The Music Criticism of Hugo Wolf

By Henry Pleasants; Hugo Wolf | Go to book overview

89. Remembering Liszt
and Weber

October 31, 1886

In observance of the centenary of Carl Maria von Weber's birth and of Franz Liszt's death, both the Society of Friends of Music and the Philharmonic Society felt called upon, in the selection of their programs, to depart at least a hairsbreadth from memory's well-trodden lane, and to offer, by way of a change, something "new."

As far as Weber is concerned, so rare an undertaking had some success. One plunged courageously into the enchanted forest of romanticism. Was that not Oberon's magic horn? And once again, how sweetly alluring — do we not wish to listen? — "gone, gone!" But there: glistening weapons, chargers, brave knights, modest ladies, the din of drums and timpani, the rustling of leaves, the ripple of waves — do we not wish to tarry by Euryanthe's side? Allons enfants! Truly, such resolution would do honor even to the bravest Indian at the martyr's stake. After some vexation, we arrived finally at the extreme edge of the romantic wilderness. We dug hurriedly, and the treasure was quickly recovered. "Kampf und Sieg" ["Struggle and Victory," a cantata (Opus 4) commemorating the Battle of Waterloo] was the reward of this daring expedition. (There's a moral in it for our worthy Kapellmeister. If he has lost the capacity to understand it, "he makes me sad, and I feel sorry for him."). In all the haste one forgot, unfortunately, to recover the Jubel-Overture [ Opus 59], too, and that was stupid. This overture would have been uniquely appropriate as the opening number for the festive occasion. In its stead we had a "Funeral Oration" by Richard Wagner.1 It is not, indeed, a funeral oration, but, announced as such in the program, it was found fitting to inaugurate a jubilee.

But to find a perverse world illustrated in the crassest manner, just look at the program for the Liszt memorial: "Les Préludes," a Hungarian Rhapsody, Piano Concerto, etc. If the intention was to clothe Carl Maria von Weber's centenary ceremony in funeral attire, the idea with Liszt would seem to have been the utmost gaiety. Everything was there except the "Soirées de Vienne" and a czardas or two. Thus Vienna and the Society of Friends of Music chose to honor the men to whom they owe so much, who so often labored in their behalf. And so again, "Les Préludes," and again and again, and after thousands upon thousands of years, and for all eternity, in heaven and hell, in

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