(Murnau, 1922) Music composed by Hans Erdmann, reconstructed by Gillian Anderson and James Kessler.

Nosferatu was the first - and is still the best - of the many Dracula films, and has built a cult following among people of all ages. Based on Bram Stoker's Dracula and filmed in the style of German Expressionism, Nosferatu has rarely been shown with its original, exceedingly effective and frightening score.


Performing forces
15 players (Violin I, Violin II, viola, cello, bass, flute/pic, oboe, bassoon, hn, tpt, tbn, synthesizer, piano, perc, tymp.)
Performing forces
76 players (piano, strings 14/14/12/10/8, flute, flute/picc, 2 oboe, clarinet, clar/bass clar, 2 bassoon, 4 horn, 2 trumpet, 3 trombone, organ and harmonium, 2 percussion, 1 tympani)
Rehearsals Two 2 ½ hour rehearsals
One 94 minute tech rehearsal
One 2 ½ hour dress rehearsal with film
Performance time 94 minutes without intermission
Film speed 18 frames per second
Film source Kino International. Munich Film Archive
DVD source
Kino International
Program Note
NOSFERATU, A SYMPHONY OF HORROR (Murnau, 1922) Film accompaniment by Hans Erdmann (1888-1942) Reconstructed by Gillian Anderson and James Kessler Conducted by Gillian Anderson Germany, 1922, 92 minutes Director: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Book: Henrik Galeen after the novel, Dracula by Bram Stoker Costume and Scenery: Albin Grau Photography: Fritz Arno Wagner Count Orlok: Max Schreck Hutter: Gustav v. Wangenheim Ellen, his wife: Greta Schroeder Harding, a ship owner: G. H. Schnell Ruth, his sister: Ruth Landshoff Professor Sievers, the city doctor: Gustav Botz Renfield, a real estate agent: Alexander Granach Professor Bulwer: John Gottowt Murnau’s Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horrors premiered on March 4, 1922 in the Marble Hall of the Zoological Gardens in Berlin, Germany. It was the first film to be based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The audience was small, but the premiere was a lavish affair which began with a discussion and ended with a fancy-dress ball. The reviews of the film were very favorable. In its advance announcements the Prana-Film Company said it was going to create a “Symphony of Horror,” and it completely succeeded. The film preys like a demon on the senses and envelops the moviegoer in its eerie vision. A large part of the credit for this success belongs to the direction of F. W. Murnau, who prepared the canvas for the horror of the proceedings by using impressive footage of genuine nature. As background he used shots of the rugged wildly fissured rocky terrain of the Carapathian mountains and with the wonderful pictures of the ocean he constructed the black sea, upon whose flood-tide the ghostly phantom ship with it dismal freight pushed on. (Der Kinematograph - Dusseldorf, Jg. 16, No. 786, March 12, 1922) The film is the most successful attempt to describe that world of horror which we have encountered in the books of Edgar Allan Poe and E. T. A. Hoffmann. (Buehne und Film, 1922, No. 21, p. 4) The overture to Heinrich Marschner’s opera, The Vampire (1828), preceded the film’s live orchestral accompaniment by Hans Erdmann (1888-1942), whose work was also hailed in the press. (Films of the silent era, 1894-1929, were frequently accompanied by live music. The biggest theaters had full orchestras. Medium-sized theaters had ten piece ensembles. Only the smallest neighborhood theaters had only a piano or organ for accompaniment.) Hans Erdmann has created a musical accompaniment which through its gloomy melodics really emphasizes the horror of the film and contributes to the unified realization of the whole. (Kinematograph, Jg. 16, No. 786, Duesseldorf, March, 1922) The music for...the film was by Doctor Erdmann, who sometimes leads us through wonderful string sounds into the heaven of real art. His film music was a tasteful response to the film. The orchestra sang mellow and sweetly when transfigured love was shown on the screen, the kettle drums rumbled bluntly when soulful storms marched out, and swelled to a fortissimo when the dark sailing vessel of the man-eating flying dutchman plowed through the wildly foamy ocean. If everything did not come off as called for in the score, it must have been due to the fact that the musicians of Herr Kermbach are not yet ready to present Beethoven or Richard Strauss. But the