Bolko Count of Hochberg (1843-1926)

Composer, artist, patron of music

Biography written by

Dr Grzegorz Joachimiak

Institute of Musicology at the University of Wroclaw

Chair of Early Music at the Academy of Music in Wrocław


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Count Hans Heinrich XIV von Hochberg, called Bolko, came from a traditional and well-known family that had their estates in different parts of Silesia. The spelling of her name (Hoberg, Hohberg, Hochberg) has changed over the decades. The family history goes back to the Middle Ages. The progenitor of all Silesian lineages was the knight Kitzold von Hoberg (1312-1349), who held the office of judge at the court of the Dukes of Schweidnitz and Jawor. (...)

In connection with the genealogy of Bolko von Hochberg, the first line is important, from which the imperial count in Fürstenstein, Rohnstein and Rothenburg, Hans Heinrich II (1639-1698), descended. One of his sons was the famous Conrad Ernst Maximilian von Hochberg (1682-1742), Imperial Count and Baron of Fürstenstein, Friedland, Waldenburg, Weisstein and Hartau, a member of the Order of St. John. He is known for the reconstruction of Fürstenstein Castle in the Baroque style. A baroque hall that bears his name has been preserved. However, the continuation of the Hochberg line was ensured by his older brother, Hans Heinrich III (1675 - 1743). The next important branching of the family did not occur until the time of the Duke of Pless, Count Hochberg, and the Count of Fürtstenstein, Hans Heinrich X (1806-1855), who was married twice.

Four children were born from the first marriage to Ida Filipina Otylia von Stechow: Hans Heinrich XI. (1833 – 1907), who managed the estates in Pless, Fürstenstein and Friedland. Hans Heinrich XII. Maximilian (died in childbirth in 1835), Hans Heinrich XIII. Konrad (1837-1858), Anna (1839-1916) and the youngest imperial count and baron in Fürstenstein, Hans Heinrich XIV Bolko von Hochberg (1843-1926), who received the estates in Rohnstein and Neuschloss-Würchwitz near Militsch. In a direct line from the knight Kitzold von Hoberg, Bolko von Hochberg belonged to the seventeenth generation of the von Hochberg family, which was among the most influential and wealthy aristocratic elite in Prussia at the beginning of the 20th century.

Bolko von Hochberg was born on January 23, 1843 in the family castle Fürstenstein. He grew up in an atmosphere of courtly etiquette and got to know the customs prevailing in the castles of relatives and family members. At that time, music and hunting held an important place in court life. Even before Bolko's father took over the Pless estates, there was a music band in Pless that was richly equipped with instruments and a library. Although the music band was later greatly reduced, Bolko I and his siblings had ample opportunity to familiarize themselves with the sound of the Salon Quadrille, the Galician waltz and finally the Salzbrunner Galoppe.

Only in 1858, after the death of his brother Konrad Bolko, did Bolko become the owner of the castles in Rohnstock and Neuschloss-Würchwitz near Militsch. This inheritance came before he finished the renowned Magdalenen Gymnasium (1856 – 1861) in Breslau, which was well-known throughout Prussia. The educational qualification obtained in Breslau enabled him to pursue further studies. In the same year he began to study law at the universities of Bonn and Berlin. However, the passion for music awakened in the bosom of the family lived on in him and he decided to develop further musically. In Berlin he studied composition with Friedrich Kiel (1821-1901), a professor at the Hochschule für Musik. In this way, Bolko combined legal expertise with music, which had an impact on his future endeavors.

After the end of his military service (1867 to 1869), he initially worked as a military attaché at the Prussian embassy in St. Petersburg, after which he commanded a unit in Florence. Finally, in 1868 he made several trips and was involved in the modernization of the castle in Rohnstock (from 1860), which was rebuilt in 1870 according to the design of the family architect Olivier Pavelt (1825-1892).

Then came a turning point in his life. On September 2, 1869, in Saabor, Fürsteneich, he married Princess Eleonore Augusta von Schönaich-Carolath (1848-1923). They had eight children, but only six survived. The last of the sons, Gottfried (1882-1929) also showed great interest in music. It was also the time when Bolko became more and more involved with music. Although he lived in the castle in Rohnstock, he also lived temporarily in Dresden, where he probably maintained a string quartet in the years 1872-1876. Robert Hausmann (1852-1909) played the cello.

Gradually, music began to dominate Bolko's professional life. This was undoubtedly influenced by the successes he had not only as an artist, but also as an organizer of musical life. One of the first famous works came from the area of the great musical forms of Count von Hochberg, the Singspiel "Claudine von Villa Bella" in three acts to a libretto by Christian Garve based on the play by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The work of art was premiered on February 22, 1864 on the stage of the court theater in Schwerin. The composer decided to use artistic pseudonyms and signed his works "Herr Franz", "Johann Heinrich Franz" or "Pazdirek". An assignment of his works, which were signed in this form, is therefore possible.

In 1876 he wrote his opera "Falkensteiner" op. 21 in a romantic style with a libretto by Paul Frohberg, which also consists of three acts. The premiere took place on November 24th of the same year in the Hoftheater in Hanover. The opera was published in 1875 by Johann-André-Verlag in Offenbach am Main.

