Music Criticisms, 1846-99

Music Criticisms, 1846-99

Music Criticisms, 1846-99

Music Criticisms, 1846-99

Excerpt

Although this is simply a selection of Eduard Hanslick's reviews and essays, the discerning reader will find, I believe, elements of a drama unique in the history of music. It is no accident that Hanslick alone, of all Wagner's contemporary adversaries, is still remembered. Nietzshe, as a reformed Wagnerite, was an added starter, and his opposition hadn't the dignity of Hanslick's lifelong resistance to 'the music of the future'. Nor has Nietzsche today the distinction of serving as the historical example of the critical reactionary.

It is characteristic of the tragedy of Hanslick that even contemporary musical historians are inclined to direct their readers' sympathies to Wagner rather than to Hanslick. This can be attributed partly to habit. The critic is seldom the popular favourite in an engagement with an artist of compelling qualities, let alone a genius. But it is more fundamentally attributable to ignorance, particularly with respect to English language historians and critics, few of whom have had the opportunity of knowing Hanslick as well as they know Wagner. During the greater part of his career, Hanslick's battle was defensive. Wagner was a popular idol, and Hanslick knew that his cause was hopeless, that the verdict of his own time was against him, and that immediate posterity was unlikely to reverse it. But he fought to the last, strong in his convictions and his sense of moral obligation to serve what he considered the best interests of the art to which he had dedicated his life.

He seldom referred to this aspect of his career, and when he did so it was usually by way of apology for statements which he later felt might have been biased by personal bitterness and a sense of . . .

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