Conductors: Hans von Bülow
Contents of this page:
Bülow as champion of Berlioz
Table of performances
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One of the greatest pianists and conductors of his time, Hans von Bülow (1830-1894) did not achieve as composer the eminence of some of the contemporaries he most admired — notably Liszt his mentor, Wagner, Berlioz, later Brahms — and he is chiefly remembered as a performing musician of altogether exceptional talent who devoted his energies to the service of other composers, past and present. Bülow’s relations with Berlioz and his music began early in his career in Weimar in 1852, and continued for a period of forty years till 1892, not long before his death. Over this period his attitude to Berlioz himself underwent significant changes, but his admiration for the music remained strong throughout. At different stages of his career he played an important role in spreading knowledge of Berlioz in Germany, though as will be seen this role was not as extensive as might have been expected. It goes without saying that this page is devoted only to one particular aspect of Bülow’s activity, his relations with Berlioz and his music, and not with the whole of his complex and varied career.
1852-1869: relations with Berlioz during his lifetime
Note: the majority of letters by Bülow are referred to subsequently by the initials HvB (in a few cases by the initials HvBn: see below), followed by a six-digit number (year, month, day) which is linked to the translations below; for example HvB 820330 refers to a letter of Bülow of 30 March 1882.
The relations of Bülow with Berlioz during the latter’s lifetime follow a clear pattern: Bülow discovered Berlioz in the years 1852 to 1854, and this formed the basis for a lifelong admiration on his part for the music of Berlioz. But on a personal level the initially warm relations established in Dresden in April-May 1854 gradually became more distant, and after this time the two men met only on a few occasions. On his side Berlioz formed a very favourable estimate of Bülow’s musical abilities in general, and of his talent as a pianist in particular, an estimate which he did not subsequently change. But Bülow’s dedication to the music of Wagner and Liszt was something that in the long run Berlioz was unable to share, and in the course of the 1860s direct relations between the two men ceased altogether.
Though the young Bülow first heard Berlioz conducting during his visit to Dresden in 1843, it was Weimar and Liszt’s activity there that provided the real starting point in 1851. In that year the young Hans von Bülow decided on a musical career, with the encouragement of Wagner and Liszt, and moved to Weimar to become a disciple of the latter. According to Bülow it was Liszt who first introduced him to Berlioz (HvB 820330): in 1852 Liszt was planning to revive Berlioz’s opera Benvenuto Cellini which had failed in Paris many years earlier in 1838. Initially Bülow had some reservations — or rather preconceptions — about Berlioz and his music (HvB 520121), which interestingly seem to echo those expressed by Wagner in print as early as 1841. But after attending a rehearsal of Benvenuto Cellini on 8 March (HvB 520308) then two consecutive performances of the opera (20 and 24 March) he was won over. At the prompting of Liszt and with his collaboration he undertook the task not just of publicising the work in Germany through two articles in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, which appeared in April, but also of making substantial revisions and cuts to the opera, notably in the second act (HvB 520422, 520523). It is possible, as suggested by David Cairns, that these changes were implemented as early as a performance on 17 April, and not first in November (see on this the section on Benvenuto Cellini in the Weimar page). During the intervening period Berlioz, away in London at the time, was consulted by Liszt on the proposed changes and kept informed of progress, but was apparently unaware of the role that Bülow was playing behind the scenes. At the invitation of Liszt Berlioz visited Weimar in November 1852 where he gave a highly successful concert, attended performances of his opera conducted by Liszt, and was introduced to many members of Liszt’s circle, including Hans von Bülow (CG no. 1538), who wrote an enthusiastic review of Berlioz’s visit in the journal Deutschland.
In November 1852 there was little opportunity for Berlioz and Bülow to become more closely acquainted with each other; this only happened two years later when Berlioz visited Dresden for a series of concerts in April-May 1854. Bülow, acting once more on behalf of Liszt, was instrumental in preparing the ground in the months before Berlioz’s arrival, as his correspondence with Liszt shows in detail, though Berlioz was unaware of this (HvB 531105, 531119, 531212, 531223). The concerts provided an opportunity for him and Bülow to meet and get to know each other (CG nos. 1717, 1738, 1739, 1748). They marked the pinnacle of Berlioz’s success in Germany, though initial hopes of following up the success by staging Benvenuto Cellini in Dresden and securing a permanent position for Berlioz as conductor there were not in the end fulfilled. On all this Bülow wrote detailed reports to Liszt, and waxed lyrical on the impression Berlioz had made on him as composer and conductor (HvB 540430, 540506, 540629, 540919). The meeting of the two men in Dresden was the longest and much the most productive of the various encounters they had in subsequent years. Among other things, Berlioz was able to appreciate Bülow’s exceptional talent as a pianist, and one result was that Bülow made a piano arrangement of the overture to Benvenuto Cellini (CG no. 1777; HvB 540506, 540629, 540909) and later one of the Corsaire overture (CG nos. 2098, 2100, 2218; HvB 541119, 541231, 550516, 560907), both of which Berlioz praised highly, despite his known reservations about such piano arrangements (CG nos. 968, 969). Berlioz, it should be added, never heard Bülow conduct and was therefore not able to form an estimate of his (considerable) ability in this sphere.
Bülow on his side was thoroughly won over to Berlioz and became even more determined to promote his cause. In 1855 he settled in Berlin as head of the piano department at the Julius Stern school of music, a post he held until 1864. In the only letter of Bülow to Berlioz to have been preserved he declares his admiration and intention to promote Berlioz in Berlin (CG no. 2098, 10 February 1856), to which Berlioz responded without delay with suggestions (CG no. 2100). As well as giving numerous recitals of instrumental and chamber music in Berlin, Bülow was able to organise there a few concerts in 1858 and 1859 which included music by Berlioz (several overtures and a few vocal pieces; see the table of concerts below). Berlioz’s reply to a letter of Bülow concerning the first of these concerts is preserved (CG no. 2273, 20 January 1858; cf. HvB 580214). The two men were able to meet again for the first time since Dresden in August 1856 in Baden-Baden, though the brief references to this in their respective correspondences provide little information (CG nos. 2163, 2168; HvB 560816).
Up till this point relations had appeared to be unclouded, but lurking in the background were two potential problems. Bülow’s devotion to Wagner and his music predated his discovery of Berlioz in 1852 by a decade (it started in Dresden in 1842 with a performance of Rienzi), and Wagner — even more than Liszt — was to remain the dominant influence on Bülow down to the end of the 1860s. The question of Berlioz’s attitude to Wagner and his music is already hinted at in the very first letter of Bülow that refers to Berlioz (HvB 520121) and it surfaces again towards the end of the report Bülow gave to Liszt of the concerts in Dresden in 1854. As examined elsewhere, the issue began to drive a wedge between Liszt and Berlioz in Weimar in February 1856. The second problem was Berlioz’s refusal to be enlisted by the circles of Liszt as the standard-bearer of any ‘school’ of composers, but on this point Bülow shared the crusading zeal of his mentor (cf. HvB 580214, 590210). An example of their difference of attitude occurred in 1857 when Liszt insisted on giving a performance of Berlioz’s L’Enfance du Christ in Aachen against local resistance and in spite of Berlioz’s explicit warning (CG nos. 2232, 2233; HvB 570602). Berlioz would not be drawn into what was primarily a German controversy which was to split the German musical world for years to come. Both issues started to cloud the relations between Berlioz and Bülow, though outwardly relations remained seemingly cordial.
One sign of the gradual cooling-off came early in 1858 in connection with the concert in Berlin mentioned above. There is a sharp contrast between the cordial tone of Berlioz’s letter to Bülow (CG no. 2273) and that to his son Louis a few days later (CG no. 2274), where he says of Bülow ‘This young man is one of the most fervent disciples of this crazy school which in Germany is called the school of the future. They insist and absolutely demand that I be their leader and standard-bearer’. It is not known what exact words Bülow had used in his letter to Berlioz to cause annoyance. Later in the year (2 June), an article by Joseph d’Ortigue in the Journal des Débats, in which he attacked ‘the music of the future’ and roundly condemned any attempt to link Berlioz (and the composer Litolff) with it, added fuel to the fire: Bülow believed that Berlioz was somehow behind it (HvB 580724). As a result he refused to attend Berlioz’s concert in Baden-Baden the following August (HvB 580809 and 580809a). It should be remembered that it was precisely at this time (1858-1859) that Bülow was closely involved with the composition of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde: he was working on the piano reduction of the opera as it was being written, and was immensely impressed by the work (HvB 590820). Any criticism of its author, open or implied, could only hurt him deeply.
Bülow was back in Paris the following year to give two concerts (17 April and 5 May 1859), which Berlioz announced and reviewed extremely favourably in the Journal des Débats (10 April and 19 May 1859). They met again on this occasion, though only briefly (CG nos. 2380, cf. 2354bis, 2365bis, 2372ter [in vol. VIII]), and Bülow’s correspondence comments on how ill and weakened Berlioz now appeared to be (HvB 590407, 591109, 600205). In 1860 Bülow returned to Paris to give a series of concerts between January and March, and he also saw Wagner who was there at the time giving concerts and preparing the ground for the performance of his opera Tannhäuser. Berlioz’s feuilletons in the Journal des Débats during 1860 make no mention of Bülow’s concerts and there is no hint in his extant correspondence of any meeting with Bülow, though a letter of Bülow implies that they did actually see each other (HvB 600229). But Berlioz’s review of Wagner’s concert, published in the Journal des Débats of 9 February 1860 and reproduced by him two years later in À Travers Chants, irritated Bülow (cf. HvB 600205, 600226). Bülow returned to Paris the following year for a month in February-March to attend the première of Tannhäuser on 13 March, but there is no indication that Berlioz and Bülow saw each other at the time. However, a letter of Bülow of May 1861 might imply recent correspondence between them, though the reference to Berlioz is not certain (HvBn 610501). Two letters of Bülow late in 1861 show the depth of Bülow’s anger against Berlioz (HvB 611002, 611203): allegedly Berlioz had failed to acknowledge in good time the gift by Wagner of the score of Tristan und Isolde early in 1860, though it should be pointed out that this information may have come from Wagner himself who was very close to Bülow in the 1850s and 1860s (for an earlier instance cf. a letter of Wagner to Bülow in 1858). There are no extant letters between Berlioz and Bülow after this time, though early in 1864 Bülow helped to introduce the young Asger Hamerik to Berlioz.
Characteristically, whatever his feelings on the subject of Wagner, Bülow continued to admire Berlioz as musician and composer (cf. HvB 600226, 611010, 630207, 640131), and though he did not perform any more music by Berlioz in the 1860s, he did supervise a performance of Roméo et Juliette in Basel on 16 December 1866 (HvB 661206, 661222). Berlioz noted the fact without comment in his correspondence (CG no. 3241), and his only other mention of Bülow in his letters of the 1860s is a scathing reference to Bülow’s role as the champion of new music in Germany (CG no. 2888). Bülow did in fact move from Berlin to Munich in 1864 at the prompting of Wagner, and it was there that he conducted the first performances of Tristan und Isolde (10 June 1865) and Meistersinger (21 June 1868).
Bülow’s concerts of 1860 were his last public appearances in Paris as a performer in Berlioz’s lifetime. But he made one more brief visit to Paris in July 1867, as member of a jury judging the performance of military bands, and it appears that on this occasion he did see Berlioz once again (HvBn 670709, 670731). There is no hint of this in Berlioz’s letters at the time, which is perhaps not surprising — a few weeks earlier Berlioz had received the news of the death of his only son Louis and was in a state of shock. Bülow expressed delight at this latest visit to Paris; but the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 changed everything. In practice Bülow returned to Paris only once many years later, in April 1885 (cf. HvB 850415, 850500), and in his subsequent concert tours he avoided France altogether.
1869-1892: after the death of Berlioz
There appears to be no recorded reaction on the part of Bülow to the death of Berlioz in 1869, but none should be expected: in the years 1868-1870 Bülow was going through the most serious crisis of his life. In 1868 the relationship between his wife Cosima, one of Liszt’s daughters, and Richard Wagner was finally exposed publicly; it had been going on for several years, and Cosima had already had two children from Wagner. As a result of the scandal Bülow initiated divorce proceedings against Cosima in 1869 and broke off relations with the man he had admired and served loyally for so long; Cosima and Wagner were married in August 1870. Bülow did not see Wagner again, though as always he drew a distinction between his personal and his musical life: in his subsequent career he continued to perform music by Wagner and even raised funds for the Bayreuth festival. He left Munich in 1869 and settled initially in Italy, where he started to rebuild his career, first as a virtuoso pianist then as a conductor as well. Much of his time in the 1870s was taken up with a restless series of concert tours and recitals involving constant travel in many countries, notably Italy (1870-1871), Germany and central Europe (1872-3), Britain (1873-75, 1878-79), Russia (1874), the United States (1875-6), and Scotland (1877-78). It was not till 1877 that he seemed to be settling down to a long-term post at the court theatre in Hanover, though he then resigned it in October 1879. In his subsequent career his two longest tenures were as conductor of the Meiningen court orchestra from 1880 to 1885, then of the Berlin Philharmonic from 1886-1892, during which he raised the standard of both orchestras and brought them to international fame. To the end, and despite the ill health that plagued him throughout his life, he continued to pursue simultaneously his twin careers as travelling virtuoso pianist and conductor, with further visits to the countries he had visited in the 1870s (with the conspicuous exception of France).
One result of Bülow’s break with Wagner was that henceforward he could view Berlioz with greater detachment: Berlioz’s attitude to Wagner, which had troubled Bülow in past years, was no longer an issue. Bülow’s correspondence give hints of his continued — or perhaps revived — interest in Berlioz in the early 1870s. A letter of 1872 (HvB 720922) recommends that a budding conductor should study with great care Berlioz’s treatise on the art of conducting. Letters of 1873 testify to the deep impression made on him by Berlioz’s Memoirs ‘which [he] had been intending to read for the last three years’ and had at last managed to read (HvB 730620, 730624). Other letters of the 1870s comment approvingly on Berlioz’s music (HvB 730426, 750327, 770513). From 1873 onwards orchestral pieces by Berlioz started to return to Bülow’s concert programmes, and this was crowned by a series of seven performances of Benvenuto Cellini at the Hanover court theatre in 1879. During his Meiningen years in the early 1880s he gave numerous performances of shorter orchestral pieces, and he continued to do this intermittently down till near the end of his career (see the table of concerts below).
Bülow as champion of Berlioz
Bülow thought of himself as a champion of Berlioz who had helped spread knowledge of the composer in Germany, and took particular pride in having been a convert from early in his career: he thus saw himself as one of the custodians of a tradition that went back to the time of Berlioz himself. This is the view he expressed to Édouard Colonne in 1882 when he sent a contribution to the building of a Berlioz monument in Paris (HvB 820330, 820504, 850500), and it is found elsewhere in Bülow’s correspondence (HvB 831005). He was evidently aware of the revival of interest in Berlioz that had taken place in Paris in the 1870s and knew of the role that Colonne was playing in this. In two other letters, during and after his last trip to Paris in 1885, he comments approvingly on the quality of Colonne’s orchestra which he rated above his own (smaller) Meiningen orchestra — no mean praise coming from the exacting and outspoken Bülow (HvB 850415, 850500, cf. 891207). Having seen and heard Berlioz conduct some of his own works in Weimar in 1852 and Dresden in 1854 Bülow felt entitled to demand from others a high standard of performance of Berlioz’s music (HvB 840120, 870630, 880621), and was very critical of conductors who seemed to him to fall short: victims of his scathing critique include Max Seyfritz in Löwenberg (HvB 770513), Wilhelm Ganz in London (HvB 790701), Felix Mottl in Karlsruhe (HvB 880507, though cf. also HvBn 860608; HvB 861217), and Hans Richter in London (HvB 880621). Few conductors of Berlioz earned praise from him; one of these was Charles Hallé, who had inherited the authentic tradition (HvB 880621). Addicted to polemic from his early years Bülow was prepared to take up arms against hostile critics of Berlioz (HvB 840213).