musicians maintained their spirits. They enjoyed a strong support from the Dominatorharmonium which displayed a remarkable combination between artistic full orchestrion and a great organ, and which was played with virtuosity by Herr Schmidt (Film-Echo No. 10, March 6, 1922, p. 1) ...By the composition of the music for was shown that a still more forceful unification of music and design opens up great possibilities. (Der Film, No. 11, 1922, p. 42. See also Lichtbild-Buehne, No. 11, March, 1922, p. 52.) After this auspicious beginning, there followed a series of disasters which immediately limited the impact of Nosferatu. The producer, Prana Films, went into bankruptcy (as might have been expected from a company that spent as much money on the premiere as on the making of the film). Even more serious, the company had not applied for nor received the appropriate copyright clearances for use of the English novel, Dracula. Therefore, when Florence Stoker, the author’s widow, brought a successful copyright infringement suit against the company, in lieu of money she was able to obtain permission to have the negative and all copies of the film destroyed. In spite of her suit, however, a few copies of the film survived, and appeared at subsequent screenings of film clubs in Europe (Aaron Copland saw Nosferatu at a film club in Paris where it inspired him to write a ballet) and in the United States. Eventually a copy of Nosferatu ended up in the Museum of Modern Art circulating film library where among an audience of film fans and specialists it contributed to Murnau’s reputation for superb visual spectacle. Other copies ended up at the Cinemathèque français and in Spain. The original score which had contributed to the film’s initial success no longer accompanied any of the surviving copies. Thus only part of the original work was available and preserved, a film from the silent era not being fully preserved until the image is restored and the film is screened with its original, live musical accompaniment. Nosferatu’s director, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau (1888-1932) was born in Bielefeld, Germany and died in California. He became one of the supremely creative figures of the silent cinema. In addition to Nosferatu, he directed such distinguished and influential works as The Last Laugh (1924), Faust (1926), Sunrise (1927) and Tabu (1932). His use of light, shadow, and spectacle were widely acclaimed by film specialists. The lack of wide distribution for Nosferatu did not stop his career. In fact, the reverse may have been true. Continued interest in Nosferatu may have been stimulated by Murnau’s subsequent directorial successes in Berlin and Hollywood. Nosferatu’s composer Erdmann was not so lucky. Hans Erdmann Timotheos Guckel (Erdmann was his stage name) was born in Breslau and died in Berlin. He was a violinist, conductor, composer, and musicologist and was active as a music director in the theaters of Breslau, Riga, Jena, Potsdam and Brandenburg in Germany. Just after completing his doctoral dissertation in 1913, he conducted one of the first twentieth century performances of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo. In addition to the score for Nosferatu, he wrote several other film accompaniments, perhaps the best known being the score for Fritz Lang’s The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933). Erdmann was very active in the promulgation of advanced film accompaniments, editing the newspaper, Film-Ton-Kunst, Eine Zeitschrift fuer die kuenstlerische Musikillustration des Lichtbildes, and authoring with Giuseppe Becce, Allgemeines Handbuch der Filmmusik, 2 volumes, Berlin/Leipzig, Schlesinger’sche Buch- und Musikhandlung, 1927. The lack of immediate international distribution of Nosferatu prevented Erdmann from widely promulgating his ideas about film music which were based on the operatic tradition. His score to Nosferatu was forgotten and now is lost. Fortunately, a 40-minute work entitled Fantastisch-romantische Suite was made from it and published by Bote und Bock in 1926. After her successful copyright suit against Prana Films, Florence Stoker authorized two new stage versions of her husband’s novel. Both featured a sanitized, well-bred Dracula. This gentrified vampire was a far cry from the foul-breathed, hairy, evil monster of the novel, Dracula, and of the