The E.T.A. Hoffmann House in Bamberg is maintained by the E.T.A. Hoffmann Society, which is dedicated to keeping his memory alive.
E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776-1822), the great German Romantic, is primarily known as a writer. He was also, however, a gifted composer and a creative graphic artist. This Memorial wants to show all three facets of his genius.
A Civil Service Career?
Ernst Theodor Wilhelm Hoffmann was born in the Prussian city Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, Russia) January 24th, 1776. He later changed his third name to Amadeus because he revered Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. After his study at the University of Königsberg, he initially entered upon a career within the judiciary branch of the Prussian civil service. He was dismissed from his first appointment in Posen (now Poznan, Poland) for disciplinary reasons – he had satirised „high society“ of the town – and transferred to Plock. In Warsaw a lot of compositions were premiered. When, in the course of the Napoleonic Wars, French troops came to occupy Warsaw, he lost his job there, went to Berlin and applied for the post of a musical director at the Bamberg theatre.
Hoffmann in Bamberg
E. T. A. Hoffmann was in Bamberg 1808 to 1813. At the theatre, he had soon to work as a stagehand and general dogsbody, and Bamberg „high society“, into which he had been introduced by the director of the hospital Adalbert Friedrich Marcus, expected him to provide singing lessons for its daughters, but did not estimate him appropriately. Even so, Bamberg saw the composition of his opera Aurora, of his Miserere, and of the Duettini, which he wrote for his most gifted student Julia Mark, who was thirteen when she started taking lessons with him. Carl Friedrich Kunz, wine merchant, bookseller, and owner of a renowned lending library, eventually became Hoffmann’s first publisher. Many important articles, above all musical critiques, however came out in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung for the first time.
Berlin: Judge and Author
When E. T. A. Hoffmann left Bamberg, he summarised his experiences there in these words: „My years of apprenticeship and suffering are over, and what follows will be my years as a journeyman, and eventually as a master“. After a brief interlude as musical director in Leipzig and Dresden, he was appointed a judge in Berlin, and was – as an excellent and upright lawyer – particularly active in investigating „demagogic activities“ attributed with less reasons to German liberal and nationalist circles. In 1816 his most renowned opera Undine (text by Friedrich Baron de la Motte-Fouqué) was performed most successfully with the decorations of Karl Friedrich Schinkel. In his spare time, as it were, he however wrote a large number of tales and novels, including Kater Murr and Meister Floh; the latter brought him into conflict with the Prussian government and could only be printed with omissions (these were published not before 1906). Hoffmann died in Berlin June 25th, 1822.
E. T. A. Hoffmann’s first admirers after his death were authors particularly in France, Britain, the United States of America, and Russia. The belated reception in Germany was partly due to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s negative response to Hoffmann and other Romantics (he called their creative imagination, and by implication themselves, „unhealthy“). It was only towards the end of the nineteenth century that a German readership began to take notice of him again. Outside literature, Hoffmann is one of those authors whose works have attracted illustrators worldwide; in addition, some of this tales have inspired musical compositions. Jacques Offenbach’s opera The Tales of Hoffmann ensures that his name, and the names of some of his characters (one immediately thinks of Klein Zaches), will remain in the public mind. Hoffmann’s compositions are performed successfully in our time.
The Bamberg E. T. A. Hoffmann House
At the opposite side of the E.T.A. Hoffmann House is the theatre (now E.T.A. Hoffmann Theatre); the place was named after Friedrich von Schiller in 1859. The house was the second lodging of Hoffmann and his Polish wife Michaelina in Bamberg. From 1809 to 1813 they rented the two upper floors, a living room and a kitchen on the second floor, and a bedroom and study, the Poet’s Room, on the third. Original furniture was not kept. Since 1927 the Poet’s Room was used for museum purposes and opened to the public in 1930. The other rooms of the house were in course of time adapted accordingly. During the last years the house was newly installed without diminishing the original aura, the Kater Murr being its sign from the place. Special installations, e. g. a “Cabinet of Mirrors“ with different portraits of Hoffmann, a paper theatre of Nussknacker und Mausekönig, a small opera box for the Undine and, based on the Meister Floh, a microscope for detecting truth in a huge cylinder evoke a fantastic atmosphere. An interactive music chest of drawers enables to hearing Hoffmann’s music according to the mostly autographic music notes. An interactive music chest of drawers enables to hearing Hoffmann’s music according to the mostly autographic music notes. A pianoforte like the instrument of the self portrait as Johannes Kreisler, but constructed by the Bamberg builder of music instruments Christoph Ehrlich in 1809/1810 may be heard on a receiver station. There is a mobile “ETAH instrumentation”. A special room is devoted to recitals; alternating exhibitions take place, e. g. “Hoffmann enlighted” by H. G. Ludwig. Moreover a magic garden was laid out, referring to Hoffmann and his works, e. g. Der goldene Topf, and his fondness of plants.