Bülow did know his Berlioz, both the writer and the composer. He had read Berlioz’s published works and cites them in his correspondence: the Treatise on Orchestration (HvB 720922), the Soirées de l’orchestre (HvB 541011), À Travers Chants (HvB 611203, 900206), the Memoirs (HvB 730620, 730624, 850500, 860220). Throughout his career he showed an interest in giving or hearing performances of his music and getting to know individual works better: Béatrice et Bénédict (HvB 630207, 790918, 840523, 900206), La Captive (HvB 901020), Le Carnaval romain (HvB 891207), Le Corsaire (HvB 841002, 851109), the Damnation of Faust (HvB 540506, 690427, 730630), the Symphonie fantastique (HvB 770513, 910829), King Lear (HvB 840120, 841002, 841204), Harold en Italie (HvB 670714, 910829, 920314), the Requiem (HvB 590700, 611010, 880505, 880507), Roméo et Juliette (HvB 661222, 870630; HvBn 870623), the Te Deum (HvB 780810). (For Benvenuto Cellini see below.)
Bülow’s regard for Berlioz went beyond general expressions of indebtedness (HvB 580331) and admiration (HvB 730426, 750327). He regarded Berlioz as the victim of injustice at the hands of his contemporaries, and it was the task of his ‘testamentary executors’ (HvB 831005) to make amends for the harm he had suffered (HvB 790203 and note, HvB 881218). One wonders whether Bülow himself had regrets on this score. At any rate, he seemed at times to identify personally with Berlioz. At one time he had letter paper made with Berlioz’s portrait printed on top, which he seems to have used when wanting to make a special point (HvB 831005, 840213). In his earlier years he connected the first, middle and last letters of his own name with the first letter of the names of the three composers he admired most at the time, Berlioz, Liszt, and Wagner to form a signature (for example HvB 611002, and a letter of 7 February 1858 to Felix Draeseke, HvB III p. 156; cf. also 771227). In 1888 he made a point of conducting a concert on the anniversary of Berlioz’s birth and in his honour (HvB 881209; Le Ménestrel, 20 January 1889).
On the other hand one may wonder whether Bülow ever sympathised whole-heartedly with Berlioz. In his letters Bülow occasionally notes that Berlioz was French, not German, as though this was in itself a significant characteristic (HvB 520121, 580627, 611002, 880803; HvBn 870623), though it should be added that Bülow could be scathing about his own compatriots, particularly when travelling abroad. Born in a family with a military tradition which prized discipline and order, Bülow may have had difficulty in identifying with Berlioz’s love of freedom and the unconventional. In his later years, on his own admission, his attitudes became more reactionary, and he felt that Berlioz was capable of ‘gross errors’ (HvB 880803). Works he had admired now appeared to him in a new light: the Symphonie fantastique was an ‘eccentric monstrosity’ (HvB 910829; the same applied to Liszt’s Faust symphony which he had once praised and performed, HvB 670714), and he even had occasional doubts about the less revolutionary Harold en Italie which he otherwise admired and performed (HvB 891209). As for the Requiem it was ‘outrageous, feverish, tremendous — in spite of all its un-classical features’ (HvB 880507), and even Roméo et Juliette had its ‘eccentric and anti-German elements’ (HvBn 870623) and its ‘absurdities’ (HvB 870630). Writing to his former pupil Asger Hamerik in 1889 he expressed the view that one Hector was enough (HvB 890426). It is probably in keeping with this change of perspective that Bülow adapted the concept of the ‘three Bs’ first introduced by Peter Cornelius in 1854 to include, not Bach, Beethoven, and Berlioz, as defined by Cornelius, but Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms, of whom he was a dedicated champion (HvB 831005, 841001, 841002, 841003, 880803). Germany could thus claim all three Bs for itself. This reinterpretation may come as a surprise to those for whom Brahms, for all his merits, is not only of a lesser stature than either Bach or Beethoven, but in his respect for decorum and tradition is the antithesis of the revolutionary spirit represented in their different ways by Berlioz or Wagner (as far back as 1903 Julien Tiersot protested against the reinterpretation). All the same the name of Berlioz retained for Bülow the sentimental glow of a youthful passion that he was not prepared to give up (HvBn 860608; HvB 880803, 900206).
If one now turns to Bülow’s record of performance of Berlioz’s music, it leads to an unexpected conclusion: Bülow performed far less of Berlioz’s music than one might have expected in the light of his proclaimed devotion to Berlioz (far less than either Pasdeloup or Colonne, for example). With the exception of Benvenuto Cellini, which held a special place in Bülow’s affections and will be examined below, Bülow’s Berlioz repertoire was restricted to a handful of shorter orchestral works which he performed repeatedly. (Since Berlioz did not write any piano music he could of course play no part in the innumerable piano recitals which constituted a large part of Bülow’s career as a performer.) Despite Bülow’s declared admiration for Berlioz and his professed intentions to perform his works, it comes as a surprise to discover that he never gave a single performance of the majority of Berlioz’s most important works: these include notably the Symphonie fantastique, the Symphonie funèbre et triomphale, the Requiem, the Te Deum, the Damnation of Faust, l’Enfance du Christ, Tristia, Les Nuits d’été, and the operas Béatrice et Bénédict and Les Troyens, in other words the largest and most significant part of Berlioz’s entire output. He supervised one performance only of Roméo et Juliette in Basel in December 1866, but did not actually conduct it himself. The only symphony he ever conducted was Harold en Italie, and that only twice, in 1879 in Hanover and 1892 in Berlin (it was in fact the last work by Berlioz that he was to conduct, cf. HvB 920314). He is also known to have rehearsed the work during his period in Meiningen, but this did not lead to any performance. Otherwise his regular Berlioz repertoire consisted for the most part of a handful of overtures: Benvenuto Cellini, Le Carnaval romain, Le Corsaire, King Lear, less frequently Béatrice et Bénédict. These were performed again and again, particularly during the Meiningen years. The Francs-Juges overture, a favourite of Berlioz’s, he only performed once (in 1859), the Waverley overture never, and other orchestral pieces such as the Trojan March and the Royal Hunt and Storm were similarly neglected. To judge from contemporary comments and reactions, his performances of the overtures could be expected to be brilliant and effective (HvB 771209, 841204, 851109; Le Ménestrel, 25 April 1886), but how Bülow would have handled the larger works is impossible to say. His considerable reputation as a conductor was not based on his Berlioz performances. There were arguments in his time and after about his — to some — subjective style of conducting and the liberties he was liable to take with tempo, as seen for example in Weingartner’s essay on conducting where Bülow is frequently criticised, perhaps unfairly — the two men were rivals and clashed in Hamburg in 1887 (see F. Weingartner, On Conducting, transl. Ernest Newman, London, 1906). But the arguments centred particularly on Bülow’s interpretations of Beethoven, and Weingartner, himself a Berlioz conductor, does not mention Bülow’s conducting of Berlioz. The question therefore arises whether Bülow’s reputation as a Berlioz champion has not in fact been exaggerated, and partly by Bülow himself. His claim to have promoted from his early years the music of Berlioz is hardly borne out by the record of what he actually did, and it stands in clear contrast to his extensive promotion of Brahms (he gave no less than 58 performances of Brahms’ 4 symphonies, not to mention frequent performances of all the concertos, other orchestral works, and piano and vocal music).
Benvenuto Cellini had a very special place in Bülow’s affections and was in this respect different from all other works of Berlioz. It was the first major work of Berlioz that Bülow got to know well through Liszt’s performances in Weimar in 1852 (but not under Berlioz’s baton — Liszt insisted on conducting the work himself and would not allow Berlioz to take charge of even a single performance in Weimar, cf. CG no. 2104). Although Bülow was acquainted with the music of Berlioz before this time (cf. HvB 520121) it is unlikely that he had been able to hear many live performances. Liszt delegated to his pupil the task of presenting the work to the public through two articles which Bülow wrote and published in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik in April 1852 (they are available on this site in the original German text, in English and in French translations, both by Michel Austin). The preparation of Benvenuto Cellini for performance in Weimar involved also extensive revisions to the work after the first performances in March, including a large cut in the 4th tableau of the original 2nd act of the opera. While Liszt negotiated the changes in correspondence with Berlioz, a large part of the actual work of revision was done by Bülow himself, something that Berlioz was not fully aware of (for more details see the page on Weimar). One may marvel incidentally at the audacity of the 23 year-old, advising a composer more than twice his age on the necessity of rewriting and making cuts to his own work… Between them Liszt and Bülow brought about the successful revival of a work that Berlioz had virtually given up altogether after its failure in 1838, and for this Berlioz was profoundly grateful. But in the process the character of the original Paris version was modified and some fine music lost. The ‘Weimar version’ held sway for a long time, and it is only much later that the original has been resurrected and its own distinctive merits can now be appreciated (see on this site the articles by Hugh Macdonald, Pierre-René Serna and Christian Wasselin).
In this revised version the opera was last performed in Weimar on 16 March 1856; it was also the last performance of the work in Berlioz’s lifetime, and it was not heard again till Bülow revived it in Hanover in 1879. When exactly Bülow first thought of resurrecting the opera is not clear, but the idea may date back to at least the last months of 1869: it was then that after his break with Wagner Bülow left Munich and settled in Florence, where he saw for the first time Cellini’s statue of Perseus (HvB 790203), and was thus reminded of Berlioz’s opera. The early 1870s were also the time when his thoughts were turning back to Berlioz (see above). The chance to stage the opera came abruptly and unexpectedly in August 1877 when Bülow accepted at short notice the offer to fill a vacancy which had arisen in the post of conductor of the court orchestra of Hanover. In correspondence from Glasgow with his friend Hans von Bronsart, the manager of the Hanover theatre, Bülow laid it down as one of the conditions of his appointment that he would be allowed to stage Benvenuto Cellini for which he ‘would willingly have given his last drop of blood’ (HvB 771209, 771222). Preparations for the opera during the winter of 1878-79 were hectic and stressful (HvB 781130, 781215, 790119, 790127), but eventually the work was performed on 2 February 1879, for the first time since the performances in Weimar and London of more than two decades ago, and a total of 7 performances were given between February and May. Whereas in Weimar in 1852 and 1856 Liszt took all the credit for the revival and conducted all the performances himself, in Hanover in 1879 the revival was emphatically Bülow’s who conducted all the performances. It was an achievement that gave Bülow considerable satisfaction, an act of reparation for the injustices that Berlioz had suffered at the hands of the Paris Opéra more than 40 years earlier (HvB 790203, 790205, 840112, 881218; HvBn 860608; on the reception by the German press see further Kenneth Birkin, Hans von Bülow , pp. 277-9).
Benvenuto Cellini, it should be said, was only one of the many operas that Bülow performed during his time in Hanover. During the seasons 1878 and 1879 Bülow directed no less than 110 operatic performances in all, 55 in each year, and of these 22 were of operas of Wagner. Against the 7 performances of Cellini he gave in 1879 one could set the total of 66 performances of 6 different operas by Wagner that he directed between 1866 and 1879: Rienzi, The Flying Dutchman, Lohengrin, Tannhaüser, Tristan, The Mastersingers, each of which he conducted more often than he did Benvenuto Cellini. Bülow had intended to follow Benvenuto Cellini with performances of Béatrice and Bénédict in Hanover, which would have required in his view new recitatives and changes to the spoken parts (HvB 790918), but he resigned from his post in late October 1879. Though he was to conduct operas again in Hamburg in 1887 and 1888 works by Berlioz were not among them. As for Les Troyens Bülow never seems to have shown any great interest in the work.
Nevertheless the initiative of Bülow in Hamburg was very significant for the future, as it set an example that was followed. Leipzig came first in 1883 when the young Arthur Nikisch conducted performances of Benvenuto Cellini, with the same tenor (Anton Schott) in the title role as in Hanover. The work elicited enthusiastic comments from the pianist Marie Jaell, a friend and admirer of Berlioz, which were reproduced in Paris in Le Ménestrel (12 August 1883). Bülow complained about the cuts that had been made as compared with his own — cut! — version of the opera in Hanover in 1879 (HvB 840112), but he could also take satisfaction in seeing other German opera houses now following his lead. One of those who followed in his steps was Felix Mottl, the first conductor anywhere to have performed all three operas of Berlioz, including the first ever complete performance Les Troyens in 1890 in Karlsruhe.
The texts are grouped in two sections: (1) Letters (2) Journals. Only a few texts are included in this latter section; on the other hand the letters — by Berlioz to various correspondents, including Hans von Bülow in the years 1854 to 1858, by Hans von Bülow to a great variety of correspondents over a forty year period from 1852 to 1892, and by various others — form by far the largest number of texts reproduced here. The letters of Bülow have been taken for the most part from the main collection of his correspondence, that is the 7 volumes published by his widow after his death between 1895 and 1908, while a few come from a supplementary volume of letters published in 1927 (see below). More than half of the letters of Bülow remain unpublished (see Alan Walker, Hans von Bülow: A Life and Times , p. 463). The letters presented here constitute only a selection of what Bülow said about Berlioz in his correspondence and not a complete collection.
Among his many talents — he conducted or played all his concerts from memory — Hans von Bülow was an unusually versatile linguist: he wrote in four languages (German, French, English, Italian), especially the first two (he learnt French early; Italian and English he acquired later in his career), and he sometimes even mixes several languages within the same letter. In the listing below the language of the original letter is indicated in every case, with links as appropriate to the text in the original language. It should be said that Bülow’s German style in his letters is sometimes dense, allusive, even idiosyncratic (he loved playing on words), and can be difficult to interpret and translate. The translations below (all by Michel Austin) seek to convey the general sense of the texts and do not lay claim to word-for-word accuracy (the same comment applies to his two articles of 1852 on Benvenuto Cellini).
For the letters the following abbreviations have been used:
CG = Correspondance
HvB = Marie von Bülow ed., Hans von Bülow, Briefe und Schriften, 8 volumes, Leipzig 1895-1908, of which vols. 1-2 and 4-8 are devoted to the correspondence, though in practice they are numbered consecutively from 1 to 7. Since the letters are not numbered consecutively volume and page references are given below for each letter. A separate page gives the original text of those letters (the majority) that are in German, while the original of the letters in French (notably those to Liszt) will be found in the French version of this page.
HvBn = Hans von Bülow, Neue Briefe, herausgegeben und eingeleitet von Richard Graf Du Moulin Eckhart, Munich 1927.
