Peter Cornelius (1824–1874)
Peter Cornelius first appeared in public as an actor in Mainz and Wiesbaden. In 1845 he then began studying composition with Siegfried Dehn in Berlin, and writing concert reviews for Berlin newspapers.
Cornelius made the acquaintance of Liszt in Weimar in 1852 and later also met Wagner and Berlioz. During this time, Cornelius principally composed sacred works as well as songs, among which the “Christmas Songs” op. 8 are still very popular to this day. As an author writing in the “Neue Zeitschrift für Musik,” Cornelius held aloft the convictions of the New Germans, but maintained a certain autonomy in his compositional work.
Cornelius left Weimar after the premiere performance of his first opera, Der Barbier von Bagdad. In 1861 he accepted a teaching post for music theory at the Royal Bavarian Court Music School in Munich. His songs, choruses and stage works were published in 1905 in a Complete Edition from Breitkopf & Härtel. Cornelius' works are truly one-of-a-kind thanks to their clear declamation and aesthetically pleasing cyclical forms, in which one finds both broadly sweeping modulations and rapid changes of harmony.