Kleine Chöre a cappella oder mit Klavierbegleitung*
Ed. Hans Jancik (Kritische Gesamtausgabe). Musikwissenschaftlicher Verlag/Universal
The Gesamtausgabe continues its stately progress with this issue of the 14 surviving smaller-scale choral works. These range from March 1876 (when Wolf was just 16) to 1881, when they culminated in the Sechs Geistliche Lieder to words by Eichendorff. Their collection confirms that Wolf was above all a song writer. Even his a cappella style was essentially a melodic line with vocal accompaniment. But such lines evolved into his quasi-vocal keyboard counterpoints in the great song books of 1888 onwards; and in that process his choral style was in every sense instrumental.
The young Wolf's voice though audibly immature is wholly typical in its timbre even in the first of these works, the aptly-named Die Stimme des Kindes, which was no doubt written for (as well as in) submission to Wagner. Only this chorus and three of the others (Im Sommer, Im stillen Friedhof and Grablied, to words by very minor poets) are newly published. So this expensive volume is likely to appeal solely to the specialist, or Lone Wolfian. But there is good value in the detailed scholarly editing we have come to expect from Professor Jancik. He is generally most scrupulous, for example in paying due tribute to the pioneer work of Dr Racek (see ÖMz, Feb 1960). Frank Walker fares less well. By the fourth line of the foreword he is faulted for saying that the early choruses are completely negligible, “ganz unwesentlich”, in the German translation of his Hugo Wolf, 1953, p. 30. But in fact the choruses are not mentioned in that context; and on p. 56 they are adjudged the best of the early work. The misunderstanding is compounded by the indifferent English translation of the present text, which among other confusions wrongly implies that the Geistliche Lieder were included in this supposed disparagement. lf Walker is to be criticized (and it must be admitted that his masterly work was unfortunately reprinted without proper revision in its posthumous second edition of 1968) it should surely be for his dating, not his rating.
Two other minor grumbles. Since this is a scholarly complete edition, including fragments as well as variants, might not space have been found for the seven bars of the Hölty Trinklied im Mai [see ex., CSES], even though they were deleted in the manuscript? And what is the point of comparing Wolf's texts with later editions of the poets concerned, some of which he could not possibly have set eyes on, let alone set to music?
But apart from such cavils and caveats all Wolfians must be grateful for this beautifully-printed volume, as for the whole enterprise. In particular the careful and detailed work of textual collation and recension is a great credit to Professor Jancik and to the Austrian national and local government sponsors of his edition.
The Musical Times, Feb. 1975 (p. 157) © the estate of eric sams