Hugo Wolf and the Wagnerian Inheritanceby Amanda Glauert

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  • Hugo Wolf and the Wagnerian Inheritance by Amanda GlauertReview by: Edward F. KravittNotes, Second Series, Vol. 57, No. 1 (Sep., 2000), pp. 138-140Published by: Music Library AssociationStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/899794 .Accessed: 15/06/2014 09:18

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  • NOTES, September 2000 NOTES, September 2000

    general readers and specialists. While the book's scope and readability may cause some to regret missing the conference it- self, such regret simultaneously has been made unnecessary.

    RoYJ. GUENTHER

    George Washington University

    Hugo Wolf and the Wagnerian Inheri- tance. By Amanda Glauert. Cam-

    bridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. [vii, 161 p. ISBN 0-521-49637-3. $54.95.]

    Will Crutchfield maintained in the New York Times (15 July 1999) that Hugo Wolf and others "had to wait a century or more for Fischer-Dieskau to show that [their lieder] held more than specialized appeal." Yet today, Wolf's songs are hardly known outside of Germany and Austria. Amanda Glauert accepted a challenge in advancing her controversial thesis concerning Wolf.

    In chapter 1, Glauert raises the problem faced by late-romantic composers in

    Germany and Austria who were dominated by the "Wagnerian inheritance." She para- phrases Friedrich Nietzsche: "a composer was powerless once he came too near to Wagner" (p. 13). Though it might have been possible to separate oneself from Wagner's influence, the critics- Wagnerians mainly-argued that one should not stray too far from the master. Innovative composers thus faced a double dilemma. Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler, whom Glauert often compares to Wolf, achieved their separation in the "big public genres of opera and symphony"; Wolf selected "artistic escapism ..'. into musical miniatures," away from the wider public, and he won his separation by choos- ing "the easiest medium ... in Nietzsche's words: 'what can be done well today ... is only what is small'" (ibid.). Having desig- nated Wolf's era as "post-Wagnerian," Glauert submits this twofold thesis: Wolf "worked directly with the details of Wagner's style, exploring his language of il- lusion," but "his explorations also repre- sented some of the most potent criticisms of Wagner's music and the claims made for it" (p. 14).

    Chapter 2, "Wagner of the Lied?" may surprise the reader. It addresses Wolf's

    general readers and specialists. While the book's scope and readability may cause some to regret missing the conference it- self, such regret simultaneously has been made unnecessary.

    RoYJ. GUENTHER

    George Washington University

    Hugo Wolf and the Wagnerian Inheri- tance. By Amanda Glauert. Cam-

    bridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. [vii, 161 p. ISBN 0-521-49637-3. $54.95.]

    Will Crutchfield maintained in the New York Times (15 July 1999) that Hugo Wolf and others "had to wait a century or more for Fischer-Dieskau to show that [their lieder] held more than specialized appeal." Yet today, Wolf's songs are hardly known outside of Germany and Austria. Amanda Glauert accepted a challenge in advancing her controversial thesis concerning Wolf.

    In chapter 1, Glauert raises the problem faced by late-romantic composers in

    Germany and Austria who were dominated by the "Wagnerian inheritance." She para- phrases Friedrich Nietzsche: "a composer was powerless once he came too near to Wagner" (p. 13). Though it might have been possible to separate oneself from Wagner's influence, the critics- Wagnerians mainly-argued that one should not stray too far from the master. Innovative composers thus faced a double dilemma. Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler, whom Glauert often compares to Wolf, achieved their separation in the "big public genres of opera and symphony"; Wolf selected "artistic escapism ..'. into musical miniatures," away from the wider public, and he won his separation by choos- ing "the easiest medium ... in Nietzsche's words: 'what can be done well today ... is only what is small'" (ibid.). Having desig- nated Wolf's era as "post-Wagnerian," Glauert submits this twofold thesis: Wolf "worked directly with the details of Wagner's style, exploring his language of il- lusion," but "his explorations also repre- sented some of the most potent criticisms of Wagner's music and the claims made for it" (p. 14).

