Hans Von Bülow: A Life and Times

By Alan Walker | Go to book overview

Britannia Scorned,
1878–1879:
Encounters and Skirmishes in
‘The Land without Music’

A journey in a fog

—Bülow1


I

When Bülow left Britain, in January 1878, in order to resume his duties in Hanover, his reputation throughout the country stood at its zenith. Had he never gone back, he would have continued to carry the admiration of the nation with him. He did go back, however, and built up resentment among the English because of his sharp tongue and abrasive comments. Undoubtedly his nerves were fretted by the ongoing tensions in the Hanover theatre; and his tribulations could hardly have been eased by the arrival of a dismal English winter, making travel through the prov inces, much of it at night, a difficult business. For whatever reason, the moment he set foot in Britain again, in November 1878, he began to hold forth in a series of musical ‘Travelogues’ for publication in the Leipzig Signale, which were critical of musical life in this country. They appeared under the general title of ‘Autocritical Notes of a Journey in a Fog’, and were translated into English and reprinted in British journals.2 Bülow sent

1. The title of Bülow’s travel diary in England. BAS (part 2), p. 180.

2. Notably in The Musical World and The London Figaro. They were also reprinted in Dwight’s Journal of Music for the benefit of American readers. These polemical ‘Travelogues’ were written at the invitation of Bülow’s longtime colleague Bartholf Senff, the editor of the Leipzig Signale. Such ‘letters from abroad’ had a long literary tradition. Liszt had written his ‘Letters of a Bachelor of Music’, while travelling through Switzerland and Italy in the 1830s.

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