The Music Criticism of Hugo Wolf

By Henry Pleasants; Hugo Wolf | Go to book overview

riana." But all in all, we could rejoice wholeheartedly in the gifts offered to us from Robert Schumann by Anton Rubinstein in this delightful way.

There was a lot of variety in the last concert by the Hellmesberger Quartet. Two string quartets, a piano trio and two vocal numbers. We musicians would have been content with Beethoven's Opus 127 without the rest. We are, of course, gourmets, not gourmands, and what does not taste of nectar and ambrosia gives us a bellyache. A musical menu spiced by two Brahms compositions cannot but make us thoroughly ill. To avoid that misfortune we were clever enough to let one of those pieces, the Quartet in A minor, fall under the table, sensing that the other would be hard enough to keep down. Thus we heard only the "Ständchen, "sung by Herr Winkelmann. What with Herr Winkelmann's distinct enunciation, it was not surprising that we lost the sense of the poem. The lover, presumably, is complaining to his beloved about his boredom, his despair and his toothache. Herr Brahms, who has hardly a rival when it comes to the characterization of such moods and afflictions, has again given a brilliant example of his eminent ability to master a situation with a few short strokes. How beautifully, in this "Ständchen," is boredom expressed! How eloquent is its language! The effect was also surprising. One yawned to one's heart's content. And with what mastery was the transition from boredom to despair prepared and executed! One would have liked to tear one's hair out by the roots in sheer delight. Now despair, now boredom, and this in a degree of perfection possibly only with a master of Brahms's significance.

Volkmann's Trio in F (probably a posthumous work) is better suited to the classroom than to the concert hall. Volkmann wrote much better things than this. One should choose from among them. Schubert's "Auf dem Strom" was pretty exhausting. Herr Winkelmann's monotonous interpretation contributed no less than the ghastly length of the composition to a feeling of utter fatigue. What complaints had not to be overcome, how long had we to grope around in spiritual darkness before the long-awaited E flat triad brought light? But the sun rose, and Beethoven spoke to the congregation, and disclosed to them the wonders of his fantasy.


67. Chopin Recital

December 13, 1885

"As popular as some of the works of that master may already be whom we propose to discuss, and whose strength had been broken by severe illness long

-173-

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