Thomas de Hartmann’s Compositions for the ’39 Series’
Thomas de Hartmann and his wife Olga were at Gurdjieff’s side for twelve years. In 1929, after a period of intense musical co-operation that produced over two hundred compositions for piano solo, the relationship between Gurdjieff and de Hartmann ended. They would never see one another again. Despite this separation, de Hartmann remained loyal to Gurdjieff. Shortly before his death, Gurdjieff sent a message to the de Hartmanns requesting Thomas to write the music for his new exercises.
After Gurdjieff’s death on October 29, 1949, Thomas de Hartmann started the work. The first necessity was to see and study the Movements for which he had to compose the music, because the new ones were completely unknown to him.
As Mme. Solange Claustres recalled: “De Hartmann wanted to do Gurdjieff a favour by writing the music for a lot of the newer movements, in particular for the 39 Series. To assist him I demonstrated all the Movements he did not know, with the occasional help of Josée de Salzmann and Marthe de Gaigneron. So, actually, he saw only one dancer and not a whole class, which made things more difficult for him. He worked out a lot of new music. With some of his new compositions, I have difficulties and I do not feel that they are optimal. The reason for that might be, again, that he did not see a class, but only one person’s performance.”
Knowing the circumstances in which de Hartmann had to study the new Movements, it is all the more miraculous that his music sustains the 39 Series so well. Already in May 1950, he performed much of his new music during a Movements performance at the Fortune Theatre, London and so it cannot have taken him much longer than six months to write the music for the whole of the Series.
In his music for the 39 Series, de Hartmann and Gurdjieff’s signature style reappears once more, full of life and inspiration, drawn no doubt by de Hartmann from his dedication to Gurdjieff. But, perhaps, more than just inspiration and dedication shaped the form of these pieces.