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Thomas de Hartmann Papers

Call Number: MSS 46

Scope and Contents

The Thomas de Hartmann Papers document de Hartmann's life and work through musical sketches, manuscript scores, and printed music; librettos and scenarios for stage works; correspondence with composers, conductors, and musical performers; photographs; programs; reviews; newspaper clippings; and miscellaneous materials. The Papers also contain materials relating to Georgi Ivanovitch Gurdjieff and Wassily Kandinsky. The Gurdjieff items consist of transcribed conversations, epigrams, lectures, notes on hypnosis, and a ballet scenario entitled Struggle of the Magicians. Kandinsky materials include books, brochures, newspaper clippings, and miscellaneous items.


  • 1902-1982 (inclusive)
  • 1902-1982 (inclusive)
  • 1902-1982 (inclusive)


Conditions Governing Access

The Papers are open to qualified researchers by appointment. There are no restricted materials in the collection. Please contact the Special Collections staff to schedule an appointment.

Conditions Governing Use

The Thomas de Hartmann Papers are the physical property of the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library of Yale University. Copyrights belong to the composers and authors, or their legal heirs and assigns.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Thomas de Hartmann Papers were established in the Music Library of Yale University by Olga de Hartmann in 1979.


In 12 series as follows: I. Music. II. Auxiliary Material for Stage Works. III. Correspondence. IV. Literary Writings by de Hartmann. V. Biographical Materials. VI. Programs, Reviews and Clippings. VII. Photographs and Portraits. VIII. List of Works. IX. Literary Writings by Others. X. Miscellaneous Items. XI. Items Relating to G.I. Gurdjieff. XII. Items Relating to Wassily Kandinsky.


15 Linear Feet (31 boxes)

15 Linear Feet (31 boxes)

15 Linear Feet (31 boxes)

Language of Materials



Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Music, correspondence and other papers, photographs, and additional materials by and about the Russian composer Thomas de Hartmann (1886-1956)

Biographical / Historical

The Thomas de Hartmann Papers reflect a life of early successes followed by constant struggle in the wake of two world wars and the Russian Revolution. De Hartmann (1886-1956) was born in Khoruzhivka, Sumy Oblast', Ukraine (then part of the Russian Empire) to a family of aristocrats and showed an inspired ability for music by improvising melodies at the piano before the age of five. At age nine, following the death of his father, de Hartmann was sent to the military academy in St. Petersburg. There he found a sympathetic supporter in the director of the academy, who recognized the unusual talent of the young de Hartmann and allowed him to pursue his musical studies alongside his military training. In 1897 at the age of eleven, de Hartmann began his formal training in music as a composition student of Anton Arensky, renowned former professor of composition at the Moscow Conservatory and current director of the Imperial Chapel in St. Petersburg. With the death of Arensky four years later, de Hartmann undertook the study of counterpoint with Sergei Taneev, whose previous students had included Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, and Glière. De Hartmann later entered the St. Petersburg Imperial Conservatory, then under the directorship of Rimsky-Korsakov, where he studied piano with Anna Esipova-Lechetizky. He received his artist's diploma in 1904 at the age of eighteen.

In 1906 his four-act ballet The Pink Flower was performed in the Imperial opera houses of Moscow and St. Petersburg with Nijinsky, Pavlova, and Fokine dancing the principal roles. The work was favorably received and the young de Hartmann experienced a considerable amount of notoriety in the culturally elite circles of Russia. De Hartmann's first songs, pieces for piano, and works for chamber ensemble were published by Jurgenson. Tsar Nicolas II also attended The Pink Flower in St. Petersburg and he too found great favor with the work and the composer. Shortly thereafter, the Tsar allowed de Hartmann to defer his military service so that he might pursue a full-time career in music. Seizing the opportunity, de Hartmann immediately departed for Munich to study with the famous conductor and former pupil of Wagner, Felix Mottl.

