The Music Criticism of Hugo Wolf

By Henry Pleasants; Hugo Wolf | Go to book overview

94. Serenades and Boredom

December 5, 1886

In order, by way of a change, to draw a new and unfamiliar subject into the realm of our critique, let us turn once again to Theobald Kretschmann's thirty orchestra concerts. A fifth of this onerous passage has already been covered — and with some success. The orchestra is still at full strength, the conductor resolute and utterly determined to see it through. There will be no capitulation [if only] for the simple reason that the hoped-for siege will not take place. If it were to do so, Herr Kretschmann and a mere half of his cohorts would be able to throw the besiegers back before the very portals of the concert hall — or there are no more serenades for strings.

The successes enjoyed by Robert Fuchs's [serenades] leave our "favorites" not an hour's repose, and terrible must be the symptoms when the brains of serenade composers begin to experience labor pains. What pitiable objects are they then! How they groan and croak and whine and weep and yawn like post boxes, all expectency for things that should come but do not. To rid oneself of such afflictions, really nothing but pure boredom, there are means enough, at once pleasurable and innocent. But serenade composers, who live not for themselves, but for the general public, can do nothing with innocence and pleasure. And so, instead of uniting to attack boredom, or to sleep it off, drink it off, loaf it off or gamble it off (a sure-fire device), they write it off in serenades, and render publishers, conductors, musicians, critics and all that have ears (and critics do have ears, don't they?) miserable.

Herr Dr. Johannes Brahms, who also deals in serenades, but who, as Ludwig II (as Bülow jokingly called him), happily distinguishes himself from serenade specialists by his universality, can hardly confine himself to this one grateful genre as a means of coping with his own portion of boredom. He reckons that he owes it to his fame to impregnate every form of instrumental and vocal music with that precious sensation, on which account he has recently taken to composing symphonies — to the great satisfaction of our worthy Hofkapellmeister, Dr. Hans Richter.

But getting back to Kretschmann's orchestra concert, to deny that Herr Kretschmann and his cohorts still dominate the battlefield long after the audience has begun a disciplined retreat would be a falsehood, and we shall leave to one side the question as to whether or not this premature longing for movement and fresh air may be attributed to a mysterious interreaction of the

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