SB = Richard Wagner, Sämtliche Briefe vol. 1- (Leipzig, 1979- )
WL = Briefwechsel zwischen Wagner und Liszt, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1910)
Hans von Bülow to his father [in German], 21 January, from Weimar (HvB I, pp. 407-18, at p. 412):
[…] On February 16th Berlioz’s opera Benvenuto Cellini, which suffered a partial failure in Paris a long time ago, is going to be staged here, and it is likely that the composer will be present. I am looking forward to making his acquaintance. Although I have very little sympathy for Berlioz’s anti-wagner tendencies and his pretence of following in the footsteps of Beethoven, I am nevertheless attracted by his manifest genius and his versatility in so many areas of the art of music. Recent developments in music owe a great deal to his wealth of technical advances, particularly as regards the art of orchestration. Berlioz has taken the initiative in many innovations and also demonstrated how they can be put to correct use — admittedly he is a Frenchman through and through — and his brilliance lies on the surface. Liszt’s production of his opera is in the first instance the result of his personal friendship with the composer, but arises also from the generally admirable intention of giving public recognition to someone who has been neglected in Germany almost more than in his native country. Another motive is to raise singers and orchestral players to a higher level — the former in particular a uniquely lazy, ignorant and arrogant tribe — by compelling them to tackle difficult and unfamiliar tasks. […]
Hans von Bülow to his sister [in German], 8 March, from Weimar (HvB I, pp. 428-31, at p. 431):
[…] Yesterday I was at the rehearsal of Berlioz’s opera, but unfortunately the composer is no longer able to come (initially Benvenuto was to be performed on 16th February). It was a glorious cup of chocolate, and it is a long time since my ears have had such a treat. […]
Liszt to Wagner, 7 April (WL no. 70)
Hans von Bülow to Theodor Uhlig [in German], 22 April, from Weimar (HvB I, pp. 434-6. at p. 434):
[…] The articles on Benvenuto Cellini have taken me a great deal of time, but I had promised to Liszt — who sends you his warmest greetings — that I would write them, though naturally not how. The opera, that is to say Berlioz’s music, made an unusually strong impression on me. I have formed a much more sympathetic view of Berlioz, and found far more to admire in him, than does Wagner. Do you believe that Wagner is angry about it? I have not written to him for a long time, and will at last do so very soon. […]
Hans von Bülow to his mother [in German], 23 May, from Weimar (HvB I, pp. 436-41, at pp. 436-7):
[…] There has been a quick succession of jobs for me to do; for example I literally spent a week doing nothing but copying a score by Liszt for piano and orchestra. Liszt had pressed me so hard for this and he is so kind to me that I always put everything else aside and carry out requests of this kind immediately. A second job followed, more interesting than the first one, but also more time-consuming because it requires more thought. Berlioz’s opera [Benvenuto Cellini] is to be performed again this season, and as my opinion on the inanity of the final act coincided with that of Liszt, that it is tiring and boring for the listener, he suggested that I should carry out the task of making the appropriate cuts and also the few consequential changes in the music and the text. I carried out the task to Liszt’s satisfaction, although on this occasion I made my début with absurdities that make sense. […]
Wagner to Liszt, 8 September (WL no. 79)
Berlioz to Liszt, 30 November, from Paris (CG no. 1538)
Hans von Bülow to Liszt [in French], 5 November, from Dresden (HvB II, pp. 110-15, at pp. 110-11):
[…] In truth I feel extremely sad and grief-stricken for having been unable better to justify your confidence as regards the matter of Berlioz.
At the moment Madame de Lüttichau is so unwell that she has been obliged to stay in bed for several days and that for some time to come she will be unable to receive either my visit or even that of my mother. Knowing further through numerous experiences that her influence on M. de Lüttichau does not go beyond matrimonial relations, I boldly approached His Excellence under the perfectly natural pretext of presenting him my compliments. In the course of the conversation I broached the topic of Berlioz, by pointing out as emanating from you that it would be expedient to take advantage of the temporary visit of Berlioz to Germany by asking him to give a concert in Dresden, which could not fail to arouse considerable and general interest, given the remarkable change in the opinion German artists hold of Berlioz and his recent splendid triumphs in Brunswick and Hanover. — His Excellence’s reply [in German] was at first evasive, then entirely negative:
« A concert at the theatre is at the moment completely ruled out. It will not do, as every day is a subscription day and the subscribers want plays and not concerts. One has to take account of the preferences of the public; if the public does not come, then the theatre cannot exist. »
All the same there would as yet be no reason to despair, if time was not so short. One should also have prepared the ground through the press, which I could have called on through my former university connections. — Nevertheless I will make yet another visit to Carus, who is supposed to enjoy credit in high places and have some influence on the manager; I missed him yesterday. I will also go to see Krebs, and suggest to him the delight caused by the discomfiture of Reissiger at the arrival of Berlioz. Besides, Krebs performed last winter, in a concert at the theatre, the overture Les Francs-Juges. What would be better still is that Berlioz should approach M. de Lüttichau directly, which he has not yet done, contrary to what you believed. […]
Hans von Bülow to Liszt [in French], 19 November, from Dresden (HvB II, pp. 115-19, at pp. 117-18):
[…] And now once more the matter of Berlioz. Carus was charming — touched by the good wishes the Princess sent to him — but he does not seem to have any influence or authority over M. de Lüttichau, or, supposing he has, he has no intention of using it to further your plans. He does not exactly detest Berlioz, nor does he have any particular sympathy for him, and he seems to share at least half of the prejudices that circulate on his account. As for the court, Berlioz would not arouse any interest; on the contrary, the inclination would be to regard him as a dangerous person, as his name has so often been linked to that of Richard [Wagner], and everyone knows that both Berlioz and Wagner enjoy your protection. But Carus claims that the person who exercises most influence on Lüttichau in musical matters is Lipinski. His advice would therefore be that Berlioz should approach Lipinski directly and should frankly request an intervention through his agency. As the work of the court orchestra is also one of the manager’s pretexts for refusing categorically, Lipinski, to whom his colleagues give a say in matters that concern them, could well become the mediator. As far as I know, Lipinski is a Pole who is rather lacking in energy, and the tenacity of his convictions and capacity for action rarely endure for more than 24 hours. All the same, the view of Carus is still probably the best. […]
I am very sorry — of this you will have no doubt — at the limited results achieved by the initiatives I took, and which were the only ones possible.
If the visit of Berlioz to Leipzig, which is reported as imminent, is not idle gossip, his personal negotiations with Dresden would have a more solid base. […]
Hans von Bülow to Liszt [in French], 12 December, from Dresden (HvB II, pp. 135-42, at pp. 136-8):
[…] Lipinski has sorted out the matter of Berlioz. He is the only man to have any influence with M. de Lüttichau. […] To return to Berlioz — who is invited by Lüttichau for the end of April or the beginning of May — in case you share my view, could you not persuade Berlioz to write a kind and ingratiating letter to Reissiger without too much delay? [see CG no. 1718] Reissiger is very sensitive to this kind of attention, and at the moment is very prejudiced against Berlioz and still bears a grudge against him, because of his letter on Dresden in his Travels in Germany [Memoirs, Travels to Germany I, 5th letter]. […]
Hans von Bülow to Liszt [in French], 23 December, from Hanover (HvB II, pp. 147-50, at p. 150):
[…] Pohl is asking me to collaborate for the brochure on Berlioz — I promised him with all my heart. I am extremely upset about the hostile treatment he has received in the Grenzoboten. […]
Hans von Bülow to his sister [in German], 17 March, from Hanover (HvB II, pp. 193-5, at p. 194):
[…] Today I am practising at the piano a piece by Liszt from Berlioz’s Cellini which I have not yet played; I will have a stab at it in Brunswick; yesterday I collected the first proof from Litolff [the publisher]. […]
Berlioz to Liszt, 31 March, from Hanover (CG no. 1717):
[…] I hear also that M. de Bülow is in Dresden; I would be delighted to see him again. I know how highly you regard him, and it is not everywhere that one finds sitting on milestones artists of his calibre ready to offer you the hand of friendship. […]
Berlioz to Liszt, 14 April, from Dresden (CG no. 1738):
[…] I often see M. de Bülow who is perfect and charming gentleman. He has already found so many printing errors in the score of Faust which I brought to you that I will take it back to Paris to have them corrected. […]
Berlioz to Liszt, 15 or 16 April, from Dresden (CG no. 1739):
[…] Mme Pohl will arrive in time for Saturday morning’s rehearsal. That will certainly be enough for her. This morning Richter managed the part for 2nd harp reasonably well. The orchestra is wonderful, the chorus very good, Fischer is a very good… man… but Bülow will tell you about his way of accompanying and rehearsing the choral parts. […]
Berlioz to Liszt, 26 April, from Dresden (CG no. 1748)
Hans von Bülow to Liszt [in French], 30 April, from Dresden (HvB II, pp. 199-206, at pp. 199-204):
[…] Well! It is a very happy moment for me to be able to give you the best news about an event which cannot mean more to you than it does to me, I who have felt my enthusiasm for Berlioz grow with every hearing. Yesterday evening was one of the most outstanding triumphs that Berlioz has celebrated in Germany. A full hall, overflowing with the choicest and most aesthetically elegant among the public of Dresden, gave a warm reception to the composer on his entry. Each piece of the programme was punctuated with repeated applause and acclamations unheard of in Dresden since Wagner’s flight; the third piece of the sacred mystery was encored, and there was frenzied applause when a crown of laurel fell at the composer’s feet from a box of the second row. Despite its fatigue the orchestra surpassed itself at the performance of the last item of the programme, the overture to Benvenuto Cellini. An ovation that had been quietly prepared by the younger members of the court orchestra closed this memorable evening amidst the frantic applause of the audience (Reissiger and even Lipinski had opposed this in the morning — but Reissiger behaved very well towards Berlioz, though his enthusiasm congeals on the borderline of envy). M. de Lüttichau immediately asked the composer to grant him a repeat of the last concert, which will take place tomorrow Monday. — Thus four concerts instead of two — and the almost certain prospect of staging Cellini, to which the performance of the two overtures to the opera will have made no small a contribution. The perfidious criticism of M. Banck spoiled the repeat of Faust. At the second concert the audience was sparse, though it should be added that those attending belonged to the musical elite of the public and were very responsive. The remarkable growth in the size of the audience, which yesterday gave the lie to the press so categorically, would already have been felt at the repeat of Faust, but for the efforts of those pernicious insects the critics. The entire court orchestra and the singers are in the full flush of elation. They are happy to have been taught by this incomparable conductor to appreciate their own talent and capacities. He made them feel the shame and barrenness of the last five or six years, and all, starting with M. de Lüttichau, who is radiant to a degree I would never have believed him capable, would like to keep Berlioz as Kapellmeister in Dresden. — One can be pleased with everyone; there is total goodwill on all sides. From the very first rehearsal M. Berlioz has destroyed any hint of opposition, converted the most recalcitrant, and God knows how many there were! At last — the predictions you made when you were in Dresden last year might well soon come true. M. de Lüttichau has already made advances to M. Berlioz and dropped broad hints; he has asked him, among other things, to produce and conduct Gluck’s Orphée, which he wants to stage next season. When M. Berlioz observed that there was no vacancy in Dresden, as all posts were well filled — he responded with the two rather clear words: Who knows!
Can you imagine that a week ago, at the Catholic church, Krebs bitterly reproached and reprimanded the orchestra for having played so magnificently under the direction of a ‘foreigner’. What a public humiliation for the native conductors, under whose direction they had never shown as much zeal and dedication! This sounds like a fairy-tale, but it is true. Krebs senses instinctively that something extraordinary is brewing, which might well turn against him. In spite of that he is foolish enough to manifest open opposition to the sincere and cordial admiration which Reissiger showed from the outset and continues to show to the works of Berlioz. The other day at a dinner at M. de Lüttichau’s which I attended — Krebs was unusually conspicuous by his absence, which was enhanced by the presence of Reissiger, Fischer, Lipinski, Schubert, Dawison, etc. — At this dinner, given in honour of Berlioz, the minister von Zeschau was also present. — —
M. Berlioz will probably write to you this morning and will communicate his impressions, as well as the degree of his personal satisfaction. So I do not have anything of interest to add on this subject, though I reserve the right to keep you informed should your hopes receive positive or partial confirmation.
I hope you still have a reasonably good opinion of me and do not doubt that during Berlioz’s stay in Dresden, I did everything I could to be of service to this master whom I admire and revere with all my heart, while recalling with gratitude the origin of this admiration. This has not amounted to much; for example, I was only able to do one preparatory article in a newspaper; its editor did not accept my offer to write for free the reviews of the concerts, so as not to wound the feelings of his regular critic. On the other hand I have enrolled under the banner of Berlioz, without any ostentation, enthusiasts among the artists, in particular among the orchestral players. At the appropriate time it would perhaps be good to remind M. Berlioz that the first and warmest friends he has found in the orchestra belong to Wagner’s party and have long done so. These words I have just written — perhaps unnecessarily — were suggested to me by the recollection of some idle chatter of Mme Berlioz on the subject of Richard Wagner, which rather irritated me. But at heart she is an excellent woman, whose fault is of being rather talkative and of saying many things to which it would be wrong to pay too much attention…..
Ritter is enthusiastic about Berlioz. Though ailing as a result of an operation, he assisted me at the first performance of Faust, by taking with me a box for sixteen people, in which we invited or friends and acquaintances, all the best people, for example Blassmann, Hähnel, etc. […]
As for the piece on Cellini, I performed it in Brunswick, and it earned me a fiasco — which further increased my pleasure, shared by Litolff, who was attending this concert as a member of the audience. […]
Hans von Bülow to Liszt [in French], 6 May, from Dresden (HvB II, pp. 206-9):
[…] As you will have heard from the composer himself in Weimar the detailed account of his impressions — those he produced, in so far as they reacted on his own and influenced them — during his trip and stay in Dresden, I might have little to add on this score. — M. de Lüttichau is still completely taken with the personality and the genius of M. Berlioz, as composer and conductor, and will surely not abandon the realisation of his idea of attaching your friend to the musical institute of Dresden. Among the main qualities of this man are a certain obstinacy and tenacity, which can equally turn out to be vices or virtues. The court orchestra, which demonstrated on this occasion an independence of mind and self-government that are new and hitherto unheard-of in Dresden, have fortified in the mind of M. de Lüttichau the conviction that it would be wise to bring about this prophecy. The priority at the moment is to get rid of Krebs, which is rather difficult to do. And yet — Berlioz could very well enter in place of Reissiger, who has long manifested the intention of retiring. We all hope to see Berlioz again in the autumn. The staging of Benvenuto Cellini is no longer in doubt. M. de Lüttichau has decided it without further ado, and there will not even be any discussion when the time comes to get acquainted with the libretto and the score. When I say ‘we hope’, I must nearly add that I exclude myself from this ‘we’, as I imagine that I will then be far away from Dresden and Saxony in general, somewhere in the ‘East’.
M. Berlioz most graciously listened to me playing the piano. He spoke with great kindness about me, and was generous enough to promise his support in helping me gain a foothold in Paris, should I go there one day. I fear this may not happen very soon. […]
At this moment I am savouring as much as possible the echo of Berlioz’s intoxicating music, which made me spend three weeks which I would not like to see erased from the programme of my life. Going by the barometer of my admiration and feeling for the works of this master, I can now decide that I understand them perfectly. I understand and grasp him in the full unity of his individuality, and the numerous flashes of his genius which struck me at first no longer shine through a darkness that has now been dissipated.
You do not know as yet the last two parts of his Faust. Ah! How I envy you! Part IV in particular is magnificent in its inspiration, and sublime in its originality.
I promised to M. Berlioz to arrange the first Cellini overture for piano for 4 hands, for incorporation in the published piano score, as for example with the operas of Spohr; as I have time now I would like to get down to work without delay. But where can I get the score, if you do not have the great kindness of lending me your copy for a fortnight at most?
