Lieder und Gesänge, Op. 51, No. 3, Ich wandre nicht (wherefore should I wander?), piano/violin
Music had, however, been cultivated during this time with rather more success than his other studies. The brothers took lessons in the violin from Ferd. Casper, in the school of the Styrian Musical Society, and in the piano from Johann Buwa, though these piano lessons, so far as Hugo was concerned, lasted only a few weeks. Buwa who was still living in , the year of Wolfs death, pre- served at that time a faint recollection of his little pupil.
The boy was back in his father's house again in the summer of In September he was entered in the 1 Dr. Decsey thinks he may have been badly taught at the school in Windischgraz, where only part of the instruction was given in the German language. Paul's school in the Lavant valley. Here again he does not seem to have been entirely comfortable.
Decsey visited the school and made the acquaintance of the venerable Father Sales Pirc, who had been Hugo's " Studienprafekt " thirty years before. Father' Sales was delighted to hear that the Hugo Wolf who had become so famous was the little Hugo who entered the school in He was, he said, a healthy, lively, honest boy, and popular with his comrades. He had not given great attention to his general studies, but had always been enthusiastic about music, and had often pleased and consoled the Father with his piano-playing.
Music was the one thing, indeed, that the boy did really well at the school. His singing, accord- ing to the official report, was " excellent," and he was very useful at the organ in the services in the church. Music was always being sent over from Graz though mostly only " arrangements " from Bellini, Rossini, Donizetti, and Gounod. Hugo took the piano part, one Gassmeyer played the violin, and they would occasionally be joined in a trio by Philipp Wolf himself, who used to come to the place on business, sell his hides, and then call at the school to make music with his son.
Decsey and Father Sales turned up the school records and examined the reports made upon Hugo's progress. On the whole they were barely more than satisfactory. The boy, it appears from a letter of complaint he wrote at the time to his father, was not happy in the school. He was of a strong character and a nature that felt deeply and passion- ately ; he regarded some of his teachers as tyrants, while they naturally looked upon him as " proud, perverse, and wilful.
His next school was at Marburg on the Drave, two hours' railway journey from Graz. Here in the autumn of ne entered the Gymnasium with his younger brother Gilbert, the fifth child of Philipp. Hugo now shaped rather better for a little while, but the reports again were mostly unsatisfactory, and he left the school in By this time his father must have begun to feel some anxiety about him. The boy seems to have been well-regulated enough in other ways, but he was plainly not of the stuff out of which his father could hope to make a sober and contented man of business.
He had already begun to think for himself; with other boys he was rather reserved, and outside the school he did not seek their companionship. One of his Marburg associates, now Dr. Roschanz, has sketched him for us as he was at that time. His musical knowledge had deepened a good deal. At fourteen he was " an excellent piano player," and spoke with enthusiasm of Mozart, Beethoven and other com- posers, but especially of Beethoven ; he would discourse of the great musician and his deafness, and play his symphonies on the piano. The boy had by now realised with perfect clearness that his bent lay decisively towards music, and that he must be a musician or nothing ; it was the old longing of the father for a life of art surging up again in the son, and growing, in that granitic, tenacious soul, to a power it had never been able to acquire in the more prudent nature of Philipp.
He himself had been one of the violinists. As a result he had been brought into collision with the religious authorities at the school, and had had a scene with the directors. He is no good at the school, he tells his father ; he must leave it and devote himself entirely to music. The careful Fhilipp at first tried to dissuade his son from this course, describing to him the dangers of the musical life and the small esteem in which the musician was usually held. This drew a passionate reply from Hugo.
But since you do not want me to be a musician, 1 I will obey. Only God grant that your eyes will not be opened when it is too late for me to go back to music. Further details as to the combat between father and son are lacking ; but the next thing we hear is that it is arranged that Hugo shall enter the Vienna Conservatoire. Thither, accordingly, he went in His chief subject was to be harmony, his teacher Franz Krenn ; as subsidiary study he entered for the piano under Wilhelm Schenner.
He made much more progress in his secondary than in his primary subject, perhaps finding himself out of touch with Krenn a capable but rather dry and formal pedagogue. That he stood in need of a careful grounding in harmony is evident. Decsey speaks of three choruses for male 1 He wants to be a " Musikus," not a " Musikant," he tells his father. The distinction between the slightly disparaging " Musikant "the term used by Philipp and the worthier "Musikus" is hardly translatable into concise English.
There is nothing to indicate that he profited much by his instruction in harmony at the Conservatoire; his piano work, however, was satisfactory. Towards the end of that year the boy had one of the richest experiences of his life. For some time the rela- tions between Wagner and the Vienna Opera House, under the directorship of Herbeck, had not been too cordial. In May , however, Herbeck was succeeded by Franz Jauners, who immediately established a better feeling with Wagner, and finally induced him to come in person to Vienna to superintend the production of "Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin" at the Court Opera there.
Wagner and Wagnerism had not yet conquered the Austrian capital; public opinion upon them was sharply divided, and the visit of the composer led of course to the usual excited and often bitter discussions. Wagner arrived on the ist November ; on the 3rd he conducted the first rehearsal. The perform- ance of " Tannhauser " took place on the 22nd, and for several weeks there was little talk in the town of anything but Wagner. Hugo's ardent young brain was fired by all this excitement. The great man was staying at the Imperial Hotel, close to the Conservatoire.