In 1908 Munich was fertile soil for artists of any ilk, a center of creative activity which was rivaled only by Paris and Vienna. Not long after his arrival, de Hartmann attended an art exhibition that contained works by then-unknown painters such as Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Kandinsky. De Hartmann later recounted: "Music in Germany had reached an seemed clear to me that new forms and techniques had to be found, and more than anything else I wished to find my own way. Soon I found it through the art of painting." De Hartmann was introduced to Kandinsky by mutual friends and, though Kandinsky was 20 years his senior, the two formed a strong bond of friendship that lasted until Kandinsky's death forty years later. De Hartmann was intrigued by Kandinsky's creative vision and assertion that any means of expression was permitted if it helped the artist convey his "inner sound." Kandinsky introduced de Hartmann to Alexander Sacharoff, a young Russian dancer. The three held all-night sessions of collaborative improvisation with de Hartmann at the piano, Kandinsky shouting out dramatic scenarios based loosely on Russian folklore, and Sacharoff interpreting the music and storyline in dance. This exploration of the interrelatedness of their creative mediums led first to a setting of the Greek legend Daphnis and Chloe and later, in 1909, to the creation of the seminal one-act opera Der Gelbe Klang. Neither work was staged at that time.

In 1912 de Hartmann published an article entitled "Über Anarchie in der Musik." It appeared in the avant-garde periodical Der Blaue Reiter which was published by Kandinsky and Franz Marc, where de Hartmann wrote, "External laws do not exist. In music, every means that arises from inner necessity is correct. Anarchy in art should be greeted. Only this principle can lead us to a shining future, a new rebirth." During a return visit to St. Petersburg, de Hartmann met and later married Olga Arkadaevna Schumacher, the daughter of a prominent government dignitary. Olga returned with de Hartmann to Munich. With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, de Hartmann was ordered back to his regiment in St. Petersburg (now Petrograd). Still a Russian officer, he was intermittently sent to the front. Though active in the war effort, he managed to compose The Forces of Love and Sorcery, a marionette opera which was performed in St. Petersburg in 1915.

Throughout his life, de Hartmann was preoccupied with the search for a higher level of spiritual understanding. This may have been inspired by his great uncle Edouard von Hartmann. Von Hartmann authored Philosophy of the Unknown in 1877, but also found an avocation in music, composing songs and writing on the topic of musical aesthetics. In 1916 de Hartmann's spiritual life was profoundly affected when he was introduced to Georgi Ivanovitch Gurdjieff. De Hartmann later wrote in his and Olga's extraordinary memoir Our Life with Mr. Gurdjieff, "After this meeting, my life became kind of a fairy tale." Olga de Hartmann added: "Mr Gurdjieff was an unknown person, a mystery. Nobody knew about his teaching, nobody knew his origin...but whoever came into contact with him wished to follow him, and so did Thomas de Hartmann and I." And follow him they did. They remained in his immediate orbit and under his spiritual tutelage for the next twelve years with Olga serving as his personal secretary.

Little is known about Gurdjieff before his appearance in St. Petersburg in 1913. He was a nomadic Georgian mystic whose core of wisdom revolved around the idea that man was not born with an immortal soul. With the right kind of "work," however, an immortal soul could be formed. Without undertaking this "work" under Gurdjieff's carefully-measured guidance, a man was no better than a machine, leaving his art, life, and culture without meaning. These ideas, coupled with an intensely compelling personality, won Gurdjieff a great number of devoted followers.

In 1917, the Russian Revolution swept over Russia, leaving chaos and destruction in its wake. Members of the nobility and military officers all feared angry reprisal from the Bolsheviks. De Hartmann miraculously secured travel papers and he and Olga immediately departed St. Petersburg. They headed for the Caucasus hoping to rendevous with Gurdjieff. The day after their departure, military police arrived at the de Hartmanns' apartment in St. Petersburg to arrest them, only to find it empty. The de Hartmanns met up with Gurdjieff in Essentuki and began a period of intense spiritual work. With Gurdjieff as their guide and with a group of other adherents, they continued an extraordinary escape through the Caucasus to Tiflis.

