TO Hector Berlioz 

By

Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser

first published in 

Der Wanderer,  5 January 1846, Vienna

    Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser was a very popular Viennese magician in the 19th century, like Robert-Houdin in France. Berlioz met Hofzinser in Paris in 1844 and quite likely during his visit to Vienna in 1845-6 (though there is apparently no mention of Hofzinser in any of Berlioz’s writings or his correspondence). Hofzinser wrote reviews of Berlioz’s concerts in Viennese newspapers and also wrote a poem entitled "To Hector Berlioz" in his honour which was distributed at a performance of Roméo et Juliette at the Theater and der Wien on 2 January 1846 and published after a review of that concert in the daily paper Der Wanderer on 5 January. Hofzinser also wrote critiques of various other cultural events in different Viennese newspapers. 

Acknowledgement

    This poem appears on page 38 of  NON PLUS ULTRA, Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser, Der Zauber des 19. Jahrhunderts, Volume 1, by Magic Christian, published by Volker Huber, Offenbach am Main, in 1998. We are most grateful to Prof. mag. Christian Stelzel for drawing our attention to Hofzinser’s friendship with Berlioz and this poem, and for granting us permission to reproduce it here. Professor Stelzel has also kindly sent us a photocopy of  page 16 of the 5 January 1846 issue of Der Wanderer, in which the poem was first published (see below).

    In the poem, entitled "To Hector Berlioz", which is reproduced here in the original German (see also the transcript of the review in German to which it was appended, which is also available in full English and French translations), Hofzinser recalls meeting Berlioz in France’s capital, where he first learnt to admire him and to love him (lines 1-2). He remained true to him in Vienna, where Berlioz was a most celebrated person (lines 3-4). He enthusiastically sings Berlioz’s praises as a creative artist: ‘Like a master create heartily for ever and ever! / Word and sounds are at your command. / And should pale envy ever rise up against you / Let that never prevent you from striding forward’ (lines 10-15). Using a quotation, he takes up the theme again towards the end of the poem: ‘"Whoever has done justice to the best of his time / He has – my friend, lived for all time." / Oh, always follow your genius! / So great and bold! – so glorifying and stirring!’ (lines 15-18).

    Hofzinser makes affectionate allusions to Berlioz’s music, notably Roméo et Juliette, and possibly Symphonie fantastique, (lines 19, 20: ‘Sing to us of first love, of the first kiss! – of / Wild passions, stormily’) and Le Carnaval romain (line 21: ‘Sing to us of the joy of the Carnival’). He also alludes to Berlioz’s forthcoming visit to Hungary, "the wonderland of the fiery Magyars" (lines 5-10) where the Marche hongroise was first performed on 15 February 1846 and rapturously received in the concert hall (cf. Correspondance Générale no. 1021 and the account in Berlioz’s Memoirs). The poem reads almost as though Hofzinser was anticipating Berlioz’s success there only a few weeks later.

    He ends the poem in a stirring manner, reminiscent of some of Berlioz’s music, such as his Symphonie funèbre et triomphale (lines 22-24): ‘Like Tyrtaeus let songs of freedom ring out! / Sing to us of battles, where in the bloody dance / The heroes fall for the noble fatherland.’

    Here is Hofzinser’s wonderful poem, which like a 19th century miniature painting resembles a compact historical document, and gives a glimpse of Berlioz’s travels and fame in Europe:

                 An Hektor Berlioz

  1 In Frankreichs Hauptstadt hab’ ich Dich begrüßt,
     Dort lernt ich Dich zuerst bewundern, lieben.
     Und hier, wo der Gefeiertste Du bist,
     Im mächtigen Wien bin ich Dir treu geblieben.

  5 Die schöne blaue Donau trägt Dich bald
     In’s Wunderland der feurigen Magyaren,
     Magst Du, wenn – Dort Dir "Eljen!" jubelnd schallt
     Dem Ungar Deine Freundschaft auch bewahren.

     Die Besten wohl, sie nahten freudig Dir
10 Und grüßten ohne Neid den fremden Meister
     Als Meister schaffe rüstig für und für!
     Dir dienstbar sind des Wort’s, der Töne Geister.     

     Und züngelt je Dich bleiche Mißgunst an:
     Das hind’re nimmer Dich am Vorwärtsschreiten.
15 "Wer genug dem Besten seiner Zeit gethan,
     Der hat – mein Freund! – Gelebt für alle Zeiten."

     O, folge immer Deinem Genius!
     So groß und kühn! – so rühmend und erschütternd!
     Sing’ uns von erster Liebe, erstem Kuß! -
20 Von wilden Leidenschaften, ungewitternd,

     Sing’ uns die Lust des Carnevals! sing Wein!
     Tyrtaeus gleich laß Freiheitslieder schallen!
     Sing uns von Schlachten, wo in blut’gen Reig’n
     Für’s theure Vaterland die Helden fallen.

(25)                                H....... [Hofzinser]

 

And here you will find the scanned copy of the poem as published on 5 January 1846.

The Hector Berlioz Website was created by Monir Tayeb and Michel Austin on 18 July 1997; this page created on 23 August 2003. 

© Monir Tayeb and Michel Austin. All rights of reproduction reserved.

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