The Music Criticism of Hugo Wolf

By Hugo Wolf; Henry Pleasants | Go to book overview

rival in this role. The transfigured, lovely image of the fabulously enchanting queen is wafted toward us with the first note that Frau Papier attacks. But it is important, too, that the sensual appearance be sustained, and for that the mere mask is not enough, as well as that mask was chosen, and as beautiful as she looked in it. That Frau Papier should have used a red slip of paper to announce her indisposition and request our indulgence I find inexplicable. If indisposition means to be thoroughly in control of the situation, to be in as good voice and spirits as ever, then I would love to experience the evening when Frau Papier informs the public that, on this occasion, she is especially well disposed.


47. Berlioz's
Symphonie Fantastique

April 5, 1885

About the performance of the Symphonie Fantastique of Hector Berlioz at the seventh subscription concert of the Philharmonic Society:

Whatever may have moved the Philharmonic to make an exception, and deviate, at least this once, from their traditional policy vis-à-vis the works of Berlioz, I am content to probe no further for the secret mainsprings that wrought the miracle. Suffice it to say that, at this time, the Symphonie Fantastique was not only announced, but actually was played.

Two factors encourage me to see myself exempted from an analysis of this work, no less gigantic in its plan than in its execution: (1) It may be assumed that Schumann's famous critique 1 is familiar to every music lover, and that (2) the meager success the work enjoyed in the most recent concert calls for a more intensive consideration of our concert life, both in general and in detail.

Before attacking this subject (and it will be an attack, you may rest assured of that), let me call attention once again to Schumann's admirable essay. His unbiased attitude toward this work, his intimate grasp of its poetic substance, his acute analysis in terms both of form and of musical content in which Schumann delivered a very model of music criticism -- and, finally, the generous insights that led him to recognize in Berlioz's procedure, originating in the most intimate compulsion, a decisive advance in instrumental composition honor Schumann the critic no less than Schumann the composer.

Remember, moreover, that Schumann, in preparing this critique, as just as it is intelligent and enlightening, did not even have an orchestral score to assist him in his analysis. He worked from the piano reduction, if Liszt's, to be sure.

-130-

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