Hanslick, Eduard

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

Hanslick, Eduard

Hanslick, Eduard, greatly renowned Austrian music critic of Czech descent; b. Prague, Sept. 11, 1825; d. Baden, near Vienna, Aug. 6, 1904. He studied law in Prague and Vienna, taking the degree of Dr.Jur. in 1849 and qualifying himself for an official position. But having already studied music Tomaschek at Prague, in 1848-49 he served as music critic for the Wiener Zeitung, and soon adopted a literary career. His first work, Vom Musikalisch-Schön: Ein Beitrag zur Revision der Aesthetik der Tonkunst (Leipzig, 1854; Fr. tr., 1877; Span., 1879; ItaL, 1884; Eng., 1891; Russ., 1895), brought him worldwide fame. Its leading idea is that the beauty of a musical composition lies wholly and specifically in the music itself; i.e., it is immanent in the relations of the tones, without any reference whatever to extraneous (nonmusical) ideas, and can express no others. Such being his point of view through life, it follows logically that he could not entertain sympathy for Wagner’s art; his violent opposition to the music-drama was a matter of profound conviction, not personal spite; he in fact wrote a moving tribute after Wagner’s death. On the other hand, he was one of the very first and most influential champions of Brahms. From 1855 to 1864 Hanslick was music ed. of the Presse, and then of the Neue Freie Press from 1864 to 1895 in Vienna. He also was a lecturer in music history and aesthetics (1856–61), prof, extraordinary (1861–70), and a full prof. (1870–95) at the Univ. of Vienna. What gives his writings permanent value is the sound musicianship underlying their brilliant, masterly style. Yet in music history he is chiefly known as a captious and intemperate reviler of genius; Wagner caricatured him in the part of Beckmesser (in any early version of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg the name was to have been Veit Hanslich). A collection of Hanslick’s articles in the Neue Freie Presse was publ. in Eng. tr. as Vienna’s Golden Years of Music, 1850-1900 (N.Y., 1950)


Geschichte des Concertwesens in Wien (1869); Aus dem concertsaal (1870); a series begun with Die moderne Oper (1875) and followed by 8 more vols.: II, Musikalische Stationen (188), III, Aus dem Opernleben der Gegenwart (1884), IV, Musikalisches Skizzenbuch (1888), V, Musikalisches und Litterarisches (1889), VI, Aus dem Tagebuch eines Jahrhunderts (1899), and IX, Aus neuer und neuester Zeit (1900); Suite, Aufsätze über Musik und Musiker (1885); Konzerte, Komponisten und Virtuosen der letzten fünfzehn Jahre (1886); Aus menem Leben (2 vols., 1894).


R. Schafke, E. H. und die Musikästhetik (1922); S. Deas, In Defence of H. (London, 1940); A. Wilhemer, Der junge H. (Klagenfurt, 1959); D. Glatt, Zur geschichtichlen Bedeutung der Musikästhetik E. H.s (Munich, 1972); W. Abegg, Musikästhetik und Musikkritik bei E. H. (Regensburg, 1974); D. Strauss, E. K: Von Musikalisch-Schönen: Ein Beitrag zur Revision der Ästhetik in der Tonkunst (Mainz, 1990 et seq.); G. Payzant, E. H. and Ritter Berlioz in Prague: A Documentary Narrative (Calgary, 1991).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire