The Music Criticism of Hugo Wolf

By Hugo Wolf; Henry Pleasants | Go to book overview

My first act was to dash to the mirror. I looked a bit confused. My eyes were somewhat swollen. But for the rest I resembled not in the least that hot‐ blooded and subsequently melancholy Intendant whose fate I had so taken to heart. It was all perfectly clear: I had dreamt. Overcome by the emotion of this happy circumstance, I shed the sweetest tears of thanksgiving and compassion.

1.
A certain poignancy about this fanciful piece resides in the fact that almost exactly a dozen years later, it would be Wolf's delusion of having become the new director of the Court Opera that would reveal to his friends the onset of insanity.

63. Haydn's "Creation"

November 15, 1885

"The Creation" by Haydn. What a spirit of childlike faith speaks from the heavenly pure tones of Haydn's music! Sheer nature, artlessness, perception and sensitivity! It is the mark of his greatness as an artist that when we hear his music we are utterly unaware of the art, and yet what a variety of musical structures encloses his charming tonal pictures!

His extraordinarily keen artistic perception is most conspicuously evident in the field of tone painting, much cultivated in recent times, and now falling into disrepute. And, indeed, we would shudder at the very thought of what a modern composer might do in the handling -- or mishandling -- of a subject offering such opportunities for tone painting as "The Creation" or "The Seasons." There would be so much depiction that we would hear no music. If a modern composer wished, for example, to illustrate chaos, it is certain that we would encounter no triad, unless possibly an augmented one. It would probably fall to a perfect fifth to defray the musical expenses of such a vision.

(If we could suppose that the good Lord had consecutive fifths ringing in his ears at his first glimpse of chaos, then it would follow that justified self-defense rather than wantonness or malice, as some philosophers have suggested, prompted his desperate decision, in the ridiculously short span of seven days, to inflict so much evil upon the world. An ordinary piece of cotton wool to be sure, could have rendered the same service, but there were no trees at that time, nor plantation owners. The cotton wool industry still dreamt peacefully in the womb of chaos, and Jaeger shirts rightly were still a chimera. 1 0, happy days of chaos!)

Still, one could live with this diabolical expressive device if only that had been the end of it, for today dissonances and shrill instrumental effects fall like hail about our ears, and the orchestra moans and groans until one is ready to

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