Carl Dahlhaus - a major musicologist for Technische Universität Berlin

Professor Dr. Carl Dahlhaus (1928-1989) was one of the most significant musicologists of the 20th century. From 1967 until 1989, he occupied the Chair of Musicology at Technische Universität Berlin. In addition to a large body of published work, including 25 books, over 400 essays and more than 150 glossaries, critical works and reviews, he also bequeathed a substantial professional correspondence. This has now been cataloged and is enough to fill six meters of shelving in the University Archives.

A multifaceted correspondence

Dahlhaus corresponded with more than 200 people and over 150 institutions worldwide, including universities, academies, publishing houses, foundations and music societies. A particular feature of these writings is that they are not limited to official correspondence. They form a working correspondence which also reveals a great deal about Dahlhaus as a person, his approach to work and his passion for engaging in dialogue with his fellow musicologists. His style of writing is witty, ironic, sometimes caustic, but always respectful towards his correspondent.

Dahlhaus as advisor

It is also striking just how often Dahlhaus was approached for his advice. Sifting through this copious material requires a great deal of time and tenacity, but even a first glance reveals a number of interesting things. A good example is his correspondence with Theodor W. Adorno dating from 1967. Adorno very much wanted Dahlhaus to join him at Frankfurt University and their correspondence reveals the various ingenious strategies Adorno pursued to this end. Dahlhaus also exchanged pleasantries with the editor of the FAZ’s arts section, Marcel Reich-Ranicki, with whom he came into contact in his capacity as a knowledgeable and sought after reviewer.

Dahlhaus the person

Further correspondents included the philosopher and sociologist Jürgen Habermas, as well as music publishers, musicologists and musicians from all over the world. Of great value are those letters which provide us with an insight into Dahlhaus as a person: his capacity for friendship, his readiness to help, his deep learning and his self-irony. This legacy could well provide the material for the biography that is still waiting to be written about this extraordinary academic.