2 pp. Octavo. Dated April 1, 1891. In German (with translation).
Regarding the forthcoming first performance of his cantata, Christnacht.
"Please be so kind as to let me know directly, or through Weingartner, if the orchestral rehearsals of Christnacht have already started and how they have gone so far. Please also send word as to when the dress rehearsal is scheduled. If only you could get Weingartner to write me a note!"
Wolf's cantata, Christnacht, to a text by August Graf von Platen-Hallermünde, was first performed under the noted Austrian conductor Felix Weingartner (1863-1942) on April 9, 1891 in Mannheim, "the last concert to be conducted by Weingartner at Mannheim before he left to take up an appointment with the Berlin Opera." Walker: Hugo Wolf, p. 285.
Apparently conceived as the composer's "answer to Bach's Christmas Oratorio..."
"... The first sketches for the work are dated Christmas Eve 1886... In a letter to Oskar Grohe (26 February 1891), Wolf wrote that he had conceived the composition as a portrait of Christ's personality in two manifestations, the child and the ‘Weltüberwinders’, or hero who overcame the world. At the end, these themes and other musical ideas merge and unfold ‘with tongues of flame the dogma of God made man and of salvation’, he told Grohe, adding that if the execution did not keep pace with the concept it was ‘nobody's fault but my own’... Christnacht has much to commend it and many admirable effects in the lengthy orchestral introduction alone... But Wolf being neo-Bachian/Lisztian in huge brass-laden choruses is Wolf being bombastic, especially in the chorus of believers (Platen indicates shepherds here, but this was insufficiently solemn for his purposes, so Wolf told Grohe, hence their new designation as ‘Gläubigen’) and the final chorus, and the work is in consequence not an unmitigated success..."
Wolf "intensified the expressive vocabulary of the lied by means of extended tonality and post-Wagnerian declamation while retaining the defining elements of the song tradition he had inherited from Schubert and Schumann. Profoundly responsive to poetry, he incorporated detailed readings of his chosen poems in the compositional decisions he made about every aspect of song: harmonic nuances, tonal form, melodic design, vocal declamation, pianistic texture, the relationship of voice to piano, etc. Seeking an art ‘written with blood’, he went below the surface of poetry – even where his musical purposes were inevitably distinct from the poet's – in order to recreate it in music of remarkable intensity, written, as he once proclaimed, for epicures, not amateurs." Eric Sams and Susan Youens in Grove Music Online. Item #21332
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