In this Musical Moment, VocalEssence artistic director and founder Philip Brunelle shares insider information and beautiful music by the composer Peter Cornelius. This episode features Mezzo-Soprano Clara Osowski.
Peter Cornelius’s versatility as a composer, writer, and translator makes him one of the most distinguished German composers of the 19th-century. Born into a theatrical family, his father prepared him for a double career as a musician and actor, which necessitated his withdrawal from school in 1838. His father oversaw the theatrical training, while Josef Panny taught him violin and music theory. At the same time, he began composing lieder. Cornelius made the acquaintance of such prominent figures as Alexander von Humboldt, the Grimm brothers, Friedrich Rückert, and Mendelssohn. Siegfried Dehn became his teacher in 1844 and encouraged his composition of sacred music and chamber music. He visited Weimar in early 1852 and upon Liszt’s advice spent the summer composing sacred music. His secular choral works are largely written in a densely contrapuntal, chromatic style, drawing upon earlier models and sources, such as Bach’s 3 Psalmlieder or the Reiterlieöre op.12, although several of them are simple and folklike after Schubert.