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Briefe an Hugo Faibt.

By Hugo Wolf. Edited by Joachim Draheim and Susanne Hoy. Tutzing: Hans Schneider, 1996. [275 p. ISBN 35-7952-0858-0.]

Despite the great interest in the music and musical life of the nineteenth century, much work remains to be done on the primary documents associated with some of the most important composers. This includes the publication of modern, critical editions of their letters. Ironically, such editions are still to be completed for the two composers held to be polar opposites by the factious music circles of late Vienna, Johannes Brahms and Hugo Wolf. Immediately after Wolf's death, a number of volumes of his letters as well as numerous volumes of memoirs were published, along with the biography by Ernst Decsey, which still remains one of the most important sources for the composer (Hugo Wolf, 4 vols. [Leipzig: Schuster & Loeffler, 1903-6]). Over the last twenty years, some of these volumes have been revised, and some, including the letters to Melanie Kochert, have appeared in English translation (Hugo Wolf, Letters to Melanie Kochert, trans. Louise McClelland Urban [New York: Schirmer Books, 1991]). This new edition of WolFs letters to Hugo Faisst joins the earlier publications and makes important primary sources easily accessible to more scholars and readers.

Hugo Faisst (1862-1914), a Stuttgart lawyer and amateur bass-baritone, met Wolf in 1894 after having performed some of the master's songs at a Tubingen concert organized by another fierce advocate of Wolf, Emil Kauffmann. Faisst quickly became one of Wolf's most enthusiastic supporters, organizing numerous concerts of his compositions and contributing to his financial support, including part of the payment of his medical bills. Wolf himself described FaiBt in endearing terms, writing to Melanie Kochert in February 1894, "My friend Faisst shows me no end of kindness. He anticipates my every wish. There is never any arguing or quarreling, for we are one in body and soul. This marvelous person really lives only in my music and he can't do enough to prove his unlimited attachment to me over and over again" (Letters to Melanie Kochert, 108).

Throughout the last years of his life, Wolf was in frequent contact with Faisst, and 126 of his letters and postcards have survived. Of these, 107 were edited by Michael Haberlandt and published in 1904 (Hugo Wolf's Briefe an Hugo Faisst [Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt]), and they are reproduced in this new volume along with Haberlandt's original comments. The new edition also contains the nineteen letters that were located after 1904, corrects Haberlandt's errors (including the dates of some letters), and reproduces all the documents in frill rather than in Haberlandt's abbreviated versions. It includes much more documentation in the form of explanatory notes to many of the letters, and a more comprehensive index, which comprises an index of compositions and places as well as a longer index of personal names. Almost half the book is taken up by Draheim's collection of documents entitled "Hugo Wolf in Stuttgart." These are primarily excerpts from letters that concern either Wolf and Faisst or Wolf's presence in that city. They are drawn from the nine published volumes of Wolf's letters as well as various memoirs and diaries. Some of them are of quite limited interest due to their extreme brevity; for example, one reads: "26 Februar 1894 Eintragung Wolfs in einem Taschennotizkalender: Abrise/von Stuttgart" (p. 35).

Of more interest are the reviews of Wolf's concerts in Stuttgart. These are from no fewer than ten journals, ranging from specialized music journals like the Musikalisches Wochenblatt to local publications like the Abendblatt der Schwabischen Kronik. Included are two notices of the first concert of the Stuttgart Hugo-Wolf-Verein, which Faisst formed in April 1898, and two articles that Faisst wrote about Wolf for the 1901 and 1903 Neue Musik-Zeitung. The first notes Wolf's increasing status in the world of music, stating that at the Paris World Fair his bust was placed with those of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven. Faisst also writes of the composer himself, describing his genius and humor and recollecting their first meeting. In the 1903 article, which marks the composer's death, Faisst succinctly describes Wolf's life. and enumerates his compositions. Although these documents are extremely valuable inclusions and it is impressive that they come from such an array of sources, they are still problematic. As with the letters in this section, they are often only excerpts without supporting commentary or linking narrative, and although the editors have cross-referenced the letters to them, the documents themselves are not keyed to the relevant letters.

The letters vary in length and content from short greetings to lengthy descriptions of Wolf's works and living arrangements. Many contain information regarding upcoming concerts, including plans for specific singers and programs. Wolf also reports on his latest compositions and publication plans or involves Faisst in practical matters such as arranging for the copying of his works. Many letters describe the difficulties of his work on the opera Der Corregidor. Faisst was one of a group of friends who provided Wolf with an allowance while he wrote this work, and in 1896 on a visit to Stuttgart, Wolf played through the vocal score of the opera for Faisst and his mother. Although often extremely demanding, Wolf also expresses his gratitude for Faisst's boundless generosity. He graciously acknowledges birthday greetings and gifts, including the second volume of a biography of Friedrich Nietzsche in 1897 and a figurine of Beethoven in 1898. In 1896, Faisst sent Wolf money enabling him to move into better accommodations, and in an unusually long letter of July 1896, Wolf describes his new apartment and thanks Faisst: "Let me kiss and embrace you, you dear, good man, friend, brother, and companion." (The editors include two photographs of Wolf's room, pp. 170-74.) Wolf's varied pet names are further evidence of their friendship, with Wolf referring to his benefactor as "Mein lieber Faischti" or "Liebster Faischtling" and signing himself "Dein Wolfing."

Other letters include Wolf's responses to contemporary composers and to reviews of his works. Unlike the letters of gratitude to Faisst, which reveal Wolf's gentle and enclearing side, these often demonstrate his quick wit and impatience. In a letter of September 1894 he castigates the prominent music critic Theodor Helm and, among oilier things, describes him as an idiot. (In this case, the editors do not supply details such as the items on the program Helm reviewed.) Similarly, while Wolf is pleased with reviews written by Karl Grunsky for the Mittagsblatt der Schwabischen Kronik (reprinted in the section "Hugo Wolf in Stuttgart"), he is also quick to request the address of the critic so that he can alert him to an error (pp. 196-97). Wolf's well-known mistreatment of some of his closest friends and supporters is demonstrated by one of the letters regarding the singer Ferdinand Jager. Jager had performed at the first public concert of Wolf's works in Vienna and throughout his life remained a champion of Wolf's compositions, but in one letter the composer harshly criticizes him, claiming that he repeatedly performs only a handful of' the same songs (p. 104).

The letters are accompanied by brief comments, giving more precise details of events (including concerts) and publication information for the books and reviews Wolf mentions. Much of this information is derived from the other Wolf letters or the biographies by De(sey and Frank Walker (Frank Walker, Hugo Wolf: A Biography, 2d ed. [1968: reprint, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992]). The notes also identify Wolf's quotes from and allusions to texts of various compositions, such as Richard Wagner's operas or, occasionally, his own works. (There is one annoying error on page 140: the review by Emil Kauffmann, which pleases Wolf, is in the 1895 edition of the Musikalisches Wochenblatt, not the 1899 edition.) There are also numerous illustrations that are coordinated with the letters and the opening collection of Stuttgart documents. These include reproductions of photographs of Wolf and his friends and of places he frequented, as well as facsimiles of autographs and prints of his works. Although much of the information here has already been incorporated into numerous other publications by Wolf scholars, most notably Walker's biography, this volume, with its lavish verbal and visual supporting materials, is a stimulating addition to the available resources on the composer.

HEATHER PLATT Ball State University
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Platt, Heather
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1999
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