Hugo sends full particulars to his father in a letter of 23rd November. Wagner, he says, is accompanied by his wife, and has seven rooms at the hotel. With a truly sacred awe did I look upon this great master of tone, for he is, according to present opinion, the greatest opera composer of them all. I went some steps towards him and saluted him very respectfully, whereupon he thanked me in a friendly way.
From that very moment I felt an invincible inclination towards Richard Wagner, without having yet any notion of his music. Not till Monday, the 22nd November, was I initiated into his wonderful music ; it was ' Tannhauser,' given in the presence of the great Richard Wagner himself. I took my place outside the theatre at a quarter past two, although the opera, on this occasion, only began at half-past six, instead of at seven o'clock as usual.
There was such a frightful crush that I got rather anxious about myself. I wanted to get out, but it was impossible, for no one round me would give way. So there was nothing for it but to stay where I was. When at last the door was opened, the whole crowd swept in, and it was my good luck to be drawn into the middle, for if I had got to the side I would have been smashed against the wall. But I was richly compensated for the awful fright I had had.
I got my good old place in the fourth gallery. The overture was wonderful, and then the opera I cannot find words to describe it. I will only say that I'm an idiot. After each Act Wagner was furiously called for, and I applauded so much that my hands were sore. I kept on shouting 'Bravo Wagner!
He was continually called for after each Act, and made his acknowledgments from his box. Particulars about Wagner in my next letter. I have been quite taken out of myself by the music of this great master, and have become a Wagnerian. How he managed this he tells in a letter to his father, a couple of weeks after the foregoing one. I have been with whom do you think? I will tell you all about it just as it happened. I will give you the very words in which I put it down in my diary: I knew, you see, that on that day he would conduct the final rehearsal of his ' Lohengrin.
He acknowledged it very affably. When he got to the door I ran forward quickly and opened it for him, whereupon he looked hard at me for a few seconds, and then went off to the rehearsal. I ran as fast as I could before the Meister, and got to the Opera House before W'agner arrived in his cab. I saluted 1 This was the famous speech that aroused so much enmity against Wagner. After referring to the fact that it was in Vienna, in May , that he heard his "Lohengrin" for the first time, he thanked the audience for its kindly reception of " Tannhauser," which, he said, encouraged him to go on with the effort to make his works clearer to them, " so far as the forces at my disposal permit me.
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Then Wagner said something to the driver ; I think it was about me. I followed him to the stage door, but this time was not allowed to enter.
At the rehearsal of ' Tannhauser ' I was on the stage, where Wagner was. As I had often waited for the Meister in the Imperial Hotel, I made the acquaintance of the manager of the hotel, who promised to befriend me with Wagner. Who could have been happier than I when he told me that I must come to him the same day, Saturday the nth December, in the afternoon, when he would introduce me to the lady's maid of Frau Cosima Wagner's wife, and daughter of the great Liszt and Wagner's valet. I arrived at the appointed time ; my attendance on the maid was very short.
I was told to come again on Sunday, the 1 2th December, at about two o'clock. I went at the appointed time, but found the lady's maid, the valet and the manager of the hotel still at table, and at the end I drank a kapuziner with them. Then I went with the maid to the Meister's apartment, where I waited about a quarter of an hour before he came. At last he appeared, accompanied by Cosima, Goldmark, etc. He had just come from a Philharmonic concert. I saluted Cosima very respectfully ; she did not however think it worth the trouble to bestow a look on me; she is indeed known everywhere as an extremely haughty and overbearing Dame.
Wagner was going into his room without observ- ing me, when the maid said to him in an entreating tone: Then he went in and opened the door for me into the sitting-room, that was furnished with truly royal magnificence. In the centre stood a couch, all velvet and silk. Wagner himself was enveloped in a long velvet cloak trimmed with fur. When I entered, he asked what it was I wanted. I have long cherished the wish to hear an opinion upon my compositions, and it would.
You must at least play me your compositions on the piano ; but I have no time at present. When you are more mature and have written larger works and I am in Vienna again, you can show me your com- positions. It's no use ; I can give no opinion. Just go on diligently, and when I come to Vienna again show me your com- positions. This is the end of the song. On the I5th he attended the performance of " Lohengrin " at the Opera. That, however, is taking the whole thing a little too seriously. Wagner could not know that the boy of fifteen who stood before him with a roll of manuscript in his hand was different from any other little boy of the same age with a liking for music.
It is clear that Wolf himself did not think he had been badly treated. In later life he used to tell the story with some slight variations of detail. In he told the architect Friedrich Hofmann that Wagner looked at the roll of papers he had brought with him, and said in a friendly manner " Piano music? I don't understand that at all. If you ever write songs, then come and see me.
Look at my ' Rienzi ' ; there are some poor things there. Decsey has found among Wolf's papers two old text-books of " The Flying Dutchman" and "Lohengrin," carefully annotated in a boyish hand, and showing every sign of eager study. We know, too, that in his maturer years for a Wagner score to fall into his hands meant a night snatched from sleep that he might read and re-read it.
Those who know how completely Wolf gave himself to any artist poet or musician for whom he had conceived an affection, and with what passionate devotion he clung to him, will be able to understand how large a place Wagner held in his thoughts. Decsey even assures us that Wolfs handwriting came in time to resemble Wagner's, a comparison of Wolf's caligraphy as a boy and as a young man conclusively proving Wagner's influence, though neither here nor in his music did Wolf lose his own personality in that of the older man.
His stay at the Vienna Conservatoire was comparatively short ; he left in two years, dismissed, the official records say, on account of a breach of discipline. It appears that he was more sinned against than sinning. Some wild youth had sent to Hellmesberger, the head of the Con- servatoire, a letter warning him that he had only one more Christmas to enjoy, after which his end would come ; the missive was signed with the name of Hugo Wolf.