    Chapter 2, "Wagner of the Lied?" may surprise the reader. It addresses Wolf's

    opera Der Corregidor (1895), not his songs. The reason is to show that Wolf could break away from the great magician, even with opera. In Der Corregidor, Wolf escaped "'from the sombre world-redeeming spec- tre of a Schopenhauerian'" Ring into the Spanish world of "'strumming guitars [and] moonlit nights'" (p. 20; quoted from Hugo Wolfs Briefe an Oskar Grohe [Berlin: C. Fischer, 1905], 30-31; translation from Frank Walker, Hugo Wolf, 2d ed. [London: Dent, 1968], 268). This "alternative view of opera" (p. 20) is built on a lied framework, broadened extensively into operatic struc- ture; analysis of scenes from Der Corregidor, its characters, and Wolf's use of motives leads Glauert to conclude that the opera was "fuelled by dissatisfaction with Wagner" (ibid.). During its composition, however, Wolf wrote to his librettist, Rosa Mayreder, that "without the 'Meistersinger' the music to 'Corregidor' could not have been com- posed. Yes, the 'old magician' showed us youngsters the path we may follow" (Wolf, Briefe an Rosa Mayreder [Vienna: Rikola, 1921], 23; my translation). The paths of Die Meistersinger and Der Corregidor are both far away from the "Schopenhauerian" Ring. Moreover, Wolf could not refrain, as he confided to his librettist, from "always adding new contrapuntal lines" within Corregidor (Wolf, Mayreder, 44; my transla- tion), thus developing in this opera a style akin to the magnificent polyphony of Die Meistersinger.

    In chapter 3, Glauert introduces a debate concerning the late-nineteenth-century lied -the opposition of folklike ideals to freely dramatic styles influenced by Wagner. Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann, among others, deplored composers who abandoned the "ideal" lied, the folk song. The cause for this abandonment was the music drama. It encouraged lied composers -little-known Wagnerians whom Glauert cites-to write "overflowing piano parts to swallow up the voice and dry declamation to replace living song" (p. 37). Wagner himself hinted at another course for the lied in Die Meistersinger; here he "lays out an aesthetic of song on various oppositions between 'closed' and 'free forms'" (p. 39); Glauert identifies Sachs's "Cobbling Song" as a natural, songlike expression and Walter's song in act 1 as free-flowing: "The ideal of song takes centre stage in Meister-

    opera Der Corregidor (1895), not his songs. The reason is to show that Wolf could break away from the great magician, even with opera. In Der Corregidor, Wolf escaped "'from the sombre world-redeeming spec- tre of a Schopenhauerian'" Ring into the Spanish world of "'strumming guitars [and] moonlit nights'" (p. 20; quoted from Hugo Wolfs Briefe an Oskar Grohe [Berlin: C. Fischer, 1905], 30-31; translation from Frank Walker, Hugo Wolf, 2d ed. [London: Dent, 1968], 268). This "alternative view of opera" (p. 20) is built on a lied framework, broadened extensively into operatic struc- ture; analysis of scenes from Der Corregidor, its characters, and Wolf's use of motives leads Glauert to conclude that the opera was "fuelled by dissatisfaction with Wagner" (ibid.). During its composition, however, Wolf wrote to his librettist, Rosa Mayreder, that "without the 'Meistersinger' the music to 'Corregidor' could not have been com- posed. Yes, the 'old magician' showed us youngsters the path we may follow" (Wolf, Briefe an Rosa Mayreder [Vienna: Rikola, 1921], 23; my translation). The paths of Die Meistersinger and Der Corregidor are both far away from the "Schopenhauerian" Ring. Moreover, Wolf could not refrain, as he confided to his librettist, from "always adding new contrapuntal lines" within Corregidor (Wolf, Mayreder, 44; my transla- tion), thus developing in this opera a style akin to the magnificent polyphony of Die Meistersinger.

    In chapter 3, Glauert introduces a debate concerning the late-nineteenth-century lied -the opposition of folklike ideals to freely dramatic styles influenced by Wagner. Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann, among others, deplored composers who abandoned the "ideal" lied, the folk song. The cause for this abandonment was the music drama. It encouraged lied composers -little-known Wagnerians whom Glauert cites-to write "overflowing piano parts to swallow up the voice and dry declamation to replace living song" (p. 37). Wagner himself hinted at another course for the lied in Die Meistersinger; here he "lays out an aesthetic of song on various oppositions between 'closed' and 'free forms'" (p. 39); Glauert identifies Sachs's "Cobbling Song" as a natural, songlike expression and Walter's song in act 1 as free-flowing: "The ideal of song takes centre stage in Meister-

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  • Book Reviews

    singer, but only in the end to be absorbed as a metaphor for the language of music drama" (p. 41). Wolf, particularly in his Italienisches Liederbuch, questioned the kind of effect "closed boundaries" might leave "open" for musical expression: "Instead of limiting the potential for dramatic enact- ment of a text, excluding dramatic tensions to beyond the boundaries of song, Wolf made a closed formal boundary a cue for their inclusion within the immediate devel- opment of the material. The battle to find a balance between formal symmetries and formal expansion was drawn up within song, rather than around it" (p. 46).

