The Music Criticism of Hugo Wolf

By Henry Pleasants; Hugo Wolf | Go to book overview

tale. And now Liszt! The indefatiguable champion of Wagner and Berlioz, not to mention other excellent composers, forever at work with pen and baton, standing firm, patient and, in the end, victorious against all envy and slander.

Who could fail to admire such selflessness, such unenvious devotion to the work of similarly motivated rivals? Must we not love him, honor him? Therefore let us treasure faithfully his sacred memory, gather around the banner that the master flourished so successfully and victoriously against the insignificant skeptics, and above all: Let us follow resolutely in the paths the immortal trod during his earthly existence; let us preserve the heritage of his genius, protect the precious treasure, and may his spirit reign benevolently over us!


88. Fidelio with Materna

October 24, 1886

Rarely does a critic have a chance to cover an evening at the opera and enjoy it, too. For that you need two things: a good work and a good production. We had both, as a welcome curiosity, in last Sunday's performance of Fidelio. Beethoven's only opera, as a glance at the repertoire will tell you, cannot be numbered among our public's favorites, spoiled rotten as that public is by Der Trompeter von Säkkingen. Still, it filled the house in a manner most welcome to the box office.

Frau Materna's Leonore was not so good as usual. It was much better. The consistency with which she approaches utter perfection is truly astounding. The crude theater cloak on which, until recently, she was wont to ascend to a considerable altitude, assisted by a small quantity of hydrogen (colophony in the language of the theater), has shrunk noticeably. But her wings have grown, and however high she now soars above the valleys of the false and the conventional, reveling, too, in the purest ether of the eternally true and beautiful, we shall wish her well.

Whoever saw and heard Frau Materna on this occasion, and who followed her performance attentively, will surely not find this praise excessive. I am not speaking of details, nor of the lyrical warmth and dramatic fire with which she sang the big aria, nor of the unearthly radiance of the reassuring human tones flooding the dark prison walls, nor of how an entire heaven settled over the rescued pair in the joyously pulsating duet with Florestan, in which all the artist's wild impetuosity exploded. Neither do I speak of the uncommonly discreet character of her impersonation, in contrast to the now customary histrionic excesses of most singers undertaking this role. No, it was none of all

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