If a publisher could be found — I would write a pamphlet on Cellini to prepare the ground for the opera in Dresden. If you know one, and if you ask me, I am prepared to do it. It goes without saying that I will not ask for any royalties. M. Berlioz was very pleased when I translated for him the attached article from a Dresden newspaper, which does great credit to its author. It is at his request that I am sending it to you. […]
Hans von Bülow to Liszt [in French], 29 June, from Dresden (HvB II, pp. 209-16, at pp. 210-11):
[…] In sending you back the score of the overture to Cellini, I beg you first to forgive my delay in so doing.
The arrangement for 4 hands took me longer than expected. I redid it conscientiously several times, even with pedantry. I am reasonably satisfied with it, as it is very practical. If you could let me know the exact address of Berlioz at the moment (possibly via Cornelius), I would be very grateful to you, as I would like to send him my arrangement as soon as possible — as I had promised.
M. Fischer, whom I have just met at the theatre this evening, was unable to give me positive news about the staging of Cellini during the autumn; he even has his doubts. But a copy is being made of the piano score. M. de Lüttichau, who is shortly to depart for Teplitz where he will spend a few weeks, is as far as I know still true to his infatuation for Berlioz as composer and especially as conductor. — You can imagine that I did not fail to go and see Tichatscheck on his return and try to get him interested in Cellini. As for my pamphlet on Cellini — I have given up or rather postponed writing it. I had little inclination for it during all the intervening time — I would have written it from too individual and independent a point of view to be able to be confident of success.
After giving the matter further thought, I would also prefer to see it appear as the first instalment of the collection of articles and analyses of the works of Berlioz which Pohl is intending to have published by Wigand in Leipzig, who would also give him royalties — whereas I would not be happy to see it issued by a publisher in Weimar. […]
Berlioz to Hans von Bülow, 28 July, from Paris (CG no. 1777):
It is a delightful surprise you have given me there, and the arrival of your manuscript was all the more welcome as Brandus the publisher, who at the moment is printing Cellini, had already chosen a rather obscure piano-dabbler to arrange the overture. Your work is admirable, it shows rare clarity and fidelity, and is as free from difficulties as could be achieved without altering my score. So I thank you with all my heart. I am seeing Brandus this evening and will bring him your precious manuscript. […]
Berlioz to Hans von Bülow, 1 September, from Paris (CG no. 1785)
Hans von Bülow to Richard Pohl [in German], 9 September, from Dresden (HvB II, pp. 221-5, at p. 223):
[…] In the meantime I have also received two letters from Berlioz — one of them [CG no. 1777] very flattering about my arrangement which will be printed as soon as Brandus has recovered somewhat. I am passing on to you the personal news about him that is interesting. — — […]
Hans von Bülow to Liszt [in French], 19 September, from Dresden (HvB II, pp. 228-32, at pp. 231-232):
[…] Berlioz’s opera has again been adjourned in infinitum. The first stop on this road to eternity is called the spring of 1855. It is impossible to penetrate these mysteries of laziness and theatrical intrigues. However one should not despair as yet. — […] As for the score of Cellini, I will hand it over to M. Pohl when I am about to leave, so that he can return it to you. So far I have been dreadfully ineffectual with this work, but I am not giving up yet. I will however get down to a few excerpts from the orchestration, etc. to find my way in the score, so that I can work in Posen with a good understanding of what is involved. — — […]
Hans von Bülow to Richard Pohl [in German], 11 October, from Chocieszewice (HvB II, pp. 256-9, at p. 259):
[…] I am pleased to hear that you will also be translating Berlioz’s Soirées de l’orchestre. The book is a bible for a whole series of artistic dogmas and re-reading it provided me with a pleasant break for a few hours after I had worked myself to death with Czerny’s Studies and sufficiently assaulted my four walls. […]
Hans von Bülow to his sister [in German], 19 November, from Chocieszewice (HvB II, pp. 284-7, at pp. 285, 287):
[…] Unfortunately I have not received the Journal des Débats, which interests me far more than the music journal. As you are so kind as to post me this sort of printed matter more often, let me ask you to send me as soon as possible the article by Berlioz. […]
When is the performance of Berlioz’s sacred trilogy [L’Enfance du Christ] taking place? What is the concert where it will be heard? […]
Madame Berlioz must also have her good sides.
[…] Give Berlioz my regards and ask him whether I should make a new arrangement for piano with 4 hands of the overture Roman Carnival (the arrangement that Pixis made does not work) — and for the Corsair overture could he be so good as to avail himself of my services; this kind of work would guarantee me publicity, particularly in this place.
Ask him also how much my first concerts in Paris might cost me, where I should play first, etc. and give me as much precise detail on all this as you are able to obtain from him. You would be doing me a very great service! […]
Hans von Bülow to his sister [in German], 31 December, from Chocieszewice (HvB II, pp. 322-6, at p. 325):
[…] Could Berlioz send me a copy of the full score of the Corsair overture as soon as possible? […]
Hans von Bülow to his sister [in German], 16 May, from Berlin (HvB II, pp. 366-9, at p. 369):
[…] I would love to have the full score of the Corsair overture by Berlioz. His photograph is quite superb. In case you meet him by chance, ask him whether the arrangement of the Cellini overture is coming out. […]
Hans von Bülow in Berlin to Berlioz in Weimar [in French], 10 February (CG no. 2098 in English translation)
Berlioz in Weimar to Hans von Bülow in Berlin, 12 February (CG no. 2100)
Hans von Bülow to Julius Stern [in German], 16 August, from Baden-Baden (HvB III, pp. 50-2, at p. 51):
[…] I am sending you the programme of yesterday’s large concert, the responsibility for which should be ascribed not to Berlioz but solely to His Majesty Bénazet II. But the evening was extremely interesting, and Madame Viardot taught me that I can still get carried away by virtuoso performances. What a talented, wonderful and unique person! — The chorus of the Karlsruhe theatre is the best I have heard. I was completely taken by surprise by the purity, security and perfection of the performance. Berlioz has really worked wonders with an orchestra of average ability. The entire Opéra comique from Paris has been here for the last two weeks and is thrashing out a dreadful operetta by Clapisson called Le Sylphe, which is being performed here for the first time. These are the only excitements one falls a victim to, and the odd news that I am able to send you. […]
Hans von Bülow to Richard Pohl [in German], 7 September, from Berlin (HvB III, pp. 52-55, at p. 55):
[…] Greetings to Berlioz, when you write to him. My arrangement of the Corsair overture was despatched yesterday. —
Berlioz to Jakob Melchior Rieter-Biedermann, 21 March, from Paris (CG no. 2218):
[…] The overture Le Corsaire is very well edited and perfectly arranged by M. de Bülow; please convey to him my warmest congratulations on this, if you know where he is. […]
Hans von Bülow to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein [in French], 2 June, from Aachen (HvB III, pp. 90-93, at pp. 90-1):
I have requested and obtained the permission of the Great and Good Liszt to convey to you the good news, which I would like to be able to telegraph and shout to the four corners of the world. Victory lies with him. The success of the second day was brilliant for those of right mind, but devastating for the wicked. The joy of all of us was all the more keen as we were not expecting it.
The rehearsal had been very stormy, or rather very cloudy. The orchestra and chorus were beginning to plot a revolt. L’Enfance du Christ, which they seemed to dislike more and more with every rehearsal, provoked this morning among them displays of hostility of a most unseemly kind. The hall was packed full at this general rehearsal, and as someone ventured to display his satisfaction by applauding, members of the orchestra and of the men’s chorus hissed and even stamped their feet. — As the main character was missing, because of the sudden loss of voice of the bass Dalle Aste and the inability of his substitute M. Reinthaler to sing the part, Liszt found himself unable to continue carrying the banner for Berlioz. I would greatly have wished that he had even omitted La Fuite en Égypte, the execution of which was affected by the manifest ill-will of the performers. But a little shadow did not do any harm, and there was even a moment of satisfaction for us in the nemesis which caused Berlioz to fall this time, and which provided a retrospective consolation for Karlsruhe. — […] (According to Bülow the rest of the concert was a success, and Liszt shone as a conductor) […]
Berlioz to Hans von Bülow, 20 January, from Paris (CG no. 2273)
Berlioz to his son Louis, 24 January, from Paris (CG no. 2274)
Wagner to Hans von Bülow, 10 February (SB IX, no. 118)
Hans von Bülow to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein [in French], 14 February, from Berlin (HvB III, pp. 156-9, at p. 158):
[…] I am in fairly regular correspondence with Berlioz and Wagner, which makes me very happy and provides me with a necessary distraction from my numerous worries. Besides, my concert has the advantage of placing Wagner on a firm and unshakeable base — at every moment he is cited against Berlioz. Berlioz has sent me such a delightful and moving letter [CG no. 2273] that I was rather tempted to send it to you — but the fear of your stern and disabusing criticism holds me back. What do you think of an article against the school? We need a purge to rid ourselves of a few ridiculous and damaging friends, for whom our revered leader is held more or less responsible. […]
Berlioz to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein, 20 February, from Paris (CG no. 2279)
Hans von Bülow to an unnamed correspondent [in German], 31 March, from Berlin (HvB III, pp. 166-73, at pp. 168-9):
[…] There are many artists to whom, as regards music, I owe a deep debt of gratitude. Above all, in every respect and in every field of art, my present father-in-law Liszt (on 18 August 1857, after I had assumed Prussian nationality, I married his youngest daughter, Cosima Liszt, who was born in Como in 1837). After this in the first instance Richard Wagner, with whom I have the closest links; my friendship with him goes back to 1848 in Dresden. Then Berlioz in Paris; his visit to Dresden in 1854, the performances of Wagner’s operas in that city, Wagner’s masterly conducting of operatic and orchestral works, and finally the concerts of Liszt, to whom I had already been introduced for the first time in that year by Lipinski, these have all had the most decisive and lasting influence on my musical development. These three men have really made me what I am as a musician; it was through them that I also learned for the first time to know and appreciate the treasures of the past. […]
Hans von Bülow to Alexander Ritter [in German], 7 May, from Berlin (HvB III, pp. 174-6, at p. 175):
[…] — « Alleluiah »! Anyone who has no feeling for Berlioz has condemned himself to be a cider-drinker for the rest of his life. […]
Hans von Bülow to Felix Draeseke [in German], 27 June, from Berlin (HvB III, pp. 178-81, at p. 181):
[…] You will be delighted with Cornelius’ comic opera [The Barber of Baghdad]. It is a small masterpiece from the school of Berlioz, but an independent and German work, in so far as it makes sense for that to be the case. […]
Hans von Bülow to Richard Pohl [in German], 24 July, from Zürich (HvB III, pp. 183-90, at pp. 188-9):
[…] According to a letter from my sister-in-law in Paris [Blandine] she has roundly taken M. d’Ortigue to task and so stunned him with the shamefulness of his new attack and the dreadful stain he has inflicted on his previously honourable work as a critic, that he became very contrite and promised to repair the damage he had done given a suitable opportunity. He claimed he had only decided to go ahead in response to furious pressure from Berlioz. Countess d’Agoult gave me the following version of what lies directly behind this. After the well-known concert at the Conservatoire [2 May, conducted by Berlioz, featuring music of Litolff and Berlioz] the critic of the Presse had roundly attacked Litolff and Berlioz, and in his manuscript used the word ‘Berliozian’ to describe the music of Litolff and his whole tendency. The editor of the Presse, who is a friend of Berlioz, erased the word used by the critic and demanded a different one, and the favourite catchphrase ‘école de l’avenir’ seemed to present itself very well. D’Ortigue’s article in the Débats [2 June 1858, pp. 1-2] was no more than an answer to the Presse (and it did not come at once), as Berlioz would not leave him in peace. So there. […]
Hans von Bülow to Richard Pohl [in German], 9 August, from Zürich (HvB III, pp. 190-2, at p. 190):
[…] It is not possible for me to attend Berlioz’s concert. In addition I have not yet overcome the outrage I feel at the behaviour of d’Ortigue and Berlioz, and I am unable to see in Berlioz only the composer and not the journalist as well. Besides it would be extremely tedious to have to pay a visit to the white elephant [Mme von Kalergis] and to be forced to witness so many other things as well. […]
Hans von Bülow to Julius Stern [in German], 9 August, from Zürich (HvB III, pp. 193-4, at p. 194):
[…] Another obvious temptation to remain unfaithful to you for longer, in order to enjoy Berlioz’s concert in Baden-Baden on 27 August, does not at the moment have much appeal for me, as my state of mind does not make me very receptive to ‘artistic pleasures’. […]
Hans von Bülow to Richard Wagner [in German], 1 January, from Berlin (HvBn no. 278, pp. 416-20, at p. 417):
[…] May I chat with you about my concert?
We start with Liszt’s Die Ideale. — Then there is a cello concerto played by Coßmann, then an aria from Cellini sung by Mme von Milde, then the G major concerto by Beethoven (the finest of his piano concertos — op. 58), for which I have composed for my own use a couple of splendid cadenzas. Part II begins with the Prelude to Lohengrin, to teach Taubert how he should conduct it on 18 January, the day of the first performance. Then Mme Milde should be singing Elisabeth’s prayer (NB complete). As introduction to it I have arranged 12 bars of the chorus of pilgrims for bassoons, clarinets and horns, more or less as they appear at the end of the introduction in the overture [to Tannhaüser]. I only include as much as is necessary of the postlude. — Finally Coßmann plays another solo, Mme Milde sings two songs by Liszt, and the concert concludes with the Francs-Juges or the Corsaire overture by Berlioz. I keep swinging from excitement to exhaustion, which naturally will not come to an end until January 14 or rather after January 18. […]
Hans von Bülow to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein [in French], 10 February, from Berlin (HvB III, pp. 212-17, at p. 213)
[…] Our cause is very lofty! Although we do not imagine we have the ambition to change the world, nor even reduce the number of fools and scoundrels, we tend nevertheless to place limits on the terrorism of the vile multitude. It is true that the ‘mob’ will never change — the likes of Beethoven, Liszt, Wagner, and Berlioz will never find anywhere and from the start — not to say in their lifetime — the universal admiration to which they rightly feel entitled. But the aim is to remove from the slow, dragging and inert crowd the assistance from within the so-called ‘Intelligentsia’ which fortifies them in their disdainful ignorance. […]
Hans von Bülow to his mother [in German], 7 April, from Paris (HvB III, pp. 227-32, at p. 230):
[…] Unfortunately I have seen little of Berlioz; he is unwell and is very busy with the preparations for a concert which is to take place on the 23rd (L’Enfance du Christ and various excerpts). […]
Berlioz to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein, 20 June, from Paris (CG no. 2380)
Hans von Bülow to Richard Pohl [in German], early July, from Berlin (HvB III, pp. 239-43, at pp. 240-1):
[…] These last few weeks I have been getting to grips with Berlioz’s Requiem; he recently did me the honour of sending me a copy of the Milan edition [by Ricordi]. It is a magnificent work, of enormous depth but also clear. I believe it would be a good idea to popularise it. If only I had the time and inclination to work on an arrangement of individual movements for two pianos (with 4 or 8 hands); possibilities are at least nos. 1. Requiem and Kyrie, 6. Lacrymosa and 9. Sanctus. Would Klemm be inclined to publish the result, and what fee would he pay for this? Perhaps you would keep quiet about this, should you have the opportunity to see Klemm, and not say anything to him on the subject. If you do, make sure you only get a non-committal answer from him, so that on the off-chance that he has been mollified I can make a start on the work without asking for anything?
