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Hudební listy

(Prague, 1870-1875)

Prepared by Jana Spáčilová, with the collaboration of Michal Fránek, Jiří Kopecký, and Vlasta Reittererová
Introduction by Jiří Kopecký

The weekly Czech music journal Hudební listy: Orgán Ústřední jednoty zpěváckých spolků českoslovanských [Musical leaves: authority of the Union of Czechoslovak Singers’ Societies, acronym HUL] was published in Prague from March 3, 1870 to December 30, 1875. The journal’s first editor, Ludevít Procházka, was assisted by Josef Richard Rozkošný. Beginning with the third volume, Skrejšovský, assumed editorship (December 1872), declaring that the journal would now serve a “national” goal. From Volume 4, 1873, the journal was renamed Hudební listy: Orgán světské i chrámové hudby, jakož i zájmů pěveckých jednot českoslovanských [Musical leaves: authority of secular and sacred music and benefit of the Union of Czechoslovak Singers’ Societies] with a new editor, Josef Richard Rozkošný. Rozkošný gave up from his role as editor at the end of 1873, owing to the increasing anti-Smetana opinions expressed in the journal. In 1875, HUD was edited by František Pivoda. While under Procházka, Hudební listy defends the modern direction in Czech music represented by the works of Bedřich Smetana. The first three volumes have a clear ideological course, but the subsequent three volumes assume an adequately principled course of opposition. Pivoda is critical of Smetana’s affection for the music of Berlioz, Liszt and Wagner.

Jan Ludevít Procházka (1837–88), a student of Bedřich Smetana, was a pianist, composer, conductor and teacher. His greatest fame lies in his organization of Czech musical life, as one of the founders of singers’ society Hlahol, Hudební odbor Umělecké besedy [Musical department of artists’ group Umělecká beseda]. In 1871 he participated in the establishment of the Hudební matice Umělecké besedy [Music association of Umělecká beseda], and, in 1874, together with František Ladislav Rieger, he founded a musical division in the Museum Království českého [Czech Royal Museum]. Procházka’s successor as editor, František Pivoda (1824-98), defended a cultural-political viewpoint, which tried to uplift Czech music from its own roots, but faced opposition from friends of Smetana led by Hostinský, who were not afraid to be open to the domestic production to Western cultural influences. Pivoda was a well-known music teacher and his singers’ institution in Prague had a valued reputation. A confident aesthete, Hostinský divided Richard Wagner’s contribution to music into two parts: the aesthetic principle and the actual music in Wagner’s work, (later labeled as “Wagnerism” in Czech musicology).

Hudební listy represents a unique source of information about the rapidly growing musical culture in Prague and inspires reflection on the direction of Czech national music. The first volume follows the activities of the then currently active Slavic societies, informs about the foundations of new singers’ societies and unions in complete detail by publishing the programs of concerts, concert soirees and academies; recommends new songbooks and choral pieces of Czech composers; and announces a competition for compositions for male choirs. The journal also advertises compositions published by Jednota českoslovanských zpěváckých spolků [The Union of Czechoslovak Singer’s Societies], and the theoretical work of piano teacher Josef Proksch. The section "Zprávy z ciziny" [Foreign and Austrian News] gives information about the development of national schools (for example in Lublin and Zagreb), notes the activities of the Slavic Union in Vienna, and follows the careers of Czech expatriates abroad. An interesting topic deals with the travels of famous singers and instrumentalists including Adelina Patti, Pauline Viardot and Clara Schumann. Journal subscribers learn about the work of Stanislav Moniuzsko in Warsaw, about the proposal to stage Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov, about the first performance of Liszt’s oratorio Svatá Alžběta [Legend of Saint Elizabeth], about the composition of Verdi’s opera Aida, and the breakthrough performances of Smetana’s Prodaná nevěsta abroad. The centennial of the birth of Beethoven is a newsworthy current event. Wagner’s creative plans are a perennial source of fascination, including the Munich premières of Das Rheingold and Die Walküre, attended by Smetana.

The column "Ze Zpráv domácích" [Domestic news] focuses on operatic production, plans of operas by Czech composers and the publication in Prague of the piano-vocal scores of Russian operas. HUD also informs about performances at the Prague Conservatory, the organ school and many private music institutions. Otakar Hostinský presents regular updates about the events in Prozatímní divadlo Opera [Provisional opera] and by criticizing the lack of concept in its operatic repertoire; he tries to implement Smetana’s program of “increasing the artistic level of the opera and the audience.” Among the longer essays are those about Rossini’s Lazebníku sevillském [Il Barbiere di Siviglia], Weber’s Čarostřelci [Der Freischütz], and Smetana’s Prodaná nevěsta in St. Petersburg. There are biographical sketches of composers Gluck, Rubinstein, Chopin, Berlioz, Liszt and Leopold Eugen Měchura; articles about musical life in Egypt and in Serbia, Gregorian chant, and Helmholtz’s acoustical theory of music. Excellent are the articles by Ambros about Palestrina and Beethoven, the polemical essay by Eliška Krásnohorská “Český básník a hudební drama” [Czech poetry and musical drama], and Hostinsky’s crucial essay “Wagnerianismus a česká národní opera” [Wagnerism and Czech national opera], which was adapted in 1901 for his book Bedřich Smetana a jeho boj o moderní českou hudbu [Bedřich Smetana and his struggle for modern Czech music].

