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Hugo Distler Biography

Hugo Distler

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Born: 1908. Died: 1942. Lived in: Germany

Hugo Distler (June 24, 1908 - November 1, 1942) was a German composer.

Born in Nuremberg, he is known mostly for his sacred choral music. He attended Leipzig Conservatory first as a conducting student with piano as his secondary subject, but changing later, on the advice of his teacher, to composition and organ. He became organist at St. Jacobi in Lubeck in 1931. In 1933 he married Waltraut Thienhaus. That same year he joined the NSDAP: reluctantly, but his continued employment depended on his doing so. Distler also taught at the School for Church Music in Spandau, and became a professor of church music in Berlin in 1940.

Becoming increasingly depressed from the death of friends, aerial attacks, job pressures, and the constant threat of conscription into the German army, he committed suicide in Berlin at the age of 34. He chose to end his life by his own hand (with fumes from his own gas oven) rather than be conscripted into the Wehrmacht.

His work is polyphonic and frequently melismatic, often based on the pentatonic scale. Because of these characteristics, his work was stigmatized by some Nazis as "degenerate art." Distler enjoyed his first success in 1935 at the official Kassel Music Days (Kasseler Musiktage).


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