Wolf, Hugo (with Work-List)

(in Grove, 1980), © The Estate of Eric Sams



Wolf, Hugo (Filipp Jakob) (b Windischgraz, Styria [now Slovenj Gradec, Yugoslavia], 13 March 1860; d Vienna, 22 Feb 1903). Austrian composer. He inten­sified the expressive vocabulary of the lied to a pitch never since surpassed. By his musical sensitivity to poetic values and meanings, which he embodied in each separate aspect of song – vocal declamation, keyboard technique, harmonic nuance etc – he was able, like Schubert before him, to condense the dramatic intensity of opera into the song form.


1. Formative years (1860-83). 2. Years of uncertainty (1883-7). 3. Mastery and fame (1888-97). 4. Breakdown and terminal illness (1897­1903).


1. FORMATIVE YEARS (1860-83). Wolf was born in a German-speaking enclave of a Slovene region. His mother Katharina (1824-1903) was of Slovene yeoman stock (her paternal grandfather's name was Orehovnik, which he changed to its German equivalent Nussbaumer; her maternal grandfather's name was Stank or Stanko). According to a family tradition, she also had some Italian antecedents. She was strong-willed and energetic, four years older than her husband Philipp Wolf, whom she married in 1852. His family was German in origin; he inherited the leather business established in Windischgraz in the 18th century by his grandfather Maximilian. Philipp Wolf (1828-87) was a gifted musician who taught himself the piano, violin, flute, harp and guitar. His trenchant and colourful letters reveal him as the thwarted artist, moody and intro­spective. These gifts and temperament seem to have been inherited by Hugo, the fourth of six children (two others died in infancy). As he later recorded appreciatively, he was given piano and violin lessons by his father at a very early age. At the village primary school from 1865 to 1869 he was taught the piano and theory by Sebastian Weixler, who also played the viola in the Wolf house­hold orchestra (Philipp first violin, Hugo second, brother Max cello, an uncle as horn player).

   In 1868 Hugo saw his first opera (Donizetti's Belisario), which made an overwhelming impression. In September 1870 he was sent to the regional secondary school in Graz (where he was remembered as speaking German with a Slovene accent) but left after only one term with the general report 'wholly unsatisfactory', though with some praise for his musical gifts. In September 1871 he began two years as a boarder at the Benedictine abbey of St Paul, where he excelled as a musician, playing the violin and organ for school ser­vices and the piano in a trio (with a repertory including Italian and French opera arrangements). But he lagged at the compulsory Latin; and in the autumn of 1873 he was transferred to the secondary school at Marburg (now Maribor, Yugoslavia). There he absorbed the clas­sical repertory in score or performance, including Beethoven and Haydn symphonies in piano duet arrange­ment. But again he left after only two years. His wilful and passionate nature spurned compromise; he had time and energy only for music. His father received two placatory dedications, that of op.1, a piano sonata begun in April 1875, and that of the Variations op.2. It was decided that Wolf should go and live with an aunt in Vienna that September and study at the Vienna Conservatory.

   At first all went well. He studied the piano with Wilhelm Schenner and harmony and composition first with Robert Fuchs and then with the strict and pedantic Franz Krenn. He made many friends, including the young Gustav Mahler. The first fruits were an unfin­ished 'violin concerto' (in piano score) and more piano sonatas, as well as songs and choruses. Now Wolf began regular opera-going: Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots was a special favourite. But his deepest devotion was reserved for Wagner, then (November 1875) in Vienna for per­formances of Tannhäuser and Lohengrin. Wolf attended both, and became (as he told his dismayed parents) a dedicated Wagnerian – a term then synonymous with avant-garde turbulence. In December he visited Wagner, bringing his piano pieces, which he explained were in the style of Mozart. Wagner was indulgent and affable; he gravely agreed that it was best to model oneself on the classics, and counselled patience and practice. When he next went to Vienna, he said, he would look forward to being shown larger-scale works.

   This encounter inspired Wolf, always a passionate hero-worshipper and famished for encouragement. He duly attempted larger-scale works, notably a Lenau set­ting for accompanied male-voice chorus, Die Stimme des Kindes. But the part-writing went awry, a blemish pointed out by Hans Richter, then director of the Vienna Opera, whom Wolf had also buttonholed and blandished. Technical shortcomings recur in further choruses written in 1876; but in one Goethe setting, Mailied, the contours of coming mastery are discernible in rhythmic verve and harmonic vitality. Also from this period date orchestral essays (an arrangement of the Moonlight’ Sonata), various chamber music fragments and sketches and a piano Rondo capriccioso which later became a symphonic finale. No doubt many of these were set as academic exercises, but their style testifies to a growing independence. Soon Wolf was again in con­flict with authority. In later life he would explain that he resigned from the conservatory in protest at its entren­ched conservatism. But he was also officially dismissed for 'breach of discipline'; and his cause was not helped by the prank of a fellow student who sent the director a threatening letter, signed 'Hugo Wolf. By March 1877 Wolf was home again in disgrace.

   There he worked on a symphony and composed the earliest song that he thought worthy of publication, Morgentau. He was allowed back to Vienna in November to earn his own living as a music teacher. On the journey he lost the score of his symphony. That start was symptomatic. Wolf never had the teacher's gift or temperament. His talents needed (and his charm secured) the patronage of generous households, such as those of the actor Ludwig Gabillon and Freud's early collaborator Josef Breuer.

   Wolf was already known in other cultured circles, notably that of the composer Adalbert von Goldschmidt (which included the critics Gustav Sch8naich and Hans Paumgartner, and the conductor Felix Mottl). They adopted the young Wolf, took him to concerts and operas, lent him books, music and money. But this fostering may also have proved fatal. For it was Goldschmidt who (according to Alma Mahler) took Wolf to a brothel; and there is no doubt that Wolf's insanity in 1897 and death in 1903 were among the sequelae of a syphilitic infection assignable with fair certainty to 1878. It was then, as members of the Gabillon and Breuer families later recalled, that he began to avoid their dinner tables and their company (eating only such food as could be conveyed direct to the mouth, and refusing to travel in the same railway carriage as his hosts). Such conduct then seemed merely eccentric or boorish; but Dr Breuer later came to be­lieve that it was founded on medical advice and consider­ation for others.

   The phase of sexual initiation and stimulus was also a time of spontaneous songwriting, the first signs of an intuitive mode of creativity that would later characterize Wolf's greatest work. Early in 1878 he was in love with Vally Franck, a relative of the Lang family, who were among his most generous benefactors. He later said that in that year he had written 'at least one good song every day'. This seems exaggerated (unless the works were atypically destroyed); but it testifies to a wealth of feel­ing in that year. Romantic love and `Weltschmerz' are explicit in the choice of 1877-8 song texts from such sources as Heine, Lenau, Chamisso, Riickert, Hoffmann von Fallersleben and Goethe's Faust.

   After the Schumannesque Heine settings of May and June 1878 a new and agonized note is sounded in the Faust setting of Gretchen vor dem Andachtsbild der Mater Dolorosa, begun on 22 August. The confession of sin and prayer for forgiveness, novel and uncharacteris­tic themes in Wolf, are expressed in anguished chromatics. He next wrote settings of gloomy and life-abnegating texts (also perhaps related to the inevitable if temporary separation from Vally Franck), closely fol­lowed by the first movement of the D minor String Quartet with its outbursts of impassioned declamation. The Grave introduction is prefixed by the words ‘Entbehren sollst du, sollst entbehren’ (You must renounce, renounce'), spoken by Faust when sealing his pact with the Devil and renouncing human life and love. Both this movement and the Scherzo (Resolut) bear the date January 1879.

   It was no doubt in a dejected mood that Wolf had called on Brahms early in that year. He was kindly received and given the same advice as Wagner's, namely to extend his musical horizons. From the blunt Brahms this seemed an affront, especially when coupled with the suggestion of counterpoint lessons from Nottebohm. The fee was well beyond Wolf's means; and the idea was dismissed as 'north German pedantry'. This note of antipathy soon swelled to an enduring diapason. As in Shaw's contemporary London, the younger musicians tended to brand Brahms as reactionary and hail Wagner as progressive. Wolf's immediate circle, a Bohemian fraternity comparable to the first Schubertians, were all fanatical Wagnerites, following their master to the point of becoming vegetarians – as Wolf did for a year or two, partly also perhaps because that diet was cheaper. His meagre earnings were eked out by parcels of food and clothes sent from home. He was constantly changing lodgings (on occasion sharing with Mahler, with whom he had remained on affable terms) in search of seclusion or economy. Life was hard, but intellectually and socially formative. Goldschmidt and Schönaich in par­ticular continued to be generous with help and introduc­tions: the circle of Wolf's friends and admirers gradually widened. In April 1879 he first met Melanie Köchert (née Lang), who later became his mistress and protectress. Her sister Henriette and her brother Edmund Lang also became close friends. Meanwhile Wolf's love for their quasi-cousin Vally Franck was rekindled; but the two were separated most of that year by her absence on holiday. Wolf's letters and music are alike passionate, as three Lenau songs testify. But his penury and misfortune kept the lovers parted if not estranged. His patterns of cyclic mood swing and unpredictably sporadic creativity were already clearly delineated. By 1880 his depression and illness were both apparently abating. Sweetness and serenity return to the song music, especially in Erwartung and Die Nacht, two Eichendorff settings inscribed to Vally and thought worthy of publication in the later songbook. The slow movement of the D minor Quartet, begun in July. has overtones of healing (recalling Beethoven's Heiliger Dankgesang) and redemption that suggest a mood of regeneration and thanksgiving, enhanced by an idyllic summer holiday in Mayerling. There Wolf's mature songwriting style continued its slow burgeoning, nur­tured by studies and transcriptions of Wagner. Two paraphrases (of Die Meistersinger and Die Walküre), probably made at this time, were presented to the lawyer Joseph Heitzes, another of Wolf's benefactors. His Mayerling home was rented to the Preyss family, who willingly agreed to look after Wolf and give him the tranquillity and independence he needed. By now he was sufficiently recovered to take his meals en famille. His high spirits and manifest genius captivated not only the Preyss family but their own summer visitors, including the Werners, expecially the seven-year-old Heinrich, who became wholly devoted to Wolf and later served his cause well as editor, critic and biographer.

