The Music Criticism of Hugo Wolf

By Hugo Wolf; Henry Pleasants | Go to book overview
1.
Gustav Walter, probably more decisively even than Julius Stockhausen ( Hermine Spies's teacher) would seem to have established the precedent and the format for the Lieder recital as we know it today. Stockhausen, in Vienna in 1856, had been the first to offer a Schubert song cycle ( "Die schöne Müllerin") complete in public. He repeated the gesture for Schumann in Hamburg in 1861 with "Dichterliebe" (with Brahms at the piano). But he seems always to have had the assisting artist still considered essential if an evening were to have what was still reckoned the requisite variety. " Dichterliebe," for example, was sung in two pans, with Brahms contributing episodes from Schumann's "Kreisleriana" between them. Bülow and Rubinstein, at about the same time, were pioneering with the sole piano recital, but the solo recital without assisting artists did not become commonplace until well into the twentieth century. Note that Rosa Papier in her recital, reviewed in the notice of April 17, had an assisting artist.
2.
Recent research, notably by Eric Sams, puts the number at something closer to 260.
3.
Hermann Riedel ( 1847-1913) was born in Vienna and served for some years as coach at the Court Opera.
4.
A subject close to Wolf's heart, as he himself had set the same Scheffel text just two months earlier, on December 26, 1886.

111. Murdering Harold

April 10, 1887

It takes no special gift of divination to pronounce with the utmost precision, even before the premiere, the fate of a new German opera. One need know neither the title nor even the subject matter. The composer's nationality alone suffices. Is there any need to spell out the fate of Wagner's numerous successors in the field of opera, the still white-hot Armins, Kunihilds Sakuntalas, Urvasis and however — God knows — they are all called? 1

Poor Harold! A splendid title, to be sure, for a grand historic-romantic opera, compared to which Der Ring des Nibelungen must appear almost puny. One can understand a young conservatory student on the battlefield of his bloodthirsty fantasy, and with all the enthusiasm of which such dangerous people are capable, doing Harold in once again, and all for the sake of so imposing a title. 2 Only the motley mob excites the bloodlust of these mass murderers, for they are nulls, aroused to aggression at best by some superficial bauble, among which the nomenclature of their operas plays a far from insignificant role.

But now what in heaven's name could have prompted our excellent chorus director, Herr Pfeffer, 3 to the composition of so absurd and silly a libretto as that here under discussion, a libretto in which there is absolutely nothing that could awake a musical echo in the breast of even the most highly gifted, a

-275-

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