E.T.A. Hoffmann

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E.T.A. Hoffmann (Ernst Theodore Amadeus) (1776-1822), German novelist, essayist and composer - whose works were the principle literary force behind the onset of “romanticism” in music - was a government official with a binding love of opera and drama.

He was a capable composer himself who wrote up to 11 operas, plus chamber and piano pieces, sacred music and more. He is also known as an able administrator, critic and conductor and is still admired as a major contributor to German national culture. Weber was attracted to him as was Franz Schubert. Robert Schumann’s “Kreislerianapiano suite is based on a Hoffmann novel with autobiographical elements. Brahms was attracted to him and wrote song settings of his poetry - in a very rare expedition into his own musical thoughts, he once admitted to seeing himself as “Capellmeister Kreisler Jr.” The Frenchman Jacques Offenbach based his only “grand” opera on “ The Tales of Hoffmann” (“Les Contes d’Hoffmann”). Hoffmann's stories have reached as far as the 20th century's Paul Hindemith as musical inspiration.

He is also notable for his critical reviews of Beethoven concerts which have given contemporary insights into that composer's music.

His best-known and most interpreted novella is Der Sandmann, which was among others, interpreted by Sigmund Freud.


  • “The Grove Concise Dictionary of Music”
  • “Oxford Companion to Music”