Upon arriving in Tiflis, de Hartmann was reunited with his friend Nicolas Tcherepnin, who was head of the conservatory there. Tcherepnin, who also fled the melee in St. Petersburg, immediately invited de Hartmann to take over the composition class at the conservatory where one of the pupils in that class was Tcherepnin's own son, Alexander. De Hartmann also became artistic director of the Imperial opera house in Tiflis. He now had students, an orchestra and an opera company for which to write and conduct, and a commission to compose incidental music for the Moscow Arts Theatre. In 1920 the de Hartmanns journeyed to Constantinople where Thomas continued an active musical life. Gurdjieff, with characteristic prescience, evacuated the de Hartmanns and his other followers just prior to the outbreak of civil war in Turkey. Seeking refuge, the group went to Paris and later to Fontainebleau. Once there and in need of shelter, Olga shrewdly negotiated the rental of an estate - the Prieuré of Avon. It was here that the most enduring legacy of Gurdjieff's teachings was established. His Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man now had a permanent roof under which it could prosper.

Manual and spiritual labor on the estate was rigorous, and de Hartmann was left with little time to compose. He worked only on pieces in collaboration with Gurdjieff that served as accompaniment for the exercises both physical and otherwise that were part of the training regime. Perhaps the best-known material from their work together is the Sacred Music, solo piano pieces which were composed purely for the sake of listening and meditation. The de Hartmanns remained with Gurdjieff until 1929 when, for unexplained reasons, he severed ties with all of his oldest students. Consequently, the de Hartmanns moved to Garches, a small town just outside Paris. They never saw Gurdjieff again.

The de Hartmanns, having lost all of their wealth in the revolution, were now faced with the unfamiliar task of supporting themselves. No longer was Gurdjieff there to arrange for their well being. With the unstinting support of Olga, de Hartmann decided to resume his composing career. Through teaching, composing for films (pseudonymously as Thomas Kross), and with Belaieff Editions sending him a small stipend, he was able to earn a modest living. He continued his friendship with Kandinsky and found a new and supportive friend in Pablo Casals.

With the Nazi occupation of France, the de Hartmanns were hastily evicted from their house by the advancing German army. They were forced to seek refuge in an abandoned building where, coincidentally, they found a piano. De Hartmann continued composing though conditions were unfavorable. His opera Esther, several concertos, a symphony, and a cello sonata were all completed during this period. Many of these works were performed in Paris after the war, including his piano concerto which de Hartmann himself performed under the auspices of the Concerts Lamoureux with Eugène Bigot conducting.

In 1950 the de Hartmanns moved to New York City where they settled on the upper west side of Manhattan. Thomas received occasional offers to lecture and teach. He went to London where he gave a series of lectures that outlined his belief in the interrelatedness of the arts. Frank Lloyd Wright received word of these lectures and invited de Hartmann to come work with the students at Taliesin West, Wright's architectural commune in Arizona. Wright believed that composing music and drawing architectural designs were closely-related skills. De Hartmann happily accepted the position which included comfortable accommodation and access to a Steinway grand piano.

De Hartmann later returned to New York where he continued to compose, performed occasionally, and began work on his memoir of Gurdjieff. On April 16, 1956, an American debut concert of de Hartmann's music was scheduled to be performed in New York's Town Hall. On March 28, de Hartmann died of a heart attack. De Hartmann's students went ahead and performed the concert as a memorial tribute. Olga de Hartmann devoted the rest of her life to promoting interest in her husband's music both in America and abroad. She lived her final years at the center of a group of Gurdjieff followers in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she died in 1979 at the age of 94.

De Hartmann's output as a composer includes four symphonies, several operas, concertos, sonatas, and songs with texts by Proust, Verlaine, Joyce, and Shelley as well as 53 film scores. His music has been interpreted by performers and conductors such as Stokowski, Leduc, Bigot, Casals, Tortelier, and Rampal.

Processing Information

This material was created before the independence of Ukraine and contains outdated language (i.e., “the Ukraine”). Instances of “the Ukraine” not supplied by the creator of this collection have been updated to reflect current language usage.

Register to The Thomas de Hartmann Papers
Edited Full Draft
Compiled by John ManganMay 1995
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Music Library Descriptive Practices
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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