Accord- ing to the account that seems most to be relied on, that of Paul Muller, who had the story from the composer himself, Hugo went to Hellmesberger to explain that the joke was not his. The scared Director raised an alarm ; Wolf tried to establish his innocence by producing a specimen of his own handwriting, but could not obtain a hearing.
Hellmesberger was firmly convinced that his life was in danger, and for some time the terrible Wolf a desperate villain of seventeen or so was kept under the eye of the Vienna police. He was of course at once banished from the Conservatoire. He educated himself, he adds. I 4 HUGO WOLF Both Hugo and his father were greatly downcast at this turn of events ; succeeding as it did so many records of failure at other schools, this dismissal seemed to set the seal of the vagabond upon the boy.
He himself raged furiously at the authorities for placing on him the stigma of dismissal from an institution which he was only too anxious to leave ; he talked, indeed, of bringing an action against them. But the fact remained that he was now outside the great Conservatoire, and that it would probably not have been easy for him to enter another even had he desired to do so.
The boy had henceforth no other schools and no other masters than those he made for himself. Both in literature and in music he took his education into his own hands. He read voraciously everything he could get hold of, being guided by a singularly sure and catholic taste. He took up the study of music with intense earnestness, mostly extracting for himself the principles of structure and other points of technique directly out of the works of the great masters.
The concerts at Vienna gave him plenty of material to reflect upon ; we find him begging Felix Mottl to get him some pupils, so that he may live decently and be able to stay in Vienna, instead of spending the winter in Windischgraz where he will hear no music. The two brothers Josef and Franz Schalk the former died in , after having done good service in Wolfs cause, the latter is now the well-known Vienna conductor befriended him and placed their musical possessions at his disposal.
He spent day after day in the big Vienna library, absorbed in music of every kind, but chiefly that of Beethoven and of Bach, dissecting it, committing it to memory. One day, in later years, his friend Paul Miiller called upon him and happened to see in his room a dilapidated copy of Beethoven's sonatas. I lived at that time in a garret, and had no piano ; so I used to take out the sonatas separately, and go and study them in the Prater. Schumann's songs in particular he examined most carefully and minutely.
All the time he was studying the technique of his art from every possible standpoint, and working assiduously at the piano. As has been already stated, he never became a concert virtuoso on this instrument. But abundant testimony exists as to the extraordinary charm and power of his playing when the spirit moved him, especially when performing his own songs to a circle of personal friends. There is a story, too, of his going one day to a wedding, and, after many solicitations, sitting down at the piano and breaking out with the "March to the Scaffold" movement from Berlioz's " Fantastic Symphony.
He represented the execution, suggested the scaffold and the blood, and made so demoniac an effect that the bride, who was standing by him in her wedding dress, fell down in a swoon. Wolf got up and left the house. Resolved as he was to stay in Vienna in order to work out his musical destiny in his own way, he was now practically thrown upon his own resources. Remittances did indeed come occasionally from his father, but they were small, certainly insufficient to maintain the boy in comfort. To keep the pot boiling he had to give piano and violin lessons.
He had found some good friends in high places in Vienna musical society, notably Felix Mottl the conductor and Adalbert von Goldschmidt the composer, who assisted him to get a few pupils. The struggle must have been a severe one. It helped to make the boy's character, but probably the mental strain and the physical privations he had to suffer at this time had something to do with the sad collapse of his nervous system in later years.
That he gloried, after his sturdy fashion, in his artistic independence is undoubted ; but in his letters to his parents he preserves a tone almost of timidity, his object perhaps being, as his friend Hellmer suggests, not to wound, by too exuberant a display of joy, the father and mother who had so unwillingly given their consent to his residing in Vienna.
It goes without saying that he was constitutionally unfitted for teaching, or at any rate for the kind of teach- ing he had to undertake at this time. Boy as he was in years, his musical nature was matured enough to create a wide gulf between himself and his pupils. He was probably impatient beyond the average of teachers at having to spend valuable time in labouring with children at the rudiments of piano technique ; and it is not surpris- ing to learn that he put this side of his duties out of sight as far as was possible, and gave his energies to teaching his pupils the wearisome, but not quite so wearisome, elements of musical theory.
We have a record of what his behaviour could be at its worst in the case of a certain Fraulein G. She had apparently little musical talent, and Wolf found it hard to keep his temper with her. His language to her at times is said to have been more in keeping with the situation than with the conventions of polite society. He used to play duets with her, of a variety ranging from Beethoven symphonies to Lanner waltzes. When his patience was at an end he would angrily drive her from the piano, and play by himself long stretches of the music of his predilection, especially that of Berlioz.
It ended with his refusing to teach her any longer, and telling her mother it would be the death of him to have anything more to do with so talentless a person. Conduct of this kind, comprehensible as it is to us, would hardly help him either to get new pupils or to keep old ones. His life was undoubtedly a hard 1 8 HUGO WOLF one at this time ; while to his poverty he added a pride that made him resent and reject all offers of assistance in which the charitable intention was too obvious.
Only when in the greatest need does he ask his parents to send him money. The loss of even one lesson, we can see, must have been rather serious for him. In April he tells his father that he has been reading Kuh's " Life of Hebbel," and, desperate as his own situation is, he congratulates himself on not being quite so badly off as the poet.
