Gottfried Huppertz: The composer behind Metropolis

In the world of silent film, Metropolis is rightfully considered a masterwork. Released in 1927 by UFA, the film was directed by Fritz Lang and told the story of a great city called Metropolis, set in the distant year 2000. The film is notable for containing the earliest intact appearance of a robot on the silver screen (an earlier example from L’uomo meccanico (1921) does exist, but only in a 21 minute fragment.)

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The “Machine Man” was invented by Rotwang (on the right) as a secret means to overthrow Joh Fredersen (on the far left).

The score for this amazing film was composed by Gottfried Huppertz, a composer who wrote the music for several of Fritz Lang’s films.

1918

Huppertz was born in Koln, Germany on March 11, 1887. His first composition was published in 1905 and the composer worked as an opera singer during the first World War. In 1922 while in Berlin, Huppertz met Thea von Harbou, a close friend of Fritz Lang, and the two became introduced. Huppertz first composed a score for Lang’s film Die Nibelungen (1924).

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Huppertz on the set of Metropolis

The score for Metropolis, written and recorded in 1926, is seen today as Huppertz’s greatest work. During the filming process, Huppertz would actually visit the set and play music to help set the mood for a scene (this was very unusual at the time). At the film’s premiere, the score was performed by a 66 piece orchestra, and was very well received. Though the film was heavily cut shortly thereafter, with major chunks lost for decades (a situation that would not be resolved until 2010), Huppertz’s full score has always been available and has remained an invaluable source for outlining the pieces of the film that remain missing.

You can find a suite arrangement of Huppertz’s score here: Metropolis: Soundtrack Suite

After Metropolis, Huppertz continued to write film music, even composing for several sound films: Der Judas von Tirol (1933), Elisabeth und der Narr (1933), Hanneles Himmelfahrt (1934) and Le Domino Vert (1935).

The composer died of a heart attack on February 7, 1937 and became forgotten for over forty years, until Metropolis and Die Nibelungen came back to the attention of the cinematic and musical world.

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