Leaving serious matters aside — a very funny arrangement of the Lacrymosa could be made. Heavens, if I could one day put the work on here, just the separate movements! To have to wait perhaps another twenty years for this, perhaps even longer! Damn!
If I can bear the costs, I will naturally give again a few orchestral concerts during the winter. In the fourth concert Harold [by Berlioz] would be performed with David — perhaps your wife [a harp player] will support me? […]
Hans von Bülow to Hans von Bronsart [in German], ca. 20 August, from Berlin (HvB III, pp. 253-5, at p. 254):
[…] During the day I sweat at the piano reduction of Act II of Wagner’s Tristan. Quite extraordinary music — magnificent, but as ill-suited to the piano as anything by Berlioz. […]
Hans von Bülow to Hans von Bronsart [in German], 9 November, from Berlin (HvB III, pp. 278-81, at p. 280):
[…] You have probably also heard that Berlioz is very unwell. It is a shame; I believe he is — finished. […]
Hans von Bülow to Hans von Bronsart [in German], 5 February, from Cologne (HvB III, pp. 293-7, at p. 297):
[…] Berlioz is not behaving well. But the poor man is in such bad shape, that one can only feel pity for him. Physically he is a wreck and in an agony of pain. […]
Hans von Bülow to Hans von Bronsart [in German], 26 February, from Paris (HvB III, pp. 299-301, at pp. 300-1):
[…] Wagner is a noble fellow, believe me; he will show more gratitude towards Liszt than — — Berlioz, though one may, indeed must have heartfelt sympathy for him as a man, as he is suffering immensely in every way. His fate is a dreadful tragedy!
Have you read Wagner’s reply to Berlioz’s article? [Journal des Débats, 9 and 22 February 1860] Probably not, so I am sending you a copy of the Journal des Débats and ask you whether you could possibly arrange for a translation by Markull in the Danziger Zeitung. You will see straight away what it is about, and that it is important for every corner of Germany. […] Mme Pleyel is giving a concert on 5 March; I visit her now and then, and was recently with her at Orphée, a wonderfully beautiful and noble performance by Viardot. Besides the entire production was outstanding, as was the staging — the credit for that belongs to Berlioz. […]
Hans von Bülow to Joachim Raff [in German], 29 February, from Paris (HvB III, pp. 302-3, at p. 302):
It is really not through any lack of goodwill on my part that I failed in my attempt to carry out your commission with Wagner and Berlioz. But you should not hold it against either of them. […] Berlioz assured me that he did not have anything available in his drawer that could serve for the album. Respect for Schiller prevents him from offering something that would appear insignificant, and he is unable to compose anything, as he is busy with the revision of his opera Les Troyens, which is to be performed next year as the opening production of the new Théâtre Lyrique. (The theatre has not yet been built, but work should begin shortly and will be completed in six months.) — — […]
Hans von Bülow to Richard Wagner [in German], 1 May, from Berlin (HvBn no. 288, pp. 451-4, at pp. 453-4):
[…] I asked Baudelaire to come and see me; he really revived me. Beckmann also wrote to me recently about a feuilleton by Janin, but I have not yet been able to get hold of it. If you see B. [Berlioz?], could you kindly ask him for me whether he has not received my reply. He asked me about something or other, which prompted me to offer my services straightaway and all I am waiting for is his next step. Please make do with this sign of life and reply only if it does not cost you any trouble. […]
Hans von Bülow to Richard Pohl [in German], 2 October, from Berlin (HvB III, pp. 434-9, at pp. 435-7):
[…] There is just one thing I beg you not to forget; unfortunately I have long ignored this and paid a heavy price as a result. Given your sympathetic attitude I must be completely frank with you.
To campaign with one breath for Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is out of the question. Nobody has so far managed to work at once for more than one great man. Our spirit and our heart are wide-embracing, and that is good, and we have the right to be proud of this. But we cannot look in two different directions. This confuses our vision and alarms the public. We cannot devote our active enthusiasm to the Trinity all at once. Future generations will be able to grasp the Unity within the Trinity. We must carry out those duties that belong to the contemporary world and even give precedence to the trivial boundary of nationality. At this moment Wagner and Liszt are far closer to us. I will perform pieces by Berlioz in my concerts, and so will Bronsart. That is quite enough. Do not misunderstand me if I bring in a personal consideration, to which I do not attribute more significance than is objectively reasonable. But we cannot overlook the fact that of the two Berlioz has behaved in the most ungrateful and selfish way (as a man the third [Liszt] cannot be compared with them). I know nothing more heartless (and at the time it was for Wagner a stab to the heart) than the three-week silence which was Berlioz’s only reply to the gift of a score, on the title page of which was written:
To Romeo and Juliet,
Tristan and Isolde.
There are various other things, which are hardly to be excused in a man who is not completely ignoble, and which I pass over, so as not to lapse into idle gossip. The German would never have been responsible for this kind of thing.
But enough. All I wanted to say to you is that there is no way in which an understanding with Berlioz can now be forged. There is a certain justification, based on his experiences in Paris, for his one-sided view of Wagner. And further he is rather vain, even pedantic — but should one pay regard only to the faults of human beings, one would have to shoot everyone straight away like a mad dog. Ideally one should look at people from their good sides, and help to develop these. […]
To come back to the general point: let us keep our eye on the important moment, when we must intervene for Liszt and for Wagner in this ‘narrow’ country of ours. […]
How badly Berlioz behaved towards me in Paris! He has not wounded my self-esteem, but I was far from being prepared for all the ways he neglected me! But may the devil confound all these thoughts! […]
Hans von Bülow to Hans von Bronsart [in German], 10 October, from Berlin (HvB III, pp. 439-40, at p. 440):
[…] P.S. Do ask Riedel whether he is still interested in Berlioz’s Requiem. If so, he is welcome to use my score, though otherwise I am reluctant to part with it. He asked me about it in Weimar. But he has got to be serious about it. After the masses by Bach, Beethoven and Liszt, it represents the pinnacle of church music. A good piece of average quality is the Psalm by Vierling (The Waters of Babylon). The score is published by Leuckart (Breslau).
Hans von Bülow to Richard Pohl [in German], 3 December, from Berlin (HvB III, pp. 498-502, at pp. 499-501):
[…] Your suggestion of not going ahead with the translations is perhaps the best one, À Travers Chants etc.
How dreadful it is to see genius turning silly and ordinary! It is humiliating for you to take on this task of translations. In your place — and not for Wagner’s sake but for yours — I would refuse and tell the truth to the ‘King’. Tell him in any case, that as soon as the translation is out, I will fall on it like a hungry hyena and tear the author to pieces, as I have never done with anyone before!
One must not refuse the artist respect, but I will savage the man in such a way… just wait and see! It is a long time since I have bitten, but my teeth have not lost their edge.
Now please do not believe that I am trying to terrorise you!
In my opinion you could hardly think of a worse way of spending your time! I would not do it myself, I would rather give piano lessons for a pittance.
What wretched delusion! But fundamentally the man deserves pity more than anything else. His obstinacy as regards these miserable street witticisms is all too typical. And this narrow-minded insistence that the German language should find an adequate equivalent for the ‘wit’ of popular songs! […] (Bülow then gives a list of suggested German equivalents for various French phrases that Pohl had mentioned in his letter) […]
The devil take me! I can’t think of anything, but perhaps, like Falstaff, these suggestions of mine will give you some ideas. Should I blindly hit upon a gem I will send you a telegram — but at your expense! But any moment I can expect a pupil to turn up in the corridor and interrupt my letter. […]
Hans von Bülow to Richard Pohl [in German], 7 February, from Berlin (HvB III, pp. 511-13, at p. 511):
[…] Dingelstedt wrote to me about your translation [of Béatrice et Bénédict]. I am glad that you are doing it — but do not give yourself a headache, and let the trivialities pass. You will treat the dialogue with all the care than one expects from you. For the rest let the music take care of itself. […]
Hans von Bülow to Adolf Jensen [in German], 31 January, from Berlin (HvB III, pp. 574-6, at p. 575):
[…] There is nothing I would like better — but for me the old masters take precedence over the new ones. I have not been able to play a single note of Berlioz this year, and likewise for Wagner. Circumstances are far too unfavourable — the battle against the press causes too much trouble — the public is so lacking in impartiality, and there are so many obstacles at every corner! [...]
Berlioz to Auguste Morel, 21 August, from Paris (CG no. 2888)
Hans von Bülow to Joachim Raff [in German], 6 December, from Basel (HvB IV, pp. 159-62, at p. 161):
[…] On the evening of the 16th Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette will be performed almost complete. […]
Hans von Bülow to Alexander Ritter [in German], 22 December, from Basel (HvB IV, pp. 162-4, at p. 163):
[…] Thank God — here we do have three newspapers (all of them more decent in their appearance than the Munich papers), but no columnists. Of reviews there are none. As a result the public is less corrupt or corruptible, and if it reacts to Berlioz with indifference (see the enclosure), at least it has not been civilised to the point of finding it ‘chic’ to hiss. […]
Berlioz to Auguste Morel, 12 May, from Paris (CG no. 3241)
Hans von Bülow to Carl Bechstein [in German], 9 July, from Munich (HvBn no. 149, pp. 221-3, at p. 222):
[…] Yesterday I received a new honour. The Bavarian Consul in Paris has written to the current Minister of War and asked that I should be the Bavarian representative for the Jury at the award of prizes on 21st July. (There is a competition between the Austrian, Prussian, Belgian, French, Spanish and Bavarian military bands.) I am leaving on the 19th and will be back on the 23rd. General rehearsal on the 24th, first performance of Tannhäuser on the 25th. Second performance on the 28th, third performance of Lohengrin on the 31st. August 1st: departure for a course of treatment in Switzerland. (St Moritz.) Now I have two requests to make of you, dear friend. First you might be kind enough to place the news of my commission in the Berlin papers. Nothing of the sort would ever have happened to me in Berlin. The Ministers of War and Commerce are sending me as an authority to Paris! Wieprecht had better watch out — ‘our’ Bavarian military band does a terrific job and stands in relation to the Prussian band as the Munich court theatre does to that in Berlin. Now I do not want to blow my trumpet — just ask our friend Betz, when he is back, how matters look here when I am working.
And now another request: my trip to Paris does not involve visits to relatives or friends — there is no time for that. Where did you stay in Paris? The military bands will be performing in the Palace of Industry [Palais de l’Industrie], but I have no idea where the Jury will hold its sessions. Is there a good hotel in the vicinity of the Palace? […]
Hans von Bülow to Alfred Holmès in Paris [in French], 14 July, from Munich (HvB IV, pp. 200-2):
— — M. Richard Wagner does not lay any claim to the honour of being considered a symphonic composer. The pieces he has written for orchestra alone are always more or less closely related to the main idea of his dramatic works, and to be valued at their worth and even heard they require a fairly close acquaintance with the great musical drama to which they are almost indissolubly bound. […]
[…] Leaving aside Wagner, therefore, I for my part can only find as suitable representatives of the peak achieved by current symphonic art in Germany the symphony Faust by Franz Liszt or one of the most recent instrumental works by Joachim Raff. […]
But pardon me, Sir, everything I am saying to you here is perhaps dictated by a false perspective. On re-reading what you have written I cannot get over my astonishment in seeing that the Paris committee is hesitating between a work as elevated as Harold by Berlioz, which posterity, repairing the injustice of contemporaries, will rank among classical masterpieces, and a childish work that is as old-fashioned and insignificant in every respect as Le Désert by M. David! […]
Hans von Bülow to Carl Bechstein [in German], 31 July, from Munich (HvBn no. 150, pp. 223-5, at p. 223):
Paris was heavenly! I am filled with nostalgia — I would love to live there. The exhibition is even more glorious than the ‘German’ campaign of last year. But unfortunately I was hardly able to see anything! The people were too interesting: Berlioz, Rossini, Rubinstein, Lassen etc. The Americans also took up a great deal of my time — Remack and Steinway — and — I cannot complain about that, as they were very nice. As for your grand pianos all I saw was the highly interesting exterior! […]
Hans von Bülow to Lorenz von Düfflipp [in German], 27 April, from Munich (HvB IV, pp. 288-9):
I have the honour of sending you herewith for the attention of His Majesty the King the text of the legend of Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust, which on the instructions of Baron of Perfall I had ordered from Vienna. His Majesty may be disappointed in its highest expectations, in view of the indisputable worthlessness of the botched libretto. On the other hand the music is of the highest interest, and rich in very fine and even elevated moments. Moreover the composer wrote on a French text, and, because of the declamation, this text — a translation from the original German text by Goethe — has had to be translated back into German in a mangled form. Despite his numerous visits to Germany Berlioz never mastered the German language. That is why, when the German translation was made, he was unable to make any changes to the notes in the music for the benefit of the original text.
Hans von Bülow to Louise von Welz in Munich [in German], 22 September, from Wiesbaden (HvB V, pp. 30-2, at pp. 31-2):
[…] I wish your son luck in his conducting début and with the Benedictus (qui abit in nomine Dei); as regards orchestral conducting and stick technique, I urge him to study thoroughly and with great care the chapter entitled ‘The Art of the Conductor’ in Berlioz’s Treatise on Orchestration. If I am not mistaken I have already passed on to him recently the copy from my library, but if I am wrong he may obtain the book only from M. Eugen Spitzweg.
It is only on the question of beating 6/8 time that the French approach is unsuitable. Wagner’s way is much more practical, namely to beat the first, third, fourth and sixth quaver in the same way as when beating in common C time: the second and fifth quavers are indicated with the same movements as the first and the fourth (in other words as with the first and third crotchet of 4/4 time). […]
Hans von Bülow to Louise von Welz [in German], 26 April, from London (HvB V, pp. 76-8, at p. 77):
[…] Good music below 17 degrees Réaumur [= 21.25 C] starts to leave me cold (Berlioz’s music reaches at least 40 degrees Réaumur [= 50 C]; just ask Beppe!). […]
Hans von Bülow to Louise von Welz [in German], 20 June, from Baden-Baden (HvB V, pp. 85-6):
[…] Many thanks for the poems, which I will read and ponder as soon as I go for a walk on my own. At the moment I am deeply immersed in Berlioz’s Memoirs, which I had been intending to read for the last three years, but without success. It really strikes one like a tragedy. It makes me feel very sad — but I must read it thoroughly and not just skim over the surface. […]
[In a letter the same day to Dannreuther Bülow writes: ‘What a tragedy, not just taken as a whole, but also in the detail — Schopenhauer thinks that the detail of an individual’s life is often a comedy. But do read this thick book — though together with your wife — because it is difficult to bear on your own the terrible melancholy that is bound to grip you. But what I am thinking of? You are so lucky to be built of sterner stuff than I, you are less impressionable.’]
Hans von Bülow to Louise von Welz [in German], 24 June, from Baden-Baden (HvB V, pp. 83-5, at p. 85):
[…] Do not be annoyed with me if once I have bid you farewell I allow myself to be distracted and pick up again Berlioz [i.e. his Memoirs] whom I had put aside for your sake at an interesting point (they are all interesting).