Miserable as things are, he is thankful they are no worse. Another pupil has left him, the family having gone away for five weeks. He is living, he says, on one meal a day soup, meat, and vegetables at one o'clock and he has plans for saving the expense of eating at a restaurant by making his own coffee at home, adding to it a little home- made cake and a piece of ham or sausage.
A year later he writes that his lessons bring him in on an average no more than thirty-six or thirty-eight gulden about 3 per month, not enough to pay for his lodgings, food, washing, and clothes. He begs his father to come to his support during May and June ; next year, he says, he hopes to be certain of being able to maintain himself. In May there is the same pitiful story ; he is living on bread-and- butter, and complains bitterly of having no money in his pocket.
The next year, , his affairs are still no better. Yet nothing could shake his determination to remain in Vienna, living in this way as best he could. From Windischgraz, whither he had gone on a short visit to his people, he wrote in terms of great urgency to Mottl. His father, he says, has had business misfortunes and is not in a position now to help him very materially ; Wolf therefore begs Mottl to get him some more pupils in Vienna.
A friend who was on his way to the States had made all arrangements, and it was actually settled that Wolf should sail from Bremen ; but at the last moment he changed his mind. He seems to have been making innumerable experiments in composi- tion all this time. The Hugo Wolf-Verein in Vienna possessed a " Friihlingsgriisse " a song-setting of words by Lenau and a few other works all dating from The following year was more prolific, the list including seven songs, among them three to words by Lenau of whom he seems to have been especially fond at this time , and two to words by Goethe ; six choruses, includ- ing the three for male voices already mentioned, set to poems by Goethe, apparently written for a male-voice choir in Windischgraz of which his father and his brother Max were members ; two pianoforte sonatas, a rondo and fantasia for pianoforte, a piano piece for four hands, three movements of a symphony in B flat, and a movement from a string quartet, all left in an unfinished state, and apparently little more than studies in the technique of composition.
Of the same order was an arrangement for orchestra of most of Beethoven's " Moonlight " sonata, also made in Decsey notes the freedom and confidence of the instrumental style here ; Wolf re-thinks the sonata in terms of the orchestra, accompanying the chief theme at the beginning of the sonata, for example, by a counterpoint in the violins above. In addition to this essay in orchestration he sketched out, but did not get very far with, a symphony in G minor.
In there are more songs ; among the papers Wolf left at his death were eleven vocal pieces including settings of two 20 HUGO WOLF songs and three odes of Lenau, one of Matthison, one of Korner, and the Morgentau, which last he thought good enough to be published later on as the first of the Seeks Lieder filr eine Frauenstimme. Besides these the year's work comprises piano pieces, the already mentioned concerto in D minor for violin and piano, and some orchestral sketches. In the boy seems to have come nearer realising his own powers and the best direc- tion in which to exert them. Songs now abound ; twenty of these were found after his death, among them six to Heine's words, three to Hebbel's, three to Lenau's, two to Chamisso's, two to Riickert's, and two to Hoffmann von Fallersleben's.
These show more grip and concentration than the earlier works. Twelve of them have been published as Lieder aus derjugendzeit, and two more in the previously mentioned volume of Seeks Lieder filr eine Frauenstimme ; these are Das Voglein words by Hebbel , and Die Spinnerin words by Ruckert. The last-named in particular, which we shall refer to again, is an extra- ordinary achievement for a boy of seventeen or eighteen.
The only orchestral composition belonging to this year is an unfinished setting of Kinkel's poem " Die Stunden verrauschen" for soli, chorus, and orchestra. In , , and 1 88 1 he seems either to have had less time for composition, or to have destroyed most of what he wrote ; there survive from these years only three songs after Lenau, Eichendorff and Heine two of them mere frag- ments , and an " Albumblatt " for piano. While not claiming much final importance for the bulk of the youthful pieces found among Wolfs papers after his death, Dr. It will be noticed that EichendorfFs name appears for the first time in among those of the poets whom Wolf had set to music.
Later on a volume of seventeen settings of Eichendorff, mostly dating from , was to be published. In he set six spiritual songs for a cappella chorus, naming them not always in accordance with Eichendorff s titles Aufblick "Vergeht mir der Himmel " , Einklang Nachtgruss: The Ergebung was sung in the Vienna Votivkirche when Wolf was laid to rest on the 24th February In 1 88 1 he seems to have found his pinched and precarious financial condition no longer endurable, and to have sought a theatrical appointment that would at least give him a settled if meagre income.
Adalbert von Goldschmidt accordingly set to work, with the result that Wolf was offered the post of second Kapellmeister at the Salzburg Stadttheater. He left Vienna in November. On the day of his departure he called upon Goldschmidt to say good-bye. In one hand he had a small neat bundle; under the other arm was a large and heavy object carefully wrapped up in paper.
When, later on, Goldschmidt went out with Wolf, he noticed Wolf pick up the big mysterious object, and asked him what it was. Equipped in this style went the Kapellmeister to his first engagement. Wolf soon proved a disappointment to them both. His musical capacity was of course unquestion- able ; but so independent a musician, with his head full of ideas of his own, was not the best man to knock con- ventional operatic choruses into the heads of an ordinary theatre-troupe.
Miiller himself, who later on became the director of the Carl Theatre in Vienna, told Dr. Decsey that while they all recognised Wolfs musical endowments, he clearly lacked the necessary keenness and energy for a Kapellmeister's post ; his self-absorbed, retiring ways were particularly ill-suited to the theatre. At the same time he did not neglect the letter of his duties, which were to assist at the rehearsals of soloists and chorus. To fulfil the spirit of them was another matter. Neither the repertoire nor the personnel of a small provincial theatre is the best of its kind, and Wolf could hardly be expected to take much interest in the rehearsing of operettas by Strauss and Millocker.
