MASTERS OF CONTEMPORARY MUSIC:
MASTERS OF GERMAN MUSIC
by John Alexander Fuller-Maitland (1856-1936)

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See entire book as pdfThe late nineteenth century series "Masters of Contemporary Music: A Series of Biographical and Critical Sketches" included the volumes "Masters of English Music" by C. Willeby, "Masters of French Music" by A. Hervey, and "Masters of German Music" by, the Londoner, J.A. Fuller-Maitland. The volume on German composers was completed in 1894, and was published later that year by Osgood, McIlvaine & Co. in London, and Charles Scribner's in New York. Three composers (Brahms, Bruch, and Goldmark) comprise over two-thirds of the book, and the contents provide an interesting assessment of the state of German music at a time when future compositions from Brahms were still forthcoming:

Chapter
Title
Page
1
JOHANNES BRAHMS
1
2
MAX BRUCH
97
3
KARL GOLDMARK
137
4
JOSEF RHEINBERGER
173
5
THE OLDER GENERATION: THEODOR KIRCHNER - CARL REINECKE - WOLDEMAR BARGIEL
199
6
TWO GREAT VIRTUOSI: JOSEPH JOACHIM - CLARA SCHUMANN
217
7
THE LITTLE MASTERS: HEINRICH VON HERZOGENBERG - HEINRICH HOFMANN - ANTON BRUCKNER - FELIX DRAESEKE
237
8
NEW PATHS (?): JEAN LOUIS NICODÉ - RICHARD STRAUSS - HANS SOMMER - CYRILL KISTLER
263

Chapter Seven concludes with a contemporary description and estimation of Draeseke, just following a discussion of, the other "little master", Anton Bruckner:

 An earlier and not less devoted Wagnerian than Bruckner, FELIX DRAESEKE, has scarcely as yet made the mark that might have been expected from a man of his high ideals and thoroughly artistic methods of working. With him, as with so many of the best of the unrecognised, an excessive habit of self-criticism has kept him from the position that a more unscrupulous man might have claimed, and has, of course, affected most materially the extent of his lists of works. A certain diffusion of interests, too, is partly responsible for the comparatively small number of his compositions, since he has contributed largely and with good results to the literature of music, and has gone somewhat deeply into the modern developments of pianoforte technique.

 He was born October 7, 1835, at Coburg, where his father, the son of a once famous bishop of Magdeburg, was Court chaplain. He was educated at the "gymnasium" of his native town, and from 1852 to 1855 was a student at the Leipzig Conservatorium, studying with Richter, Hauptmann, and Rietz. In spite of the conservative tendencies of the school, he became a declared adherent of Wagner during his student days, being moved thereto by a performance of "Lohengrin" at Weimar in 1852, and one of "Tannhauser" at Leipzig in 1853. Regarded in the light of the new music, and with this influence strong upon him, Beethoven's mass in D only confirmed him in his allegiance to the party of progress, and he undertook the analysis of Liszt's symphonic poems, brought out about 1859, executing the task with such literary ability and enthusiasm as to win the complete approval of the composer, whose acquaintance, with that of Büllow, he had been so fortunate as to make soon after leaving Leipzig for Berlin.

 In the summer of 1857 he took up his abode in Dresden, and completed an opera, "Konig Sigurd," a work of which Liszt thought so highly that he got it accepted at Weimar and even rehearsed; just then, however, arose the storm over Cornelius's "Barbier von Bagdad," and on Liszt's resigning his post in consequence of the reception of that work, his young friend's opera naturally got "shelved." During his five years' stay in Dresden some of his works attracted a considerable degree of attention from the musicians of the advanced school; among these was a ballad for solo voice, "Helges Treue." His critical articles, contributed to the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, had considerable influence at the time, and are now of some historical interest. At Löwenberg in Silesia, where he spent some months in the early part of 1862, he enjoyed the opportunity of hearing some of his compositions played by the private orchestra of the Prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen. Shortly after this he went to Switzerland, where he lived until 1895, with the exception of nearly a year spent at Munich and an extensive foreign tour, settling down at Lausanne, and working at composition. Two symphonies, a pianoforte sonata, an "Adventlied" (op. 30), and part of a Requiem, were the chief productions of this period of his life. In 1873 the first of the symphonies, in G minor, op. 12, was given in Dresden, and in 1876 Draeseke returned to the Saxon capital, where he completed his second opera, "Herrat," a work which had to wait until 1892 for performance. His third opera, "Gudrun," was luckier in this respect, since it was given at Hanover in 1884. Meanwhile the Requiem was finished, and after being brought out at Leipzig in 1883 with very great success, it was given by many of the best choral societies in Germany. A third symphony, "Symphonia tragica," op. 40, was given in Dresden and Berlin in 1888, under Büllow. In 1880 Draeseke was appointed teacher of theory in the Rollfuss academy, and four years later he succeeded Wüllner as teacher of composition in the Dresden Conservatorium, a post which he still holds. His latest work of importance is a mass in F sharp minor, still in MS., given in Dresden and Leipzig in the winter of 1892. A new opera is in course of composition. Among the most prominent of his works, unmentioned above, are two "symphonic overtures" to "Das Leben ein Traum" and "Penthesilea," op. 45 and So respectively;" Jubilaums-Festmarsch," op. 54; Academic Overture (MS.); "Columbus," a cantata for soli, chorus and orchestra, op. 52; two string quartets; a quintet for piano, strings and horn, op. 48, and two curious sets of canons for pianoforte duet.

 The composer has a decided gift of melody, though his themes are sometimes less "distinguished" in style than their treatment; he is more successful than most professed Wagnerians in the department of "absolute" music, though strong dramatic feeling is exhibited in his works for the stage. The ingenuity with which, in the "Domine" of his Requiem, he has brought in the chorale-tune, “Jesus meine Zuversicht,” shows him to be a thoughtful and imaginative musician, and the whole work has considerable breadth and imaginative power; very few of his other works, however, seem to contain the elements of greatness in the strict sense of the word.*

*From: Fuller-Maitland JA. Masters of German Music, Scribner's, New York, 1894, pp 258-262.
 
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