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Musikalischer Kurier

(Vienna, 1919-1922)

Prepared by Peter Sühring
Online only (2017)

The periodical Musikalischer Kurier. Wochenschrift für Musik und Theater [MKU] was published in Vienna from October 1919 to September 1922. During the first two years (1919-20) MKU was issued weekly, while in the third year (1921) the journal appeared irregularly, once or twice each month, in form of double, triple or quadruple issues bringing the total to fifty-two issues. In the fourth year (1922) several monthly issues appeared including a special issue (August) entitled “Sondernummer Salzburg” [Salzburg special number]. The number of pages in each issue averages from sixteen to twenty-four. The publication became generally smaller, appearing on a single sheet (sixteen pages) in the last year (1922), with the exception of the January issue, and the Salzburg special issue (thirty-two pages each).

The first page of each issue MKU contains a photograph or drawing of a notable, famous or interesting musician. A table of contents [“Inhalt”] appears on this or the second page. Following are the main feature articles printed in single column format. Regular rubrics in this part of the journal are “Mein Notizbuch“ [My notebook], containing personal reflections, comments and ratings of the musical current affairs, written by Graf. “Schattenrisse“ [silhouettes] contains a series of self- and other portraits of well-known musicians.

Other titled articles follow in two-column format. The most important of these include “Musikbriefe” [Musical letters] which include detailed reports, concert and opera reviews from correspondents in throughout the German-speaking regions. “Oper und Konzert“ [opera and concert] consist of collections of short reviews and notes on past or forthcoming musical events in different cities. “Personalien“ [Personalities] contains communications on performances, employment and aspects of the private lives of living musicians. “Disharmonisches“ [Disharmonious] gives news of events from musical life, including quarrels and intolerances. “Zeitungsschau” [Newspaper reviews] contain resumes and quotations from articles in other music magazines. “Litteratur” [literature] provides reviews of books about music and musicians and published sheet music. Finally, “Verse für Musik” [Verses for music] provides the texts of songs and poems, written on the initiative of the editors, for the use of composers. Musical advertisements appear on the final pages of the issues.

Textual supplements appear only in the first year (1919). “Instrumentenbau” [Instrument making] is a supplement to Musikalischer Kurier containing notes and reports about the construction of instruments in past and present. “Vereinswesen” [Associations life] appear as either detailed reports or shorter references to events in music clubs and male-voice choirs; in the second year this becomes a permanent rubric, usually as “Vereinsnachrichten” [Club news].“Soziale Musikerfragen” [Social questions of musicians] embodies the main subject of these articles giving explanations,descriptions and defense of the democratization of musical life, of orchestral organizations and of the financial security of music teachers.

“Musikpädagogik” [Music education] is a supplement to Musikalischer Kurier in issues nos. 4 and 8 of the first year. The topic appears later under the heading "Unterrichswesen” [Education] in regular issues with reports on state and private educational institutions for the teaching of music. The only sheet music supplement is a facsimile of a newly discovered Mozart manuscript, the cadenza for the first movement of the Piano Concerto in F major, KV 413.

The main theme or aspect of this magazine seems to have been the question of saving the Austrian musical tradition and its transformation into a republican polity. Great weight is placed on discussions of instrument improvements and especially of the art of singing. A central concern is the fate of opera in the post-war period. The contents of the periodical are varied from musical and historical treatises on individual genres, to musical development in individual countries (France, Czechoslovakia) and studies of individual composers (sometimes digressing into anecdotal or literary spheres). Among contemporary composers Hugo Wolf is particularly appreciated, and efforts are made to deal with recent documents (especially letters) for an understanding of his tragic fate.

MKU represents a particular cultural and historical point of view in the newly created Republic of Austria. After the collapse of the Austrian Empire (the Danube Monarchy) the journal’s directors tried, on the one hand, to save the old values of the German musical culture, which was influenced by southern (Mediterranean) elements, and, on the other hand, to open up and to accompany ways toward a modernism rooted in tradition. This was taken to imply a condition in which musical art and its representatives found themselves obliged to consider it an ethereal high culture with metaphysical expectations. Without discussing the crisis of Austrian culture in the last decades of the Habsburg Empire, the journal sought to maintain the high musical level of Vienna. Only occasionally was the fate of Bruckner, Mahler and Wolf mentioned, which showed that the Viennese audiences were unable to recognize artistic greatness and innovation that appeared before the First World War. The loss of the old stability in cultural funding, guaranteed by the royal and imperial institutions, was deplored, and the former high level of key institutions such as the Royal Opera House, Music Academy, Musikverein [Music association] and Konzerthaus [Concert house] was praised. The new audience dominated by the new rich and war profiteers, incapable of independent judgment, was criticized, as was the public dissemination of music as entertainment. The ability of the new post-revolutionary, now Republican and German-Austrian institutions, to organize and promote art in general, and music in particular, in a sensible and successful way, was doubted. Great importance was attached to the public-private initiative of the Salzburg Festival, defined as a symbolic activity that could and must embody the old and the new Austria, together with an international component.

