The Music Criticism of Hugo Wolf

By Henry Pleasants; Hugo Wolf | Go to book overview
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No. 79 of Die Heimkehr, " Doch die Kastraten klagten," which, its three verses reduced to prose, tells us that "The eunuchs complained when I raised my voice, finding it too coarse. Then they raised their own little voices, and the trilling was like crystal, so pure and fine. They sang of the pinings and effusions of love. The ladies swam in tears at such artistic delight." Wolf has merely changed the opening" They" of the last verse to"He." This was not Walter's first Lieder recital. See notice of February 2, 1884 and footnote.

36. The Blinkered on Blinking

January 18, 1885

To a professional musician concerned primarily with the vocal art of the performer, Herr Vogl's convulsive blinking would be a matter of indifference. In the opinion of the music critic Dp this lamentable circumstance "proved insuperable to this performer's considerable artistry."

The professional musician, destined by a dire fate to be a music critic, too, will stick to what is relevant and pertinent, in contrast to our esthetically cultivated music critics who indulge themselves so happily in abstract hair‐ splitting and who, when they turn to something concrete, note immediately, and with uncommon critical perception, that, for example, Herr Vogl's important dramatic talent cannot shine brightly enough because too heavily overshadowed by the unfortunate, involuntary, convulsive activity of his eyelashes -- a discovery Christopher Columbus most assuredly would have made had he not carelessly chosen to live at a time when only something so utterly commonplace as a piece of the earth was waiting to be discovered.

In the most recent performance of Tannhäuser, Fräulein Schläger was decked out in a pink ball gown of the most modern cut. Venus in a corset! How charming! It's a pity that Venus-Schläger forgot fan and gloves, thus giving an impression of niggardly outfitting. The Venusberg scene had, on the whole, a tolerable ballroom gaiety of the kind that always prevails before the formal dances begin. Oddly enough, the anticipated quadrille never took place, although there were certainly enough couples. But the loving couples -- nymphs, fauns, satyrs and bacchantes -- have disappeared, leaving Venus and Tannhäuser behind alone.

Aha! I thought to myself, now we'll have a pas de deux, a polonaise or a waltz in three-step or six-step, a French polka or something of that sort. Deceived again! Instead of the anticipated dance music we had the sensual song of the sirens. My God, what can be the meaning of that? Are we not at a bal masqué in the Sophiensaal or the Grosser Musikvereinssaal, or at the Opera Ball? Oh yes, we are at the Opera Ball all right, but something is wrong. We are sitting in the parterre, and separated by the orchestra from that


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The Music Criticism of Hugo Wolf
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