The Music Criticism of Hugo Wolf

By Henry Pleasants; Hugo Wolf | Go to book overview

1. Sgambati and Schubert
Rosenthal and Friedheim

January 20, 1884

The most recent Philharmonie 1 concert began with Berlioz's rollicking "Roman Carnival" Overture. The audience discerned in this a welcome salute to Fasching | the carnival season|, and it came off strongly, as always. Robert Fuchs's 2 amiable but hardly original Serenade in C for String Orchestra found less favor. Least successful was a new symphony by Giovanni Sgambati. 3 whose manifold instrumental artifices fell absolutely flat with the Philharmonic's matinee audience.

Sgambati is a pupil of Liszt, resident in Rome. who has done a great deal for the propagation of German music in the Eternal City. In his symphony he travels mostly the strangely twisting paths of his teacher, although here and there his Italian nature asserts itself clearly enough. Of self-sufficient melodic invention this Sgambati novelty can boast precious little, but at the same time intelligence. noble intention and an eager striving for new. individual effects are everywhere in evidence, and to this extent it was most interesting to make the acquaintance of this curious symphony. We know now. at least, how contemporary Italians write symphonies, how they see through their own spectacles the greatest of the art forms taken over by them from the German classicists.

A more striking contrast to Sgambati's symphony can hardly be imagined than a posthumous symphony (No. 6, in C) by our own Franz Schubert, which we heard at the third concert of the Society of the Friends of Music. 4 One could compare the Schubert and Sgambati symphonies with two receptacles. the one filled with the milk of pious reflection, the other with fermenting dragon's venom. The real Franz Schubert, as we love and esteem him. is far from evident in this most recently heard symphony. On the contrary, the great composer appears sometimes as a weak imitator of Weber, subsequently his so antipathetic rival, at other times even as a copyist of Rossini. Pure Schubertian blood pulses only in the freshly surging Scherzo, with its striking reminiscence of his own familiar "Reitermarsch." | Opus 40. No. 3| orchestrated by Liszt. Then, too. this Schubert symphony moves from beginning to end with remorseful cheerfulness so that as we listen we finally find ourselves, like Heine's Tannhaiuser5, earnestly longing for bitterness.

The other numbers were a very noble, very warmly felt Psalm for Soloists. Chorus and Orchestra by Hermann Götz. 6 the prematurely deceased com

-1-

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