Ernst Pepping

Ernst Pepping
Tomb in Berlin
Born (1901-09-12)12 September 1901
Duisburg, Germany
Died 1 February 1981(1981-02-01) (aged 79)
Spandau, Germany

Ernst Pepping (12 September 1901 – 1 February 1981) was a German composer of classical music and academic teacher. He is regarded as an important composer of Protestant sacred music in the 20th century.

Pepping was a teacher at the Spandauer Kirchenmusikschule and the Berliner Hochschule für Musik. He composed instrumental music including three symphonies, and church music such as the motet Jesus und Nikodemus, the Missa Dona nobis pacem, and collections including the Spandauer Chorbuch (Spandau choir book) and Großes Orgelbuch (Great organ book), three volumes of organ pieces covering the liturgical year.


Born in Duisburg, Pepping first studied to be a teacher. He then studied from 1922 to 1926 composition at the Berliner Hochschule für Musik with Walter Gmeindl, a pupil of Franz Schreker.[1][2][3] Pepping composed mostly instrumental music until 1928. In 1926 his works Kleine Serenade für Militärorchester (Little serenade for military band) and Suite für Trompete, Saxophon und Posaune (Suite for trumpet, saxophone and trombone) were premiered at the Donaueschinger Musiktage. He received the composition award of the Mendelssohn Foundation. In 1929 his Choralsuite (Chorale suite) was first performed in Duisburg and well received.[1]

In 1934, Pepping accepted the offer of a teaching position for harmony, Partiturspiel and counterpoint at the Spandauer Kirchenmusikschule of the Protestant Johannesstift Berlin in Spandau where he lived until his death. Among his many students were Helmut Barbe and Erhard Egidi. Pepping also taught at the Berliner Hochschule from 1935 to 1938 as a professor of church music and composition.[2][3] He had ties to the Confessing Church and wrote a great deal of music on German texts. In 1938, after a 1937 Church Music Festival in which he participated, he composed a German mass, Deutsche Messe: Kyrie Gott Vater in Ewigkeit (German Mass: Kyrie God Father in Eternity), which stressed the German nation, and which also followed the Party line.[4] He was exempted from service in World War II, even in the final phase when he was protected by the Gottbegnadeten list.[5]

Pepping taught again at the Berliner Hochschule from 1947 to 1968. He retired in 1968 and also stopped composing.[1][2] He died in Spandau[3] and is buried on the cemetery Friedhof Heerstraße in Berlin.


Pepping is regarded as one of the most important composers of Protestant church music in the 20th century. His sacred works for choir a cappella included masses such as the Missa Dona nobis pacem, motets and chorales, for example the collection Spandauer Chorbuch (Spandau choir book). He also composed secular vocal music, organ music, orchestral works including three symphonies, and chamber music. Pepping based his church music on Protestant hymns, the vocal polyphony of the 16th and 17th century and modal keys.[6]

Pepping first wrote severe works with "uncompromising dissonance".[4] In the 1930s he wrote more compromising music, including a Deutsche Choralmesse in 1931, a setting not of the Order of Mass, but a series of chorales related to the functions in the liturgy of the service, comparable to Schubert's Deutsche Messe and in 1938 a German mass, Deutsche Messe: Kyrie Gott Vater in Ewigkeit (German Mass: Kyrie God Father in Eternity) for a six-part mixed choir.[4] On October 30, 1943 his Symphony No.2 in F minor was performed to great acclaim by the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra, conducted by Wilhelm Furtwangler, in Berlin.

Pepping composed no more church music until 1948, when he wrote the Missa Dona nobis pacem, possibly as a "personal plea".[4] The musicologist Sven Hiemke who analyzed the work in a book on Pepping's mass compositions notes that the work can be understood as Bekenntnismusik (confessional music) even if the composer would disagree.[7]

Pepping's works were published by Schott.[8] They are kept in the archive of the Berliner Akademie der Künste (Berlin Academy of the Arts). His Nachlass is held by the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin.[9]


Pepping received honours for his compositions, an honorary doctorate from the Freie Universität Berlin in 1961 and the Kirchliche Hochschule Berlin-Zehlendorf in 1971. He was a member of the Academy of Arts in Berlin and the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts in Munich.[2]

Selected works

Selected recordings

Pepping's Symphony No. 2 in F minor was recorded in 1943 by the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler, reissued in 2007 by Melodiya-Edition. In 1990, organist Wolfgang Stockmeier played Orgelwerke (Organ works). The Passionsbericht des Matthäus (Passion report of Matthew) was performed in 1992 by the Danish National Radio Choir, conducted by Stefan Parkman. In 2002 the Sächsisches Vocalensemble performed th song cycle after Goethe Heut und Ewig. Liederkreis nach Goethe-Gedichten (Today and eternally). More Orgelwerke were recorded in 2005 by George Bozeman. The Berliner Vokalensemble, conducted by Bernd Stegmann, sang in 2005 the Missa Dona nobis pacem and motets. All three symphonies and the piano concerto were recorded by the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie, conducted by Werner Andreas Albert with the pianist Volker Banfield in 2006.


  1. 1 2 3 Eber, Anselm (2006). Ernst Pepping: Symphonien und Klavierkonzert. Beiheft zur CD CPO 777041-2 (in German). p. 6.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Ernst Pepping". Schott Music. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 "Ernst Pepping (composer)". bach-cantatas. Retrieved 16 May 2009.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Strimple, Nick (2005). Choral Music in the Twentieth Century. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 38. ISBN 9781574671223.
  5. Klee, Ernst (2007). Das Kulturlexikon zum Dritten Reich. Wer war was vor und nach 1945 (in German). Frankfurt: S. Fischer. p. 452.
  6. Baumgartner, Alfred (1985). Musik des 20. Jahrhunderts (in German). Kiesel-Verlag. pp. 414ff. ISBN 3-7023-4005-X.
  7. 1 2 Hiemke, Sven, ed. (2005). Die Messkompositionen von Ernst Pepping, part of Pepping-Studien (in German). 4. Bärenreiter. pp. 190–192. ISBN 9781574671223.
  8. "Ernst Pepping" (in German). Schott Music. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  9. Prieberg, Fred K. (2004). Handbuch Deutsche Musiker 1933–1945. CD-Rom-Lexikon (in German). Kiel. p. 8833.
  10. Barnett, Rob (May 2006). "Musicweb Review of cpo Recording of Pepping Symphonies". Retrieved 16 May 2009.
  11. OCLC 22394557
  12. "Entry for the Binchois Pieces at Sheet Music Plus". Retrieved 16 May 2009.


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