In the second volume of 1871, Otakar Hostinský contributes an extensive series entitled “Richard Wagner, nástin životopisný” [Richard Wagner, a biographical outline]. We also attribute to Hostinský the general review of the first performance of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg in the German theatre in Prague. Eliška Krásnohorská uses Hudební listy to campaign for the establishment of women’s singing societies and continues to translate the texts of songs from other languages into Czech. Above all, she publishes her essay “O české deklamaci hudební” [On Czech musical declamation], which influences Czech composers positively. Karel Pippich assumes responsibility for the translations of Beethoven’s letters; Josef Durdík translates Alexander Serov’s study "Ruská národní píseň" [Russian folk songs]; Jindřich Pech demonstrates his interest in Italian bel canto opera. There are also articles about Gregorian chant and the liturgy, and the history of eighteenth-century music. Popular anecdotes about Rossini’s life find their counterpart in the preservation of the Mozart’s cult in “Mozartův poslední pobyt v Praze” [Mozart’s last stay in Prague]. An inspirational essay “Cesta kol světa s průvodem piana” [Around the world with the piano] balances news about Serbian instrumental music and Rusnak folk songs. Emanuel Meliš provides “Příspěvky k životopisům českých hudebních umělců” [Papers on the biographies of Czech musical artists]. Repeatedly there are appeals from readers to “ardently cultivate the Czech song.” Reviews draw attention to Slavic-oriented piano arrangements of Max Konopásek or songs by Zdeněk Fibich. Procházka presents a “patriotic dumka” for solo and mixed choir and piano entitled “Světla víc!” [More light!] as a music supplement. "Kronika zpěváckých spolků a hudebních jednot" [Foreign and Austrian news] does not neglect Italian culture as, at the forefront, is the news about Verdi’s Aida, the brothers Luigi and Federico Ricci and their opera Kryšpín a kmotra [Crispino e la comare] and the engagement of the Italian singer Lela Ricci. Information about Wagner’s theoretical works, construction of the theatre in Bayreuth and the planned execution of Der Ring des Nibelungen, the reception of Wagner’s operas in Italy, and the execution of Beethoven’s symphonies as conducted by Wagner in London is prominent. Prominent in "Ze Zpráv domácích" [Domestic news] is information about the centennial celebration of the birth of Václav Jan Tomášek, new operas by Czech composers: Král a uhlíř [The king and the charcoal burner] by Dvořák, Zakletý princ [The enchanted prince] by Hřímalý and Bukovín by Fibich.

The contents of the third volume (1872) are distinctively specialized in terms of popular and somewhat tabloid news about musical in foreign centers: the laying a cornerstone of the Bayreuth theater, the jubilee performance of Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots in Paris, of Moniuzsko’s opera Halka in Lvov, pay conditions of American artists, and Adelina Patti in Moscow. The “Smetana” program is much more rigorously defended. Longer articles deal with the life and work of Beethoven, Schumann, and Alexander Serov. The contemporary Cecilian movement is addressed in the articles by Antonín Foerster about the reform of church music, and by Franz Xaver Witt about Gregorian chant. An essay about Serbian folk music and a chapter about the theory of harmony by Václav Emanuel Horák are counterbalanced by yet again articles with Wagnerian themes (a Czech translation of Wagner’s "Eine Pilgerfahrt zu Beethoven" [A pilgrimage to Beethoven], and the dispute between Ambros and Hostinský about Wagner. Eliška Krásnohorská brings attention to the unilateral cultivation of opera at the expense of the art song. An important essay is the detailed polemic reply of Otakar Hostinský entitled “Také některé myšlenky o české opeře” [Also some thoughts on Czech opera], a reaction to Pivoda’s article published in the journal Osvěta. When the possible resignation of Smetana from the post of art director of Czech theater opera was debated, the Hudební listy publicly defends him. New compositions by Antonín Dvořák receive attention.