   Summertime in Mayerling, then and later, brought out the radiant side of Wolf's nature, including his love of children and of the countryside. His small stocky figure, fair hair, and dark brown eyes fitfully lit by hilarity, were well described by a later friend, Edmund Hellmer, who added that to know him really well one had to hear him laugh and see him in the open air. But the sunshine regularly faded, and a darker side super­vened; then the Wolfian moods turned first to a daunt­ing wildness of speech and mien and thence sometimes to snapping and snarling, even at his devoted bene­factors.

Before Wolf's 21st birthday Vally Franck had broken off their attachment and returned to her native France. Despair resounded in the Sechs geistliche Lieder, chor­uses to words by Eichendorff; again secular human feeling was presented in the guise of spiritual agony. As ever when wounded Wolf sought refuge in Windisch­graz, composing a further Eichendorff song of soulful separation, In der Fremde I. Once again he was helped –by the devoted Goldschmidt, who in November 1881 found him a post as second conductor at Salzburg. As before Wolf's musicianship was applauded but there were jarring personal notes. He resented the trivial tedium of operetta rehearsal and quarrelled violently with the director. Again he left under a cloud; early in 1882 he was back in Vienna. His unhappy father compared himself, with some justice, to a Sisyphus forever doomed to push the same heavy stone uphill and behold it rolling ineluctably back, this time perhaps with crushing and fatal effect. For a time father and son were estranged. Wolf, though contrite, was helpless to govern the forces that determined his life and fate. It was apparently early in this year that he was conscripted for a short time into military service, then compulsory at 20. For unknown reasons, whether the influence of friends, or his own ill-health, or unstable temperament, or small stature (5' 11"), he was neither called up in 1880 nor long retained in 1882. His diary records this as the year of a 'terrible moral hangover'. But as usual the arid tracts were diversified by occasional oases, including the Mdrike setting ofMausfallensprüchlein, the fruit of another summer spent with the Preyss and Werner families in Mayerling. There was a further remission in late 1882 and early 1883 with a group of generally serene and sunny Reinick and Eichendorff songs. This time, when the darker mood returned, composition continued. It was as if two strands (bright and dark, lyric and dramatic, simple and complex, Schumannian and Wagnerian) were beginning to interweave in a new and essentially Wolfian pattern. His tense and dramatic Kerner settingZur Ruh, zur Ruh of June 1883 may have been his threnody on the death of Wagner four months earlier. In August he saw Parsifal in Bayreuth; then again he was at a standstill.


2. YEARS OF UNCERTAINTY (1883-7). What trail Wolf should now follow was in no way clear to him or his family or friends. Hanslick had admired his songs, and thought them worth publishing. But first Schott and then Breitkopf rejected them, though in affable terms. Per­haps he was not destined to be a songwriter after all? At this impasse came his third encounter with a great com­poser, this time Liszt, at a meeting (again engineered by the faithful Goldschmidt) in April 1883. Although im­pressed with the songs Wolf showed him, which included Die Spinnerin, Liszt (like Wagner and Brahms) counselled further composition in the larger forms. This again chimed with Wolf's own mood. That winter he had drafted the libretto of a Spanish opera. Now he instantly began work on a symphonic poem based on Heinrich von Kleist's Penthesilea, a drama which (like Faust, and perhaps for the same reason) had long been an obsession of his; its theme is the injuries inflicted by women on men through sexual passion. In Lisztian style it seeks to develop and integrate small-scale motifs into the orchestral tone poem frame. Wolf went again to Bayreuth forParsifal; he spent an agreeable holiday in Rinnbach visiting the Köcherts. But then the tides of inspiration again receded, leaving a barren and featureless shore. He found a new friend and admirer, the writer Hermann Bahr. But by the end of 1883 another depressive phase had set in. There are more sad stories of recrimination and parting, offence given and taken. Wolf quarrelled with his friends the Breuers because of his immoderate language about women. He stormed out of the hospitable house of the industrialist Fritz Flesch because his host passed him a pear on a toothpick not a trifling matter to a sensitive and fastidious syphilitic who had scrupulously spent his infectious phase in enforced isolation.

   The outbursts and estrangements of these and later years have to be viewed in the perspective of Wolf's artistic frustration, his mental and physical case history and the enduring love and solicitude shown by faithful friends. Supreme among them was Melanie Köchert, whom Wolf had been teaching and adoring since 1881. Her husband Heinrich KOchert was the Vienna court jeweller, and had influential friends. Under his aegis Wolf was appointed music critic of the fashionable Sunday Wiener Salonblatt. But there was nothing merely modish in Wolf's writing or in his readership, the new and growing public for music criticism fostered by Hanslick yet left dissatisfied by the latter's intran­sigent anti-Wagnerism. Into this vacuum Wolf rushed headlong. Notoriously, he did Wagner more than jus­tice, and Brahms less. But it would be wrong to see his outspoken critiques as merely partisan or their anti­Brahmsian thrust as merely retaliatory. They are not only a literate and lively mirror of the age; they have a special interest for the Wagner scholar, for there can hardly have been anyone at the time who was more articulately knowledgeable about the operas. Above all, they afford significant insights into Wolf's own creative mind.

   The three-year spell of criticism was useful as a voca­tion and a discipline, but it inhibited composition. Although Wolf took a long summer holiday in each of the three years 1884 to 1886, his comparative quietude was not matched by comparable peace of mind. The sardonic turbulence of his prose is well matched in his only song of this period, the Mörike setting Die Tochter der Heide, written during a sojourn with the Köcherts at Rinnbach in July 1884. It was probably at this time that he and Melanie Köchert avowed their mutual love. The last movement of the D minor Quartet was also sketched in the same summer. Some fragmentary sketches for another Kleist play, Prinz Friedrich von Homburg, about the conflicts between love and duty, convention and temperament, date from August, when Wolf was visiting his sister Modesta and her husband Josef Strasser at Oblarn; this time love is a saving grace, not the destructive force of Penthesilea. On an outing with Strasser Wolf met the folk poet and singer Johann Kain, and was entranced by his songs. By October 1884 Wolf was back in Vienna writing reviews and vainly striving to arrange performances or publication of his own works. He resolved to devote the coming summer to completing, for submission to the Philharmonic Orchestra, his Penthesilea and Prinz Friedrich von Homburg music. The latter remained fragmentary, but in September he called on Richter with the score of Penthesilea and was promised a trial later that year. Wolf felt that he was at last gaining a foothold, and indeed he had been making a name for himself as a critic. Sadly, it was a hated name. Among those Wolf had mauled was Sigismund Bachrich, whose pretensions as an opera composer had been pointedly deflated. But Bachrich was the viola player of the famed Rose Quartet; so Wolf was naive in submitting his D minor Quartet to them for a hearing. It was returned with a woundingly worded note signed by Bachrich on behalf of his colleagues. Worse still, Penthesilea was put on trial in every sense. Its rehearsal on 15 October 1885 was (whether or not with Richter's connivance) a fiasco. Bachrich was in the orchestra, and Richter made some disparaging remarks (which Wolf overheard) about people who dared to criticize so great a master as Brahms. Such comments were wholly predictable and unsurprising. It was Wolf's turn to be lacerated. His critiques continued with unabated vigour; but his own music was aborted or stillborn. It was not until October 1886 while on holiday with the Strassers (now living at Murau) after some embarrassing contretemps, including a grave eye injury sustained while playing with the children's toys, that he completed his next viable work, the Intermezzo in Eb, for string quartet. At the turn of the year he began work on Christnacht, a setting of Platen for soloists, chorus and orchestra. Wolf himself described it as uniting two aspects of the Christ child: naive and childlike, yet conquering and redemptive. Again the impulse seems intuitively self-expressive. Similarly all three songs of 1886 (Der König bei der KrönungDer Soldat Biterolf) and the first three of 1887 (Wächterlied auf der WartburgWanderers Nachtlied,Beherzigung) have texts relating to various aspects of staunchness and resolution in the face of adversity. At last the music affirms a confident sense of purpose and vocation. Finally in 1887 Wolf attained a new plateau near the summit of mastery. The impetus was provided by a change of route from subjectivity towards the sonorous re-creation of imaginative literature, a concept frequently cited by Wolf the critic as a touchstone of excellence. So it proved for Wolf the composer. From March to May 1887 he was inspired by the vitality of Eichendorff's poetry about lightness in love (Der Soldat I) or the bewitching power of women (Die KleineDie ZigeunerinWaldmädchen) and of nature (Nachtzauber).Between these last two songs he composed the highly original Italienische Serenade for string quartet (2-4 May). Its relaxed and amused irony may also have owed its conception to Eichendorff. whose novella Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts offers many a textual correspondence with Wolf's life and music and includes an Italian serenade.

   There could now be no further doubt in Wolf's mind about the fact of his gift, though its actual nature remained unclear to him. He had written his first mas­terpiece, and his last critique. At that moment his father was suddenly taken ill, and died on 9 May, thus being denied his son's later triumphs but spared the final tragedy. Hugo, summoned by telegram, was a solace at the end, but then became himself inconsolable. Hardly another word was written or another note composed in that year. He needed affectionate support and encour­agement; a mainstay had gone. Help came from Friedrich Eckstein, whose library and conversation had enriched and influenced the young Wolf in his earlier Vienna days and who now performed the further signal service of persuading a publisher (perhaps with some financial inducement) to bring out two volumes of Wolf's songs. From among his manuscripts of many years Wolf selected six women's songs and six for male voice, to be inscribed respectively to his mother and to his father's memory. The project induced a tumultuous creative euphoria.


