Müller: Nestroy settings

Adolf Müller: Nestroy settings. Universal


The great entertainer Johann Nestroy – playwright, actor, lyricist and wit – was all the rage in Biedermeier Vienna. But apart from a few lingering spots (e.g. in Karl Kraus) that fever soon abated; and it never spread very far. Will it ever catch on again? Ernst Hilmar in his brief but cogent commentaries hopes that these facsimile reprints of contemporary settings will help the cause. But they seem to me just as much of a setback now as they must have been then. Each of the four volumes so far to hand offers three or four samples; but at the rate Müller grounds out this ancient corn, there are hundreds more of such sad sacks still to come. Personally I feel they would be better kept in the Stadtbibliothek archives; in particular the so-called “komische Theatergesänge” seem to me comical only in their musical ineptitude. Here lies those deft and nimble lyrics, still bravely smiling, but crushed stone dead by clumsy and rough-hewn settings. Their once famous last words were catch phrases that perished crying out in vain for an equally catchy tune. The threatened series of republications not only wastes the talents of an accomplished commentator but may well continue to destroy Nestroy.

The Musical Times, March 1979