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Hugo Riemann

Not to be confused with Bernhard Riemann, the mathematician.
(Karl Wilhelm Julius) Hugo Riemann
File:Hugo Riemann.jpg
Hugo Riemann (Hamburg, 1889)
Born 18 July 1849
Grossmehlra (Sondershausen), Thuringia
Died 10 July 1919
Leipzig, Germany
Nationality German
Known for Musician

Karl Wilhelm Julius Hugo Riemann (July 18, 1849 – July 10, 1919) was a German music theorist and composer.


Riemann was born at Grossmehlra, Schwarzburg-Sondershausen.

His first musical training came from his father Robert Riemann, a land owner, bailiff and, to judge from locally surviving listings of his songs and choral works, an active music enthusiast. Hugo Riemann was educated by Heinrich Frankenberger, the Sondershausen Choir Master, in Music theory. He was taught the piano by August Barthel and Theodor Ratzenberger (who had once studied under Liszt).

He studied law, and finally philosophy and history at Berlin and Tübingen. After participating in the Franco-Prussian War he decided to devote his life to music, and studied accordingly at the Leipzig Conservatory. He then went to Bielefeld for some years as a teacher and conductor, but in 1878 returned to Leipzig as a visiting professor ("Privatdozent") at the University.

As a much-desired appointment at the Conservatory did not materialize, Riemann went to Bromberg in 1880, but 1881–90 he was a teacher of piano and theory at Hamburg Conservatory. After a short time at the Sondershausen Conservatory, he held a post in the conservatory at Wiesbaden (1890–95). He eventually returned to Leipzig University as lecturer in 1895. In 1901, he was appointed professor.


In addition to his work as a teacher, lecturer and composer of pedagogical pieces, Riemann had a worldwide reputation as a writer on musical subjects. His best-known works are Musik-Lexikon (1882; 5th ed. 1899; Eng. trans., 1893–96), a complete dictionary of music and musicians, the Handbuch der Harmonielehre, a work on the study of harmony, and the Lehrbuch des Contrapunkts, a similar work on counterpoint, all of which have been translated into English. He was an advocate of harmonic dualism, and his theory of harmonic function is the foundation of harmonic theory as it is still taught in Germany. He also elaborated a set of harmonic transformations that was adapted by the American theorist David Lewin, and eventually evolved into a significant strain of neo-Riemannian theory. Another pillar of modern neo-Riemannian theory, the Tonnetz, was not Riemann's own invention, but he played an important role in popularizing and disseminating it.

He authored many works on many different branches of music. His pupils included the German composer, pianist, organist, and conductor Max Reger, and the musicologist and composer Walter Niemann.


He wrote many pieces for piano, songs, a piano sonata, six sonatinas, a violin sonata, and a string quartet.

See also



  • Alexander Rehding: Hugo Riemann and the birth of modern musical thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-521-82073-1
  • 12px "Riemann, Hugo". New International Encyclopedia. 1905. 
  • Edward Gollin and Alexander Rehding, The Oxford Handbook of Neo-Riemannian Music Theories. Oxford University Press, 2011.
  • Daniel Harrison, Harmonic Function in Chromatic Music. University of Chicago Press, 1994.

External links

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