The Music Criticism of Hugo Wolf

By Henry Pleasants; Hugo Wolf | Go to book overview

90. The Kretschmann Concerts

November 7, 1886

The greatest musical event of this season is the series of thirty orchestra concerts under the direction of Herr Theobald Kretschmann.

Thirty orchestra concerts! Might one not as easily believe in the wonders of "A Thousand and One Nights" as in the feasibility of so adventurous an undertaking? A foreigner utterly unfamiliar with the circumstances of musical life in Vienna, were he to fall victim to such a sublime idea, would be an object of pity or the target of bad jokes, assuming that anyone took the slightest notice at all. Beyond that, he would hardly arouse the curiosity of our amiable public as to the why and wherefore of such an improbable enterprise. One would say: He is unfamiliar with local conditions, and, in this case, that would be "wisdom's last word."1

With Herr Kretschmann, however, a veteran member of our opera orchestra, one may assume that he is sufficiently initiated in the mysteries of our cultural life to be fully aware of the perils — one is tempted to say even the lunacy — of such an unheard-of (but, one hopes, not unheard) project. Herr Kretschmann knows how things stand, musically, in our city. He knows, for example, that of ten Philharmonic concerts nine are packed to the rafters and that the tenth will usually be played to empty seats, even if all the angels in heaven were participating and the composer the dear God himself. He knows that things are not much better with the non-subscription concerts of the Society of Friends of Music. He knows that only such music is found interesting as is played in subscription concerts, and that the quality of such music, as far as it affects attendance by the greater part of our enlightened public, is, as the jurists say, irrelevant. He knows that if fashion dictates bowling at Gause's or ices at Demels on Sunday between one oclock and two-thirty, all will stream to those places, always assuming that such delicacies are to be had on subscription.

What, then, can have moved Herr Kretschmann, under such suspicious circumstances, to put on thirty orchestra concerts? Not, certainly, faith in all‐ benevolent art! Any such presumption, today, has about it, for musician and public alike, something too offensive to be taken seriously. But maybe Herr

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