Once, we are told by Dr. Muck, Wolf came down in the morning to take the chorus through a Johann Strauss operetta. They had not been long at it before he contemptuously put the work on one side and told them he would rather play them something out of " Tristan," which he straightway proceeded to do.
This was no doubt interesting and enjoyable, but hardly what he was engaged for. He appears to have stayed there only a couple of months, returning to Vienna in January Here, as might be expected, he found it doubly difficult to live. So hard pressed was he indeed that for a while he took to vegetarianism as the cheapest way of living.
He seems to have composed comparatively little in , with the exception of three songs which after- wards went with the Morgentau, Das Voglein and Die Spinnerin to make up the set of Seeks Lieder fitr eine Frauenstimme. These were the delightful little Mausfallen- sprncklein, written in June , to words by Morike, and the Wiegenlied im Sommer and Wiegenliedim Winter, both written in December of the same year, to words by Robert Reinick. Though he apparently composed little music during this year, it is interesting to see his thoughts turning, for the first time, towards the stage.
Among his papers was discovered part of a sketch of a comic opera, going as far as the half of the second Act. In the light of his later partiality for southern subjects, as shown in Der Corregidor and Manuel Venegas, it is significant that his first libretto should also have been set in the same milieu. The manuscript frag- ment of it is now among the papers that came into the possession of the Vienna Hugo Wolf-Verein during the last illness of the composer.
In the summer of Wolf went with Felix Mottl and another friend to Bayreuth, where he heard " Parsifal. In he made the acquaintance of Hermann Bahr, and went to live with him and another friend, a certain Dr. In the preface to the first volume of the Gesammelte Aufsatze iiber Hugo Wolf, published in , Bahr gives a lively picture of the composer as he was in those days.
Few, he says, suspected what Wolf was afterwards to become ; most people looked upon him as a fool. Bahr and his companions lived a merry student's life, incarnadined the town o' nights, and usually returned home towards five in the morning, heavy with beer and the remains of their youthful spirits, and anxious only to lie down and sleep.
The door would open and Wolf would appear in a very long nightdress, a candle and a book in his hands, very pale, scarcely visible in the grey uncertain light, with mysterious gestures, half satirical, half solemn. Then he stepped into the middle of the room, swung the candle, and, while we undressed, began to read to us, generally something out of Penthesilea.
This however had such power that we were silenced, not daring to speak another word, so impressive was he when reading. Like immense black birds the words came rushing and roaring from his pale lips ; they seemed to grow till the room was full of their strong and terrible shadows.
But we two sat up long, until the dawn came, and were vaguely conscious of something mysterious in the air around us, and knew that a great man had been with us. It is impossible to describe it. I can only say this: He had as it were transubstantiated himself with all his body into the words of the poet. These stood before us, our friend had vanished. These struck into the very depths of me; and then I suddenly remembered. Yes, it was the same! The same man as in those nights. Just as that time he sank as it were his own existence in that of the words, so that the gleaming hands and the threatening eyes which we saw seemed to be no longer his, but the hands and eyes of the words, which otherwise we should not have noticed, so this music could not have been ' added ' by a man, but was 26 HUGO WOLF the natural music of the verses.
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We had had only imperfect ears, or we should always have heard it ; since it is the essential music of these verses, it inheres in them and must always have been in them: His appreciation not only of the broad significance of a poem but of all its most delicate detail makes him unique among song writers ; none other has anything like his scrupulous regard for his poetic material, none other so frankly accepts the poet as his starting-point, or makes it so completely his ideal to fit his music with perfect flexibility to every convolution of the verse.
At his recitals, as we shall see later, he would often begin by reading the poem to the audience before a note of the music was allowed to be heard. This abnormally keen sense of poetic style, which was what made him Hugo Wolf indeed, came to him from no teacher ; it was clearly congenital in him, and revealed itself markedly almost before he had attained to manhood.
His taste in poetry was remarkably good. It showed itself incidentally about this time by his preoccupation with Kleist, one of the great gods of his Olympus. The tragedy " Penthesilea " had seized upon him, and in the summer and autumn of he cast his impressions of it into the form of a symphonic poem. In the summer of he was still polishing parts of this, as well as working at the music to another of Kleist's works, "Der Prinz von Homburg. He had the young composer's usual difficulties with the publishers. I will now try my luck with Breitkopf and Hartel, for I cannot make up my mind, in spite of Hanslick's recommendation, to offer my compositions to Simrock.
Hanslick, how- ever, did really exhibit a temporary interest in young Wolf. It had come about through a sculptor named Tilgner, who at that time lived in the same house as Hanslick. While admitting that Wolf was a little " untamed," he spoke highly of his artistic abilities to Hanslick, and told him of the young man's difficulty in finding a publisher. It was in response to this that the critic gave the recommendation to Brahms's publisher, Simrock.
Wolf soon after met Hanslick, for the only time in their lives. We are not told, but we can guess, the impression each made on the other. Wolf's unwillingness to make use of Hanslick's recommendation must have been prompted by an instinctive feeling that there could never be any sympathy between them ; he was no doubt unwilling to lay himself under an obligation to a man with whom his intuitions told him he was bound to come into collision some day.
The collision was not long in coming ; Wolfs critical work on the " Salonblatt," the story 28 HUGO WOLF of which is given in the next chapter, was for the most part an uncompromising declaration of war against the most cherished ideals of Hanslick and his circle. The older man not unnaturally tried to have his revenge later on when Wolfs name or work came before him.
