Hoffmann, Richard

Vienna 1925 – 2021, Oberlin/Ohio

The musical talent of Richard Hoffmann, born in Vienna in 1925, was discovered and supported from early on. He was a member of the Vienna Boys’ Choir and showed particular talent for the violin.  As a present for his ninth birthday, his father arranged composition lessons for him with Georg Tintner, later to find international fame as a conductor. Given the political atmosphere of the day, the family decided in 1935 to immigrate to New Zealand. Tintner was also forced to flee Austria and was later able to settle in New Zealand thanks to the help afforded by the Hoffmann family. 

In 1947, Hoffmann completed his studies at the University of New Zealand and, after much correspondence with Arnold Schoenberg (a distant relative by marriage), Hoffmann moved to California to study with him. A close professional and familial friendship developed between the two men. Hoffmann always viewed himself as a Schoenberg pupil and a propagator of his compositional style, through which he was supported in developing his own distinct musical voice. Hoffmann served as Schoenberg’s assistant until Schoenberg’s death in 1951. Like his mentor, he taught at the University of California, Los Angeles until assuming a full professorship at Oberlin College and Conservatory in Ohio. He subsequently brought groups of American students to Vienna every year, and over a period of many years, Hoffman taught seminars at Schoenberg’s home in the Viennese suburb of Moedling.