The Music Criticism of Hugo Wolf

By Henry Pleasants; Hugo Wolf | Go to book overview

43. About the
Philharmonic Concerts

March 8, 1885

What of the Philharmonic concerts?

They are obviously headed for disaster. And could it, under the prevailing circumstances, be otherwise? The gentlemen of the Philharmonic, whose motto is by no means Robert le Diable's "Ah, gold is but a chimera," but rather the philosophy of the villainous Iago, "Put money in thy purse," cannot easily make any claim to be taken seriously from a purely artistic point of view.

Granted, man is commonly a slave of circumstances. He must earn money in order to live, and to assure such earnings he must make concessions. Now concessions constitute restrictions of one's freedom, a consequence of insurmountable circumstances. And so we are back where we started: earning money, concessions, restrictions, slavery. But if we look to see in how far this paramount evil, the earning of money, has exercised a damaging influence on the impending artistic crisis of this concert institution, and on the dependent relationsip into which the Philharmonic public could fall as a result of it, we find a phantom, a mirage. For the Philharmonic is, in truth, in the fortunate position of being able to earn money without making concessions. If, despite that. they have not become millionaires, and do not rule the world, or do not own all the shares of the Northern Railroad and all other railroads of Europe and America as yet not nationalized, if despite all that they arc still slaves, is that any reason for offering ever worse programs? Is this Philharmonic Society not just as sovereign as any of the thirty-two monarchies of old Germany? Are they under any outside pressure? Is there a competing orchestra? Are they not free and independent? No. They are slaves, less free than the blacks on the plantations of South America. They are slaves of the vanity and their indolence.

They are slaves of their vanity in that they wish, on the one hand, to be judged according to their virtuoso accomplishments, and on the other, by favoring the works of certain composers who have come to the fore through

-122-

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