first film, Nosferatu. By again exercising her copyright, Florence Stoker was able to insist that the plays with their altered main character serve as the sources for most of the subsequent sound film adaptations. Murnau’s Nosferatu thus came to be more and more outside of the “main line” of the Dracula film tradition. In 1958 an international jury of critics at the Brussels International Exposition voted Murnau’s The Last Laugh one of the ten best films in the history of cinema, and Lotte H. Eisner published F. W. Murnau in 1964. Murnau’s films, always highly regarded by film specialists, began to reach a broader audience. Before dealing with the subsequent history of Nosferatu, we need to put Dracula and Nosferatu in a more general context. The drinking of blood – particularly human blood – is one of the oldest taboos of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and the blood-sucking vampire a spectre that frequently arises at the boundaries of social, religious, and sexual conformity... Illegitimacy, incest, and homosexuality have long had implicit and explicit links to the vampire in legend and literature. The Rumanian Nosferatu was believed to be the result of an illegitimate birth to parents who were themselves illegitimate. (David J. Skal, Hollywood Gothic, NY, W. W. Norton & Company, 1990, p. 12) In folklore a vampire is the reanimated body of a dead human being that maintains its “undead” state at night, sometimes by drinking the blood of others. From daybreak to sunset it sleeps in a grave or coffin. Only sunlight or decapitation and a stake driven through its heart can cause it to deanimate and die. In the novel, Dracula, Harker, an English real estate broker, visits Count Dracula, a Transylvanian vampire and sells him some English real estate. (Transylvania was at one time a part of Hungary but now is in Romania. The word “vampire” comes from the Hungarian, vampir.) Subsequently the vampire Count sails to England in and with several coffins of his native soil. In England Count Dracula’s blood lust causes a mysterious disease and the undeath of one young woman and the same mysterious illness in Harker’s fiancee, Mina. Two doctors, recognizing the work of a vampire, decapitate and drive a stake through the heart of the undead woman. Then they chase and kill the vampire before he can return to his home in Transylvania. Mina recovers as a result. Stoker based his gruesome main character superficially on the fifteenth-century Wallachian prince Vlad “The Impaler” Tepes. Vlad’s father had earned the name Dracul (dragon or devil) so Vlad became Dracula, son of the dragon or devil. Stoker’s use of Vlad seems to have ended with the name and the general locale. The script for the movie, Nosferatu, strays in several respects from the novel, Dracula. The main title, the numbers, names and relationship of the characters, and the location of the story are changed, and the tone is “decidedly preindustrial, almost medieval in its preoccupations. (Skal, p. 54) (The title for the film, Nosferatu, may have been supplied by the film’s designer, Albin Grau, who claimed in an article about vampires that Nosferatu was a Serbian word used to describe the undead.) Restoration of the film image for Nosferatu began in earnest at the hands of Enno Patalas of the Munich Film Museum and led to a performance at the Berlin Zoo on February 20, 1984. While Patalas’s restoration is not being used for this performance, the version from Kino International, restored by David Shepard of Film Preservation Associates, is based on much of the same material. The most obvious difference between the two versions involves the intertitles. Patalas used beautiful Gothic German intertitles. The Kino print uses plain English intertitles. There are three main sources for a reconstruction of the original musical accompaniment to Murnau’s Nosferatu, Erdmann’s Fantastisch-romantische Suiten, the Erdmann/Becce handbook, Allgemeines Handbuch der Filmmusik, and reviews of the 1922 premiere in the German press. The Library of Congress has the first two sources as well as a full score for Heinrich Marschner’s Der Vampyr which provided the overture to Nosferatu. The two Erdmann suites each contain five short compositions, ten in all, forty minutes of music. The Library of Congress has the full orchestra version of these suites with their orchestral parts