A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Bülow, Hans von

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BÜLOW, Hans Guido von, born Jan. 8, 1830, at Dresden. The foremost pianist of that most advanced school of pianoforte playing, founded by Chopin and developed by Liszt. A first-rate conductor, and a musician whose technical attainments and complete knowledge of the art from its germs to its very latest development can be rivalled by few contemporaries and surpassed by none. As a pianist his repertoire comprehends the master-works of all styles and schools, from the early Italians to the present day; it would in fact be difficult to mention a work of any importance by any composer for the pianoforte which he has not played in public, and by heart. His prodigious musical memory has enabled him also as a conductor to perform feats which have never before been attempted, and will in all likelihood not be imitated. The distinctive peculiarity of both his playing and conducting may be set down as a passionate intellectuality. One notices at every step that all details have been thought about and mastered down to the minutest particle; one feels that all effects have been analysed and calculated with the utmost subtlety, and yet the whole leaves an impression of warm spontaneity. This is the highest praise which can be awarded to an executant. It does not, perhaps, apply to all of Bülow's appearances in public, but it applies strictly to his performances at their best; and it is but bare justice to measure the achievements of a great artist as one measures a mountain chain, by the peaks rather than by the valleys. The analytical and reconstructive powers just emphasised render his editions of classical pianoforte works, such as those of Beethoven's sonatas, variations, and bagatelles, from op. 53 upwards, of Cramer's studies, of selections from Sebastian and Emanuel Bach, from Handel, Scarlatti, etc.—in which he has indicated the most refined phrasing and fingering, as well as the most minute nuances of tempo and expression, and has corrected presumable misprints and inaccuracies unique and invaluable to the student.

In addition to these his admirable partition de piano of the most intricate score in existence, Wagner's 'Tristan und Isolde,' together with that of the overture to 'Die Meistereinger' and 'Eine Faust Ouverture,' as well as the arrangements of Weber's two concertos and the concertstück for pianoforte solo should be mentioned.

In early youth Von Bülow seems to have shown neither talent for music nor delight in it. Both gifts first made their appearance after a long illness, but then in a supreme degree. After his ninth year he was placed under Friedrich Wieck, the father of Clara Schumann, who laid the solid foundations for his future technical achievements. M. K. Eberwein was for two years subsequently his master in harmony and counterpoint. In 1848 he came to the university of Leipzig to commence the study of jurisprudence, his parents having always looked upon music as a mere pastime. At Leipzig he continued his studies in counterpoint under Hauptmann. In Oct. 1849 we find him a member of the university of Berlin, absorbed in the political movements of the time, and contributor to a democratic journal 'Die Abendpost.' In this paper he first began to announce and defend the musical doctrines of the new German school led by Liszt and Wagner. A performance of 'Lohengrin' at Weimar in 1850 under Liszt moved him go intensely that he threw over his career as a lawyer, went to Zürich and entrusted himself to the guidance of Wagner. In June 1851 he went to Weimar to study pianoforte playing under Liszt, and in 1853 made his first concert tour, playing at Vienna, Pesth, Dresden, Carlsruhe, Bremen, Hamburg, and Berlin. From 1855 to 1864 he occupied the post of principal master of pianoforte playing at the conservatorium of Professors Stern and A. B. Marx, at Berlin. Here we find him organising trio soirées, orchestral concerts, and pianoforte recitals, with programmes of the most varied character, though with a decided leaning towards the works of the new German school, writing articles for various political and musical papers, making journeys through Germany and the Netherlands, and Russia, and reaping laurels everywhere as player and conductor. In 1864 he was called to Munich as principal conductor at the royal opera and director of the Conservatorium. It was there that he succeeded in organising model performances of Wagner's 'Tristan und Isolde' and 'Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.' In 1869 he left Munich, and has since been giving concerts in Italy, Germany, Russia, Poland, England, and America. Among his most important compositions the following have been published:—op. 20, 'Nirwana, Symphonisches Stimmungsbild'; op. 10, Music to Sbakspeare's 'Julius Cæsar'; op. 16, Ballade for Orchestra, 'Des Sänger's Fluch'; op. 23, 'Vier Charakterstücke für Orchester, (1) Allegro risoluto, (2) Notturno, (3) Intermezzo guerriero, (4) Funerale.' Among his pianoforte pieces especial attention should be called to his recent op. 21, 'Il Carnovale di Milano.'

On Jan. 1, 1878, he was appointed Königlicher Hofkapellmeister at Hanover. [App. p.568 "he remained two years at Hanover, and was then appointed Hofmusikintendant to the Duke of Meiningen. During the five years of his tenure of this post he did wonders with the orchestra, forming it into an unrivalled body of players. Since his resignation of this appointment, in Oct. 1885, he has directed various sets of concerts in Berlin, St. Petersburg, etc., and has employed his exceptional talents as a teacher in the Raff Conservatorium at Frankfort, and in Klindworth's establishment in Berlin. He also conducted a Musical Festival at Glasgow in 1878. He has recently taken up his residence in Hamburg. (Died Feb. 12, 1894.)"]

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