Wolf Gesamtausgabe: Gedichte von J. W. v. Goethe*

Ed. Hans Jancik. Musikwissenschaftlicher Verlag



The Gesamtausgabe project was conceived in good time for Wolf's 100th birthday, in 1960. Is it perhaps scheduled to terminate on his 100th death-day, in 2003? Nothing so definite; repeated inquiries have failed to elicit any clear future prospects, let alone a prospectus. At least with the Goethe volumes all the major songbooks are now available. But that has taken nearly 20 years; and many more Wolfians will meet their end before this edition does. Yet its progress has really been rather remarkable. The single-minded (and apparently often single-handed) devotion of Hans Jancik compels admiration, for he seems to be engaged in a Promethean struggle against superhuman odds. Every time these tender green covers make their welcome appearance, they suggest those frail tendrils that come thrusting gamely up through concrete. One can only guess why their propagation has not been more propitious; personally I suspect that bureaucratic impediments and frustrations have been the root cause. The evidence is the plethora of acknowledgments to so many different levels of civic, municipal and national government authorities with only one international Hugo Wolf authority. Cannot Austria, even thus belatedly, allocate a generous central subvention and announce a definite schedule for the remaining volumes? Or if the plate must again be passed round, perhaps I might offer a tip - don't forget Yugoslavia, which has with some justice claimed Wolf as wholly Slovene by environment and partly so by genetic endowment. These questions are serious and urgent; for without advance guarantees of grant-aid the work will not only be slow but will risk being skimped.

     Of course most of the present offering (why split in two, I wonder, and not integral like the comparably-sized Mörike album?) is impeccably edited. There is an exemplary foreword, well translated. Above all, it is good to have at last a clear and carefully compiled text of these resplen­dent masterpieces, with such interesting additional matter as the first-edition variants of Kennst du das Land and Grenzen der Menschheit, together with the original notation of the racily (and racially) malicious musical allusions in Ritter Kurts Brautfahrt. The rejected sketch for Die Spröde would surely also have been worth exhibiting, but no doubt it is being reserved for a later miscellaneous volume. On the debit side, I found the information in the Revisionsbericht rather confusingly set out and sometimes otiose. Bar numbering would have eased reference. Such vital points as corrigenda to Peters texts are obscurely embedded among the small print, too much of which is also devoted to details of manifest slips or omissions in the autograph later rectified by Wolf for one of the two editions published in his lifetime (by Lacom in 1889 and Heckel in 1898). Again, the criteria for new amendment sometimes seem dubious. Thus the autograph's accent on the first syllable of “armer Tropf” in  Spottlied is now offered as authentic text; but why? Similarly the autograph D at “wenn” on the last  page of Frühling übers Jahr has been substituted for the twice-published C, again for no clear or stated reason. Nor has this practice, whatever its justification, been consistently applied; by analogy the autograph A should have (but has not) been added to the left-hand chord at the first syllable of “Tempel” in the last line of Erschaffen und Beleben. Finally, the Revisionsbericht is again, as in the Eichendorff volume of 1970, seriously misleading about Wolf's treatment of his poetic sources. His supposed variants are bizarrely inferred from a modern variorum edition of Goethe, with results which not only permit but entail the absurd supposition that the most scrupulous word-setter of all the great lied composers deliberately garbled the greatest of German poets, e.g. by altering the original “Und er zog mich, ach! an nieder” in Die Bekehrte to the more amenably metrical “Und er zog mich zu sich nieder”. A search for an edition of Goethe in which Wolf could have found that latter version soon disclosed the volume of Gedichte published by Cotta (Stuttgart, 1861), which also contains other variants listed.


The Musical Times, Oct.1979 (p. 838) © the estate of eric sams