A fashionable paper the Vienna " Salonblatt " had just lostits musical critic, Theod or Helm. Some friends of Wolf, anxious no doubt to provide him with an occupation that would bring him a regular income, however small, managed to get him installed in the vacant post. The journal is said to circulate chiefly among the fashionables and would-be fashionables of Vienna.
Wolfs strong and acid writing must have seemed, among the generally " frivolous confectionery " of the rest of the paper, rather like the irruption of a fanatical dervish into a boudoir. He had very decided tastes and a not less decided way of giving expression to them ; indeed he wrote singularly well, with thorough technical knowledge, and with ardent enthusiasm for whatever he thought was great and sincere art, and abundant irony and invective for whatever he was convinced was not. As a rule the last person to be capable of being a good critic is an original composer ; the very strength of his own individu- ality is apt to render him only moderately receptive of 30 HUGO WOLF the contrasted art of other men.
Wagner's constitutional bias towards seeing life through Wagner's eyes made him incapable of seeing it through those of Brahms. Tchaikovski again missed the meaning and the beauty of Brahms's music as completely as a being organised to perceive space in only two dimensions would misconceive the shapes of objects that exist in three ; while Brahms in his turn often had as little sense of the fragrance and colour of Tchaikovski's music as a scentless chemist has of the odour of a flower.
It must be recorded to Wolfs credit that, so far as one can judge now from the criticisms of his that have been republished, and assuming that those we cannot procure are of the same order, he showed on the whole, like Schumann, an admirable catholicity of taste in his dealings with the music of other men.
He could have had no training as a critic, no training even in the preliminary art of looking twice at every judgment, summoning up hypothetical witnesses against it, and then deciding as to its final reasonableness. When he was right he was so by instinct the instinct of a finely organised nature willing to enjoy keenly whatever could appeal to it as being beautiful.
As to the tone and manner of his criticism, while it was natural that those who suffered under his whip should sometimes feel indignant, one must do him the justice to admit that there was often very good reason for his bitterness, his irony and his heat. So colourless an ideal of the duty of the critic can in the last resort only be held by men for whom the art-life consists merely in enjoying the better products and ignoring the worst, who are not keenly enough interested in progress to go out and fight for it, and who do not realise that bad art cannot safely be ignored, for the simple reason that it debauches the public taste and so makes it harder for better art to find eyes to look at it and ears to listen to it.
It is as unwise, in fact, to lay down merely one rule for newspaper criticism as it would be to lay down only one rule for war. Your strategy must be suited to the enemy and to the situation; you cannot fight every battle with the same technique. There is a time to sit down patiently outside a citadel, reduce it by a long and scientific siege, and then live on good terms with your quondam enemies ; there is also a time to take the position by assault, to sweep a dangerous and hopelessly irreconcilable enemy away in one charge.
Criticism of this kind and this, apparently, is what the advocates of what they miscall "restraint" do not perceive can be just as well reasoned, just as comprehensive in its survey, as any criticism that is written at half the mental temperature. It does not necessarily follow that because a man is warm he must be illogical ; he may glow with anger at something that seems to him to call for unsparing condemnation, and yet see the whole case with unclouded eyes and reason with pitiless logic, preserving a little core of intellectual ice at the centre of the emotional heat.
And that there are occasions in newspaper musical criticism when the critic must express himself with warmth will be denied only by those who have never been brought face to face with some of the problems that beset the critic day by day, the dealing, 32 HUGO WOLF for example, with impudent incompetence, or the cynicism that looks upon the public only as a milch cow to be drained for personal profit, or the charlatanism that plays upon the half-educated instincts of the musically illiterate.
It were folly to treat things of this kind with the same courtesy, the same toleration as honest effort that may not quite reach the goal it aims at. In every town, no matter how active may be its musical life, there will always be a good deal in the state of the music to anger or sadden the idealist. Wolf was an idealist, a very young one, too, who had yet to learn how hard it is to move the mass of men by sheer reason, and he found plenty of things in the musical life of Vienna to keep him perpetually in the saddle with his lance always at full tilt. No one now disputes that in the early eighties Vienna, as far as music was concerned, was a city of many prejudices and much ignorance, particularly with regard to Wagner and the modern school of poetic music.
Part of it may have been due to a conservatism of the better kind, a real and instructed enthusiasm for the antique; but besides this there was a great deal of sheer ignorance and unwillingness to learn. Wagner was not understood, nor Liszt, nor Berlioz, nor Bruckner ; and as these were Wolf's preferences among composers living or recently dead, it was inevitable that he should run counter to the prejudices of musical Vienna at almost every turn.
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With the charming comprehensiveness of youth he took the whole artistic life of the city under his paternal care ; there was no department of it in which he was not willing to point out the need for improvement and to give gratuitous advice as to how the improvement could be effected. In one of his articles he pretends to have stood behind a man who was reading the poster announcing the concert of the week, and to have listened to his soliloquy " Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, good, good. The public loves classical music. Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn are really everyday matters with it.
Here he mimicked scornfully the ecstasy of the public. Everywhere profundity, originality, greatness, sublimity, genius! Then in a natural tone in faith! I believe that the Philharmonic public would rather jump into the Pontine marshes than listen to a work of this belauded master. But what would not people do for the sake of fashion?
Bach has become the fashion with the Philharmonic public. Next year it will be the other way about; a symphony by Volkmann, a serenade by Fuchs. There must be variety, and the Philharmonic people are connoisseurs in that, in all conscience! A splendid subject for a musical setting ; but the talent of the composer is not equal to the weight of the theme.