3. MASTERY AND FAME (1888-97). Wolf instinctively sought solitude. His friends the Werners offered him ale use of their summer holiday home in Perchtoldsdorf, near Vienna. He took with him the poems of his favour­ite Mörike, whose lyrics had no doubt been germinating in his musical mind for many years. Now came a sudden spontaneous flowering of song music that in its profusion and variety matched the Schubert of 1814-15 and the Schumann of 1840-41. The biographical paral­lels with the latter are especially clear. Wolf too had just emerged from some years of activity as a critic and was celebrating a long-lasting love affair (by 1888 Wolf and Melanie Köchert were lovers, though they could meet only with difficulty and by stealth). Wolf too found himself moving in the song medium with a new and surprising assurance (with characteristic irony he com­pared the process to the final undoing of a frequently and frustratingly fumbled button). Finally, he too was disconcerted by the violence of his musical creativity, though overjoyed by its profusion. On 22 February for example he wrote to Edmund Lang, 'I have just put a new song on to paper [Der Knabe und das Immlein]. A sone for the gods, let me tell you! ... My cheeks are glowing with excitement like molten iron; and this state of inspiration is more a delicious torment to me than an unalloyed pleasure'. But that was only a beginning. Far finer songs grew and proliferated, at the rate of two or even three a day. Again to Edmund Lang, on the same day, 'Hardly was my letter despatched than I took up my M5rike and wrote another song [Jägerlied]. PS ... I have succeeded in a third song, and how! [Ein Stündlein wohl vor Tag]. This is an eventful day'.

   A month later he was still composing at the same pitch and writing in the same strain. To Joseph Strasser, March 23: 'I'm working at 1000 horsepower from early morning until late at night, without respite. What I am now putting on to paper, dear friend, is also being written for posterity. They are masterpieces.... When I tell you that [despite several unavoidable visits to Vienna] I have, since 22 February, written 25 songs, each better than the last, about which connoisseurs agree that there has been nothing like them since Schubert, Schumann, etc, you'll readily gather what kind of songs they are'. Earlier Wolf had written modestly to Edmund Lang, 'I wonder what the future may hold in store for me? This question torments me, perturbs and preoccupies me waking or sleeping. Am I called? or perhaps even chosen?'. By March he knew. By mid-May (after 43 songs) he needed rest. He took a holiday with the Strassers; he visited Bayreuth. In September the spate of song resumed. This time Wolf sought sanctuary with the Eckstein family at Unterach, where he wrote (again perhaps using some earlier ideas) 13 Eichendorff settings. Then Mörike settings resumed with another nine in the first fortnight of October, in­cluding some with a deep spiritual content (Wolf had again been much moved by Parsifal). Then came a return to Vienna, and an outburst even more sustained than ever. By 13 February 1889 Wolf had finished the 51 songs of the Goethe songbook, except for one incomplete sketch (Die Spröde) which dissatisfied him and was later recomposed.

   Again the connoisseurs could recognize masterpieces, this time directly challenging comparison with the Goethe settings of Schubert and Schumann. The word soon spread from old friends to new converts. It was only on 2 March 1888 that any Wolf song had been  publicly performed (by Rosa Papier, Hans Paumgartner's wife). By 23 March Wolf was playing and singing his latest Mörike settings to the Wagner-Verein.

   Among its more influential members Joseph Schalk and Ferdinand Lowe, both professors at the conservatory, were powerfully impressed. So was the tenor Ferdinand Jäger (who had sung Parsifal at Bayreuth) when, on 8 November, he heard three of the Mörike songs from a soprano of the Vienna Opera accompanied by Schalk. Jager was soon to Wolf as Vogl was to Schubert, a lifelong devotee and partner. Their Wolf concert on 15 December was the composer's first public appearance as an accompanist. This and subsequent recitals were received with acclaim.

   In May 1889 Wolf returned to Perchtoldsdorf with his mind still ringing with plaudits. The prospect of public success again focussed his attention on large-scale forms, both operatic and orchestral. (Two settings from A Midsummer Night's Dream date from this month as well as two orchestrations of songs from the Mörike volume, which had meanwhile been published.) After summer holiday visits to Bayreuth and to his mother in Windischgraz, Wolf returned to Perchtoldsdorf at the end of October 1889 and instantly began work on his Spanish songbook. Thoughts of opera often suggested Spain or Italy to his mind (from this summer also dates the draft of a few dreamy bars of string quartet music intended as a slow movement for the Italienische Serenade). This impulse, together with his established penchant for characterization and description, his strong sense of national feeling and local colour, and a mood of mysticism perhaps induced or fostered by the Bayreuth visits, led to a choice of translations from the Spanish by Heyse and Geibel (a source earlier used by both Schumann and Brahms). By April 1890 the 44 Spanish songs (including translations from Camoens, Cervantes, Lope de Vega and others, as well as anonymous lyrics) were completed. Meanwhile the thrust towards stage music continued: a sketched theme of December 1889 is headed 'Introduction to Hamlet'. Two more Reinick settings (one with orchestra on a patriotic theme) and six Keller songs in June 1890 (again including characterization and mysticism) bring to an end this great creative period, in which 174 songs, including many acknowledged masterpieces, had been composed within two and a half years.

   Meanwhile the reverberations of Wolf's fame were spreading outside Austria. The first critical article was by Heinrich Rauchberg, an early friend; his 'Neue Lieder und Gesange' (about the Mörike and Eichendorff songbooks) appeared in the November—December issue of the Osterreichisch-ungarische Revue. Far more influential, however, was Joseph Schalk'sNeue Lieder, neues Leben' in the Münchener allgemeine Zeitung for 22 January 1890. This gave rise to widespread interest and correspondence. Wolf heard from the Tubingen music director Emil Kauffmann (whose father had been a friend of Mörike's) and the Mannheim judge Oskar Grohe. Both became close friends. Gustave Schur of the Wagner-Verein was able to negotiate with the well-established firm of Schott in Mainz to supplement or replace the small Viennese publishers Wetzler (already on the point of bankruptcy) and Lacom.

   Within Austria Jäger had given another very success­ful Wolf recital to the Graz Wagner-Verein on 12 April. It was heard by Heinrich Potpeschnigg, a dentist and amateur pianist, who soon became a close friend and helper. In Vienna Wolf's name was steadily gaining ground, but also meeting some resistance. Richard Heuberger recalled a talk with Brahms and Richter in November 1890, about 'the Wagnerians and in par­ticular Hugo Wolf, whom they now praised as a great songwriter, the inventor of the "symphonic song", whereas Schubert, Schumann and Brahms are said to have written songs as if with guitar accompaniment'. The partisan note is clear; and there was some resent­ment even within the Wagner societies. But the general reaction was favourable; and this wave of recognition carried Wolf to a further crest of enthusiasm for opera. In 1890, with his mind very much on Spanish themes, he had been offered a libretto on Alarcon's El sombrero de tres picos, by the feminist and journalist Rosa Mayreder. This was rejected, together with other sug­gestions such as The Tempest and the story of Pocahontas (proposal and counter-proposal between Wolf and the poet Detlev von Liliencron, whose atten­tion had been drawn to Wolf by Joseph Schalk, and who composed a verse-eulogy of the songs). Among other topics mooted, the life of Buddha and the Golden Ass of Apuleius might be said to typify Wolf's contrasting spiritual and secular aspects. But when he received a commission from the Burgtheater to compose incidental music for a production of Ibsen's The Feast at Solhaug, Wolf's zest sharply diminished. He found the assigned task irksome and uncongenial; he was dilatory and unin­spired; he scored for too large an orchestra; and his procrastination delayed the opening night until 21 November 1891, when the reception was lukewarm. His recalcitrance was enhanced by some fresh song inspira­tion from Heyse's polished translations of anonymous Italian poems in a courtly style and tradition dating from the 16th century or earlier (hardly folk poems, as is sometimes claimed). Seven such settings were com­pleted in October and November 1890 despite the distraction of another visit to Germany to complete the negotiations with Schott. On his itinerary Wolf met the conductor Hermann Levi and the singer Eugen Gura in Munich and called on his new friends Kauffmann and Grohe.

   But now bodily and mental exhaustion supervened, with some ominous signs. Apart from the Ibsen com­mission and the orchestration of a Mörike song Wolf was barren for most of 1891. The tedium of inactivity was alleviated by a further visit to Germany to hearChristnacht under Weingartner at Mannheim. There he met Humperdinck, who as Schott's reader had recom­mended Wolf's songs; but they did not take up the option on Christnacht, in which Wolf could recognize defective scoring. A depressive phase ensued. He suf­fered from insomnia and malaise; he despaired of writ­ing another note. But at the end of December he com­posed (or perhaps completed) another 15 Italian songs, again full of masterly invention. Then darkness fell again, more impenetrable than ever. The long fallow period was again put to good use in tours and concerts in Germany.

   The first Wolf recital in Berlin on 3 March 1892, with the local tenor Grahl (replacing the indisposed Jäger) and the mezzo-soprano Friedrike Mayer, was enthusias­tically received, though it was not a financial success. Wolf made many new friends including his patron Baron Lipperheide, the chorus master Siegfried Ochs, the critic Richard Sternfeld (who wrote his laudatory article Tin neuer Liedesfraling' on 12 March), the opera singer Emilie Herzog-Welti (who gave a success­ful Wolf recital on 12 April) and the librettist Richard Genee. As a suitable opera text for Wolf he recom­mended Alarcon's El niño de la bola, translated into German as Manuel Venegas. This project preoccupied Wolf to the last.

   On his return from Berlin Wolf again fell victim to the feverish throat inflammation (no doubt a symptom of secondary syphilis) to which he had been prone since 1891. He was cared for, as so often, by the Köcherts. Perhaps it was the presence of Melanie, his shy and reticent mistress (who was never seen among the social circle of Wolf's musical friends), that prompted him to orchestrate his great song on the theme of covert and illicit love, Geh, Geliebter, geh jetzt, from the Spanish songbook. He scored the Italienische Serenade for small orchestra, with some slight but perplexing thematic changes; he sporadically sketched or planned some additional movements. Otherwise he was barren and listless. In the three years 1892 to 1894 he wrote not a single note of viable original music. As before, he sought distraction in continued travel and concert tours. Thus in January 1894 he attended a very successful performance of his Shakespeare Elfenlied and the choral version of his Mörike song Der Feuerreiter under the direction of Siegfried Ochs in Berlin. On the same programme was the Te Deum of Bruckner, also present in person; he and Wolf were on affable terms. In Mannheim Wolf met another disciple and benefactor, the barrister and amateur tenor Hugo Faisst of Stuttgart. In Darmstadt he became infatuated with the soprano Frieda Zerny of the Mainz opera, and formed wild plans of emigrating with her to the USA. This brief liaison somehow became known to Melanie KOchert, to her distress and Wolf's embarrassment. He renewed his allegiance to her; and the summer months of 1894 were spent first at her country home in Traunkirchen, and later with the Lipperheides near Brixlegg in the Tyrol.

