaded from abolishing the duchy by the tact and courage of the duchess Louisa. The traditions of Charles Augustus were well maintained by his grandson, the grand-duke Charles Alexander (1818--r9o1), whose statue now stands in the Karlsplatz. The grand-duke's connexion with the courts of Russia and Holland—his mother was a Russian grand-duchess and his wife, Sophia Louisa (1824-1897), a princess of the Netherlands—tended to give the Weimar society a cosmopolitan character, and the grand-duke devoted himself largely to encouraging men of intellect, whether Germans or foreigners, who came to visit or to settle in the town. The art school, founded by him in 1848, has had a notable series of eminent painters among its professors, including Preller, Bocklin, Kalckreuth, Max Schmidt, Pauwels, Heumann, Verlat and Thedy. Under the patronage of Charles Alexander, also, Weimar became a famous musical centre, principally owing to the presence of Franz Liszt, who from 1848 to 1886 made Weimar his principal place of residence. Other notable conductors of the. Weimar theatre orchestra were Eduard Lassen and Richard Strauss. See Scholl, Weimar's Merkwiirdigkeiten einst and jetzt (Weimar, 1857) ; Springer, Weimar's klassische Stdtten (Berlin, 1868) ; Ruland, Die Schdtze des Goethe National-Museums in Weimar (Weimar and Leipzig, 1887) ; Francke, Weimar and Umgebungen (3rd ed., Weimar, 1900); Kuhn, Weimar in Wort and Bild (4th ed., Jena, 1905).
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HURRAH FOR HUMMEL! Mozart’s most famous pupil, Haydn’s successor at the Esterhazy court, a friend (and rival) of Beethoven, a ‘father-figure’ to Chopin and teacher of several other young romantic virtuosi including Mendelssohn, Johann Nepomuk Hummel was born in Bratislava in 1778 and died in Weimar in 1837. A child prodigy, he became one of the most brilliant virtuoso pianist-composers of the early nineteenth century. Schubert wished to dedicate his last three sonatas to Hummel whose music links the classical and romantic periods. A dazzling performer, Hummel was regarded by Chopin - whose style he influenced - as the equal of Mozart and Beethoven. Despite being taught by the latter, Czerny rushed to get lessons from Hummel after hearing him play. Greatly admired by Berlioz and Liszt (who succeeded him at Weimar), Spohr considered him to be the greatest improviser of the time. Together with his friend, the famous Goethe, he became Weimar’s star attraction. Besides the well-known Trumpet Concerto in E, S. 49, and the Septet in D Minor, Opus 74, more of Hummel’s music is currently enjoying a long-overdue revival. His little-known piano concertos – ten in all including the Double Concerto for piano and violin, Opus 17 and the Concertino, Opus 73 – are now attracting the attention they deserve. Recordings of these by Stephen Hough and Howard Shelley (Chandos) reveal to the modern listener the combination of brilliance and beauty that made them once so popular. Contrary to his image as a conventional, end-of-era classicist, Hough’s recent recording of Hummel’s F sharp minor Sonata, Opus 81 (Hyperion) reveals a composer of striking individuality. Shelley’s exquisite rendering of his Rondo Brillant in B flat, Opus 98 shows Hummel’s genius as a proto-romantic composer of unique emotionality and virtuosity. The seven piano trios played by the Trio Parnassus (Dabringhaus und Grimm) and Triangulus (Meridian) well repay renewed attention, especially the mature Opus 83. The idea that Hummel’s creativity was declining by the 1830s may be dismissed on hearing Danielle Laval’s performance of his 24 Etudes, Opus 125 (Naïve). If Hummel’s keyboard skills are very evident in the concertos in A minor, Opus 85 and B minor, Op 89, and the F sharp minor Sonata, Opus 81 (described by Schumann as ‘an epic, titanic work’), his choral accomplishments are of no mean order. The five symphonic Masses date from 1804 when Hummel succeeded Haydn at the Esterhazy court. Owing much to Mozart and Haydn, Hummel remains his own man. His part writing reveals a rare poetic sensitivity and his stylistic individuality is soon apparent. His lyricism anticipates the melodic flow of Schubert. Currently being rescued from unjust oblivion, his refreshing works deserve a more prominent place in the classical repertoire. Hummel uses the traditional Mass text of biblical and credal material set by other composers of the period. This form of concert oratorio mass actually followed the Protestant treatment inaugurated by J. S. Bach, a practice which was eventually forbidden to Roman Catholic composers by Pope Pius X in 1903. This Protestant text omits the unbiblical prayer for the dead used in the requiem mass (‘dona eis requiem’) in favour of a prayer for the living (‘dona nobis pacem’). Chandos are engaged on the Hummel mass series with Richard Hickox and Collegium Musicum 90. The D major, Opus 111, B flat major, Opus 77 and E flat major, Opus 80 works have already been released. The D minor Mass, S. 67 has been recently issued. Two years ago Naxos issued the Missa Solemnis in C major, S. 74 and the Te Deum in D major, S. 70, works calculated to arouse further interest in this long-neglected composer. A recent CD from Weimar makes further fascinating listening. ‘Hummel Variationen & Fantasien’ (Deutsche Schallplatten) includes the Fantasie für Klavier und Orchester, Opus 116, ‘Oberons Zauberhorn’. This striking yet charming five-movement work includes a vivid musical depiction of a storm at sea. For drama and tension - one might say tsunami-like hysteria - Hummel more than matches Beethoven here! Clearly the composer had the ability to be highly unconventional despite his ill-deserved reputation for superficial salon music. The Overture ‘Mathilde von Guise’, Opus 100 provides another specimen of Hummel’s purely orchestral compositions, all the more interesting in view of the absence of the symphony from his works. Yet Hummel’s reputation is chiefly maintained by his works for piano and orchestra. Not to forget the brilliant and charming final Concerto in F, Opus post 1, performed superbly by Maestro Shelley (Chandos), the final example in this genre published in Hummel’s lifetime is the Rondo Brillant in F minor, ‘Le Retour à Londres’, Opus 127. Shelley’s recent premiere recording of this delightful and scintillating work is as ‘brillant’ as the piece demands. Along with the early A major 'Florentine' concerto, it surely merits a place in a ‘prom’ concert at the earliest opportunity! Naxos are to be thanked for Madoka Inui’s superb rendition of Hummel’s fantastic fantasies. This CD irrefutably justifies the status Hummel achieved during his lifetime as improviser ‘par excellence’. The recording conveys the very sense of immediacy that Hummel’s sensational playing must have regularly produced. Here we have dynamism and delicacy, poetry and power, ravishing sensitivity and rich sonority in perfect proportions. The early Fantasy in E flat, Opus 18 looks way beyond classicism and, in some passages, even romanticism. It is no wonder that Chopin placed Hummel next to Mozart and that Liszt placed him among the immortals. While comparisons can be odious, now we can understand why Beethoven felt threatened by Hummel. Surely, the Hummel resurgence of recent decades has now reached its peak. Madoka Inui’s wonderful Bösendorfer aids her in disposing of the myth that Hummel was lulled into mediocrity during his last Weimar years. The late G minor and C major fantasies are a revelation. If Messrs Hough and Shelley are occupied elsewhere these days, let us hope Madoka Inui is working on the amazing Rondo Brillant in B minor, Op. 109 and the magnificent Etudes, Op 125. May the Hummel revival long continue! Dr Alan C. Clifford
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