Hans von Bülow to B. Ullman [in German], end of June, from Baden-Baden (HvB V, pp. 87-8, at p. 88):
[…] I need the full score of Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust, which costs 60 fr. Could you at your convenience get the people to send the work directly to me here by pre-paid post? — —
Hans von Bülow to Hans von Bronsart [in German], 27 March, from London (HvB V, pp. 260-1, at p. 261):
[…] Besides, the ‘Holy One’ has in my life already cost me so much time, money and patience, so you will forgive me if I am no longer able to worship her ardently. Berlioz is the only one that I would like to hear, though not under such scoundrels as those conductors of yours. I have a dreadful headache — forgive me. […]
Hans von Bülow to Hans von Bronsart [in German], 13 May, from Ver [Canton de Vaud] (HvB V, pp. 399-402, at p. 400):
[…] Liszt conducting the Symphonie fantastique — that is a wonderful idea, so characteristic of you! Bravo! Now imagine what I, invited but not called, must be feeling from a distance, I who have only seen this legendary work performed once, and without Finale, by Seyfritz barbabionda [with a blond beard] in Löwenberg who cautiously sweated his way through the work! Alas poor me! […]
Hans von Bülow to Hans von Bronsart [in German], 9 December, from Glasgow (HvB V, pp. 476-9, at pp. 476, 478):
[…] Had you been here yesterday evening, you and I would have been carried away! The Roman Carnival by Hector (de) Berlioz was incredible — champagne like you only get at the court in St Petersburg — Strauss far more Viennese than can ever be heard in Vienna. The orchestra is now mine, completely mine — the slightest movement of my arm is enough for the most daring steeple-chase jokes. Do not imagine that I am bragging: the most spontaneous and refined rubati come off in the evening, which leave my mouth and eyes gaping (my ears are of course open all the time) — that makes me somewhat presumptuous. […] In this world Hanover is irreplaceable for me, since… you have promised me Cellini for 1878/79. (Draufgeld 1877/78 Glinka.) I would willingly have given my last drop of blood to get this work performed. […]
Hans von Bülow to Hans von Bronsart [in German], 22 December, from Glasgow (HvB V, pp. 485-7, at p. 487 ):
[…] May I mention the main points that seem to me desirable as I take over the post of conductor (Kapellmeister) in Hanover. Permission:
1. To clean up the existing repertoire of the opera by removing the works of protected dilettanti and other mediocrities, except in case of imperative financial considerations.
2. The substitution of Glinka’s Life for the Czar as a work that would be in every respect worthy of the festive day of 22 March and would be relatively new, in place of Verdi’s Aida which was being considered so far but which seems to me inappropriate, and not just for musical reasons.
3. The production during the coming year of one of my favourite operas, Benvenuto Cellini by Berlioz, which does not face difficulties of a ‘Wagnerian’ kind.
Hans von Bülow to Jessie Laussot [in German], 27 December, from Glasgow (HvB V, pp. 480-1, at p. 481):
[…] Had Borgia not been possible, I would have asked for Berlioz’s head. He used Beethoven’s head as a seal, and I would use his. The letter B is my own. That reminds me of my responsibility for the Bellini-Album which so far has not been erased. — —
Hans von Bülow to an unspecified correspondent [in German], 10 August (HvB V, pp. 527-8, at p. 527):
[…] I am recovering now with the help of the Te deum by Berlioz which so far I did not know (a difficult score to read!) — performed in Paris in 1855, not as grandiose as the Requiem, but still very ‘rewarding’. […]
Hans von Bülow to Hans von Bronsart [in German], end of November, from Brighton (HvB V, pp. 535-6, at p. 535):
[…] The day before yesterday I received a letter from Toni [the tenor Anton Schott] from the Altenburg, which I must convey to you. I am concerned that he wants the performance of Cellini to be adjourned! But his objection and excuse about the small voice of Mme B. P. (Bißlipußli?) do seem to have some substance. Yet the lady is mad about the part, she is a whole-hearted Berliozian; she once turned pale when I suggested that Fräulein Linde could sing the part of Teresa, and with little effort. Please make Toni see reason, in case my worries are founded; it is only as a recompense for singing the part of Cellini that I am taking him to London, to which he attaches immense importance. Thank god when you are able to get a hold on people. […]
Hans von Bülow to Jessie Laussot [in German], 15 December, from Hanover (HvB V, pp. 541-3, at p. 542):
[…] Two things that delight me at the moment: a new prima donna, more rhythmical, diligent and docile than her predecessor, and the piano rehearsals of Cellini which are coming along very nicely (definitely the end of January). […]
Hans von Bülow to Eugen Spitzweg [in German], 19 January, from Hanover (HvB V, p. 546):
I am terribly busy with all sorts of local coups d’état: the reorganisation of the Academy of Music and of the Society for Chamber Music by cutting out useless committees etc. At the same time the moment of the solemn exhumation of Berlioz’s Cellini is approaching: just over two weeks from now, on February 2nd. When that is over I will again have time to think of you.
Hans von Bülow to Eugen Spitzweg [in German], 27 January, from Hanover (HvB V, p. 546):
— — In full musical fever — Cellini — so no possibility of handling a pen — particularly without giving offence — as recently happened. Regard me as a brute — I will not protest. That is how it is, and I am proud of it; for, if I were not proud, it would make no difference, so I prefer to be proud of the fact. — — […]
Hans von Bülow to Jessie Laussot [in German], 3 February, from Hanover (HvB V, pp. 547-8):
My honoured friend!
Why were you not there again?
The casting has succeeded — yesterday evening my restoration was vindicated.
In 1869 I saw Perseus for the first time in the Loggia dei Lanzi [in Florence]; yesterday, after nearly ten years, I helped in the casting.
‘A great artistic achievement in the annals of art’, said Rubinstein yesterday evening in his toast in honour of Bronsart and myself (Bronsart deserved it as much as I); Rubinstein had come with others from Berlin.
It was glorious and the success, despite a struggle, was decisive. Mercurio chiamato molte volte! Congratulate me — and us!
On the 15th Saint-Saëns will be playing here. The concert comprises only French composers; in the 2nd part the Harold symphony by Berlioz. — Rubinstein is playing on the 1st of March. Has Hanover not become a musical metropolis? — — […]
Note: Marie von Bülow relates (HvB V, p. 547) that Bülow said to her on 5 February 1879: ‘A sin by the musical world against a great genius, now deceased and who was tormented in his life, a Prometheus-like figure such as there are few — to have atoned as spokesman for posterity for a sin of more than forty years standing committed by the present world’. She also quotes (ib. pp. 547-8) a sonnet read out at the dinner by Bronsart in honour of Bülow’s resurrection of Cellini, which is not translated here.
Hans von Bülow to Eugen Spitzweg [in German], 5 February, from Hanover (HvB V, pp. 546-7):
— — Cellini has been a surprising success, so that even the local press, which is not well-disposed, has been forced to admit it. Schott has been altogether glorious — he gets better every month. Thank God! I am rather tired from all this work. — —
Hans von Bülow to the Editor of « The World », Edmund Jates, Esqre. 1 July, in London [in English] (HvB V, pp. 576-77)
Not having had the displeasure of witnessing the execution of Berlioz’ Symphony [the Symphonie fantastique] alluded to in « The World » — 30th April — I cannot testify to what happened on that occasion but from my personal experience of Mr. Ganz as a timebeater, I have no hesitation in admitting that the substance of that criticism stated but the exact truth.
As to your question, whether I abstained from playing at the last New Philharmonic on account « of the incapacity of Mr. Ganz », I can only say that his incapability of reading a score is such, that he could not even correct the parts of the single instruments, although he only had to look at the score before him with marks (Eselsbrücken we call them in German) which in a private lesson of two hours and a half in my room I had added, in order to put him at least « at the foot of the tree ». I owed to my friend Tschaikowsky, the composer of the concert, not to act as an accomplice in the murder of his work under a leader, who seems unable to read an orchestral accompaniment of any importance, nay, unable of being himself conducted by a most intelligent and quick conceiving band, let alone to conduct it.
Therefore I was forced to retire, allowing however from a feeling of « charité malordonnée » my non-appearance to be attributed to sudden indisposition. People seeming inclined to construct this feeling as a want of respect to the public on my part, I avail myself of the opportunity to state the plain truth.
Hans von Bülow to Hugo Bock in Berlin [in German], 18 September, from Hanover (HvB V, p. 588):
[…] Close as it is to my heart, Béatrice et Bénédict will have to wait another year. Apart from the fact that it is almost impossible for me during the season to find the leisure to add the recitatives that I am planning in the style of the author, the dialogues require first an expert hand thoroughly to improve and also shorten them. — —
Hans von Bülow to Édouard Colonne in Paris [in French], 30 March, from Meiningen (HvB VI, pp. 149-50):
Please do not reject, I beg you, the enclosed humble offering of a German musician for the monument of your great compatriot Hector Berlioz, whose noble champion you have instituted yourself. I can lay claim to the honour of having been among the enthusiasts of ‘yesterday’ for the Michelangelo of French music, having been initiated to his main works by my illustrious master Franz Liszt, as early as 1852 in Weimar. Since then I have never ceased, within the limits of my modest means, to propagate my admiration, both by articles in newspapers and by conducting his works in ad hoc concerts, and I believe I have helped to enlarge the circle of his supporters in my country.
Hans von Bülow to Saint-Saëns [in French], 4 May, from Christiana in Norway (HvB VI, pp. 170-1, at p. 171):
[…] My admiration for your worthy friend [Lalo] does not date from yesterday; my letter to M. Colonne the other day, accompanied by a small contribution for the monument of the great Hector, also bears witness to this. — — […]
Hans von Bülow to Mathis Lussy [in French], 5 October, from Meiningen (HvB VI, pp. 226-8; reproduced in Le Ménestrel, 14 October 1883, p. 364, which specifies that it was written on letter paper with the portrait of Berlioz):
Your kind letter of two days ago gives me at last the opportunity to express to you my warmest thanks for the sending of your book on the theory of rhythm [Le Rythme musical], a most deserving work through which you have earned for yourself beyond dispute the admiration of the international republic of letters and music. Please accept the respectful homage of a Berlioz champion of yesterday to one of the testamentary executors of this great master from across the Rhine. His terrestrial torments derived in great part from that monstrous Chaos, the progenitor of all the nonsense, deformities and defects in musical execution, which your humble servant has been trying for his humble part to combat in practice for over a quarter of a century — the dabbling in music without any knowledge or awareness of rhythm, the Father in the Trinity of music.
[…] I was very pleased to receive your book at a time when during a long period of convalescence following a year of illness, my leisure-time was in no way impeded by the need to practice as a pianist and conductor. I fear I may have to put off the study of your Treatise on Musical Expression, which you have so kindly sent me as well, as my various commitments during the concert season will not leave me much time. — — A German translation would seem to me extremely desirable. May I dare to suggest to you, with a view to such a translation, that you might revise and purge the examples and citations? The likes of Laybach, Lyssberg, Thalberg and all these lower-ranking figures could with great advantage be replaced by Berlioz, Brahms and other composers of the front-rank. Further, though I am very inclined to approve your corrections to the mode of notation in some examples from Mendelssohn, it might be prudent (for the benefit of German readers) to choose examples from a less impeccable composer, such as Schumann, whose mania for syncopations pushed to absurd limits […] has greatly contributed to the deplorable anti-rhythmic tendency from which we suffer, particularly in Germany, and which compels us far too often to resort to antidotes culled from slavonic music. […]
Hans von Bülow to H. Eichel in Hanover [in German], 12 January, from Nürnberg (HvB VI, p. 238. (Note: two musical examples of uncertain interpretation are embedded in the text; they are reproduced separately after the main text.)
My warmest thanks for kindly remembering my birthday. I also had fond memories of you recently when I was rehearsing the Cellini overture with my orchestra.
You recall, it was a Sunday morning, you played to me the cor anglais solo, Grand-Master Liszt came along. Yes, you see, I was not so [example 1 here] as to want to inflict the Berlioz opera on Philistines, as the honourable gentlemen of the flighty Courier asserted. Leipzig followed, Vienna is doing something similar, Weimar also intends to do a revival. Though the hero may sing with many voices [example 2 here], the misunderstood work is being honoured, though admittedly late — but still, just to have experienced this! But wait! I heard Cellini last autumn performed with the most damaging, not to say absurd cuts, for example in the stretta of the great finale in E flat major [at the end of the first Act]. When I expressed my surprise to the conductor Nikisch, he replied that the parts had come from Hanover and the cuts had most definitely been ordered by me!
That is going too far! It is not my habit to decorate myself with alien red or blue pencils. Do me the kindness to deny in Fritsche’s Musical Weekly the ‘author’ship that is not mine. This is very important to me. — —
[A note in the Musikalischer Wochenblatt no. 6 of 31 January 1884, p. 79 stated that when Bülow performed Cellini in Hanover in the spring of 1879 no cuts had been made, whereas in Leipzig the performance of the opera omitted the whole aria of Fieramosca in Act II and a further 300 bars of music.]
Note: this must refer to the slow introduction of the Carnaval romain overture; there is no cor anglais and no cor anglais solo in the overture to Benvenuto Cellini.
Hans von Bülow to Max Schwarz in Frankfurt [in German], 20 January, from Mainz (HvB VI, pp. 244-5, at p. 245):
[…] Please take good care of Berlioz’s King Lear overture; should it fail, the undersigned would turn to an Orlando furioso, though otherwise he sends you his warmest greetings and is your very devoted etc.
Hans von Bülow to the music critic Gustav Erlanger in Frankfurt [in German], 13 February, from Meiningen (HvB VI, pp. 251-2):
[…] Sir, ever since you have been so warmly brought to my notice through the ‘roses’ which you recently scattered on the tomb of the ‘Great Eagle’ [Berlioz], whose picture adorns this letter, I have thought it important to become as thoroughly acquainted with you as possible. This did not happen without effort, as I have already had the honour of confessing to you, but I have succeeded, and I hope I will have the opportunity to demonstrate this to you. […]
Hans von Bülow to Hugo Bock in Berlin [in German], 23 May, from Meiningen (HvB VI, pp. 274-6, at pp. 275-6):
[…] After very satisfactory rehearsals, the overture to Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict has definitely been included in the concert-repertoire of my court orchestra, as has the Sicilienne from the opera.
I would advise most urgently:
1. To produce correct prints of the score of both pieces,
2. To make free arrangements for piano with two and four hands.
Herr Alexander Ritter, a member of our court orchestra, who has demonstrated his skill in arrangements of this kind (for piano, harmonium, violin and cello) — Schott and Härtel have produced quantities of them — is tempted to make such an arrangement for the celebrated duet of the two ladies (the Notturno). Should you be prepared to give it some thought, Herr Ritter would ask for a temporary loan of the score.
Hans von Bülow to Hermann Wolff in Berlin [in German], 1 October/18 September, from Meiningen (HvB VI, p. 296):
[…] As I have said before, I am at your disposal for conducting the orchestral works of Beethoven and Brahms; Berlioz and Raff are also agreeable to me, as I am sufficiently familiar with these masters and am initiated in them. — — […]
Hans von Bülow to Albert Gutmann in Vienna [in German], 2 October (HvB VI, pp. 298-300, at pp. 298-9):
The ducal court orchestra, in accordance with His Highness’ modest means, has in terms of numbers only very modest resources. […]
Our programmes are designed to suit our means as regards the number of players, and as a result all I can do is offer you a choice from what we have rehearsed and can perform in a way that I as conductor can vouch for from the artistic point of view.