   With the success of Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel in December Wolf's opera fever reached a new crisis. The Alarcon story of the three-cornered hat began to dominate his mind. He rejected a version pre­pared by Franz Schaumann, chairman of the Wagner­-Verein and enthused instead over the previously de­spised libretto of Rosa Mayreder, entitled Der Corregidor. Its merits are disputable; but this text in­dubitably now began to fertilize Wolf's long-dormant creative genius. As before, there was a period of winter gestation followed by springtime labour. Early in April 1895 Wolf again sought solitude in Perchtoldsdorf. There the Mörike drama was re-enacted: he began to compose daily from dawn to dusk. In May he left for the more comfortable Lipperheide château in Brixlegg. By 9 July the whole four-act opera was complete in piano score; the orchestration occupied the rest of the year. The opera was offered, unsuccessfully, to Vienna, Berlin and Prague and was eventually accepted (with some help from Grohe) for performance at Mannheim. The re­hearsals were prolonged and tense because of inaccuracies in the copied parts and fluctuations in Wolf's own mental state; he continued to be plagued by insomnia. The first performance (7 June 1896) under Hugo Röhr was a great success, with curtain calls for the composer, but the enthusiasm abated in later performances, with the gradual departure of Wolf's friends and admirers; the opera has still not reached the general repertory or the wider public.

   Meanwhile Wolf in a further access of creative fer­vour returned to Perchtoldsdorf and composed (or com­pleted) the final section of the Italian songbook, with 24 songs in the five weeks between 25 March and 30 April. He then returned to Vienna to occupy – for the first time in his life – his own home. Ever since his arrival there he had been living either in penury or else as a guest. The Köcherts had always been generous; the Lipperheides and Grohe had provided a stipend; now Faisst and other friends found and furnished a flat in the Schwindgasse. There, for most of 1896 and the beginning of 1897, he revised (with the devoted help of Potpeschnigg) the score and parts of Der Corregidor, influenced inter alia by Johann Fuchs, Kapellmeister of the Vienna Opera, ho advised that revisions (notably a cut in the last act) were mandatory. In autumn 1896 he wrote two settings of Byron and one of Reinick.


4. BREAKDOWN AND TERMINAL ILLNESS (1897-1903). In March 1897 Wolf composed his last songs, to son­nets by Michelangelo in German translation – the Christmas gift of Paul Müller, the founder of the Berlin Hugo Wolf-Verein. In April 1897 a Vienna Wolf-Verein was inaugurated by the university professor Michael Haberlandt, a staunch support in Wolf's declining years. Meanwhile Wolf had pursued his plans for a second Alarcon opera on the story of Manuel Venegas.

   The theme is sexual jealousy and revenge, as in Der Corregidor, but with dark overtones of violence and tragedy. Perhaps Wolf's mind in its depressive phase was reverting to a febrile subjectivism. The Michelangelo songs, fine though they are, have evident personal application. By 1897 Wolf was clearly a very sick man, whose always unpredictable behaviour was now causing distress and alarm. A medical examination in the previous year had disclosed (though the know­ledge was withheld from Wolf himself) a characteristic loss of pupillary reflex, symptomatic of the incipient general paralysis of tertiary syphilis. Nevertheless he was again ready to compose at fever-heat. A Manuel Venegas libretto prepared by Rosa Mayreder was sum­marily rejected. Moritz Hoernes (a colleague of Michael Haberlandt) produced an alternative version which seemed to the sick Wolf to have a truly Shakespearean quality. In September 1897 he was again sequestered in his apartment working from dawn to dusk on the new opera. He completed some 60 pages of piano score in three weeks; then his mind gave way. He claimed to have been appointed director of the Vienna Opera; thenceforth only his own works (mostly unfinished or unwritten) would he performed. No doubt his madness took this turn because of a recent visit from his old friend Mahler, who had just been appointed opera Kapellmeister and who according to Wolf had promised to do his utmost to stage Der Corregidor in the coming season. The stress of the ensuing excitement, or perhaps the disappointment of a later change of plan, finally unhinged Wolf's already wrenched reason. He called a meeting of his sympathizers, played them his Venegas fragments, told them of his new appointment and his plans for dismissing Mahler and taking over. He was removed under restraint to the asylum of Dr Wilhelm Svetlin. His letters announce grandiose plans for world tours of his own operas with the support of the Weimar theatre. His overheated brain boiled over with insipid music. Some remission ensued and he was discharged on 24 January 1898. He paid inconsequential and disconsolate visits to various resorts and centres (including Semmcring, Graz, Cilli and Trieste) accompanied by his sister and the devoted Melanie Köchert. On 6 March he returned to Vienna, to a new home in the Mühlgasse. That summer he stayed with the KOcherts at Traunkirchen. In October he was seized by another gust of madness and tried to drown himself in the Traunsee. He entered the Lower Austrian provincial asylum in Vienna on 4 October 1898. There his sufferings were alleviated by the love and loyalty of Melanie, whose frequent and regular visits continued unflinchingly until the day of his death on 22 February 1903. Then she gave way to remorse and a slow melancholy. On 21 March 1906 she fell to her death from the fourth-floor window of her Vienna home.

   Wolf inscribed all his song manuscripts to her, as the one who understood him and his music best of all. She lies in the family grave at Hietzing. He is buried in the Vienna Central Cemetery beside Schubert and Beethoven.



 5. Early vocal works. 6. Instrumental works. 7. Mature songs. 8. Stage music. 9. Critical writings.

5. EARLY VOCAL WORKS. At first, Wolf had little inkling of his goal. He was even misdirected by his own refrac­tory temperament and a preoccupation with large-scale forms. As compensation, his extremes of mood commanded an analogously wide range of expression, while his obsession with opera concentrated his mind on musical techniques of characterization and atmosphere. Further, his self-willed and poetic nature constrained him to voice and keyboard rather than to such social or academic disciplines as chamber music or orchestration. So his strengths were early if unwittingly bent towards the compression of large-scale forms and ideas into the lyric frame. The essences of grand opera, tone poem and expressive symphony – as exemplified by Wagner, Liszt and Bruckner, Wolf's three most admired masters – were to be distilled and concentrated into song.

 lines themselves are keenly expressive of poetic stress, cadence and significance. From the first Wolf's word-setting has recitative inflections with touches of cad­ential pointing and plainsong repetition perhaps not un­influenced by his background of church school and choir. This thrust towards verbal expressiveness led him to explore choral writing for mixed- or male-voice chorus, accompanied or a cappella, at the same time as the earliest songs. Linear independence and significance are sometimes taken to the point of ungrammatical over­lapping (e.g. in Die Stimme des Kindes, 1876). There are also deliberate contrasts of texture, for example, of solo with half-chorus (Grablied, 1876) or full chorus (Letzte Bitte from the Sechs geistliche Lieder, 1881, the culmination of Wolf's work in this genre). Here too the basic idea is a quasi-dramatic presentation; voices in three and four parts are used as accompanimental back­ground for a solo voice, again with effects of isolation and contrast. One corollary is that the piano part of a song can be quasi-vocal; and this is another highly origi­nal and fertile source of expressive effect. Even the ear­liest songs (e.g. Du bist wie eine Blume, 1876) can show traces of the four-part (almost four-voice) texture that later became a staple style – as acknowledged by Wolf himself; a letter to Melanie Köchert of 7 July 1897 announces the discovery that the piano part of Führ mich, Kind, nach Bethlehem is in effect a four-part chorus. This texture too may reflect the early environ­ment of the boy organist; it appears electively in songs of devotion, whether sacred (as in that example) or secular. Another possible influence was Robert Franz, who acknowledged his own indebtedness to the Protestant chorale. Any early imprinting would have been strongly reinforced by the strict grounding in four-part harmony that Wolf received at the Vienna Conservatory, and then by the simultaneous impact of Wagner's operas. Even without Wagner, Wolf's own bold linear independence of melody would have led him to poignant discords, striking modulations and fluctuating tonalities, as well as to effects of counterpoint and canon and other such melodic interplay whether between voice and accompaniment or within the four-part keyboard texture.

   Not surprisingly, Wolf's early attempts to cultivate what he later called 'the infertile ground of absolute music' (Musikalische Kritiken, p.50) proved fruitless or 'abortive. Even his native ground of musico-poetic ex­pression had to be prepared by deep reading. Goethe and Heine lyrics led him to their settings in Schubert and Schumann and thence to a study of expressive tech­niques in piano music as well as songwriting. Wolf ex­perimented by crossing all these strains into new hyb­rids. Thus his Heine setting Wenn ich in deine Augen seh (1876) has a piano part derived from a Schubert impromptu, while Ich stand in dunkeln Träumen (1878) uses the Brahmsian device of a vocal line related to the piano theme by augmentation or diminution. But the main influence was Schumann. Wolf's early works for piano (sonatas and variations) soon yielded place to Schumannesque genre pieces (Humoreske, 1877). At the same time he was composing equally Schumannesque piano songs, that is, a lyric piano solo the melody of which serves as vocal line. This style proved quickly viable, as in Morgentau (1877), the earliest song Wolf adjudged worthy of publication. Yet the influence was sometimes inhibiting. Thus a marginal note on the un­finished manuscript of Was soll ich sagen? (1878; a Chamisso text also set by Schumann) reads ‘Zu viel Schumannisch; deshalb nicht vollendet’. The essential lesson was soon learnt, by Wolf as by Schumann: the addition of a declamatory vocal line to an independent piano part yields a new stock of expressive device. For example the piano can depict a convivial scene, the protagonist's isolation from which is expressed in the voice part (Sie haben heut Abend Gesellschaft, 1878; cf  Schumann's Das ist ein Flöten and Geigen). The vocal

   At first all these devices tended to be used for their own sake, or for self-expressive purposes. But gradually they served to illustrate and enact a poetic mood. For example in In der Fremde I (1881) the contrasting melodic lines in voice and piano enhance the poet's theme of separation, as in some forms of operatic duet. The task of distilling an operatic essence into voice and keyboard was dramatically eased by the techniques of piano reduction used by Karl Klindworth and others, in their vocal scores of Wagner operas. Wolf's own Wagner paraphrases (c1880) presage the piano parts of his later songs, both in their part-writing and in their transcription of orchestral effects such as string runs or tremolandos. He could also call upon the melodic and harmonic vocabulary of French or Italian opera, or the popular styles of folksong or student song, all familiar to him from his own early music-making. Further, even the early songs already show abundant evidence of an innate and developing capacity for inventing vivid motivic equivalents for poetic ideas and using them constructionally, in the Schubertian lied tradition, as the building-blocks of the song form.

