Hans Von Bülow: A Life and Times

Hans Von Bülow: A Life and Times

Hans Von Bülow: A Life and Times

Hans Von Bülow: A Life and Times


Hans von B low is a key figure in 19th century music whose career path was as broad as it was successful. Music history's first virtuoso orchestral conductor, B low created the model for the profession-both in musical brilliance and in domineering personality-which still holds forth today. He was an eminent and renowned concert pianist, a respected (and often feared) teacher and music critic, an influential editor of works by Bach, Mendelssohn, Chopin, and Beethoven, and a composer in a variety of musical genres. As a student and son-in-law of Franz Liszt, and estranged friend of Richard Wagner (for whom his wife Cosima famously left him), B low is intricately connected with the canonical greats of the period. Yet despite his critical and lasting importance for orchestral music, B low's life and significant achievements have yet to be heralded in biographical form.

In Hans von B low: A Life and Times, Alan Walker, the acclaimed author of numerous award-winning books on the era's iconic composers, provides the first full-length English biography of this remarkable musical figure. Walker traces B low's life in illuminating and engaging detail, from the first piano lessons of his boyhood days, to his first American tour, to his last days as conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic. Unearthing B low's extensive and previously unavailable correspondence and writings, Walker conveys amusing and informative anecdotes about this unique musical legend- from his sardonic and clever personality to his meticulous devotion to his work-and reveals enlightening insights on the still-contested sensibilities of musical-compositional style and "idea" at play in the vibrant musical world of which B lowwas a part.


From Alpha to Omega, he is Music personified.
—Franz Liszt

In Art there are no trivial things.

Hans von Bülow once arrived in a small German town to give a piano recital. He was informed by the somewhat nervous organizers that the local music critic could usually be counted on to give a good review, provided that the artist first agreed to take a modestly priced lesson from him. Bülow pondered this unusual situation for a moment, and then replied, ‘He charges such low fees he could almost be described as incorruptible’. On another occasion Bülow got back to his London hotel after dark. As he was climbing the dimly lit staircase, he collided with a stranger hurrying in the opposite direction. ‘Donkey!’ exclaimed the man angrily. Bülow raised his hat politely, and replied, ‘Hans von Bülow’!

Volumes could be filled with the wit and wisdom of Hans von Bülow, and the biography that follows teems with examples. His banter was woven into the very weft and weave of his complex personality. He had, moreover, the enviable gift of instant retort. A gentleman eager to be seen in his company once observed Bülow taking a morning stroll. He overtook the great musician, but was unsure of how to introduce himself. Finally he thought of something to say. ‘I’ll bet you don’t remember who I am.’ ‘You just won your bet’, replied Bülow, and walked on. Equally withering were Bülow’s observations on the follies of everyday life. Having

1. WLLM, p. 397.

2. Weimarer Zeitung, issue of December 16, 1880.

3. These and other Bülow anecdotes have come down to us in a variety of forms and from a variety of sources. The main ones will be found in BBLW, pp. 276–91; and BA, pp. 210–16.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.