German Opera Since Wagner
( Originally Published 1905 )
Goldmark.—Among those opera composers wh. are not direct imitators of Wagner, Carl Goldmark ( eszthely;, Hungary, 1830) is the most noted. Son of a ca tor in a synagogue, he showed decided musical taste while still a child, and at twelve played the violin in public. After a few conservatory lessons at Vienna, he was forced to ake his own way, and live on the small salary obtained i theatre orchestras. He taught himself piano and singing, and was soon able to teach others also. He trained himsel by reading the scores of the great master-works. In p rely orchestral composition, his first success came with she "Sakuntala" overture, inspired by the story of the Orien gal nymph of that name, who is wooed, forgotten, and found again by the Indian king, Dushianta. Later overtures are "Penthesilea," "Spring," "Prometheus Bound," and "Italy." Gold-mark wrote two symphonies, the first ("Rustic edding") resembling a suite of tone-pictures, while the se.ond is in stricter form. He has also published a violin con_c rto, some chamber works, and vocal pieces. His music is arked by richness of harmony and warmth cf instrumental coloring.
Goldmark's Operas.—His first opera was the "Sueen of Sheba," dealing with the infatuation of Assad for it at queen, at the court of King Solomon. Its scenes of splendid festivity and dramatic power, and its delightful music, won it an immense success, and Goldmark was nicknam d "Court Composer to the Queen of Sheba." "Merlin," his next work, is based on that wizard's love for Vivia e, in the days of King Arthur. It contains much noble usic, but the libretto is weak and confused. "Heimchen am Herd" is an example of the style of Folk-opera introduced by Humperdinck. It is a setting of Dickens' "Cricket on the Hearth," and its music shows a most delightful freshness and charm. "Die Kriegsgefangene" treats the story of Achilles and Briseis with much expressive power, while "Götz von Berlichingen" is a setting of Goethe's novel of that title. "Der Fremdling" (The Stranger) is a manuscript work.
Humperdinck. — Engelbert Humperdinck (Bonn, Germany, 1854) won a remarkable success with his Folk-opera "Hansel and Gretel," a work which has almost founded a new school in Germany. Humperdinck studied architecture at first, but at Hiller's advice took up music. "Hansel and Gretel" is the story of two poor children who are left in the woods by their stepmother. They find a gingerbread house, inhabited by a witch who wishes to eat them; bu Gretel pushes her into her own oven, and frees all the child en previously under her spells. The greatness of this wi rk, like that of Weber's operas, in their day, lies in its unio of the popular Folk-song style with the richness of moder orchestration. The music is fresh and tuneful, with an a pealing sincerity that carries it directly to the heart. At period when other composers seemed able to produce not ~ ing but weak imitations of Wagner's operas, this work on universal recognition. Humperdinck has produced seve al other fairy operas, such as "Dornrôschen," "Die König inder," "Saint-Cyr," and "Die Sieben Geislein," but none of them has gained any lasting success.
Kienzl. — Another composer of originality is Wilhelm Kienzl (Waizen-Kirchen, Austria, 1857). He studied at Graz, Prague, Leipzig, and, finally, with Liszt, at Weimar. He, too, served as conductor in small theatres. is first opera, "Urvasi," is based on an East Indian subject. Its music is brilliant, but lacking in dramatic effect. ` Heilmar der Narr" deals with the magic healing qualifies of a seventh son, who forfeits his power if rewarded; I e cures his sweetheart, but loses his gift because he wins he , where-upon she sacrifices herself to bring back his skill. Kienzl's greatest work is "Der Evangelimann," treating of a true story of two brothers in a small Austrian hamle Both love the same girl, Martha, but she prefers I athias. Johannes, out of jealousy, sets fire to a house wI ere the lovers are meeting, and denounces Mathias as t e incendiary. Martha tries in vain to save him, and h- is imprisoned for twenty years. At the end of this term, Johannes, who has been prosperous and respected fronted on his death-bed by Mathias, who forgi This opera has been given in many countries, and t into several languages.. Its music shows much force, and goes far to redeem those scenes in th. that are lacking in action. A fourth opera by Kie tragi-comedy "Don Quixote."
Schillings.—Among the composers who have modelled their works on those of Wagner is Max Schillings (Duren, Germany, 1868). He studied law at first, like Schumann, but soon turned to music, and became one of Wagner's active assistants at Bayreuth. His "Ingwelde" is one of the many Viking operas that have followed in the lead of "Tristan and Isolde," and aimed at effects of dramatic power. Ingwelde is forced by a careless oath to follow Klause, enemy of her husband, Gest. Bran, Klause's brother, loves her also, and kills Klause. She returns to Gest, but Bran follows and kills him too, after which the pair die together. "Der Pfeifertag," a later work, is evidently inspired by "Die Meistersinger." It is a confused account of various adventures on "Pipers' Day," a mediæval festival. The chief episodes are the reduction of an excessive toll paid by the pipers, the pretended death of one of that Guild, who thus obtains a eulogy from a rival, and the union of two pairs of lovers. The music, though worthy, can hardly stand comparison with that of the great work upon which the opera was modelled.