   But these apprenticeship years were far richer in promise and potential than in actual achievement. By Wolf's own stringent but not unjust criteria only a dozen of the 100-odd songs he wrote before 1887 were worth publishing. There is of course much to admire, as in the Reinick and Eichendorff songs of 1882-3; but the early works tend to be fallible both in form (e.g. the overemphatic postlude of Andenken) and in content (sometimes obviously derivative). Such flaws can be traced to a failure of objective concern for the poem as such. The outpouring of personal emotion often fails to fit easily into the miniature form. Wolf was more likely to succeed in larger-scale instrumental music, where the link with words, though still vital, was not a criterion of excellence. In this respect too he had much to learn which would later be of service to him as a song­writer.



6. INSTRUMENTAL WORKS. These are brilliant concep­tions rather than finished works of art, and hence present difficulties of appreciation, evaluation and per­formance. The first was the D minor Quartet, begun in 1878. Wolf had recently contracted syphilis; his score bears the Faustian epigraph Entbehren sollst du, sollst entbehren’, which the opening motifs seem to declaim. The Beethoven influence is so manifest (e.g. Grosse Fugein the powerful leaps and dissonance of the histrionic Grave introduction, and the Allegro assai vivace ma serioso of the F minor Quartet op.95 in the Scherzo, marked `Resolut') and so unusual (it recurs only in the 1888 Mörike song Der Genesene an die Hoffnung, sig­nificantly about recovery from mortal sickness) as to suggest that this too is a consciously expressive device. It is as if Beethoven were being deliberately invoked, as another Faustian archetype of the suffering hero. (The claim, now largely discounted, that Beethoven was syph­ilitic would have been a recent talking-point among musicians in Vienna.) Wolf's lyrical slow movement (dated 1880) begins with a Wagnerian symbol of re­demption, an overt homage to the 'pardon' motif in Tannhäuser, as if the work were further designed as a Pilgrimage through despair by way of faith and fortitude to final recuperation. On that assumption the much lighter last movement of 1884 with its touches of ironic in­souciance is musically anticlimactic yet humanly convincing. The music was written as the experience was lived. By that time Wolf was 24 and had regained his composure and (as he thought) his health. On this auto­biographical interpretation the right order of move­ments in performance would be the logical time-sequence: Grave – Leidenschaftlich bewegt; Resolut; Adagio; and Sehr lebhaft (not, as in earlier editions, with the second and third movements transposed). Thus con­sidered, this extended and complex work has the unity and novelty which, as absolute music, it might be held to lack. On any analysis the genuine (if sporadic) power and expressiveness of its thematic details are undeni­able.

   The composition of this quartet overlapped with the even more ambitious orchestral work Penthesilea, begun in 1883, which also displays, though in differing proportions, the same admixture of derivation, self-expression, originality and poetic inspiration. This time the last of those qualities is paramount, and the music verges on greatness. There is ample testimony to Wolf's obsession with Heinrich von Kleist's drama of the Amazon queen who leads her warrior-maidens to Troy, becomes enamoured yet jealous of Achilles, and finally avenges her subjection to him, in both love and war, by inciting her war-hounds to tear him to shreds. Under the smooth classical surface of Kleist's blank verse rages an erotic turbulence. The appeal to subconscious motive anticipates Freud. Wolf at the time still had reason to be preoccupied with the idea of male vulnerability to the traumata of love. His scoring, including four horns, four trumpets, three trombones, tuba and harp as well as a full complement of wind, strings and percussion, aims to re-create the epic scale of the conflict as well as the heroic stature of protagonist and antagonist. The music creates panorama (extremes of orchestral pitch and dynamics, with antiphonal trumpets on each side of the orchestra, like battle signals) as well as character, situa­tion and emotion (motifs for the passionate Penthesilea, the noble Achilles, war marches, love-feasts and snarl­ing hounds, interspersed with pleading recitative).

    Wolf had given much thought to the structural prob­lems of the tone poem. He ardently admired the sym­phonic poems of Liszt, who had inspired this work both by personal suggestion and by example. Wolf felt (Kritiken, p.52) that unity in this new genre was to be attained by deriving form as well as content from the poetic source. It is not immediately clear how this end is best subserved by Wolf's chosen structure. The two short preludes (Departure of the Amazons for Troy’; ‘Penthesilea's Dream of the Love-festival’) presumably depict the dual nature of the heroine, ferocious yet tender; their contrasting motifs derive from the same basic theme. There follows a long final development section (‘Conflicts, Passions, Madness and Destruction’) in which all the themes are freely metamorphosed, de­veloped and confronted so as to present the elements of the drama both collectively as mood-painting and con­secutively as narrative. The work may thus be con­sidered as an opera without words, condensed into an overture. Against the background of Kleist's drama re­enacted in Wolf's imagination the music can appear not only powerful but profound. Otherwise its construction may seem diffuse and even obscure (for example the main theme of the last movement is not heard in its entirety until bar 832), and its instrumentation (as Wolf himself came to acknowledge) not wholly secure. These factors could account for its rejection in both rehearsal and repertory and also help to explain, if not extenuate, the prodigious and unauthorized cuts imposed by its first editors.

   Much the same characteristics might have been predicted of Wolf's projected incidental music to Kleist's better-known drama Prinz Friedrich von Homburg, where the conflict lies among love, duty and individual self-fulfilment, which again were questions much in Wolf's mind at the time. This music remained fragmentary; but the Penthesilea patterns are again discernible in the completed work Christnacht for soloists, chorus and orchestra. Here Wolf (as he wrote to Oskar Grohe, 26 February 1891) aimed to symbolize the duality of the Incarnation – innocent child, trium­phant hero. Again there may be some element of sub­conscious self-portraiture; little enough of such search­ing themes can be inferred from Platen's poem about the night of the Nativity, with its chorus of angels and shepherds. Wolf adds a chorus of believers, for good measure. The handling of such large choral and orches­tral forces (the latter much the same as for Penthesilea, but with the percussion scaled down to timpani only) is rather beyond Wolf's technical competence (again, as he later conceded), despite his natural flair for orchestra­tion; the published score contains revisions by Reger and Foll. The formal structure, however, is clearer than in Penthesilea because the words provide the necessary frame of reference. The music is again highly original in conception; and this time the Lisztian or Wagnerian influences are better assimilated. The work is Wolfian in its colourful interweaving of solemnity and simplicity. The latter is effectively symbolized by a traditional carol melody, recalled from a provincial boyhood, which is scored and presented with a lightness of touch that suggests a corresponding lightness of mood. By 1886, when the main thematic material of Christnacht was conceived, the sombre canvasses of Wolf's creative imagination were being replaced by bright miniatures, beginning with the Intermezzo in Eh for string quartet. Its main theme had been sketched in 1882 and left to germinate in a sunnier climate of mood. In summer 1886 it grew into a rondo with episodes and varied restatements all so cunningly derived from the main theme as to suggest different aspects of the same charac­ters linked by dialogue or colloquy with a hint of dance-measure. Nothing is known of any literary background, though a verbal source would seem prima facie plaus­ible. The effect is of expressive music written to an unknown programme; one clue is Wolf's later reference to his 'Humoristisches Intermezzo'. A comparison with his contemporary songwriting suggests Mörike as a possible source for this slight but spirited and engaging piece.

   The next instrumental work, also for string quartet, was the Serenade in G (later called by Wolf 'an Italian Serenade'; letter to Kauffmann of 2 April 1892). With this work Wolf at last attained expressive if not formal mastery. As with the Intermezzo, there is no avowed literary source. But the Italienische Serenade (2-4 May 1887) was composed during a phase of Eichendorff settings (7 March-24 May). It is thematically related to the first of them, Der Soldat I, about love for a lady who lives in a castle. The Eichendorff novella Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts has that same theme; central to its plot is an Italian serenade. The novella contains a lyric (Heimweh) which Wolf had certainly set by the following year, and perhaps sketched at this time. Its hero is a young musician, a violinist, who leaves his country home and his grumbling father, to seek his fortune. He soon charms everyone with his gifts, or antagonizes them with his inconsequence. Wolf could hardly have found a more congenial or compelling self-portrait in all German literature. The novella also con­tains a serenade played by a small orchestra, for which Wolf later arranged his work. The original string quar­tet however is preferable in the transparent lightness and delicacy of its texture; and though it is not without technical problems (e.g. of ensemble at the required tempo) the string writing is far more relaxed and as­sured than in the early D minor Quartet. The Serenade too, like the other instrumental works, is novel in both content and form. Its rather diffusely episodic rondo structure with ironic quasi-recitative passages gently parodying romantic love, again in conformity with the Eichendorff style, suggests an unspecified programme. Again there is a strong sense of motivic writing deliber­ately presented and developed so as to suggest character (the dominance of the solo violin), speech (the recitative passages), colloquy (the duetting melodies), scene-painting (the conspiratorial assembling and tuning in the prelude), gesture (the sweeping fiddle flourishes) and instrumentation (the thrumming guitar imitations). It may not be coincidence that Wolf's own description (to Oskar Grohe, 28 June 1890) of the kind of opera he would one day wish to write (the strumming of guitars, sighs of love, moonlit nights, champagne banquets) is closely paralleled in Eichendorff's Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts (chap.8). This in turn may account for Wolf's ten-year preoccupation with the arrangement and development of hisItalienische Serenade music, in close parallel to his preoccupation with opera.

