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Vol. IX.


No. 103


AT the risk of boring and even exasperating many of our readers I must return once more to the Hugo Wolf Society, for the formation of which His Master's Voice want five hundred people to guarantee thirty shillings a year each. I do not want to antagonize anybody by an injudicious advocacy of Hugo Wolf" as a great song writer; but I yenture to think that an opportunity to become really familiar with his genius would enhance rather than detract from his reputation. For whatever sins of taste I may he impeached, the impeachment could never include an accusation that I was excessively refined or unduly superior in my admirations. Stendhal dedicated "La Chartreuse de Parme" to the Happy Few. Although I am fortunate enough to be able to include myself among the Happy Few who have found" La Chartreuse de Parme" one of the world's supremely great novels, I derive not the least pleasure from being in what the papers call a small and select gathering. I am merely grateful to the luck which allows me to enjoy a masterpiece, and if Stendhal became as popular as the latest best seller my admiration for him would not be diminished by finding my~plf in a crowd instead of among the Happy Few.

Here are some comments by an ever-trusted adviser of THE GRAMOPHONE: "The great thing seems to be tf) give the public something they don't want and when they won't support it to blame them and say they shan't have any.

" Take this Hugo Wolf Society. There are a l imited number who like Lieder singing. Not English sentimental songs of course, but give them the same sort of thing in a language of which they don't understand a word and call i t Lieder, which they take to imply a superior quality in the music, and they are happy. Of this number there is a very small percentage who have ever heard of Hugo Wolf. I t seems to me that to turn round and say, because this very exclusive stuff does not meet with popular support, that i t is no use asking people to subscribe to any good music, such as the Beethoven sonatas, or Brahms's works, is like stuffing your guests with olives and saying that those who won't eat them won't want any dinner. I don't see why Mackenzie should take i t so much to heart.

I t is quite likely that he has induced quite as large a percentage of the readers of TH E GRAMOPHON E as he could have expected to go in for the Wolf scheme. It is Ernest Newman's funeral. With him Wolf has always been an obsession, and he has probably antagonized a lot of people by overdoing his advocacy. I t is one thing to say that Wolf wrote some fine songs, and another to say that anyone who does not appreciate them can't like Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, and other composers compared to whom Wolf is a microcosm."

I thol'oughly sympathize with this point of view; but I must urge that Mr. Ernest Newman has never bem a critic who has expected to feed the general public with honey made by bees in his own bonnet. No larger minded critic of music has ever existed, and, let me add, in the best sense of the word, no more conservative critic. I f Mr. Ernest Newman publishes a judgment with which I am tempted to disagree, I know that I shall have to do some very hard thinking before I can expect to argue \vith him. So if Mr. Newman declares the greatness of Hugo Wolf and I am inclined to disbelieve him, the first thing I ask myself is whether I know a fiftieth as much about Hugo Wolf as he does. When the Hugo Wolf Society is successfully launched and I have had t ime to study Hugo Wolf's output as I am prepared to believe i t should be studied, then I might venture to argue with Mr. Newman. Meanwhile, most of the readers of THE GRAMOPHONE are in the same position as myself, and I am only suggesting that as many as possible of us 'without prejudice should give ourselves an opportunity to agree or disagree with Mr. Ernest Newman after an exhaustive study of the composer in question.

Besides our duty to ourselves and to a great critic, to whom we owe at least the compliment of l istening to his advice, since his advice has been proved t ime after t ime over many years to be the very best advice, we owe a duty to the gramophone, and I hope in saying this I may imply an obligation to music. It is not quite so unreasonable as our valued adviser above wittily suggests to stuff our guests with olives and threaten those \\'ho won't eat them that they shall not have any dinner unless they do. Let me change the comparison for a moment. I always found i t extremely