The Music Criticism of Hugo Wolf

By Henry Pleasants; Hugo Wolf | Go to book overview
Save to active project

25. A Monologue
Recalled by Hugo Wolf

November 1. 1884

One thoroughly unpleasant night, not long ago, I spied a stranger standing before a kiosk, trying earnestly by the gaslight to decipher the Philharmonic prospectus. I step a little closer, and hear a monologue, now quiet, now agitated, which seemed to contain so much truth that, upon returning to my lodging, I wrote it all down, determined, on some suitable occasion, to publish it. I do so herewith:

"Philharmonic concerts", so he began "probably the same old hackneyed stuff. Let's see, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn good, good. The public loves classical music. It is very cultivated, very serious, very upright, very severe! Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn are actually already too familiar, too melodious, too intelligible. But Bach! Only a violin concerto this time, to be sure, but even if there are no double fugues, no twelve-voiced canons, one can still be sure of some masterly counterpoint" here he mimicked derisively the public's rapture. "Ah, Bach! Yes, of course. That's music! Everything granite, bronze, everywhere deep, elemental, great, exalted, genius!" Then in his natural voice: "Goodness me! I do believe that the Philharmonic audience would rather flounder in the Pontine marshes than hear compositions of this esteemed master if they did not adorn the programs of the Philharmonic. But what does one not suffer for fashion? Bach has become fashionable with the Philharmonic audience, and it is thought good form to tick off all the Bach cantatas with one's fingers and, in the middle of a Mendelssohn Song Without Words, to exclaim: 'Very nice, charming, but why don't you play the St. Matthew Passion, or the St. John, or the Christmas Oratorio, or the Well‐ Tempered Clavier?'

" 'I'll play you the Italian Concerto.'

" 'That's nothing. Play the B minor Mass from memory, or at least from the score.'

" 'Good heavens, the man is cultivated!'

"Innocent soul! Don't believe a word of it. Play your 'Songs Without Words,' for your Bach enthusiast is already scared stiff that you may inadvertently lay out a dozen Bach cantatas on the music rack. He would as soon swallow vitriol as listen to a cantata from beginning to end.


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Music Criticism of Hugo Wolf
Table of contents

Table of contents



Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 291

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?