In the fourth volume in 1873, HUL takes on an anti-Smetana attitude. The article “Kde jsme? Kam chceme se dostati?” [Where are we? Where do we want to go?), deals with the concern that Smetana’s style is so close to Wagner’s style that it threatens to paralyze the evolving Czech music. Other texts also deal with this polemical thorn, including “Jak si pěje Čech” (How a Czech sings) and “Úvahy o naší hudební literature” [Thoughts on our music literature] by František Pazdírek. At this time, the journal also includes discussion of the works of Chopin, southern Slavic folk songs, and critical opinions about Wagner’s operas from Italian and French sources. Pivoda’s editorials claim that the Prozatímní divadlo Opera is in a personnel crisis, while Vojtěch Hřímalý attacks Procházka, Hostinský and Adolf Čech, writing about “a group of a few fanatics concentrated around a single personality. The journal follows the compositional efforts of Antonín Dvořák and pays special attention to the works of Franz Schubert by promoting the idea of an Austrian school.

The fifth volume of the Hudební listy represents the extensive argumentation platform explaining the points used to attack Smetana. The objectives are articulated in the very first issue, claiming “We serve the Czechoslavic musical element with all our ardor.” The journal’s editor refuses to “bind the Czech talent to serve a foreign spirit,” and goes against any trace of “friendship” with foreigners. It advocates that the main interest of the journal should be a focus on “sacred church music and the domain of dramatic music.” Pivoda fiercely criticizes the activities of the Czech operatic singing school, and attacks the financial situation of the Prozatímní divadlo Opera. Main articles and columns are aimed at emphasizing the Slavic roots of Czech culture. Pivoda urges that a Czech musician should not submissively bow to German musicians, but be inspired by Franjo Kuhač from Zagreb and Max Konopásek from Lvov. Kuhač voices the call “Vzchopme se k dílu!” [Pull ourselves together!], a potential for uplifting Slavic music and for the de-Germanization of musical terminology. Konopásek, in his essay “Rozbor otázky slovanské hudby” [Exploration of the Slavic music matter], interconnects the Greek modes with folk songs, touches upon the issue of textual declamation and Czech poetry and specifically stresses the Russian “kolomejka.“ This series of articles is thematically complemented by “Z jaké půdy vyrodí se hudba slovanská?” [Which soil will Slavic music arise from?], and “Proč zaniká krásný zpěv (bel canto)” [Why did beautiful singing (bel canto) perish?]. The “Foreign and Austrian news” communicates that the Wagner theatre in Bayreuth lacks the necessary monies to complete construction. "Zprávy domácí a z venkova" [Domestic and rural news] presents selected programs emphasizing Slavic themes, other than Dvořák’s Symphony in D minor, and informs readers about Bukovín and Blaník by Fibich, Drahomír by Šebor, Dvě vdovy by Smetana, and Král a uhlíř by Dvořák. Musical supplements provide access to opera arias of baroque composers Handel and Alessandro Stradella, and transcripts for harmonium (the cavatina from Weber’s Der Freischütz, Liszt’s “Ave Maria”). Yet the main emphasis is on music with Slavic tendencies, that is, songs by F. Pivoda, J. R. Rozkošný, Josef Paukner, Konopásek’s piano pieces, "Písně beze slov" [Songs without words] by J. Přibík, Kuhač’s composition Tamburaši or J. F. Kloss’ song “Splyňte vy slovanští jazykové “ [You, Slavic languages, merge!]. Subscribers also receive a portrait of V. J. Tomášek.

The sixth volume of Hudební listy (1875) takes on a pedagogical dimension yet retains the characteristic traces of Pivoda’s virtues and vices. Other than a series about the history of music by Josef Vacek, longer articles deal with theoretical issues, for example, the characteristics of keys, transposition and harmonics. Pivoda keeps the reliable co-workers; Kuhač publishes a review of the Sborník ukrajinských písní [Collection of Ukrainian songs], Konopásek in a series presents the readers with his thoughts on “Hudební i nehudební stránky slovanské hudby” [Musical and non-musical aspects of Slavic music]. Konopásek also became the leading supplier of musical supplements. Other than songs by Josef Paukner, Eugen Miroslav Rutte and František Josef Bučovský on Pivoda’s adaptations of folk songs, the Hudební listy supplies its readers with piano compositions from Konopásek’s cycle Slovanka [Slavic woman]. The main essay of the last issue of the Hudební listy is the article “Přívrženci a odpůrcové” [Friends and foes], in which the author uses many quotations from Ambros’ work in order to confront devotees of Wagner’s musical reforms with those who consider Wagner a butcher of music. Pivoda’s ideas about these points of view progress in the following way: (1) Wagner belongs to Germany, where reason stands above emotion, (2) let Germans cultivate his fame, and (3) which would guarantee that the German element would not devour Slavic music.