    In chapter 4, on Morike-Lieder, Glauert states that Wolf "clearly relished the oppor- tunitv to use some of [Morike's] psycholog- ically tormented poems as vehicles for Wagnerian chromatic harmony" (p. 49). Her long excursion into the Tristanesque harmony of "An den Schlaf" fits her theses well. Wolf honored "the specific images of Morike's poem," which "is quite distinct from Wagner's Tristan" (p. 71), with Wagnerian harmony. But Glauert does not demonstrate here how Wolf's harmonic ex- plorations are potent criticism of Wagner, perhaps because Wolf began here, in this first masterwork, to "carve out an addi- tional role for himself" (p. 78). Yet Wolf created radical harmony beyond Wagner then (1888) and earlier. Upon hearing the first chord of "Seemans Abschied," Anton Bruckner asked Wolf, "where the devil did you get that chord?" (quoted in Max Auer, Anton Bruckner [Vienna: Amalthea-Verlag, 1923], 274; my translation).

    In chapter 5, on Goethe-Lieder, Glauert turns to Wolf's greatest challenge, to match musically the fine balance of form and con- tent in Goethe's poems-a challenge that earlier composers, to Goethe's dismay, al- most invariably failed. Attention in this chapter, the book's longest and most suc- cessful, is on poet and composer in analyses of songs of diverse styles. Here Wagner re- cedes into the background, only to reap- pear centrally in the final chapter-a com- parison of lieder by Mahler, Strauss, and Wolf-which concludes that Wagner's in- fluence marks the lied in "the post- Wagnerian era."

    The twentieth-century identification of the fin de siecle period as the post- Wagnerian era is dated. It overlooks

    Brahms's stature at that time, the Brahms-Wagner controversies, and the anti-Wagnerian, pro-Brahms bias of the great German conservatories (e.g., in Berlin under Heinrich Herzogenberg, in Frankfurt under Iwan Knorr, and in Munich underJoseph Rheinberger). It also fails to recognize that Mahler, Strauss, and Wolf proceeded well beyond Wagner's in- fluence to create early-twentieth-century modernity. And we forget today that the lied, especially between 1900 and 1914, had enormous-rather than only "specialized" -appeal in Germany and Austria. Of more than fifty composers active during those years, nearly all wrote lieder; many com- posed hundreds. The outstanding accom- panist Michael Raucheison reckons that, in Berlin alone, an average of twenty Lieder- abende were offered weekly, and these were generally sold out (Edward F. Kravitt, The Lied: Mirror of Late Romanticism [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996], 20). Wolf's influence on Max Reger, Engelbert Humperdinck, Arnold Schoenberg, Joseph Max, Alban Berg, Othmar Schoeck, and Yryo Kilpinen (Kravitt, p. 5ff.), as well as on lesser-known masters (see Edgar Istel, "Ludwig Thuille," Musical Quarterly 18 [1932]: 467 and Theodor Kroyer, Walter Courvoisier [Munich: Drei Masken, 1929], 34), had become overwhelming.

    More serious is that Glauert omits from her thesis the far-reaching influence of Robert Schumann on the mature songs of Mahler, Strauss, Hans Pfitzner, Reger, and Wolf. She refers only to Susan Youens's chapter on the subject, "'Too Much like Schumann': The Apprenticeship of a Lieder Composer," in Youens's book Hugo Wolf: The Vocal Music [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992]); Walker had de- tailed this influence, providing the provo- cative phrase "Too much like Schumann" -Wolf's own self-criticism (Walker, 63ff.). Nor does Glauert mention other influ- ences, such as Carl Loewe's on Wolf's bal- lads and that of fin de siecle trends.

    Some of the evidence for Glauert's thesis is questionable. She maintains that Wolf re- garded Bruckner's symphonies "as the aridly constrained forms of Brahms's sym- phonic works" (p. 82). But Wolf's review (28 March 1886) states precisely the oppo- site: Bruckner's Seventh Symphony is a "[colossus] compared to the mole hills of

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  • NOTES, September 2000 NOTES, September 2000

    the Brahms symphonies" (Henry Pleasants, ed. and trans., The Mus...

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