   In 1887 this dramatic lyricism brings Wolf's music in the Serenade and the Eichendorff settings on to a new and high plateau close to the summit of songwriting. The upward thrust may have two sources of impetus. First, the music seems to derive directly from words and ideas without any serious subjective intervention. Second (and perhaps the point is related), Wolf's two basic creative moods merge into a balanced integration. They may be described as gravity and levity or (as in Christnacht) sublimity and naivety; their tutelary deities are Wagner and Schumann. The early songs had tended to one extreme or the other, sombre or sparkling (com­pare Ein Grabwith Mädchen mit dem roten Mündchen, both 1876, or Zur Ruh, zur Ruh!, 1883, with Mausfallensprüchlein, 1882). A similar dichotomy is discernible in the instrumental music where the con­trasts of mood are linked by monothematic techniques which later appear in the songs. The polarities are separ­ately exemplified in Wo wird einst and Gesellenlied, both written on 24 January 1888. Thus these two strong currents converge only three weeks before the Mörike song outburst.


7. MATURE SONGS. Wolf's Mörike songs were above all original. All the contemporary critiques had the word `new' in their titles – new springtime, new life, new songs. Wolf himself wrote of the novel aspects of his musical language. Yet he did not define them; and the evidence suggests that their essential originality was not wholly grasped, perhaps not even by their creator, much of whose songwriting is manifestly in the main lied tradition. He and his audiences felt that he was contin­uing the line of Schubert and Schumann, without radical departure. Wolf himself thought it worth pointing out (letter to Emil Kauffmann, 21 May 1890) that even his boldest harmonies were justifiable by reference to ac­cepted theory. Much of his mature work uses folk or popular song. His well-known solicitude for the choice and treatment of words is by no means invariable and in any event represents a difference of degree rather than kind from the practice of his predecessors. Well over half his texts have no pretension to poetic greatness or even excellence. Even the rest can be treated cavalierly: thus the accentuation can go astray (e.g. 'Leibrösslein' in Der Gärtner) and the subtler declamatory effects are quite often second thoughts inserted at proof stage. Er ist's has repeated phrases and Das verlassene Mägdlein uses an unauthentic text, no doubt under the influence of Schumann in both instances. On occasion Wolf could repeat a whole strophe without textual justification (Benedeit die sel'ge Mutter) or tacitly omit one (Geh, Geliebter, geh jetzt). He could embellish his texts with his own insertions or inventions (Die Zigeunerin) or simply mistranscribe them (there are several textual errors in the manuscripts or even in the first editions). He could deliberately add a new meaning unintended by the poet ( Wer rief dich denn). Even his practice of calling his songbooks 'Gedichte von' Eichendorff, Mörike or Goethe was anticipated and perhaps prompted by Schumann. The same applies to his choice of transla­tions, for example, from the Spanish. Finally Wolf's notable spontaneity of composition was hardly different in kind from that of, say, Schubert in 1815 and Schumann in 1840. All three composers no doubt planned and sketched beforehand and revised after­wards.

   Nevertheless Wolf was original, and in four main ways. First, he seems to have planned in advance the contents of each volume (e.g. the Spanish songbook: letter of 12-November 1889 to his sister Käthe), rather as if the artistic unity is not the poem as such but the songbook considered as representative of the poet or source. Secondly, it was his practice to preface a perform­ance of each song by a recital of the text: the words were separately acknowledged as a vital part of the artwork's content as well as its form. Thirdly, Wolf was reluctant to set a poem which he considered had already been successfully composed – a view which presupposes that a musical setting is more like a translation or objective critique than a personal commentary. His songbooks are thus perhaps designed as anthologies, as homage, and also as critiques or translations. They make no sense, have no being, apart from the text which has breathed its life and essence into the music. Fourthly, this essence is dramatic.

   It follows that Wolf's art is a means of framing, embodying, presenting, enacting, the life of words. As a corollary, the piano has a more important role than with previous songwriters; and melody does not necessarily predominate. It is in this sense that Wolf compressed Wagnerian music drama, leitmotif, orchestra and de­clamation into voice and keyboard. Perhaps it was this feeling of historical mission that led to his lifelong obsession with large-scale composition even though the appropriate forms and techniques were among his own acknowledged weaknesses. He even felt himself stifled y Wagner – with whom he was never in serious conten­tion. He began to resent the title of songwriter. At the very moment when his true genius was first revealed to himself and the world he could still write (letter to Strasser, 28 March 1888): For the moment they are admittedly only songs'. On the very day when that inspiration had at last begun, he could still be preoc­cupied (to Lang, 22 February 1888) with extemporizing a comic opera at the keyboard. Even with three great songbooks completed he could still lament (to Grohe, 1 June 1891) 'I'm beginning to think that I have reached the end of my life. I can't go on writing songs for another 30 years'. Next (again to Grohe, 12 October 1891) comes the astoundingly anguished cry 'I really and truly shudder at the thought of my songs. The flattering recognition as "songwriter" disturbs me down to the very depths of my soul. What does it signify but the reproach that songs are all I ever write, that I am master of what is only a small-scale genre?'. Finally Wolf's eventual madness took the form of, and was probably provoked by, a megalomaniac obsession with operatic composition and performance.

   There are perhaps three main reasons for this fixation. Songs were still generally held to be an inferior art form; Wolf as an expressive composer craved the maximal audiences attainable only through opera and symphony; his genius was in fact for dramatic music, though in a condensed form. No wonder he aggregated his songs into composite volumes comprehensive enough to yield extended recitals and programmes of planned contrasts, with at least a potential appeal to a mass audience. Further, each major songbook contains linking motifs designed to relate the single songs to a larger conceptual scheme, as with Eichendorff songs 9­10, MOrike songs 2-3, Goethe songs 39-40, Spanish sacred songs 8-10, Italian songs 42-3.

   The songbook is thus itself the large-scale dramatic form. With the 20 Eichendorff songs (mentioned first because nearly half of them were written before 1888) Wolf lifted the curtain on his singing theatre of the imagination. There everything is made of music – con­struction, action, character, plot and sub-plot, narrative, gesture, mime, dance and song, costume, scenery, and even stage properties and effects, including lighting. Piano preludes set the scene or delineate character. The songs are conceived as tableaux vivants viewed through the proscenium arch of the song form. As Wolf told Emil Kauffmann, he always imagined a background to each of his songs, and the examples he gave (the goddess sitting on a reef in the moonlight, playing her harp, in Gesang Weylas; a chorus of wise men joining in the refrain of Cophtisches Lied I) go well beyond anything described in the text. So his submission to poetry was far from slavish. Yet the verse does in fact give each song a formal framework which the instrumental music is sometimes felt to lack. In a sense therefore Wolf's structural sense has certain defects which the poetry is called upon to redress. On the other hand the musical response is so varied and flexible that Wolf might as justly be hailed as a master of form. The poems are more often strophic than their settings, which strive towards free evolution and development. Even in stro­phic song, unchanged repetition is rare; more typically the melody, for example, is varied to highlight a par­ticular word, such as süsserin Um Mitternacht. Unity is usually attained by the main factor common to music and poetry, namely rhythm. This may reflect either the metre or the theme of the poem: thus in Jägerlied the rare trochaic pentameter appears as 5/4 time, while in Fussreise the piano maintains a steady walking rhythm.

   A repeated rhythmic figure may suggest an obsessive character or gesture (Rat einer AltenMühvoll komm ich und beladen) while changes of basic rhythm serve to imply (as it were by modulation) a change of mood or meaning (AgnesGrenzen der Menschheit). A piano melody or figuration may suggest words by its rhythmic shape (postlude to Komm, Liebchen, komm!). Regular piano rhythms can provide a patterned lattice for vocal melodies to curve and stray around, anticipating certain words or syllables, lingering over others, with the effect of a written-out rubato (e.g. stumm’ or ‘heilig’ in An die Geliebte), whether, as there, to enhance the poetic mean­ing or, as often in the Italian songs, to create a new one. Occasionally too Wolf would prolong a word that es­pecially pleased him (e.g. ‘geflügelt’ in Die ihr schwebet). Such devices are to be distinguished from their operatic or Wagnerian counterparts. The Wolfian vocal line con­veys a current of poetic feeling, deriving character from verbal inflection and not vice versa. His melodies vary from complex nuance to straightforward singability in folk or popular style, as the context requires. The coun­terpoints of voice against piano, already noted in the earlier songs, are greatly developed from 1888 onwards. A typical example is Lied eines Verliebten, where the isolated left-hand melody is a symbol of separation. This image is further intensified in such songs as Mein Liebster singt am Haus, where the independence of the piano part embodies the excluded lover. Thus Wolf could create not only decor (by distinguishing fore­ground from background) but also dramatic irony (by presenting two different levels of involvement simultan­eously, as in Bei einer Trauung). Autonomy in the piano part also permits a quasi-symphonic motivic develop­ment reflecting the changing moods of a poem (Auf einer WanderungIm Frühling). Piano interludes can link con­trasting sections of a song and so suggest continuous action, whether in narrative or ballad forms (Ritter Kurts Brautfahrt) or, more rarely, in lyric modes (e.g. in Fussreise, where a modulating piano interlude leads back to the original theme).