Our speciality is Beethoven and Brahms. In this field, in the kind opinion of the last-named master, we do not fear any competition. As the ‘general’ public, which you have to take into account in this enterprise, may possibly find this speciality monotonous (something which I do not feel competent to judge) and consequently lacking in the requisite attractiveness, I have already allowed myself to mention to you various other works: by Berlioz (for example the overtures Le Corsaire and King Lear which are more or less new to Vienna), Raff (his dramatic overture op. 127, the fourth symphony in G minor, the Hungarian Suite op. 194) — I can vouch just as much for their success as for their worth — and Rheinberger (the Wallenstein Symphony), all of which we could draw on. […]
Hans von Bülow to Albert Gutmann in Vienna [in German], 3 October (HvB VI, pp. 300-1):
[…] You are demanding from us pieces which we do not have in our repertoire, as the so-called Music of the Future is not cultivated in Meiningen, something which I had assumed was well known. You are rejecting as unsuitable for Vienna pieces which we love to play widely (and do so with success), for example Berlioz and Raff. So unfortunately there is no common ground between us. Given this unfortunate state of affairs, let me suggest that we seek or find common ground by restricting the concerts of the Meiningen orchestra to programmes which include Beethoven and Brahms (in other words our ‘speciality’).
I very much regret not having sufficient leisure to enjoy correspondence, and I am no friend of parliamentary exchanges of letters. But I must allow myself one more remark. The works of Wagner receive perfect performances in Vienna, by a large and brilliant orchestra and under the direction of expert Wagner-conductors. On the other hand the very rare performances of pieces by Berlioz and Raff have been, as I know, highly unsatisfactory, so there is no wonder that the Viennese public has not yet acquired a taste for them. But as I said I do not in any way insist on trying to enrich or ‘educate’ the taste of the Viennese.
Citation from the Vienna paper [Die] Presse of 4 December 1884 (HvB VI, p. 122):
In romantic and humorous music Bülow is completely in his element. One could not wish for livelier, more expressive and more natural performances of the overtures to Der Freischütz (by Weber), Le Corsaire (Berlioz) and Faust (Wagner); they appeared like transparent and illuminated stereoscopic images.
Hans von Bülow to August Steyl in Frankfurt [in German], mid-April, from Paris (HvB VI, p. 355):
[…] — NB. The concert on Sunday was sold out. Such was the success that without doubt next Sunday will be the same. Orchestra and conducting [by Colonne] altogether outstanding! The Cellini overture at the start was so fine, that Meiningen could not compete. […]
Hans von Bülow to Édouard Colonne in Paris [in French], May (published without date or indication of source in Le Ménestrel, 24 May 1885, p. 200):
Dear Mr. Colonne,
If in London musicians do not have time to play music, — as noted more than forty years ago by our great master Hector [Berlioz — see Memoirs, chapter 49], in Paris Édouard Colonne, the generalissimo of the symphonic army, has no leisure for anything else. I should not be so selfish as to complain of this; yet, while congratulating your fellow-citizens for your unceasing activity, I cannot fail to express to you all my regrets at having had to leave Paris without greeting you and enjoying a few moments of conversation with the great artist who did me the outstanding honour of introducing me to the élite of the European public in his magnificent concerts at the Châtelet. Please therefore accept… in absentia… my warmest thanks for fulfilling the dream that I was nurturing for nearly a quarter of a century: that of appearing once in my life in your country in a somewhat less modest capacity than that of a mere bystander at the disaster of Tannhäuser at the Opéra [in March 1861].
Must I add to this protestation of everlasting gratitude my banal but most warmly admiring compliments for what you have created, your model orchestra? It has just provided me with an experience even superior to that I enjoyed long ago from the delightful performance of Beethoven’s Pastoral symphony by the imperial Conservatoire orchestra.
But it should be added that this ideal orchestra was lacking in the vitalising breath of a powerful personality at its helm. It is with conductors as it is with… chefs. According to Brillat-Savarin, you have to be born a chef, whereas anybody can become a musician, I mean… a cook. Out of a hundred candidates only one is elected. At last I have seen such a one in yourself: a true conductor by the grace of God and — thank God — one who has been confirmed and sanctioned as such by the intelligence of the nation.
And yet, the prestige of your infallibility seems to me somewhat threatened by a generous act of imprudence on your part. Have you not just proclaimed me in public as one of the largest subscribers to the Berlioz monument? No, this cannot be. Allow me, dear colleague, to spare you the need to disown your words by begging you to add the enclosed 1,000 franc note to my offering of three years ago for the glorification of the antithesis of Jacques Offenbach and of his most serious but less gifted rivals.
Down with flimsy music! Long live real music! Long live the Delibes, Fauré, Lalo, Massenet, and Saint-Saëns of the present and the future!
On this note I send you my fraternal greetings.
Your most devoted servant,
Hans von Bülow.
Hans von Bülow to Marie von Bülow [in German], 9 November, from Düsseldorf (HvB VI, p. 389):
— — Early this morning the Cologne paper brought an enthusiastic review from Essen. In cold Elberfeld I managed eventually to fire the people up a little. The orchestra ‘flew’ — the numerous local music directors seemed stunned by our dynamism. Le Corsaire went like a pistol shot, and Raff’s symphony was also electrifying. […]
Hans von Bülow to Marie von Bülow [in French], 20 February, from Neuchâtel (HvB VII, pp. 23-5, at pp. 24-5):
[…] But I must digress here and make a confession. In 1867 — you were barely ten years old — was I aware of it at the time? — I was infatuated with the mother [of a young 19 year old who sang songs by Brahms] (see the enclosed card); this went on for five weeks at St Moritz in the Engadin. She was a blond, slim, open, rather cold, but lively, vivacious and very graceful — she never said anything about it to me, but I have reason to believe that she has kept fond memories of my attentions of 19 years ago — her hair is now beginning to turn grey — but she is still charming — I could not help being reminded of the last chapter of Berlioz’s Memoirs — you remember his desperate sadness ….. end of digression. Time to put on the white tie.
Hans von Bülow to his daughter Daniela [in German], 8 June, from Lausanne (HvBn no. 397, pp. 634-6, at p. 635):
[…] On Sunday eight days ago I was in Karlsruhe [27 May], to press again to the ears of my heart Cellini, the old love of my youth which has not grown any wrinkles. It was one of the most uplifting good deeds that I have been involved in over the last few years: I could not stop exulting. With such correct genius (no more contradiction for me in that) did the fortunate Felix [Mottl] treat the unfortunate Hector. With a 57-year old you have to curb extravagance. […]
Hans von Bülow to the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung [in German], 17 December, from Meiningen (HvB VII, pp. 70-1, at p. 70):
[…] That I had the honour to conduct the first performance of Tristan in 1865 (with fresh performances later in 1869 and 1872) and also that of the Mastersingers in 1868 in Munich, confers on me precedence in time, though not in standing. The performance of Berlioz’s Cellini by Herr Kapellmeister Mottl in Karlsruhe has taught me that he can represent this speciality at least as well as I tried to do in my time in Hanover. So too, in the light of Herr Sucher’s conducting of the Walkyrie etc., I may confess that it seems more than superfluous to compete with him here in imaginative and energetic precision. […]
Hans von Bülow to his daughter Daniela [in German], 23 June, from Wiesbaden (HvBn no. 409, pp. 649-50, at p. 650):
[…] As far as the last point is concerned (the music festival), Berlioz is what matters most for me. On Wednesday I will also attend the general rehearsal; if this is at all possible for you, prepare yourself to come there as well — you will share in a pleasure, that is an understanding, that is not too incomplete. But we will talk about these arrangements in the evening the day after tomorrow. Above all stay in good health! I will also be sending you from Frankfurt a piano excerpt from the pair from Verona [i.e. Romeo and Juliet] — not for you to play — that is impossible, but to read before, during and after the performance. For all the eccentric and anti-German elements of the work as a whole (though individual parts reach the heights of artistic perfection), the work remains a masterpiece of symphonic inspiration and monumental individuality. I am delighted that you will be hearing it! […]
Hans von Bülow to Marie von Bülow [in German], end of June, from Bonn (HvB VII, pp. 114-16):
[…] My main purpose was to hear Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette, twice, at the dress rehearsal and at the concert in the evening; this I achieved and with positive results. Wüllner’s reading was as wonderfully capable as it was ‘intellectually’ misconceived, and it revived my memories of the performance of the work under its author, some 33 years ago. It placed on me the mission of trying to make this altogether remarkable work, in which the beautiful elements far outweigh the absurdities, more familiar to the ears and minds of our dumb compatriots, whether on the banks of the Alster or of the Spree [i.e. in Hamburg or Berlin] — presumably the latter, as kind Siegfried Ochs shares my feelings on this.
There is an artistic and perhaps a practical opportunity to serve the spirit of Berlioz with Romeo. — […] Because of that performance of Berlioz yesterday I was all the time like in a dream, I could hear constantly in all my fibres nothing but Romeo; music really is pure opium. — — […] (The same letter continued a day later; he hears the sounds of a male chorus singing from the garden of the hotel) […] The singing of these people is pure, with good rhythm, and their German diction comes from both parts of the country, the general German accent and the specifically Prussian one. A pity that I am not able to enjoy the sounds they are making, as my head is hammering away with the hot fever of the Berlioz of two days ago — a confusion as in the last act of Tristan. Enough, enough! — — […]
Hans von Bülow to Hermann Wolff in Berlin [in German], 14 September, from Hamburg (HvB VII, pp. 135-6, at p. 136):
[…] Merely to play the part of an accompanist — on the piano — I must categorically decline. The only exception I would make is for Davidow. But if he is only prepared to perform Berlioz op. 8 [Rêverie et caprice] in return for a ‘lollipop’ as his second solo piece, then I would gladly renounce Op. 8. In no way will I conduct pieces of the Ronde des lutins or Zigeunerweisen variety.
Hans von Bülow to Marie von Bülow [in German], 5 May (HvB VII, p. 196):
— — The last bath has shaken me up so hard that the doctor ordered me to stop working for two days. Tanto meglio [so much the better] — at last I am able to satisfy a longing that I have desperately nursed for 30 or 35 years: to hear Berlioz’s Requiem, in Karlsruhe, to which I am going by steamer at noon today. Early tomorrow morning I will be again in the black bearskin. — —
Hans von Bülow to Marie von Bülow [in German], 7 May (HvB VII, pp. 196-7):
[…] The Requiem in Karlsruhe was worth the journey (and the weather was glorious). The work is outrageous, feverish, tremendous — in spite of all its un-classical features, etc. How could that be made to work when conducted by yours sincerely! The performance, particularly as regards quality, was in parts really miserable. A raw, coarse, sluggish chorus, an indifferent orchestra — the conducting was often uncertain and faulty. — Oh yes! Actually I did not hide the fact from Mottl, and brought to his attention every one of his sins — and — and that had a calming effect: he humbly expressed his ‘gratitude’ for the dressing down I gave him. — —
Hans von Bülow to Hermann Wolff in Berlin [in German], 21 June, from London (HvB VII, pp. 200-1, at p. 201):
[…] With [Hans] Richter my attitude is — — that of Heckmann towards the blessed Hiller. Personne n’a l’admiration aussi facile et aussi joyeuse que moi [No one is more enclined to admire and applaud than I am], but — — compared to what he was — in my view — he is unrecognisable — he reminds me of old Lachner, who yet as a musician was in other respects a different person. His performance of the Damnation of Faust was a torture for me: not a single correct tempo (I heard the work several times under the composer’s direction already in 1852 in Weimar and in 1854 in Dresden). It also completely failed to make the impression it made earlier under Hallé, who was the first to introduce it [to London]. But Hallé was in touch with the tradition. — —
Hans von Bülow to Hans von Bronsart [in German], 3 August, from Scheveningen (HvB VII, pp. 205-8, at p. 206):
[…] So in matters of artistic taste I have become as it were a reactionary, though my ardent love for Berlioz seems to contradict that. But you may perhaps grant me one point, which is relevant here, and that is the absence of all frivolous pretence even in all the gross mistakes he (Hector) makes. Although I imagine that I can recognise all the thrilling feverishness of the — Frenchman — in Brahms, particularly in his symphonies, though they are given an ideal German character, artistically organised, and thus turned to Hellenic purity, nevertheless my contact with the old love is an irresistible necessity, partly because of the charm of variety which everyone, and I in particular, need for life given our mortality, but also because of all the Towers of Babel which the younger generation of German composers keep on erecting, against which Berlioz has always been for me an effective antidote. […]
Hans von Bülow to Marie von Bülow [in German], 9 December, from Berlin (HvB VII, pp. 231-2, at p. 232):
[…] Tuesday is Hector’s birthday.
I will celebrate it by conducting the popular concert in the evening. You have to be there. The expenses are a dirty trick. N.B. no return ticket.
Hans von Bülow to Hans von Bronsart [in German], 18 December, from Hamburg (HvB VII, p. 234):
[…] A decade ago we shared in bringing about the act of reparation for Hector — later (was it five years ago?) you preceded me with Gudrun — and now I have followed you with the tragica — for our old friend Felix [Draeseke]. […]
Hans von Bülow to Asger Hamerik in Baltimore [in English], 26 April, from New York (HvB VII, p. 249):
— — As for your « protégé » I am sorry to say — but my wretched frankoutspokenness [sic] will not be unknown to you — that I have overread [sic] many of his « compositums » (orchestra, chamber-music and pianopieces [sic]) and that I feel much too old and antiquated for being able to take the least fancy in such ugly preposterous mock music. I don’t deny that he might be gifted — that you must know better than I — but I think before all things he wants information, and if anybody should take interest in his future as a composer, he ought to send him directly to a musical orthopaedic institution. ’t is not the extravagancy which produces the « Berlioz’s » — and « fra di noi » [between us]: I think the musical world has quite enough of one Hector. Will you kindly prepare your « protégé » that he would do better to avoid my criticism?
Hans von Bülow to Max Brode in Königsberg [in German], 7 December (cited HvB VI, p. 83 n. 1):
[…] No — my conscientiousness cannot compete with yours! Otherwise I would never have been able to do the Roman Carnival overture by Berlioz, if I had had to wait till I had at least 15 first violins, 10 (12) will do, 8 (10) seconds, 6 violas, 6 cellos, 4 double-basses — well, whatever you are otherwise able to provide. […]
Hans von Bülow to Marie von Bülow [in German], 9 December (cited HvB VII, p. 286 n. 1):
[…] It pained and surprised me in equal measure when Berlioz’s Harold in Italy appeared to me like a faded sorceress and witch. Impossible! Then Brahms’ Second [Symphony] was tackled: what a different impression this made on me, and on all of us! Long live Hamburg! […]
Hans von Bülow to Hans von Bronsart in Weimar [in German], 6 February, from Hamburg (HvB VII, p. 286):
It is true that Berlioz said
les théâtres sont les mauvais lieux de la musique [theatres are music’s places of ill-repute] —
but there are places meant for music that are possibly even worse, and at any rate more annoying, as for example those where people argue over music instead of listening to it in silence. So it would certainly be con molto piacere [with great pleasure] that I would hear on Thursday evening a performance of Cellini, without cuts as far as possible, performed under your direction, i.e. that of your devoted. But I would also gratefully welcome Béatrice et Bénédict.
You have judged my taste quite correctly, in thinking it less appropriate to greet my arrival in the hospitable Athens on the Ilm [Weimar] with the choice of an opera from a ‘Higher Being’ (though presumably Dr. Otto Reißel from Cologne?). But in my reckoning the epigone [second-generation] Berlioz stands as high as Mt Chimborazo in comparison with the first-generation Germans. And one remains true to the loves of one’s youth, so long as the objects of one’s love do not shrivel to a caricature. — —
Hans von Bülow to Hermann Wolff in Berlin [in German], 20 October, from Hamburg (HvB VII, pp. 308-9, at p. 309):
[…] By contrast Berlioz’s La Captive was highly poetic, technically masterly and consequently far more effective than I had expected (the programme should probably have specified that the poem is by Victor Hugo).
