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Peter Cornelius (Composer)

Born: December 24, 1824 - Mainz, Germany
Died: October 26, 1874 - Mainz, Germany

(Carl August) Peter Cornelius, was a German composer, writer about music, poet and translator. He played violin and composed lieder from an early age, and began studying composition with Heinrich Esser in 1841. Cornelius lived with his painter uncle Peter von Cornelius in Berlin from 1844 to 1852, during which time he met prominent figures such as Alexander von Humboldt, the Brothers Grimm, Friedrich Rückert and Felix Mendelssohn. During his last few years in Berlin, Cornelius wrote music criticism for several major Berlin journals and entered into friendships with Joseph von Eichendorff, Paul Heyse and Hans von Bülow.

Peter Cornelius's first mature works (including the opera Der Barbier von Bagdad) were composed during his brief stay in Weimar (1852-1858). His next place of residence was Vienna, where he stayed for five years. It was in Vienna that Cornelius began a friendship with Richard Wagner. It was at Wagner's behest that Cornelius moved to Munich in 1864, where he finally took a wife and fathered four children. He died in Mainz where his grave in the Hauptfriedhof survives.

Among many British musicians, his best known work is The Three Kings, an epiphany 'carol' of which a version is included in the first volume of the popular Willocks and Jacques compilation, Carols for Choirs.

Despite his friendships with Wagner and Franz Liszt, Cornelius had a rocky relationship with the so-called "New German School" of composition. He did not attend the premiere of Tristan und Isolde with Hans von Bülow and Wagner, using the premiere of his own opera Der Cid as an excuse. His third and final operatic project, Gunlöd, based on the Norse eddas, was left incomplete at his death (from diabetes).


Peter Cornelius's relatively small musical output consists mostly of Lieder (about 100), duets (23) and choral works (many for men's chorus). Many of these vocal works (and all three of his operas) were settings of Cornelius's own texts. He also wrote a small number of solo piano works, including a piano sonata (1848).

Der Barbier von Bagdad - comic opera in 2 acts, composed 1855-1858 (premiered in Weimar, December 15, 1858)
Der Cid - lyric drama in 3 acts, composed 1860-1865 (premiered in
Weimar, May 21, 1865)
Gunlöd - opera in 3 acts, composed 1866-1874, incomplete
- Completion by Karl Hoffbauer - 1879 (premiered in
Weimar, May 6, 1891)
- Completion by Waldemar von Bausznern - 1906 (premiered in Cologne, December 15, 1906)

Chamber Music:
Introduction, Andante and Polonaise, Op. 1 (oboe and piano, 1840)
3 Violin Sonatas, Op. 2 (Violin Sonata #1 in C major (1840); Violin Sonata #2 in E-flat major (1844); Violin Sonata #3 in E major (1846)
4 string quartets (String Quartet #1 in A-flat major (1841); String Quartet #2 in C major (1841); String Quartet #3 in G major (1842); String Quartet #4 in D major (1842))

Notable Choral Works:
Versuch einer Messe über den Cantus firmus in der dorischen Tonart - SATB and organ (1852)
3 Chorgesänge, Op. 11 (1871, to texts by Heinrich Heine and Friedrich Rückert)
- Der Tod, das ist die kühle Nacht - SATB, SATB (Heine)|
- An den Sturmwind - SATB, SATB (Rückert)
- Jugend, Rausch und Liebe - SSATTB (Rückert)
3 Männerchöre, Op. 12 (1872-3):
- Der alte Soldat - 6T, 3B (text by Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff)
- Reiterlied - TTBB, TTBB (Eichendorff)
- Der deutsche Schwur - TTBB (Cornelius)

Source: Wikipedia Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (January 2008)

Use of Chorale Melodies in his works


Chorale Melody


A setting of Gastoldi’s composition with a secular German text is contained in 4 italienische Chorlieder (Cornelius), Op.20: 1 Zug der Juden nach Babylon, SATB [after O. Vecchi], 2 Liebeslied, SSATB [after G.G. Gastoldi], 3 Amor im Nachen, SSATB [after Gastoldi], 4 Das Tanzlied, SATB [after B. Donati]; Peter Cornelius

In dir ist Freude


Links to other Sites

Peter Cornelius (Wikipedia)
Peter Cornelius (1824 - 1874) (Karadar)

Peter Cornelius (Britannica Online Encyclopedia)



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