In his tirade against journalism, Max Graf observes in it 'a total lack of any religious or metaphysical sensibility' and a 'lack of feeling for the eternal wellspring of art'. The evidence contradicts this statement. Critics saw themselves as guardians of the artistic tradition and if they rejected new currents it was because they saw them, rightly or wrongly, as emanating from a different source or as continuing the development of music in the wrong direction. Art, especially music, was generally regarded as possessing a special holiness. Composers and performers who were perceived to be using it merely as a vehicle for personal technical display were roundly taken to task.
Other qualities which Graf perceives to be missing from the journalistic outlook are 'personal experience . . . hearkening to inner and outer voices', 'contemplation', and 'self-consciousness'. This is in stark contrast with the opinion from hindsight of Schorske, who judged the feuilleton, which happened to be the dominant genre of music criticism at the time, to be characterized by 'excessive subjectivism and narcissism'.1 The evidence of the music criticisms points, however, to the coexistence of a continual consciousness in critics of the personal and subjective nature of their judgements and to their attempts to justify their decisions in terms of the presence or absence of a coherent musical argument.
As for personal experience, in particular in the matter of music, the critics who wrote the most (i.e. the 'senior' critics of their journals) seem to have been out nearly every night in the concert season; they were professional listeners whose personal experience of music had been accumulating for years. Instead of narcissistically contemplating their own inner lives, they contemplated scores and musical sounds. At least, this seems a fair view to take of the critics at their best.
Not forgetting that Graf was writing from a Wagnerian point of view and warming up to an attack on Hanslick, it is wise to consider just what it was about Hanslick that so infuriated Graf. In the first place, they disagreed strongly on the matter of Wagnerism, to which Graf seems to have formed an almost religious adherence. In addition, Hanslick was an excellent writer. Nothing is more annoying than to find views with which one profoundly disagrees expressed with brilliance and humour. And that is exactly what Hanslick did. Humour, an essential weapon in his armoury, seems to have aided his detractors, Graf chief among them, in reaching____________________
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Publication information: Book title: Music Criticism in Vienna, 1896-1897:Critically Moving Forms. Contributors: Sandra McColl - Author. Publisher: Oxford University. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 1996. Page number: 223.
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