History of the Project

by Elan Sicroff, Artistic Director

In 2006 guitarist Robert Fripp offered to guide me in a long-term project to bring de Hartmann’s music back to the listening audience. This was the beginning of what became the Thomas de Hartmann Project. Before going into detail about the process, it may be helpful to provide some background: 

Thomas de Hartmann’s music was widely acclaimed in Russia at the turn of the 20th century, and the composer enjoyed a successful career in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. However, by the time of his death in 1956, his name had sunk into near obscurity. Due to the circumstances of his life, his career was continually interrupted by moves from one country to another, forcing him to begin anew in each location. Furthermore, his compositions were out of step with the accepted compositional norms. He refused to give up his Romantic roots, even when employing Modernist elements. This was anathema to his twentieth century colleagues. To top it off, he seems to have had little interest in self promotion, maintaining that his job was to write the music, not to promote it. 

After his death, his widow Olga de Hartmann devoted herself to bringing the music back to public awareness. She released several recordings on a private label, including the violin and cello concerti and his opera Esther. She also searched for musicians who could perform her husband’s work. 

I met her in 1975 and studied with her until her death in 1979. She sponsored numerous concerts for me, and had hopes that I would be able to help publicize her husband’s music. However, it took much longer than she would have expected. After trying unsuccessfully to get his name known for more than a decade, I dedicated myself to piano teaching, and concerts became few and far between. 

When Robert Fripp made his offer to me in 2006, I responded enthusiastically. I began to give regular recitals, focusing first on the Gurdjieff/de Hartmann music, and then adding some of de Hartmann’s early Romantic pieces to programs. Short tours to Europe in 2009 and 2010 were encouraging. 

In 2010 Robert introduced me to Gert-Jan Blom, Artistic Producer of the Metropole Orchestra in the Netherlands. Gert-Jan proposed a five year project to record a selection of de Hartmann’s music for solo piano, voice and chamber ensemble. This resulted in the release of a 7 CD box set in 2016 entitled The Thomas de Hartmann Project by Basta Music. These recordings have now been re-released on Nimbus Alliance (April 2021), though in a different format: 2 CDs of piano music, 2 CDs Chamber music, and 1 CD vocal music. 

Beginning in about 2017, Efrem Marder, advisor and supporter of the overall project, took the initiative for having de Hartmann’s orchestral works performed and recorded. Years earlier he had been captivated by a vintage recording of the Violin Concerto Op. 66, masterfully performed by violinist George Alès. 

Efrem’s initial efforts focussed on finding an orchestra and a conductor with whom I could perform de Hartmann’s Piano Concerto Op. 61. He also searched for soloists to play the violin and cello concerti, and eventually aroused the interest of cellist Matt Haimovitz and violinist Joshua Bell. Both are now preparing to record these important works this year.

Efrem also approached a number of conductors before meeting Tian Hui Ng, active in Western Massachusetts. Soon afterwards he was introduced to Theodore Kuchar in Lviv, Ukraine. Both were enthusiastic about de Hartmann’s music, and have taken an active interest in performing and recording the orchestral works. The notable results are catalogued on this website, under the headings Performing and Recording the Orchestral Works and Thomas de Hartmann in Ukraine- a Forgotten Master.

Other activities that have been gathering steam of late are the publication of the sheet music; the performance of chamber, vocal and solo piano music; and the presentation of lectures and workshops on de Hartmann’s output, as described in  Project- Ongoing Activities.