Max Graf (1873 1958), who was the editor throughout MKU’s run, studied with Eduard Hanslick and Anton Bruckner. From 1902 to 1914 he was Professor of Music History at the Royal Imperial Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, and from 1904 to 1898 an active member of the Psychological Wednesday Club of Sigmund Freud. In the interwar period he served in Vienna as an important music critic. After the annexation of Austria into the German Reich in 1938, Graf emigrated to the United States but returned to Austria in 1947. His important prewar publications include Deutsche Musik im 19. Jahrhundert [German music in the nineteenth century] (1898) and Wagner-Probleme und andere Studien [The Wagner problem and other studies] (1900), while his books issued after 1945 include Legends of a Musical City (1945), Composer and Critic and Modern Music (1946). His main aim was a renewal of German music in the spirit of the Austrian tradition, which is reflected in his promotion and fair consideration of musicians such as Alexander Zemlinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, Erich von Korngold and Franz Schreker. Graf also writes benevolent reviews of the musicians union and concert organization “Anbruch” [Dawn] in Vienna and Berlin, and the association for private performances of Schoenberg. Special emphasis on overcoming the crisis of the State Opera House is given as well as an increasingly practiced criticism in its governance by the director Franz Schalk and the musical director Richard Strauss, owing to the destruction of the old ensemble structure. Against Strauss he brings the accusation of "cronyism" (“Freundlwirtschaft”). Graf was a critic of anti-German sentiments after the war which appeared in the newly independent Slavic republics that formerly belonged to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire (especially in Czechoslovakia), and, in the Entente countries of the Western Allies and North America.

The following articles and article series deserve special attention:

About musical life: “Zur Reform des Konzertwesens“ [Reform of concert life]: Debate of several Viennese concert organizers concerning suggestions by an anonymous concert audience (in 1920). "Musiker-Klub“ [Musicians club]: Calling of Juliusz Wolfsohn for establishing a professional association for social communication of musicians in Vienna, with comments from various Viennese musical institutions (issues 11, 12, 14 in the year 1920).

About specific composers: “Erinnerungen an Hugo Wolf” [Memories of Hugo Wolf], written by Gustav Schur, published from his estate, with first publication of letters by Wolf to the author (1919-1920). Felix Baumgartner, Robert Lach and Hermann Nigg wrote articles on Beethoven's 150th birthday (issue 51/52 of 1920). First publication of a letter from Felix Mendelssohn, 28. 9.1837 to Julius Rietz with mention of his incidental music to Calderon's The Constant Prince from 1833 (issue 7/8 of 1921). First publishing of Bruckner’s Testament (issue 40/43, 1921). Ferruccio Busoni‘s open letter concerning his neoclassical commitment (April issue of the 4th year, 1922).

About specific cities: First special issue "Salzburg" in August 1921, the idea and realization of the new Salzburg Festival and the musical history of Salzburg with articles by Heinrich Damisch (Chronicle of the Salzburg Festival Society), Ernst Decsey (Salzburg music history before Mozart), Max Graf (Mozart), Bernhard Paumgartner (history of the Mozarteum Opera) Theobald Kretzschmann (history of the Salzburg music Festivals), Herbert Johann Holz (festival idea) Alfred Rottauscher (programming of the festival), Carl Ceconi (architecture of the Festspielhaus), Franz Sauer (Salzburg church music), C. M. Haslbrunner (Salzburg new solution for the orchestra pit). Special Issue "Vienna" in September 1921, contributions by Otto Erich German (about Schubert and Walter Scott), Max Morold (Vienna Chamber Music), H. J. Holz (the Burgtheater since the turn of the century), Hagenau (choral singing in Vienna), Emil Petschnig (History of Universal-Edition). Wilhelm Jaura wrote series of articles on the Viennese luthiers by in the 1921-1922 in ten installments.

Important contributors included:

Paul Bechert (1889-1953), Vienna correspondent and critic. Worked as a critic and impresario in Vienna, in 1932 he went to New York. For the MKU he wrote especially opera reviews and current considerations of the opera house and its audience.

Max Broesike-Schoen. He acted as a correspondent from Dresden and as a reviewer of performed music and music books. He was also a contributor of the Musikblätter des Anbruch, working from the 1930s to the 1950s in Hamburg, particularly on the positive reception of Bruckner.

Theodor Haas, Viennese music critic, particularly intense in in his reports on the Vienna State Opera (overviews and statistics).

Hans Ewald Heller (1894-1966), Viennese composer (of operas, operettas and songs) and music critic. Reviewer of sheet music and concerts, especially of song compositions. After the Anschluss he emigrated by way of France ito the United States, where he remained the rest of his life. In addition to songs he composed symphonies and chamber music. He also wrote for other magazines and newspapers, including the Musikblätter des Anbruch.

Robert Lach (1874-1958), he wrote for the MKU as head of the music department of the Austrian National Library (1912 20) and lecturer at the Academy of Music, he focused first on the comparative musicology. He became later successor of Guido Adler against his will, operated by an anti-Semitic secret clique at the Vienna University (1927). He was an avowed Nazi and worked as an informer of his Jewish colleagues. For MKU, he wrote in 1919 a lengthy multi-part presentation on the “musicological literature during the war” and in 1920 several reviews of books on music. In 1921, there is an essay about him as composer, with a photo.

Emil Petschnig (1877 1939), composer and writer on music. In MKU he worked as a reviewer of sheet music, music books and concerts with anti-modern twist.

Juliusz Wolfsohn (1880 1944), in Warsaw born pianist, composer of piano works, based on Jewish folklore and music writer. In MKU he was responsible for Jewish subjects.