The orchestra was truly mortal. — — But unfortunately the most mortal of all is the writer of these lines. — — […]
Hans von Bülow to Hermann Wolff in Berlin [in German], 29 August, from Hamburg (HvB VII, pp. 342-3, at p. 343):
[…] Liszt’s Faust (?) or Berlioz’s Fantastique (?), in a word: eccentric. But I have a feeling that these monstrosities (that is what they are in the end) will come back of their own accord — you put them forward repeatedly year after year, and that is the only reason, to cut the argument short, that this time I put them on the list proprio motu [of my own accord].
All the same the following programme would be conceivable: […] (he suggests various works by Schubert, Dvorak, and Saint-Saëns, and adds:) […] Berlioz: Harold (less anachronistic than the Fantastique). — —
Hans von Bülow to Marie von Bülow [in German], 14 March, from Berlin (HvB VII, p. 376):
[…] P.S. The rehearsal went as hoped. But Harold is pure 93, particularly in the finale, which for Hamburg is too much of a terrorist — but quite splendid. Wirth — fou de plaisir! [overjoyed]
Hans von Bülow, two articles on Benvenuto Cellini, originally published in German in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik vol. 36, no. 14, 2 April 1852, pp. 156-9 and no. 18, 30 April 1852, pp. 204-8; reproduced on this site in the original German, in English translation and in French translation (both transcription and translation by Michel Austin).
Excerpt from a feuilleton by Joseph d’Ortigue in the Journal des Débats, 2 June 1858, p. 1:
[…] And yet a word has been uttered: ‘Music of the future’. That is the phrase used nowadays to describe an art form so unheard-of that it is at the same time the negation of the notion of art and the negation of the notion of form. And as the inventors of this art form (if the word invention can be applied to a mere negation), and those who have set themselves up as its champions and propagators, have failed to this day to find any support apart from their own, they are reduced to the desperate expedient of appealing to the future which will avenge the indifference of contemporaries. […]
But could it be true that in Germany this school of the future has claimed to exploit for its own benefit the names of Messrs. Berlioz and Litolff? In this case I would say that though this school has so far demonstrated its impotence in matters of art, it has at least shown discrimination and cleverness in its behaviour and tactics. In trying to attach to itself names such as those of Berlioz and Litolff, it has seen very clearly what it lacks. It is all very well to speak of the school of the future, but in the meantime one ought to create a little space for oneself in the present. […]
But, I ask, how can the music of M. Litolff and the music of Berlioz justify being described as ‘music of the future’? The music of the future, it is said, and I say this too, is what in the world is most devoid of ideas, plan, drawing, order, unity, logic, development, melody, harmony, feeling, imagination. We are all agreed on this point. […]
Excerpt from a feuilleton by Berlioz in the Journal des Débats, 10 April 1859, p. 2:
[…] Allow me to announce and recommend to you a very interesting concert, to be given by M. Hans von Bülow. This great virtuoso, who is a pupil and son-in-law of Liszt, has long been famous in Germany, where he is also appreciated as a critic and conductor. He is one of these blameless and fearless artists who do not hesitate to put back in their place prejudices that are rarely confronted face to face. I wish to leave you the pleasure and surprise that his wonderful powers as performer cannot fail to cause you. I must only reassure piano lovers and piano makers by stating that he does not break instruments, that he is sonorous without being empty, energetic and not brutal, delicate and graceful without affectation. He is a master master. M. Hans von Bülows’s concert will take place on 17 April in Salle Pleyel.
Excerpt from a feuilleton by Berlioz in the Journal des Débats, 19 May 1959, p. 2:
[…] In the same hall M. Hans von Bülow gave his second evening concert with outstanding success, before a large and distinguished audience, and with hardly any posters, advertisements or announcements, and without being sponsored by any salon. So great had been the stir caused by his first concert. M. von Bülow emerged completely triumphant from this second test. He was acclaimed, applauded, and called back. The public recognised in him one of these artists with pedigree for whom the technical difficulties of their instrument do not exist, who are not interested in displays of prowess and who in their interpretations of masterpieces are only preoccupied with penetrating their inner meaning and bringing their fire to life. M. von Bülow evidently possesses this very rare quality. He reaches to the heart of whatever master he interprets and makes his style his own. He says to you: this is Mozart — this is Bach — this is Liszt — this is Chopin. And he is telling the truth, and from the very first bars the dominant qualities and salient characteristics of each become manifest. He had to encore the gigue by Mozart, and Liszt’s fantasia on Hungarian themes made an immense impression. […]
Le Ménestrel, 12 August 1883, p. 294:
We have received from Leipzig the following enthusiastic report; we reproduce it here without comment, leaving all the responsibility to the author, who is an artist of great worth who has assuredly every right to express her views freely:
« Benvenuto Cellini, Berlioz’s dramatic masterpiece, provoked indescribable enthusiasm at its first performance in Leipzig on Friday 3rd August. This prodigious work astounds, charms and seduces. From the moment the curtain rises the listener is captivated by the complete novelty of everything he hears. In truth, if one put together all the works of Berlioz that are known in Paris, it would be impossible to get an idea of the genius deployed by the composer in his score of Benvenuto Cellini, where the profusion of beautiful ideas, invention and verve is something of a miracle. An astonishing blend of daring novelty and nobility, Benvenuto Cellini is an opera that has no peer in the world.
» It contains choral ensembles of extraordinary colour and irresistible comedy which rises to the sublime. In this score Berlioz deploys unrivalled skill in the use of half-tones in ensembles that have frantic drive and reckless zest, and he draws new and unimagined effects from them. There are times when you really believe you are under a spell. You come to question whether what you are hearing is possible, whether it is true, and you end up concluding that in Benvenuto Cellini Berlioz is as much a magician as a musician. So here is one of the glories of French art that has been consecrated by a huge success abroad! When will this be repeated in France? To ensure that nothing should be missing from this solemn musical occasion, Liszt came specially from Weimar to bear witness once more to his admiration for this work of genius, and was present at the performance.
» The performance was excellent in every respect. Schott, the tenor who had created the role of Cellini under the direction of Hans von Bülow in Hanover, deservedly received most of the credit for the success of the performance. As for the young Viennese conductor, M. Nikisch, he was showered with laurels and applause and had to return to the stage several times amidst enthusiastic acclamation from the public. When Cellini is staged at the Opéra-Comique a great service will be done to French art, and it is only then that the wonderful genius of Berlioz, to whom everyone nowadays insists on paying homage, will be known in France. MARIE JAELL. »
Le Ménestrel, 25 April 1886, p. 165 (César Cui):
— On April 3rd took place the 8th symphonic concert of the Imperial Musical Society of Russia [in St Petersburg]. The first item on the programme was the overture Le Corsaire by Berlioz. In this overture one may find the usual faults of this great master — melodies of broken and tormented shape, strange harmonies and modulations; but this work is written with such fire and drive in its unceasing forward impetus, that under the matchless direction of Hans von Bülow, it makes a great impact. And further, even in his faults Berlioz is original and full of interest. He is the greatest of French composers, and there is no denying his genius.
Le Ménestrel, 20 January 1889, p. 21:
The anniversary of Berlioz’s birthday, which went unnoticed in Paris, was not forgotten in Berlin, where a special concert was given under the direction of M. Hans von Bülow [11 December 1888]. The enthusiasm provoked by the performance of the works of the French master reached such a pitch that M. von Bülow felt obliged to address the audience to express his thanks.
Table of performances
This table has been compiled from the invaluable lists in Kenneth Birkin, Hans von Bülow. A Life for Music (Cambridge, 2011), pp. 387-699, Appendix: Bülow performance chronology, from 1848 to 1893. References have been added to allusions to individual performances in the letters cited above.
|18 November||Rêverie et caprice (violin & piano)||Berlin|
|14 January||Benvenuto Cellini overture, Romance Le jeune pâtre breton||Berlin, Liebig’sche Kapelle||CG nos. 2273, 2274|
|14 January||Le Corsaire overture, aria from Benvenuto Cellini, Les Francs-Juges overture||Berlin||HvBn 590101|
|27 February||Le Carnaval romain overture||Berlin|
|12 March||Benvenuto Cellini overture||Prague|
|16 December||Roméo et Juliette (supervises rehearsal, does not conduct)||Basel||CG no. 3241; HvB 661206, 661222|
|29 March||Le Carnaval romain overture||Amsterdam|
|16 April||Benvenuto Cellini & Carnaval romain overtures||Karlsruhe|
|21 July||Danse des sylphes from Faust, Liszt-Berlioz Rákóczi March||Baden-Baden|
|7 August||Le Carnaval romain overture||Wiesbaden|
|24 October||Béatrice et Bénédict overture||Kassel|
|6 January||Le Carnaval romain overture||Meiningen|
|11 December||Liszt-Berlioz Ronde des Lutins (piano)||Dundee|
|8 December||Le Carnaval romain overture||Glasgow||HvB 771209|
|24 December||Danse des sylphes, Rákóczi March from Faust||Edinburgh|
|26 December||Danse des sylphes, Rákóczi March from Faust||Glasgow|
|2 February||Aria from Benvenuto Cellini||Hanover|
|12 October||Benvenuto Cellini & Carnaval romain overtures||Hanover|
|2 February||Benvenuto Cellini complete||Hanover||HvB 790203, 790205|
|9 February||Benvenuto Cellini complete||Hanover|
|15 February||Harold en Italie||Hanover||HvB 790203|
|27 February||Benvenuto Cellini complete||Hanover|
|5 March||Benvenuto Cellini complete||Hanover|
|20 March||Benvenuto Cellini complete||Hanover|
|7 April||Benvenuto Cellini complete||Hanover|
|8 May||Benvenuto Cellini complete||Hanover|
|5 May||Benvenuto Cellini overture||Leipzig|
|2 April||Berlioz/Weber Invitation to the Dance||Meiningen|
|11 November||King Lear overture||Meiningen|
|2 December||King Lear overture||Meiningen|
|26 December||Le Carnaval romain overture||Meiningen|
|6 January||King Lear overture||Eisenach|
|21 January||King Lear overture||Frankfurt|
|3 February||King Lear overture||Meiningen|
|19 February||King Lear overture||Hamburg|
|24 February||Benvenuto Cellini overture||Hamburg|
|26 February||King Lear overture||Berlin|
|27 February||Benvenuto Cellini & Carnaval romain overtures||Berlin|
|26 October||Le Corsaire overture||Meiningen|
|31 October||Le Corsaire overture||Würzburg|
|4 November||Le Corsaire overture||Frankfurt|
|6 November||Le Corsaire overture||Wiesbaden|
|8 November||Le Corsaire overture||Strasbourg|
|13 November||Le Corsaire overture||Stuttgart|
|14 November||King Lear overture||Stuttgart|
|18 November||Le Corsaire overture||Munich|
|21 November||King Lear overture||Preßburg|
|24 November||Le Corsaire overture||Budapest|
|28 November||King Lear overture||Graz|
|2 December||Le Corsaire overture||Vienna||HvB 841002, 841003, 841204|
|4 December||Le Corsaire overture||Prague|
|5 December||Le Corsaire overture||Dresden|
|14 December||Béatrice et Bénédict overture, Rêverie et caprice, Sicilienne (from Béatrice et Bénédict)||Meiningen|
|24 January||Benvenuto Cellini overture||St Petersburg|
|12 March||Le Corsaire overture||Bremen|
|15 March||Le Corsaire overture||Hamburg|
|16 March||Le Corsaire overture||Rostock|
|20 March||Le Corsaire overture||Danzig|
|22 March||Le Corsaire overture||Königsberg|
|28 March||Le Corsaire overture||Berlin|
|29 March||Le Corsaire overture||Leipzig|
|6 November||King Lear overture||Essen|
|8 November||Le Corsaire overture||Elberfeld||HvB 851109|
|13 November||King Lear overture||Amsterdam|
|14 November||Le Corsaire overture||The Hague|
|18 November||King Lear overture||The Hague|
|23 November||King Lear overture||Cologne|
|3 April||Le Corsaire overture||St Petersburg||Le Ménestrel, 25 April 1886|
|5 March||Le Carnaval romain overture||Berlin|
|9 November||Le Corsaire overture, Danse des Sylphes, Mephisto Serenade from Faust||Berlin|
|14 November||Le Corsaire overture||Hamburg|
|20 November||Le Corsaire overture||Bremen|
|11 December||Benvenuto Cellini overture, Danse des
Sylphes from Faust,
Rêverie et caprice, Le Carnaval romain overture
|Berlin||HvB 881209; Le Ménestrel, 20 January 1889|
|7 January||Rêverie et caprice||Berlin|
|7 February||Benvenuto Cellini overture||Hamburg|
|26 February||Benvenuto Cellini overture||Bremen|
|4 March||Benvenuto Cellini overture||Berlin|
|27 March||Benvenuto Cellini overture||New York|
|16 January||Le Carnaval romain overture||Königsberg|
|22 January||Rêverie et caprice, Le Carnaval romain overture||Hamburg|
|3 March||King Lear overture||Berlin|
|4 March||King Lear overture||Berlin, Garnisonkirche|
|20 October||La Captive||Hamburg||HvB 901020|
|30 November||King Lear overture||Hamburg|
|29 February||Béatrice et Bénédict overture||Berlin|
|7 March||Béatrice et Bénédict overture||Hamburg|
|14 March||Harold en Italie||Berlin||HvB 920314|
|[4 April]||[La Fuite en Egypte]||[Berlin]||[Conducted by Ochs, not Bülow]|
Unless otherwise stated, all the pictures on this site are from our own collection.
Hans von Bülow c. 1855
The above oil painting is by Wilhelm Streckfuss. The
image here is courtesy of Alan Walker, Hans von Bülow: A Life and
Times. Oxford University Press, 2010, page 84.
The above engraving, published by Baumgärtner in 1880, is from
the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris.
The above photograph shows Bülow in Berlin. The image here
is courtesy of Alan Walker, Hans von Bülow: A Life and Times.
Oxford University Press, 2010, page 89.
The above photo, originally published in 1880, is from The
Golden Treasury of Music, published by N. G. Hamilton in 1895.
Hans von Bülow c. 1887
The above engraving was published in the Illustrirte Zeitung,
14 May 1887.
Hans von Bülow
The above photo was published in Hans von Bülow, Neue
Briefe, herausgegeben und eingeleitet von Richard Graf Du Moulin Eckhart,
Hans von Bülow conducts the Meiningen Orchestra at the Meiningen Theatre
The above photo was published in Heinrich Reimann, Hans
von Bülow: sein Leben und sein Wirken. Harmonien, 1908. The picture here is
courtesy of Kenneth Birkin, Hans von Bülow: A Life for Music, Cambridge
University Press, 2011, page
Piano Recital at the Literary Hall of
Göttingen Museum, Göttingen
Thursday, 18 December 1884, at 7 pm
At the recital Hans von Bülow played works by Bach, Beethoven,
Brahms, Joachim Raff, Chopin, Schubert, Schubert-Liszt and Liszt.
The above picture is from the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris.
See also on this site: Hans von Bülow, Two articles of 1852 on Benvenuto Cellini
The Hector Berlioz Website was created by Monir
Tayeb and Michel Austin on 18 July 1997;
Page Berlioz: Pioneers and Champions created on 15 March 2012; this page created on 15 July 2012, and updated on 15 September and 25 October 2012.
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