Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Requiem for grandson of Hitler’s pianist

My recent article on Ernst Hanfstaengl, court composer and pianist to Hitler, and Harvard alumni, attracted a lot of readers. But the final paragraph left a mystery unsolved:

Peter Conradi's excellent life of Hanfstaengl (right) ends with his death. But there is a fascinating coda to this extraordinary story, where fact is often far stranger than fiction. On the penultimate page of Conradi's book the author writes: '(Hanfstaengl) took great pride in his grandchildren - especially Eynon, the eldest, who had inherited his grandfather's musical talent, taking an impressive twenty-fourth place in the prestigous Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in June 1974.' The pianist career of the junior Hanfstaengl seem to have been obscured by the mists of time, and my researches found no further information on this. But tantalisingly my search found a German German film actor and writer called Eynon Hanfstaengl. One of his acting roles was Count Durkheim in the 1972 movie Ludwig - Requiem Fur einen jungfraulichen Konig. The film is a cinematic requiem for Wagner's patron Ludwig ll of Bavaria, and the music credits include excerpts from Furtwängler's Tristan, and Karajan's Siegfried and Gotterdammerung. Is this Ernst Hanfstaengl's grandson?

But now the mystery is solved, thanks to this email from On An Overgrown Path reader Marie-Françoise Bourgoin:

Bonjour, thanks for your interesting article on Peter Conradi's book. I had the opportunity to practise music with Eynon Hanfstaengl in the 70s, so I am able to give you some information. Yes, Eynon was Putzi's grandson and Egon's son. Although a very fine cellist (not a pianist), he turned to cinema and studied film making in Munich after making Werner Schroeter's acquaintance in the 80s. He played a small part in Der Tod der Maria Malibran, appeared in Syberberg's Ludwig, ein Requiem für einen jugfräulichen König, and wrote scenarios for TV. He committed suicide in 1987. Interestingly, Putzi also considered taking his life in the late 30s.
Regards Marie-Françoise Bourgoin, Révisor, Translation & Interpretation Section, Secretary of the Pacific Community (SPC). B.P. D5 - 98848 Nouméa Cedex (Nouvelle-Calédonie).

Now read how another Overgrown Path reader helped uncover the past of Karajan’s court photographer.
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2 comments:

Pliable said...

I should point out that the error of stating that Eynon Hanfstaengl's instrument was a piano, rather than a cello, was mine and not Peter Conradi's.

The mention of the Tchaikovsky Competition was the reason for my wrongly assuming he was a pianist - too much writing about John Ogdon I fear.

Rossi said...

Hello, I am interested in Ernst Franz Sedgwick Hanfstaengl as a pianist. I have read Hitlers piano players, which is very fascinating, but it doesn’t mention details of Putzi’s piano playing as a professional pianist. I was wondering if there are any recordings of his playing. I know one of his piano teachers was Bernhard Stavenhagen, one of Liszt’s last students. Could someone help me with my research ? Thank you…!