Thomas de Hartmann, 1955

Gurdjieff International Review

The Music of
Gurdjieff / de Hartmann

Thomas de Hartmann, Piano


… Georgi Ivanovich put always a great weight on music. He himself played and he also composed. If we compare it with the music of all the religions, we can see that music plays a great role, a great part, in so to say, religious service. But after the work of Georgi Ivanovich, we can understand it more, we can understand it better, that music helps to concentrate oneself, to bring oneself to an inner state when we can assume the greatest possible emanations. That is why music is just the thing which helps you to see higher. In this regard, I will just play…

Thomas de Hartmann

Of the music he notated and harmonized under Gurdjieff’s direction between June of 1925 and May of 1927, the only recordings issued by de Hartmann before he died in 1956 were a set of six 12-inch 78 rpm phonograph records, containing twenty different pieces, all recorded at Bartok Studio in New York City between 1951 and 1953.

Most, if not all, other recordings of his playing this music were taped casually at Madame Ouspensky’s farm near Mendham, New Jersey, by her grandson, Lonia Savitsky. Made with neither the intention nor the technology for a public release, they were only for de Hartmann’s personal reference. Sometimes the tapes were even made without de Hartmann’s knowledge.

In the early 1960s, some of the material on the original 78 rpm records was reissued in long-playing (LP) format (33 1/3 rpm), or rearranged with other new items on discs corresponding to four volumes of sheet music, issued by Janus Press earlier in the 1950s.

All of the above recordings were available only privately and reissued from time to time into the 1970s. In 1985, more extended selections of de Hartmann’s recordings were issued to the general public in two formats: a boxed set of four long-playing records and a set of four audio-cassettes. All the best quality recordings were remastered and improved by the most up-to-date technical methods available at that time. Still later, in 1989, this compilation was re-released on a set of three compact discs (CDs) with additional new material included. The cassette and CD sets are currently available from Triangle Editions.

Despite the informal circumstances and the limited equipment with which they were recorded, these sessions by de Hartmann remain definitive and inspiring performances. Three selections follow. To listen, you will need a sound card, speakers, and MP3 player.

Triangle Editions CD Cover Kurd Melody for Two Flutes, MP3 format
A ‘personal-sized’ piece of work and play by two individuals of an Eastern Culture. We can appreciate their music by listening, but for those who can play the piano, there is much to be learned by enabling our left and right hands to play two different characters in harmony and unison.
Sayyid Song and Dance, MP3 format
The Sayyids in particular, among the sources of music from esoteric schools, are remarkable for their alternation, back and forth, between a vocal or instrumental invocation of higher forces and a rhythmic dance movement to express those forces here below. Gurdjieff’s balance between inner and outer work, though different and quite original also, throws light on such cross-currents of the Truth everywhere. De Hartmann seems to have been touched by a very special presence while playing this one. Prayer and Despair, MP3 format
Our personal choice was coloured partly by not choosing any hymn from a specific religious source, which might come across to listeners as if Gurdjieff favoured that one religion over others. We also felt that this piece recognizes deeply the dark sides of life that threaten more and more the future of young people today.

Copyright © 1999 Thomas C. Daly
This webpage © 1999 Gurdjieff Electronic Publishing
Featured: Summer 1999 Issue, Vol. II (4)
Revision: July 1, 1999