The Music Criticism of Hugo Wolf

By Henry Pleasants; Hugo Wolf | Go to book overview

Don Giovanni. Close your eyes, and those warm, sensuous tones conjure up the vision of Donna Anna's luxuriant beauty. It is as if one were wandering in orange groves, drinking in their enchanting fragrance and dreaming of fabulously beautiful women. A divinity speaks from those tones, emerging from the mortal frame of Frau Wilt. Capricious fate! Envious gods! Prudent caution, yes, prudent caution shall I call you who separated voice and appearance, as sharply contrasted as night and day. For if the two were merged harmoniously, Frau Wilt would have been the apple of discord of all nations, and a modern Iliad would surely have come to pass. Time has not been unkind to her voice [she was fifty-three]. Only the artificially induced showiness from time to time contests the brilliance of her voice, but ever and again the warm gold shines through in all its magic. Minute-long ovations. The singer was honored as she can hardly have been at the peak of her career. And she thoroughly earned it.

1.
A famous Viennese amusement park.
2.
Minna Walter ( 1863-1901), who became a full-fledged member of the company in 1887, and remained through the season of 1888-1889. She was the daughter of Gustav Walter, the tenor.

70. The Bruckner Quintet —
Sarasate

January 10, 1886

Anton Bruckner's Quintet1 is one of those rare artistic phenomena blessed with the capacity to utter a profound secret in a simple, sensible way, in contrast to the usual procedure, much favored by our modern "masters," of clothing simple, everyday thoughts in the enigmatic utterances of oracles.

Bruckner's music flows full-bodied and rich from the clear fountain of a childlike spirit. One can say of any of his works: "It sounded so old, and was yet so new." 2 This is thanks to a strong, popular strain that emerges everywhere in his symphonic compositions, sometimes overtly, sometimes hidden. How charming, for example, is the Ländler-like trio of the Quintet! How well the composer, for all his earthiness, knows how to play the gentleman of distinction, sometimes by a harmonic deviation or a bit of ingenious counterpoint, by a more richly colored instrumentation or a surprising inversion of themes, etc.

-179-

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