Only a Makart could have represented a Penthesilea in colour, only a Liszt or a Berlioz in music. It is beyond anyone else. Can I believe my eyes? Impos- sible ; yet there it is, clear enough ' Symphonie fantastique' by Hector Berlioz. Truly there is something positively Spartan in the courage of the Philharmonic people. They have the pluck to scare their subscribers.
It had, he said, nothing to fear in the way of competition, and could therefore easily afford to give more works which the public did not know but ought to know those of Liszt and Berlioz, for example. The public might be ruffled at first, but would take to the new music in time. In one of his articles he addressed a sarcastic appeal to the conductor " Gade, Dvof ak, Molique, and out of charity what a gigantic effort! You exhibit taste, good intentions, in- dustry, devotion, zeal, perseverance, and a good supply of ambition.
What is it all to lead to? Won't you climb to the dizzy height of producing the youthful symphonies of Haydn? Do you dread the labour it would take, the sleepless nights, the bloody sweat? Go on making us happy with Dvorak rhapsodies, Gade overtures, Molique 'cello concertos. Why have a Mozart symphony at the end? This work is too complicated. You are ruining your system with rehearsals, and then the prospect of hearing you conduct Czerny's 'School of Velocity' the instrumentation of which Herr B. He means to reform everything: Then his troubles begin. He looks at himself in the glass after a little time.
But, as I soon had to recognise to my horror, this estimable physical appearance had its analogue in my spiritual condition. As I recollect, this singular physical and mental change in me happened a little while after that memorable address which was to indicate the programme of the great concert which I contemplated conducting after being appointed to the post. But what was the result of these beneficial projects?
First of all a conspiracy, then a revolution. The perspiration streamed from my forehead. I longed for death. In my despair I laid hands on myself, but, in the very act of strangling myself, my outrageously clumsy way of managing it brought me Heaven be thanked back into waking consciousness. He advocated a smaller theatre for comic opera, wherein the true proportions of that genre might be preserved, Lortzing's " Waffenschmied," for example, being over- weighted in the large opera house like a trim little picture in a huge frame ; he declared that in spite of the poverty of the orchestra, the voices, and the appointments at the Salzburg theatre, the work used there to make an impres- sion on him more like the proper one than it did in the 36 HUGO WOLF Vienna opera house, where everything was as sumptuous as it could be.
In the same spirit he pleaded for a smaller concert room for chamber music. In the Vienna of that time there were two main parties the Wagnerian, who regarded Bruckner as their standard-bearer, and the anti-Wagnerians, who of course found a leader, though not altogether a willing one, in Brahms. Against the latter Wolf directed some of his sharpest criticisms. Temperamental antipathy will account for some of them, but they contain a good deal that is keenly analytical and objectively true.
He always agreed with Nietzsche that Brahms's melancholy was the melan- choly of impotence. Wagner can exult; Brahms cannot. He is a clever musician, very skilled in counterpoint, to whom ideas of all kinds come some- times good, now and then excellent, occasionally bad, here and there already familiar, frequently no ideas at all. Schumann, Chopin, Berlioz, Liszt, the leaders of the revolutionary movement in music after Beethoven in which period Schumann indeed expected a Messiah and thought he had found him in Brahms have passed by our symphonist without leaving a trace on him ; he was, or pretended to be, blind when the eyes of astonished mankind were opened by the dazzling genius of Wagner, 1 In some of his letters to Kauffmann in he discusses Brahms again ; he then held him to be deficient in the capacity for really deep feeling.
Just as people at that time danced minuets, i. He is like a departed spirit that returns to its old house, totters up the rickety steps, turns the rusty key with much difficulty, and directs an absent-minded gaze on the cobwebs that are forming in the air and the ivy that is forcing its way through the gloomy windows. Wolf was on safer ground when he picked holes in some of the scansions in Brahms's songs, particularly in the " Vergebliches Standchen. In the second movement the shades fall lower. Deep meditation and silence.
An animated form goes chirping through the deep solitude. It is as if glow-worms were going through their dances, by the way it sparkles and flashes in the flying figures of the instruments. But the form vanishes. The earlier silence comes, once more to be broken in upon by a similar motive. The mysterious tone-picture dies away in curious harmonies, that modulate between dreaming and waking.
Everywhere a will, a colossal purpose, bat no satisfaction, no artistic solution.
The moderns brought out the bias of his own temperament. He did not like any music that savoured too strongly of narrow " nationalism," and so was not greatly drawn to Gade, Grieg, or the general crowd of Scandinavian, Bohemian, or Russian composers ; 1 He frequently discusses Bruckner's works in his correspondence with Kauffmann. See the letters of I5th December , 23rd December , and loth March He always admits Bruckner's lack of concentration, but admires the prodigality of his invention and the expressiveness of his ideas.
For the modern Italian opera-writers he had little but contempt. He abhorred Boito's " Mefistofele " on account both of the weakness of the music and of the perversion that Goethe's poem had undergone in the text. Ponchi- elli's "Gioconda" was another bete noire to him; the composer, he said, had no originality ; " he has a dozen physiognomies ; his imagination proceeds like a stubborn ass, that after every second step goes back upon the first.
Of Saint-Saens he particularly liked the trumpet septet. He does not seem to have written much upon Bizet, but we know that he greatly admired " Carmen. He spoke enthusiastically of Richter, and of the performances Biilow gave with the Meiningen orchestra. He also liked Billow's rendering of Beethoven on the piano, placing him above Rubinstein in this respect.