The work was then revised by the composer and performed again on February 6, 1881 at the Dresden Hoftheater. The opera was presented to the public in Offenbach in 1883 under the title Werewolf. Count Bolko wrote around 90 musical works, including - in addition to the operas mentioned here - symphonies, a piano concerto with orchestra, chamber plays, trios, piano quartets, violin quartets and numerous songs and choral works.

It should be noted that the vast majority of his compositions were still in the 19th century. After 1900 he wrote only the Trio in B flat major (1904), the Quartet in B flat minor (1908), songs from op. 36, 38, 39 (1904, 1905) and a piano concerto (1906). It can be assumed that the dissemination of music was very important to him, for Count Bolko von Hochberg did in fact distinguish himself above all as the organizer and protector of "the Schlesische Musikfestspiele" (Silesian Music Festivals), which he organized from 1876 onwards.

One tradition of this type of musical event was known earlier, dating back to the 18th century. From 1830 onwards there were regular music festivals entitled "Silesian Song and Music Festival" based on the concept of Johann Gottfried Hientsch and Bernhard Klein. At first male choirs were presented and only since 1835 also mixed choirs. Concerts took place annually, later every three years and then even less frequently, including in Breslau, Jawor, Salzbrunn, Liegnitz, Bad Landeck and in Brieg.

A pause occurred in the years 1856-1871. Another continuation took place in the summer of 1872 under the direction of Rudolf Thomas, a cantor at the Church of St. Elizabeth in Breslau. In 1874, another event took place in Jawor, in which Count Bolko von Hochberg personally took part. He had experienced the "Rhenish Music Festival" during his studies in Bonn and now saw that the Silesian Music Festival obviously had many organizational shortcomings in comparison. Therefore, Bolko tried to organize well-organized concerts in Silesia. His cycle bore the slightly changed name "Silesian Music Festivals", which was not only generally accepted, but also understood as a continuation of the earlier music festivals.

The first festival took place in Hirschberg in 1876, traditionally in the summer of July 16-18, the ninth in 1887 in Breslau. However, most of the events were held in Görlitz. Bolko accompanied a total of nineteen festivals. He himself appeared as a singer and piano accompanist. His own works were also performed. As in the past, the concerts had a monumental character, because usually more than a hundred musicians and hundreds of singers performed. (In 1903 there were even 853 singers!)

Bolko also made sure that a suitable personality took over the leadership of the concerts. It was a conductor from Berlin, Ludwig Deppe (1828-1890), who took part in a total of nine festivals (apart from the festival in 1887) and conducted the orchestra. For such large productions, however, a suitable concert hall was necessary. Bolko also knew how to take care of that. In 1878 the hall on the Reichenberger Bridge was prepared accordingly. Bolko von Hochberg supported the project financially. 2000 listeners and 900 musicians found their place here and there was also an organ made by Schlag & Söhne from Schweidnitz. The room was used until 1906. In 1910 a new concert hall was built in Görlitz, the so-called Musikfesthalle or Stadthalle.

Once again, Count Bolko had made a major contribution to its creation. He organized a lottery that raised more than a third of the construction costs. In 1876 he founded the Görlitz Singing Academy. The city of Görlitz awarded him the title of "Honorary Citizen of the City". His artistic achievements were also highly valued and after the death of Botho von Hülsen he was appointed General Manager of the Royal Theater on October 5, 1886. He was not only responsible for the opera theaters in Berlin, but also in Hannover and Kassel.

Parallel to these activities ran his work for the Silesian Music Festivals. He made prestigious, bold decisions; One of them was the inclusion of the works of Richard Wagner in the repertoire of the Royal Theater. He has also hired several important conductors, including Richard Strauss. The performance of his opera "Feuersnot" in 1901 was not welcomed by the imperial-royal couple, resulting in a conflict. The opera was withdrawn from the schedule.

Despite the protests of Bolko von Hochberg, the opera was not allowed to be performed. Cooperation with the Royal Theater was under a question mark. In 1902 he resigned his post and returned to his home in Rohnstein, Silesia. He worked on his compositions and continued to engage in the music festival.

Count Bolko von Hochberg was not only a philanthropist and patron of music, but also a patron of sports.

The swimming club "Silesia" in Breslau organized a competition on February 13, 1910, in which special prizes were awarded in various disciplines. Count Bolko sponsored the senior backstroke prize over a distance of one hundred meters.

In 1913 he received the title of royal professor and held lectures as chairman of the "German Society for Artistic Public Education" in Berlin. He put a lot of effort into popularizing the music. On September 9, 1918, he gave a lecture in his hometown of Pless, which was accompanied by music from the violinist Johannes Belgen.

Bolko von Hochberg also took part in a society for performing arts. As president, he looked after its members, especially their social needs and the pensions of the musicians who had ended their careers in the royal music theaters.

The form of the Silesian Music Festival he introduced survived until 1942. The last festival took place in Katowice with the conductors Philipp Wüsst and Fritz Lubrich. After the war, the Silesian Music Festival was reactivated, which not only ties in with the merits and work of Bolko von Hochberg, but also with the Silesian tradition in general.

Count Hans Heinrich XIV von Hochberg, called Bolko, died in the family resort town of Bad Salzbrunn (today Szczawno Zdrój). On December 1, 1926 he was buried in Rohnstein. His experience and skills as a musician, his creativity paired with legal knowledge, which he used to organize music events, have made him an outstanding and unforgettable personality in the history of music culture.

(Translation to german: Jolanta Szafarz and Heinz Müller)