December 7, 1884
The opening work was Hector Berlioz's Overture to Byron's "The Corsair." The composition does not achieve the heights of the gifted Frenchman's great instrumental works, and it is significant that Berlioz, usually capable of uniting the most vivid colors on his palette, could give so little character to the instrumental shading of this overture that one imagines him at work on his painting with a wet sponge rather than his color-saturated brush. (What does Herr Brahms use, one wonders, when orchestrating his symphonies? Compared with Brahms's instrumentation, even Berlioz's (very exceptional) wet sponge is a brush dipped in the colors of a Makart.)
But in the Overture to " The Corsair," Berlioz was unable to evoke those instrumental sounds of nature that so distinguish the "March of the Pilgrims" in "Harold in Italy," the love scene in Romeo and Juliet and the "Scène aux Champs" in the Symphonic Fantastique. And for a very simple reason: the sole true and characteristic motif, or theme, did not occur to him. Without the right theme, the loveliest instrumentation is of no avail.
(Herr Brahms is clever, and orchestrates badly on purpose, lest anyone think that he looks to brilliant instrumentation to disguise the poverty of his ideas. It was on that account, recently, that he was given a fanfare | a pun here on "vertuschen", meaning to disguise, and " Tusch, " meaning a flourish |.
"Yes, by trumpets and tympani!"
"There, you see, you see? Thus is honesty rewarded."
"Yes, yes, composers, there is still justice on this earth. With the motto: 'Honor endures longest when poverty (of ideas) is no disgrace,' compose away. Fanfares will be cheap, clique pays claque, trumpets and tympani, click‐ clack, and longer or shorter, louder or softer, however agreed upon for cheap goods, but always honestly orchestrated! Composers! What prospects! Bring on your piano, violin and bass fiddle concertos! If one has composed a symphony in which a tragic motif occurs, slithering like a 'convulsive worm,' even if it's no good, out with it! It is still not bad enough not to be trumpeted and tympanied. Oh, an innocent in chains must put the most tender-hearted keeper into the mood of a tiger compared with the heartbreaking spectacle of poverty of invention celebrated by tympani rolls and trumpet fanfares."
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Publication information: Book title: The Music Criticism of Hugo Wolf. Contributors: Henry Pleasants - Editor, Hugo Wolf - Author. Publisher: Holmes & Meier. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1978. Page number: 88.