Friedrich Hölderlin at 250

The German writer Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin (20 March 1770, Lauffen am Neckar – 7 June 1843, Tübingen) was one of the most important lyric poets of his era.

Rousseau, Klopstock, and Schiller, and the ideals of the French Revolution and Greek civilization were impressed upon him as a youth. He refused to seek out a career in the clergy and became a private tutor for the children of wealthy families, including for the Gontard family of bankers in Frankfurt am Main starting in 1796, two years later in Hauptwyl (Switzerland), and then in Bordeaux. He returned from Bordeaux with an incurable illness and first lived in Homburg (today Bad Homburg, just north of Frankfurt) and then Nürtingen, and beginning in 1806 he was looked after by a carpenter in Tübingen. By this point his mental illness was acknowledged. In spite of his illness, Hölderlin still exercised his creative side from time to time.

Only a portion of Hölderlin’s lyric works were published during his lifetime. The RISM catalog has over 200 entries for Hölderlin. It wasn’t until the 20th century that Hölderlin’s works received more attention. This is also reflected in the settings of his poems. The music manuscripts in RISM are mostly by composers from the second half of the 20th century who were especially inspired by Hölderlin’s late works. 

Image: Eberhard Egermann (born 1953), “Die Schönheit ist den Kindern eigen,” from Vier Lieder für Bariton und Klavier nach Gedichten von Friedrich Hölderlin, SLUB Dresden (D-Dl) Mus.15530-K-500 (RISM ID no. 1001019452).

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