   Similarly Wolf's harmonic usages are attuned to his texts, whether as single words or whole poems. An example of the former is at froh und traurig’ in Alles endet, was entstehet, where a major and a minor inflec­tion speak respectively of joy and sorrow. Again, aug­mented 5ths mean increasing intensity (Das verlassene Magdlein) even to the point of parody (Nimmersatte Liebe), while second inversions at cadence points give an impression of peroration (‘da bin’ in Wohl denk ich oft). But such short-range or local effects are comparatively rare. More generally, Wolf's harmonic procedures provide a framework isomorphic with that of the poem, within which particular aspects can be highlighted; for example, successive mediant modulations convey the idea of increasing lightness, as in In der Frühe and Morgenstimmung. This is the sense in which it was important for Wolf that his harmonic language should remain, as he said, traditional. He needed chromaticism and dissonance in order to create new expressive intensity. At the same time the constraints of his song form require such effects to be readily relatable (whether in terms of affinity or contrast) to some recognizable tonal centre. Thus the modal harmony of Auf ein altes Bild sets that song apart from the rest of the Mörike volume and from contemporary music generally; the music is as it were seen, like the poem, through a haze of time. Within that song, the single acute dissonance at Kreuzes Stamm’ throws that phrase into high relief, again in parallel with the poetry. Conversely, chromatics or dissonance can be relieved by touches of diatonic harmony (as in Mir ward gesagt, among many examples) yielding effects of relaxation from tension, or simplicity within complexity. More specifically, the introduction or recurrence of the tonic major can be delayed, so that its eventual arrival brings a sensation of repose and fulfilment (Wir haben beide lange Zeit geschwiegen); or the major form of a minor tonic can restate an idea in a brighter mode (Ob der Koran von Ewigkeit sei?). Such contrasts and juxtapositions are the essence of Wolf's songwriting, as of his mentor Schumann's. Among the corollaries are personal verbal associations with certain keys. Thus in Wolf extreme flat or sharp keys express nervous tension, in contrast with the bluff plainness of C major (Gesellenlied); A major suggests springtime (Frühling übers Jahr), and so on. Of course there are exceptions; but such associa­tions, usual in all songwriting, are especially manifest and significant in Wolf, and a study of them is relevant to interpretation and performance (e.g. the desirability of transposition).

   Such effects shade into overt musical depiction, at which Wolf was also adept. Examples abound, ranging from imaginative embroidery to frank onomatopoeia. Widely spaced chords suggest hollowness and reverber­ation (Der Feuerreiter); upward chromatic runs and bare 5ths convey disappearance into thin air (Der Rattenfanger); glissandos and other flourishes depict extravagant gesture (Der Schreckenberger); acciac­caturas mean laughter (Rat einer Alten). There is a lute in Nachruf, a harp in Gesang Weylas, a violin in Wie lange schon, a guitar in the Spanish and serenading songs. One hears a spinning-wheel in Die Spinnerin, gunfire in Unfall or Der Jäger, a carillon in Zum neuen Jahre or St Nepomuks Vorabend, whips in Gesellenlied and Selbstgeständnis, a donkey's bray in Lied des trans­ferierten Zettel, birdsong in Das Vöglein, bees in Der Knabe und das Immlein, horses' hooves in Der Gärtner and perhaps Auf einer Wanderung, and so on.

   In all this a major share of expression inevitably falls to the pianist, not only in the ballad tradition of pictorial interludes, in which Wolf was no doubt influenced by Loewe, but also in the newer vein of grandiloquent quasi-orchestral device found in Wagner transcriptions. The piano equivalents of string tremolandos express a pulsating intensity or a rapport with the moods of Nature (the thunder in Prometheus or Der Jäger). In general the upper reaches of the piano symbolize lofty thoughts, spiritual aspirations, the starry sky (An die Geliebte), while the low notes of the left hand sound out the depths of darkness or despair (Neue Liebe). Such symbolism is in the lied tradition of Schubert. Wolf's allusions are further enriched by directly Wagnerian resonances, sometimes deliberate (the affectionate al­lusions to Die Meistersinger in Gesellenlied), sometimes perhaps less so. An example of the latter is Die Geister am Mummelsee, where the poem speaks of a funeral procession (Totengeleit’); and the piano part is evocative of the cortege of Titurel (‘Geleiten wir’) in Parsifal. But far more characteristic and ubiquitous is the new-minted motif, again usually entrusted to the piano part, which serves both to express a poetic idea (e.g. sadness, love, isolation, mystery, freedom, sleep, among many others) and to create musical structure.

   Examples are manifold; none is wholly typical; each belongs inseparably to its context. The following illus­tration exemplifies not only the Wolfian motif but also perhaps a connection between his creative inspiration and his personal experience. For many years he suffered from insomnia; and poetry about solitary wakefulness and movement at night evoked a definable though varied musical response. A repeated figuration in the piano right hand is underlined by a left-hand theme in single notes. This motif first appears in the Körner Ständchen of 1877. The opening words describe the silence of the night; lovers' thoughts alone are awake. At the following idea of being surrounded by nocturnal phantoms (mich umschleichen ... nächtliche Gespenster) the left-hand single notes surround the repeated right-hand chords, on both sides. In the 1888 song Auf eine Christblume I,Mörike's description of deer grazing at twilight evokes the analogue shown in ex.1.

The same music, decorated and transposed an octave higher, later depicts the activi­ties of an elf at midnight. InGutmann und Gutweib this motivic idea recurs at the words 'Im Bette liegen beide nun'. The old folk are lying in bed, deliberately keeping awake. In Lied eines Verliebten the whole song is about staying awake at night; the entire piano part assumes the basic shape described. The same is true ofAlle gingen, Herz, zur Ruh. The association persists in Act 2 of Der Corregidor (1895) as Frasquita keeps her nocturnal vigil (scene iii) or as Manuela gropes her way in the dark (scene x). The same Gestalt underlies each example. By such means (characteristic of the lied) Wolf could ex­press a wide-ranging diversity of mood, scene and char­acter. Human feeling is symbolized either directly or through images of external nature (the so-called 'pathetic fallacy').

   This is also the essence of Wolf's first source of inspiration, Eichendorff, whose works contain all the necessary elements of scenes and characters (soldiers, sailors, students, musicians) with their good or bad humour or fortune and their happy or unhappy loves, whether for God, man, nature or fatherland. Wolf's selection from these texts is, perhaps intentionally, more broadly representative than the nature- or love-poems already set by Schumann. A further constraint was Wolf's determination not to use poems which had already, in his view, been definitively set to music. Mörike's complex quasi-symbolic style and imagery needed a correspondingly advanced musical language; so Wolf's settings had few precedents and no rivals. His choice was accordingly unfettered; but again it con­centrated on themes of people and places conceived as actors and scenes. The difference is one of degree: Mörike's characters and landscapes are drawn with far more depth and definition than Eichendorff's (whose art Wolf later came to regard as somewhat superficial; cf his letter to Kauffmann of 7 March 1894). In particular the themes of humour, both broad and sophisticated, and the supernatural, whether in the context of orthodox religion or of fairy tale and folklore, are far more fully developed in the Mörike songs. The music is correspondingly more intense and diversified, for example with evocations of folksong (Das verlassene Mägdlein) and other popular strains (student song in Nimmersatte Liebe; Viennese waltz in Abschied). Styles and forms are more ambitious and panoramic, with Wagnerian as well as Schumannesque components, especially in religious songs (KarwocheWo find ich Trost). Some of the piano accompaniments seem orchestral in range and scope (Neue LiebeDer Feuerreiter). Elsewhere, themes and structures are designed to convey a sense of movement through vistas both spatial (Auf einer Wanderung) and temporal (In der Frühe).

   This sense of extended musical frontiers and horizons is even more manifest in the Goethe settings. The lyric style is just as intense (BlumengrussGleich and Gleich); but the ballad style has become more diffuse (Ritter Kurts Brautfahrt) and the piano writing even grander in conception (PrometheusMignon: 'Kennst du das Land'). Further, Goethe's poem offers a new rich source of quasi-dramatic background and effect. Both Eichendorff and Mörike had incorporated their lyrics into their novels; Wolf set several such examples. But these poems are separable entities, whereas the inter­spersed lyrics in Goethe's Wilhelm Meister are integ­rally related to plot and character, so that Wolf's music designedly sets context as well as text. Much the same is true of theWestöstlicher Divan poems. The characters of Hatem and Suleika are not merely costume parts assumed by the poet and his mistress; they also inhabit a whole secondary world, a notional orient peopled with other characters from cupbearers to sultans. From that world it is no great journey to the Spanish songbook, which not only contains fine poetry (e.g. by Cervantes, Lope de Vega and Camoens) in skilled translation (by Heyse and Geibel) but also offers the elements of national character and local colour that Wolf increas­ingly needed for his musico-dramatic projections.

   In consequence his own musical style is again in transition. Wolf had now exhausted German poetry of the necessary quality and quantity, and the translations to which he turned were no longer, despite their tech­nical excellence, the source of direct verbal inspiration. With the Spanish songbook, therefore, it is not the lyric as such but its substructure of ideas and concepts that serves as the foundation for musical setting. The result (already foreshadowed by some of the Westöstlicher Divan songs, such as Was in der Schenke waren heute) was a new autonomy for the composer, who now became less dependent on an intuitive response to poetry. Wolf the partial poet was gradually supplanted by Wolf the complete musician. Rhythmical motifs, dance patterns, accompaniment figures, recurrent refrains, formal structures, begin to dominate the musical expression. Folk music, nature studies, humorous songs, ballads, all disappear. The themes and styles that persist in the Spanish volume are the religious (the first ten songs) and the erotic (almost all the rest); and these become more personal and more intense.

   The six Keller songs of 1890 revert to the earlier themes of character study and psychology, with oc­casional symbolic allusions to nature (as in Wandl ich in dem Morgentau): here, as before, poetry is the main source of inspiration. But in these songs Wolf was work­ing against the grain of his own development, which may account for the sometimes perceptible effort entailed in their composition. With the Italian songbook, begun at the end of the same year, the established trend was resumed with increasing momentum. All the lyrics are anonymous; all have the same translator, Paul Heyse (as compared with only about two thirds of the Spanish songbook, in each respect). Wolf was now con­fronted with a polished and uniform poetic style with no creative personality of its own; the lyrics were thus a blank page on which to inscribe his own know­ledge of human feeling. There are no religious themes as such; all the poems are in some sense love-songs. In consequence the style becomes totally unified and inte­gral. Previous songbooks had contained the separately identifiable strains described above as Wagnerian and Schumannesque. This still applies in part to the Spanish volume (thus Bedeckt mich mit Blumenis Tristanesque, while the lighter songs, as well as the textual source as a whole, recall Schumann's Spanish vein). In the Italian songs all such sources merge into Wolf's basic four-part style. The forms are further concentrated by the brevity and metrical pattern of the lyrics. Here Wolf finally succeeded in compressing the universal picture into the miniature frame; so these songs are the epitome of his art.

