Whitworth Communications

For Immediate Release

March 20, 2008

Hans Moldenhauer Lecture April 7 to Explore the Tragic Art of Hugo Distler

Composer and music instructor Donivan Johnson will explore the life and music of German composer and organist Hugo Distler during the 2008 Hans Moldenhauer Memorial Lecture at Whitworth University. The annual lecture focuses on contemporary music and its place in society and music education.

Johnson will present "I Have Overcome the World: The Tragic Art of Hugo Distler" on Monday, April 7, at 7:30 p.m. in the Music Building Recital Hall at Whitworth. A collection of books, scores, photos, manuscript facsimiles and CDs will be on display in the lobby prior to the lecture. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, please call (509) 777-3280.

On Monday morning, April 7, Johnson will be a guest on KPBX 91.1 FM Public Radio during the program "Classical Music with Verne Windham." Johnson will discuss aspects of Distler's life and compositional style; Johnson and Windham will also discuss examples of music considered "entartete" (degenerate) by the Nazis.

Hugo Distler was born June 24, 1908 (The Feast Day of John the Baptist) and died Nov. 1, 1942 (All Souls Day). He was a forward-thinking composer who was instrumental in changing the face of liturgical music in Germany and elsewhere. During Johnson's April 7 presentation, he will introduce the audience to Distler's unique musical world and will explore Distler's life as a Lutheran composer, musician and professor under the tyranny of the Nazi regime. Johnson will also premiere a new work, Commentary II on John 16:33, dedicated to the memory of Hugo Distler on the 100th anniversary of his birth.

"Distler's music is hauntingly beautiful, modern (at times extremely dissonant), rhythmically intricate and yet perfectly suited for worship services in churches great and small," Johnson says.

Distler wrote many pieces for organ, two orchestra works with harpsichord, and some chamber music. It is, however, his unaccompanied choral music that is most important. Many of his choral works echo the techniques of Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672) and project that style into the 20th century.
The Hans Moldenhauer Memorial Lecture Series was inaugurated by Johnson in 1994 to honor world-renowned musicologist/archivist and Spokane resident Hans Moldenhauer (1906-87). Moldenhauer founded the Spokane Conservatory of Music and the Allied Arts in 1942. After World War II, Moldenhauer and his second wife, Rosaleen, began assembling a collection of music manuscripts to provide musicians and scholars with the opportunity to view music history from primary sources. The Moldenhauer Archives now include more than 10,000 items covering 400 years of music history. The archives are housed in nine public collections in the U.S. and Europe, including one at Whitworth University. The Rosaleen Moldenhauer Memorial Collection is located at the Library of Congress.

Moldenhauer was born in Germany and immigrated to the United States in 1938. After serving in the U.S. Army, he settled in Spokane and was the first student to attend Whitworth under the G.I. Bill. Moldenhauer earned a B.A. in music in 1945 and was awarded an honorary doctor of music degree by Whitworth in 1986. Mary Moldenhauer, Hans’ widow, is an avid and generous supporter of this annual lecture and of the arts in Spokane.
Johnson holds a master of arts degree in composition from California State University, Northridge. Since 1991, he has served as the K-12 music instructor for the Selkirk School District. In March 2008, he participated in a conference on Hugo Distler at Luther Seminary, in St. Paul, Minn. This spring Johnson will deliver two lectures, "Twentieth-Century American Music Masterpieces" and "The Life and Music of J.S. Bach," for the Elderhostel program at Clearwater Lodge. Johnson has four entries in Music History from Primary Sources: A Guide to the Moldenhauer Archives, published by the Library of Congress.

This is Johnson's eighth appearance at Whitworth as the Hans Moldenhauer guest lecturer. His previous lectures include "Arnold Schoenberg: The Reluctant Revolutionary" (2007), "Excelsior: The Life and Legacy of Hans Moldenhauer" (2006), "A Connecticut Yankee in the Classical Court: The Music of Charles Ives" (2005), and "I Like a Webern Tune" (2004). 

Located in Spokane, Washington, Whitworth is a private liberal-arts institution
affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of 2,600 students, offers 53 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Donivan Johnson, music instructor, Selkirk School District, (509)446-3505 or   donivan_j@hotmail.com or djohnson@selkirk.k12.wa.us.

Julie Riddle, public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-3729 or jriddle@whitworth.edu.

Related Links:

Music Home Page > Department Spotlight >

Whitworth Press Release Index