Cyrill Kistler (Augsburg, Germany, 1848) was at one time thought to be Wagner's real successor, but nearly all his works are now laid aside. They show an evident striving after musical grandeur, but are not wholly successful in attaining that effect. Kistler studied with Lachner and others at Munich, but became a Wagner enthusiast in spite of their formal training. In his first opera, "Kunihild," the heroine is wooed by one of three brothers, who is successful in the magic ride necessary to win her. But there has been a feud between the houses, and another brother, to prevent the marriage, kills the bridegroom. A comic opera, "Eulenspiegel," preceded by ten years the symphonic poem of Strauss. "Baldurs Tod" is based on the beautiful Norse Saga of the Sun-God. "Im Honigmond" is a smaller work, in romantic style. A more important production in the same vein is "Röslein im Hag," which bids fair to be successful. "Der Vogt von Mühlstein" is a work of still more recent date.
August Bungert (Mühlheim, Germany, 1846) st Cologne and Paris, taking up composition at Berli the renowned Fr. Kiel. He has produced a ligh "Die Studenten von Salamanca," a "Tasso" overt the symphonic poem "Auf der Wartburg." But work has been the composition of a Hexalogy, o six operas, on Homeric subjects. The first two, "' and "Klytemnestra," are from the Iliad, while the furnishes the material for "Kirke," "Nausikaa," " Heimkehr," and "Odysseus Tod." The abiding beauty of the old Greek poems has been faithfully preserve in the librettos, and the music has reflected, to some degree, the noble dignity of these epics. The first three work of the Odyssey cycle have been given, and have produce. an excellent impression on the critics.
D'Albert.—In Eugen d'Albert (Glasgow, Scotland, 1864), we find a man of real musical gifts. He studied under such men as Stainer and Prout in England, but he claims that his true musical education began only in later days, under Richter and Liszt. He has won international fame as a pianist, and has shown real musicianship in his purely orchestral works. These include two concertos for piano, one for violoncello, the "Esther" and "Hyperion" overtures, and a worthy symphony ; all showing harmonic beauty and richness of color, without any inflation or exaggerated effects. His first opera, "The Ruby," tells of a princess imprisoned in the form of that magic gem, but released by a poor young man who wins her. "Ghismonda" deals with the love of a princess for a young man of low degree, but noble character. On being surprised with the princess, he dies rather than reveal her love for him, but she proclaims his chivalry to the world. "Gernot" is an elfin opera, with much delicate music. "Die Abreise" shows the reconciliation of a married couple who have begun to drift apart, and the departure of the over-amorous cavalier who tried to widen the breach for his own purposes. "Kain" is a weirdly effective one-act drama, of the realistic school. "Der Improvisator" has for its libretto a rather weak arrangement of Hugo's "Angelo, Tyrant of Padua," while "'Tiefland" is founded on a Spanish tale, in which true love triumphs over the schemes of a wicked Alcalde.
Hugo Wolf (Vienna, Austria, 1860-Vienna, 1912) had a constant struggle with poverty, and enjoyed but a short period of fame before yielding to insanity and death. His opera, "Der Corregidor," is a delightful work, comic vein, and the humorous scenes on the stage are trea ed with remarkable animation and skill in the orchestra. he Corregidor is a Spanish magistrate, who is too much smitten with Frasquita, the beautiful wife of the miller, Ti Lucas. The pair play him many tricks, and the opera ends ith his discomfiture before his own consort. Wolf's fame s much increased by the rare power and beauty of his man songs. Especially worthy of note are the "Feuerreiter," Gebet," "Gesang Weylas," and the "Italienisches Liederbuc ." His symphonic poem, "Penthesilea," is another importa t work. His style is sometimes bizarre and involved, but his themes are always effective and significant.
Other Composers.—Max Brach (Cologne, German , 1838) studied under Hiller, Reinecke, and Breuning. lis chief opera, "Hermione," is not important, but he has •n lasting fame by the breadth and nobility of his epic .antatas, such as "Frithjof," "Odysseus," "Arminius," and others. His concertos and serenade for violin are favoritï works with soloists. Ludwig Thuille, a friend of Strauss, s given high praise by musicians, and his new opera "G geline" has been well received. Heinrich Zollner has won a popular success by his setting of Hauptmann's delicate pla , "The Sunken Bell." Hans Pfitzner has produced an xcellent work in his romantic forest-opera; "Die Rose vom Liebesgarten." Leo Blech's "Alpenkbnig and Menschenfei d" has received numerous performances, while E. Klose s fairy opera, "Ilsebill," is a worthy example of its school.
Opera in Germany.—Since Wagner's time, there as been no striking development in German opera, and hi works still remain by far the most important in that field None can rival him in the power, variety, and expressive n ualities of his music. Strauss surpasses him in intricacy and novelty of instrumental effects, but Wagner himself first cle red the path in which Strauss was to follow. The greatest successes of Golimark are those of twenty and thirty years ago. Humperdinck's one chief work is frankly popular in style, and its attractiveness cannot fairly be compared with the grandeur of the music-dramas, even though it should found a school of its own. Bungert's works, though well received, have not been given many performances, while many of those who have tried to imitate Wagner have echoed merely his outward mannerisms, and not the inward greatness of his works. It must be remembered, however, that a world-genius like that of Wagner does not appear in every country or every century, and that his importance prevents his successors from gaining their full meed of appreciation.
Maitland, J. A. Fuller.—Masters of German Music.
Elson, Arthur.—Modern Composers of Europe.