   Wolf may well have sketched in 1890 many more of them than he then completed. The Italian settings of 1896 maintain the same style; perhaps not all were newly composed in that year. The 'manuscripts of two of them, Gesegnet sei das Grün and O wär dein Haus durchsichtig, bear the marginal annotations Phönix no.1’ and ‘Phönix no.2 respectively, suggesting that these at least were new inspirations. Other late songs however seem lacking in fresh invention. Thus the Michelangelo songs of 1897, though they contain much fine music, are in part palpably indebted to earlier songs (compare for example the postlude of Fühlt meine Seele with those ofPeregrina I and II); texts and treatment alike suggest that despite the ostensible character-drawing Wolf was reverting to the self-expressive subjectivism of his early songs. His mental breakdown and terminal illness (1897-1903) were only six months away.

   Wolf completed some 20 separate song orchestra­tions as well as two for incorporation in Der Corregidor. The form is intermediate between what might be called the compressed opera of his songbooks and the expanded songbooks of his operas. The hybrid has not proved fertile: the works are rarely performed. Yet Wolf himself thought tflem important; and most of them date from 1890, one of his most prolific songwrit­ing years. Their purpose was not only to reach a wider public but also to deploy even greater expressive power and device, whether to broaden the scene-painting (e.g. the thunder and lightning effects in Prometheus) or to brighten the sound-painting (e.g. the chromatic runs in Der Rattenfänger). But Wolf also invoked the orchestra for depth of feeling. Thus even the tiny but intense lyric by Lenau, Scheideblick (?1876-7), was sketched in an orchestral version. Similarly Gesang Weylas remains lyrical in conception even when scored: its added horn counterpoints aim at enhanced intensity. But in general Wolf's aim was to convert his miniatures into oil paint­ings suitable for wider exhibition, whether in the concert hall or (in his own works) the opera house. The trans­ition is perhaps most convincing in static tableaux such as Prometheus or Auf ein alter Bild. Where motion is to be depicted, the heavier textures tend to slow down the action: thus in Der Feuerreiter the articulation of added voices both choral and orchestral, at the required speed, presents grave problems of ensemble. Similarly the grace and fire of the Italienische Serenade are harder to achieve in the orchestral version.


8. STAGE MUSIC. Analogous difficulties inhere in Wolf s stage music. The brilliant pictorial writing of his first completed work of incidental music, the Elfenlied (a setting of 'You spotted snakes' from A Midsummer Night's Dream in German translation), aroused acclaim at its first performance, about which Wolf wrote (to Kauffmann, 11 January 1894) that the orchestration `so glittered and glowed in moonbeams that you could for­get to hear for sheer seeing'. The Ibsen play The Feast at Solhaug (again in German translation, as Das Fest auf Solhaug) presented fewer opportunities for quasi-visual effects, and the music was commissioned in an otherwise fallow phase; but the processional entrances and choruses are typically evocative. Whatever the quality of Wolf s invention, his stage music, like his song orchestrations, suggests the deliberate extension or enlargement of a smaller-scale original inspiration.

   The operas are no different. As Wolf told Potpeschnigg (9 July 1895) the piano score as it stood served as the orchestral sketch for Der Corregidor. Further, the Wagnerian texture and scoring (Wolf's orchestra is larger than that of Die Meistersinger, with­out which, as he wrote to Rosa Mayreder on 1 June 1895, his Corregidor music could not have been writ­ten) are possibly too inspissated for the sunny mood and milieu of the well-known storyEl sombrero de tres picos. Wolf told Ferdinand Lowe that Bizet's task in Carmen was far easier because of the comparative lack of orchestral polyphony; and perhaps a lighter texture would have worn better. In Wolf's treatment, the three-cornered hat is not only a symbol of universal authority but also has overtones of the eternal triangle (for instance when the power of the Corregidor's motif is heard dominating that of the supposedly cuckolded Tio Lukas). Wows well-documented obsession with themes of sexual jealousy and tension, which darken to stark tragedy in Manuel Venegas, may well have been highly personal in origin. The motivic techniques of Der Corregidor seem to reflect that obsession in their insis­tent repetition. The Wolfian lied motif inevitably becomes obtrusive when used as a Wagnerian leitmotif, serving narrative and dramatic ends as well as the lyric purposes for which it was designed. Thus the five-note Tio Lukas theme is heard nearly 100 times in Act 1, serving variously as character study, stage direction, cross-reference or general background. It is relevant that Wolf himself in rehearsal took little interest in stagecraft or decor: even in the operas, his musical world remains that of inward imagination rather than visual presenta­tion. It is thus not surprising that the dramatic structure of Der Corregidor has been much criticized, and with some plausibility: for example most of Act 4 is recapitulation of themes and events already familiar. Nor is the musical material always of the finest, perhaps partly by design (e.g. the Alcalde's banal motif may be intended as character-drawing), partly because not all the libretto was equally inspiring, and partly because of Wolf's deteriorating health.

   Such objections have far more force when levelled at the 600-bar fragment of Manuel Venegas than at the completed Der Corregidor. But the latter is rarely per­formed, and has never belonged to the standard opera repertory. It has been excluded because of disparity rather than inferiority; and it might more rationally be regarded as a success in a new genre than as a failure in an old one. Thus the often striking discrepancy (to which Frank Walker has drawn attention) between the characters as embodied in the music and as observed on the stage becomes both meaningful and effective when considered as a Wolfian equivalent for dramatic irony. The musical style too is novel. As always it derives from the German text, and is hence less complex and intense than the generality of Wolf's songwriting. The prototypes are the two songs orchestrated specially for inclusion (In dem Schatten meiner LockenHerz, ver­zage nicht geschwind) in a sweetened but refreshing dilution of the lighter Spanish songbook essence. Whatever the defects of dramatic structure, each separ­ate scene has a songlike vividness of invention.

   There are thus grounds for supposing that Wolf, had he lived, might have evolved new forms intermediate between song and opera. Both his operas are based on short stories; he could profitably have continued his exploration of Eichendorff, Morike and Goethe by quasi-dramatic presentations of their novellas for voices with piano solo or duet or with chamber orchestra; Der Corregidor too might prove viable in such a guise. Conversely, Wolf might have extended his Span­ish or Italian songs on similar lines, benefiting from the example already set by Schumann (e.g. in his op.138). Alternatively Wolf might have returned to songbooks inspired by the dramatic or plastic qualities of original German poetry (by Rilke for example), although in the light of Wolf's known views and traceable development this seems less plausible.


9. CRITICAL WRITINGS. Wolf as a critic shared with his contemporary Bernard Shaw the deliberately provo­cative and partisan stance of the standard-bearer. Both were notoriously fervent advocates of Wagner and browbeaters of Brahms; both have lasting value as the spokesmen and interpreters of their own musical times and trends. Prose was not a creative medium for Wolf, and he resisted republication of his reviews on the ground of their stylistic shortcomings. But his writing has enough of the trenchancy and immediacy of his music to render it readable and often memorable, affording further insights, both for him and his readers, into the nature of his art. First, regular reviewing and concert-going gave him much-needed discipline and ex­perience, as well as a new understanding of the nature of language and its relation to music, including his own. His critiques revealinter alia his own attitudes and criteria. Style and content alike are indebted to Schumann, whose conception of music as mood- or scene-painting (‘Seelengemälde’ or ‘Tongemälde’) Wolf wholeheartedly endorsed and adopted. Wolf envisaged music as essentially a transitive mode of expression using symbolic equivalents for human thought and feeling, whether directly or as. reflected in external nature. Both these latter aspects unite in Wolf's intuitive depiction of music in terms of organic life and growth. For him, absolute music was a waste ground choked with academic works like weeds. He hated any hint of the cerebral or the contrived (as in fugues and pedal points). Bodily malfunction or discomfort are recurrent metaphors for musical unacceptability. The following (on Brahms's First Piano Concerto) is typical – 'The air that blows through this composition is so icy, dank and foggy that it could easily freeze your heart up and snatch your breath away; you could catch a cold from it. Unhealthy stuff!'. Good music, however (including some by Brahms, such as the G major Sextet), is as regularly compared with nature, springtime, fresh founts of healing and many another such symbol of wholesome emotive life.

   Further detailed criteria are inferable from other obiter dicta. Wolf had a deep sense of commitment to his own time and place, his own society, class and nationhood (German rather than Austrian). He man­ifested a passionate concern for human values, as vested not only in individuals but in the whole nexus of social function and interrelation. The musical equivalent is opera, especially Wagner and Mozart. Wolf's criticism fastens on all aspects of stage spectacle and presentation considered as parts of the total musical artwork –action, costume, gesture, speech and stage-effects. Every page testifies to the visualizing and dramatizing mind at work in his own songwriting, in a ceaseless quest for vividness and immediacy of effect. His ancillary absorp­tion in language is evidenced by his unselfconscious recourse to metaphor and quotation from modern and classical literature. Finally Wolf's critical insight into his own expressive mode of music is predictably penetrative; thus he noted (Kritiken, p.52) that the forms and contents of the greatest symphonic poems (those of Liszt, in this context) are, no less than their thematic material, derived from the literary works that inspired them.

   That aperçu defines Wolf's own achievement. It was his mission as he saw it to compose in a new musical language expressing the closest imaginable relation to words and their gamut of visual, auditory or other symbolism. In this endeavour his declared aim was truth to life; as he wrote to Emil Kauffmann (5 June 1890)For me the sovereign principle in art is rigorous, harsh and inexorable truth, truth to the point of cruelty’. Here is the link between his four years as a critic and his lifetime as an artist. He expressed the truth about the human condition as he apprehended it, as keenly and as stringently as he could. It was his assigned task (letter to Schmid, 14 June 1891) to cultivate that gift to the furthest limit of his powers. When he could no longer compose, as he told Rosa Mayreder, he was fit only for the dung-heap.

   His sense of purpose and mission gave Wolf's life and art their fierce concentration, their characteristic burning intensity of expression. His vision was limited by its close focus on those points where words and music intersect or coincide. But within that specialized lyric field he has claims not only to greatness but to supremacy.