as a result of a copyright deposit by the publisher, Bote und Bock. The suites have a foreword and descriptive programmatic material. A few examples will give a flavor of the information found in this source. (The title of each section is followed by its duration and then a series of words describing the mood of the piece.) Suite 1A. Idyllic (5 ½ minutes). Sleepy city - morning atmosphere - running horses (herd) - cheerful play. [Hutter’s theme] Suite 1B. Lyrical (2 ½ minutes). Yearning - Submission - Surrender - Past pain -Hope. [Ellen’s theme] Suite IC. Spooky (5 minutes). Sinister, weird nights - Goblins - Thunderclouds - Persecution mania. [Haunted house and Renfield’s themes] Suite IE. Destroyed (annihilated) (5 minutes) Plague - funeral procession- inescapable fate [Count Orlok’s theme] Suite IIB. Strange, peculiar. (5 minutes). In the ghost castle, weird surroundings. The Erdmann/Becce handbook on film music consists of two volumes. Volume one contains a description of the philosophy and practicalities of film accompaniment. The second volume of the handbook consists of musical incipits for 3,050 musical compositions. Each composition is categorized by type and mood. Various sections of all the Erdmann suites are analyzed in this way. In addition to containing useful information about metronome markings, the descriptions that accompanied these excerpts matched quite specific scenes, events, or moods in Nosferatu and supplemented the information found in the foreword to the suites. Here are some examples: #1691. Suite IA. [Classified under Lyrical incidents - Nature - Idyl.] Top - Rehearsal #3. Idyl, Sleeping village, morning atmosphere. #2524. Suite IA. [Classified under Incidents - Idyllic- Playful] Rehearsal #4. Idyl, Grazing herd, lively play. #994 [sic964]. [Classified under Lyrical expression - Melancholy] Suite IB. Submission, Past pain, Hope. #75. Suite IC. [Classified under Dramatic expression - eerie agitato] Persecution mania. Flight (growing). #85. Suite IC. [Classified under Dramatic expression - Magic - vision] Magic vision, ghostly, sinister, fantastic. #126. Suite IC. [Classified under Dramatic Expression - “It is not scarey”] Rehearsal #3-9. “It is not scarey.” Two spots in the reconstruction were unequivocally dictated by the sources. We had to put the bagpipe theme (end of Suite IIB) with the picture of the inn near the beginning of the film, because it was specifically described in the introductory material to the suites: The attached small bagpipe melody is only as addition. (Originally it painted the color of a single suitable village inn.) (Foreword to Hans Erdmann, Fantastich-romantische Suite) Also, for the final act we had to arrange suites IE, IIC, and IB in an ABA form with a coda, because a footnote in the Erdmann/Becce handbook described the conclusion of the accompaniment in that way: In Murnau’s film Nosferatu by chance the last act ended up in a three-part form. The whole accompaniment for this act consisted of two pieces from the Fantastisch-romantische suite by Hans Erdmann, first “Destroyed [Suite IE],” then “Grotesque [Suite IIC].” After that “Destroyed” was repeated in an enforced dynamic style and as a coda was followed by “Lyrical [Suite IB].” (Erdmann/Becce, Allgemeines Handbuch der Filmmusik, Vol. I, p. 50) Composer/arranger James Kessler and I made educated guesses about everything else. In several places Kessler composed new music in the style of Erdmann, for example for the scene where the Count’s coffins are being loaded aboard ship, because certain scenes seemed humorous and there was nothing humorous-sounding in the suites. Then with the invaluable assistance of Kim Tomaro Newlin we prepared a piano/conductor score by cutting and pasting the piano parts for the suites. Similarly, we cut and pasted the orchestral parts. It sounds easy but it is incredibly difficult. It takes a critical eye, great care, and patience. The whole process took about eight months of intensive effort. Special thanks to Enno Patalas of the Munich Film Archive for photocopies of the piano parts for the Erdmann suites, to Bruce Lawton for videotapes pertaining to Nosferatu, and to Eva Orbanz, Regina Hoffman, and Heike Meier of the Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek for their help with acquiring copies of the German press reviews. Gillian B. Anderson
artwork:Lidia Bagnoli