But the pedagogic element in Billow's playing, to which Weingartner has also drawn attention, gradually became distasteful to him ; Billow, he said, was like a man who wanted to be a painter but only succeeded in becoming a professor of anatomy, he gave piano lectures instead of piano recitals. Wolf also saw all that was good and all that was lacking in the styles of other pianists, such as Arthur Friedheim, D'Albert, and Rosenthal.
He saw Satan again in the violin technique of Ce"sar Thomson, especially in his demoniac- ally clever octave playing. Altogether he seems to have gone about the business of criticism with a clear head, and with eyes at least as unprejudiced as those of the average musical critic. Yet in many ways it can only be regretted that he should have had to spend four years of his life in this way. As he himself once said, the creative artist should keep out of criticism. That he made so many enemies was not the worst of the evil in his case ; the physical strain and the mental distraction must have retarded his own develop- ment as a composer, and probably deprived the world of a great deal of original work for which it would gladly have foregone his criticisms upon the works of others.
His brother-in-law, Josef Strasser, an inspector of taxes, lived in Schloss Gstatt near Oblarn, in the department of Grobming ; there Wolf went to spend the summer. His sister Modesta and her husband knew his habits, and for the most part left him quite free to live as he chose ; he even preferred to prepare his own strong black coffee in the afternoon in his own room.
He spent his time between the piano, composition, long walks in the mountains, generally with a volume of his beloved Kleist, and short excursions to holiday resorts in the neigh- bourhood. On one of these he was immensely amused at a poet he met, whom he caught in the act of composing by the aid of a rhyming dictionary.
Kleist's " Penthesilea " kept its usual hold upon him ; but at this time he occupied himself more closely with another work of the poet, " Der Prinz von Homburg," which he meant to make the sub- ject of a large orchestral work. The Trauermusik was completed, but has not yet been published; the manu- script of it is now among the papers acquired by the Vienna Hugo Wolf-Verein. Wolf was also very enthusiastic during his stay in Grobming over Kleist's fine comedy " Der zerbrochene Krug," and used to read it to Modesta with his usual dramatic power ; but there is no evidence that he thought of it in connection with music.
His external life during the summer was quite uneventful. Three Songs Songs of Benjamin Britten: Five Flower Songs , op. Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings , op. Rejoice in the Lamb , op. Noye's Fludde , op. Suite from Death in Venice , op. Lo, the Full, Final Sacrifice , op. The Caterpillar Andy Vores: Natural Selection Benjamin Britten: Friede auf Erden , op.
Ricercar, from the Musical Offering , orch. Five Movements for String Orchestra, op. Eve World Premiere J. Et la vie l'emporta Jan Dismas Zelenka: A Brandenburg Autumn J. O Tuneful Voice Mozart: Als Luise die Briefe Mozart: Dans un bois solitaire Mozart: Das Lied der Trennung Mozart: Die betrogene Welt Haydn: An die Geliebte Beethoven: Neue Liebe, neues Leben Beethoven: The Mermaid's Song Mozart: Here Awa There Awa Haydn: Ecco quell fiero istante Beethoven: The Miller of Dee Beethoven: The Sweet Power of Song Beethoven: The Elfin Faeries Beethoven: Quit Thy Bower Mozart: Bona nox, bist a rechta Ochs!
Great Mass in C minor, K. Psalm 90 Betty Olivero: Lo Ira Ra Leonard Bernstein: Chichester Psalms Herbert Howells: Mass in G minor Charles Ives: Duet, from Lobgesang Fanny Mendelssohn: O vos omnes Pablo Casals: O vos omnes Peter Maxwell Davies: Pater noster Giuseppe Verdi: Ave Maria Benjamin Britten: Shall I Compare Thee? The Gladsome Fray George Butterworth: On the Idle Hill of Summer W. Trois beaux oiseaux du paradis Kevin Puts: The Twa Corbies Benjamin J. O Mistress of Mine Ivor Gurney: In Flanders Rudi Stephan: Over There Gerald Finzi: Farewell to Arms Kevin Puts: Pange lingua Anton Bruckner: Christus factus est Herbert Howells: Dies sanctificatus John Harbison: In the Bleak Midwinter Arnold Bax: Gabriel's Message Ralph Vaughan Williams: Wexford Carol English Traditional, arr.
Zion's Walls Aaron Copland: Emily Dickinson Songs Aaron Copland: Simple gifts Irving Fine: Hermit Songs Aaron Copland: Four-Hand Sonata for Piano — I. The Twenty-sixth Dream Rodney Lister: The Annunciation Harold Shapero: Canti di Prigionia Programs that have included the works of Christoph Demantius: The Evening-watch , op. Three Shakespeare Songs trad. Flos campi Yehudi Wyner: Motetti di Montale [excerpts] Claudio Monteverdi: Psalm 90 Programs that have included the works of Lee Hoiby: Psalm 90 Programs that have included the works of Andrew Imbrie: In the Beginning Programs that have included the works of Franz Liszt: Beauty, Grief, and Grandeur Robert Schumann, orch.
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Pulma Laul Veljo Tormis: Tuesday, November 17, Aaron Copland: Zelenka Audrone Zigaityte Arvids Zilinskis. Cantata to the Text of Sophoclean Choruses. Die Jahreszeiten The Seasons. Mass in B minor, BWV Vespro della Beata Vergine Magnificat in D, BWV Schwanesgesang Opus ultimum , SWV Programs that have included the works of J.
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