Havemanns in History

Professor Gustav Havemann
(click image to see rear of card
-- translation welcome!)

Gustav Havemann,
Composer & Violinist


Gustav Havemann was born in Güstrow, Germany, on March 15, 1882. He studied the violin with his father, and played in the court orchestra in Schwerin, before enrolling in the Berlin Hochschule für Musik. Still a young man, he was the concertmaster in several cities, including Hamburg.

In 1911, he was invited to join the faculty of the Leipzig Consortium, and between 1915 and 1920 became the concertmaster at the Dresden State Opera. From 1920 to 1945, he was a professor at his alma matter, the Berlin Hochschule.

In the early 1920s Gustav Havemann founded the Havemann String Quartet. Gustav was the first violin, with Georg Kühnau as the second violin. Hans Mahlke played the Viola, while Adolf Steiner accompanied on the Violoncello. (Here is a photo of the quartet from August 1923.)

Over time the quarted earned a reputation as a prestigious group, playing in such locales as Berlin's Volksbühne and even in Czechoslovakia. They performed both classical and modern music, some of it considered 'avant-garde' at that time, including pieces by Albano Berg and Alois Hába (considered "the most distinctive figure in 20th-century modern Czech music").

The Quartet performed Alban Berg's The String Quartet, Opus 3 at the Chamber Music Festival of the International Society for Contemporary Music on August 2, 1923. Berg wrote to his wife, "... I reveled in the sound and the solemn sweetness of my own music. You cannot imagine it from what you have heard of the piece. The so-called wildest and riskiest passages were pure euphony in the classic sense."

Gustav himself composed a Violin Concerto in 1938. He authored "Was ein Geiger Wissen Muss" (What a Violinist Needs to Know) in 1921, as well as "Die Violintechnik bis zür Vollendung" (Mastering Violin Techniques) in 1928.

Apparently by 1931, Georg Kühnau was no longer with the group; the Havemann Trio performed in Coburg on June 7 of that year, rendering Adolf Brunner's String Trio For Violin, Viola and Violoncello.

The era of the Nazis left its mark on Gustav Havemann. I have not researched his tale fully, but what I have learned is interesting. An undated tobacco card (the illustration above) states that Havemann was "Professor, member of the Presidium(?) of the Reich Music Chamber, leader of the National Socialist musicians." It appears that while he toed the party's anti-Semitic line in the early 1930s -- as head of the Kampfbund Orchestra -- he finally rebelled.

According to The New York Times of July 18, 1935, Professor Havemann was removed as the leader of the Reich's Musicians Club because of his intervention in behalf of Jewish composer:

A further development in the anti-Semitic campaign, disclosed today, was the ousting of Professor Gustav Havemann as leader of the Reich Musicians' Club. He incurred Minister of Propaganda Paul Joseph Goebbels's displeasure when he intervened in behalf of Paul Hindemith, composer under the Nazi ban.

Professor Havemann sided with Wilhelm Furtwaengler, who resigned last December as leader of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor of the Municipal Opera, in opposing the Nazi boycott of Mr. Hindemith's works for his aleged Jewish affiliations.

Gustav Havemann died in Schöneiche on January 2, 1960.

Appearances by the Havemann Quartet:

Volksbühne, Berlin: October 29, 1922; October 21, 1923; November 23, 1924

Prague, Czechoslovakia: November 1922

The 1923 festival of the International Society for Contemporary Music

Writings by Gustav Havemann:

Was ein Geiger Wissen Muss (1921)

Die Violintechnik bis zür Vollendung (1928)