Academic journal article Fontes Artis Musicae

Paul Wittgenstein's Voice and Richard Strauss's Music: Discovering the Musical Dialogue between Composer and Performer: To Daniel Ng Yat Chiu (1937-2013) for His Generous and Ongoing Support of Music and Music Research

Academic journal article Fontes Artis Musicae

Paul Wittgenstein's Voice and Richard Strauss's Music: Discovering the Musical Dialogue between Composer and Performer: To Daniel Ng Yat Chiu (1937-2013) for His Generous and Ongoing Support of Music and Music Research

Article excerpt

In his collection of essays and editorials on music and performance, Richard Taruskin has suggested that composers at the turn of the twentieth century began to forge an unbreakable connection between artistic creativity embodied in the concept of the musical work and the musical text as represented by the score. (2) Spurred by the positivistic aspects of neoclassical modernism, this newly fashioned amalgamation swiftly solidified a socially accepted hierarchy of artistic personalities. On opposite poles of this artistic pecking order of musical authority around the fin-de-siecle, we found, according to Nicholas Cook, composers producing works stimulated and governed by divine inspiration, and their admiring concert-going audience. (3) The performer, who faithfully interprets the composer's intention and mediates the indelible significance of the musical text for the general public, occupies the intermediate space. This emerging linear construct was squarely aimed at regulating not only our musical attitudes but also our social practices. The immediate consequence, according to Taruskin, was a clear-cut line of demarcation, an aesthetic and practical dictate that demanded a hard and fast distinction between the creative and recreative roles. In turn, this partition was polemically fortified, patrolled and enforced by the work-based ideology of the newly christened disciplines of musicology and music theory. (4) The transcriptions and arrangements produced by the piano virtuoso Paul Witt genstein (1887-1961), however, freely peregrinate across this line of demarcation dividing the performing and composing roles. Wittgenstein's promising conventional career was dramatically cut short by events of WWI. (5) On reconnaissance patrol during the Austrian army's first advance into Poland, he was severely wounded and suffered the amputation of his right arm in August 1914. Remarkably, Wittgenstein continued his performing career by commissioning the leading composers of his time to address his special abilities on the concerto and chamber music stage. Empowered by almost limitless financial resources and an uncompromising sense of ownership, his amalgamation of the scholarly and artistic in the name of tradition and imagination not only informed the creation of a substantially enriched solo, chamber, and concerto repertory but also decisively contributed to a transmutation of musical patronage. (6)

Along with the Bosendorfer, Dumba, Wertheimstein, and Arnstein families, the Wittgensteins stood, in fin-de-siecle Vienna, at the forefront of the cultured bourgeoisie. (7) Johannes Brahms, Clara Schumann, Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler, Arnold Schoenberg, Pablo Casals, Eduard Hanslick, and Max Kalbeck were amongst a whole host of luminaries that frequented the Palais Wittgenstein. In imitation of aristocratic mannerisms, the Wittgensteins freely and generously dabbled in artistic patronage. Paul's father, Karl Wittgenstein, the majority shareholder of the first Austrian Iron and Steel conglomerate, paid 120,000 Kronen (then roughly 30,000 US dollars), towards the construction of the 'Secession' building, the 1897 exhibition hall for the Vienna Secession designed by Joseph Maria Olbrich. In return, Kurt Hoffmann designed two administrative buildings and redecorated Wittgenstein's 'Hochreith' hunting lodge in Lower Austria. Karl also purchased, at the Vienna Art Show in 1908, the most lavish and most expensive single object produced by the Wiener Werkstatte; a showcase with a solid silver body decorated with enamel and moonstones designed by Carl Otto Czeschka. (8) In addition, Karl's daughter, Margaret Wittgenstein-Stonborough, not only posed for Gustav Klimt in 1904 but also had her Berlin apartment designed and furnished by Hoffmann and Moser in 1905. (9) In fact, the purchases of the extended Wittgenstein family accounted for roughly 12.5 percent of the total sales volume of the Wiener Werkstatte between 1903 and 1905. (10) It is therefore not surprising that Paul Wittgenstein would, in order to rejuvenate his career, adopt the system and mechanisms of patronage his father and favorite uncle Paul so vigorously practiced. …

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