Eduard Hanslick

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Eduard Hanslick at the age of 40
Eduard Hanslick - signature.png
Eduard Hanslick around 1900
Bust of Eduard Hanslick in the arcade courtyard of the University of Vienna

Eduard Hanslick (born September 11, 1825 in Prague , † August 6, 1904 in Baden near Vienna ) was an Austrian music aesthetician and one of the most influential music critics of his time.



Eduard Hanslick grew up in Prague. His father Joseph Adolph Hanslick, who originally wanted to become a priest and discovered his love for music as a choirboy in a monastery, broke off his theology studies and devoted himself to philosophy and aesthetics . For a while he held a teaching post at the Prague University. He earned his living as a bibliographer and with lessons, especially music. He was married to Karoline Kisch, daughter of the Prague merchant and court factor Salomon Abraham Kisch (approx. 1768–1840 Prague) and Rebekka Götzl (approx. 1769–1859 Prague), daughter of the Viennese wholesaler Samuel Götzl. The maternal origin from a prominent Jewish family was later repeatedly the reason for anti-Semitic attacks against Eduard Hanslick.

In his autobiography From My Life (1894), Eduard Hanslick reports that he and his four siblings were brought up extensively by their father: He “taught us everything himself, including the piano”.

Hanslick first studied law and completed his studies in 1849 with a doctorate . In addition, he received piano and composition lessons from Wenzel Johann Tomaschek . According to the description in his autobiography From My Life , he studied all of Chopin's , Henselt and Sigismund Thalberg 's etudes ; he also composed songs, a booklet of which was later published. From 1850 to 1852 Hanslick worked as a lawyer in Klagenfurt . During the revolution of 1848/49 he was on the “wrong” side as a political commentator and had to reorient himself professionally when the era of reaction began. He did not pursue his civil service career, but instead turned to music aesthetics .

Early music reviews

In his autobiography, Hanslick expressed his horror at the level of concert and theater life in Vienna at the time (which was heavily geared towards France and Italy, which would later be enemies of the war). He began to write reviews regularly, from 1846 for the Wiener Musikzeitung , from 1848 for the Wiener Zeitung , 1853–1864 for the press and 1864–1901 for the Neue Freie Presse . His best-known work Vom Musikalisch-Schönen appeared in 1854 and was recognized as a habilitation . It was an immediate success, was reprinted in the following years and was translated into several languages.

In his writing, he took a contrary position to the emotional aesthetics that prevailed in the 1840s. This explains the most famous statement in this text, according to which the content of the music consists of "sounding forms". With this parallel setting of content and form, he took up a train of thought from Hegel's phenomenology of spirit . The fact that he preferred “expressing” to “representing” and explained that the duplication between representation and what is represented has been overcome brings Hanslick close to the theory of empathy . Opponents, according to Franz Brendel in a review in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik , held against him that the possibility of objectively understandable program music , which he contested , could only be decided by a future musicology. This may be explained by the fact that Hanslick could not overlook the effects of his most important music-theoretical impulse on musicology, which consisted in the introduction of the musical idea into the music-theoretical considerations. According to this, music consists of musical thoughts that can be further thought, changed and connected to other thoughts. According to Eduard Hanslick, a musical work of art is a complex musical thought structure. This music-theoretical conception has apparently not or only minimally been taken up by musicology, so that Hanslick's skepticism about the progress of musicological research seems all too justified.

The Viennese tradition of music criticism provided freedom for the art of polemics , which at the time was still subject to narrow limits in the field of politics. His slipping of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky 's violin concerto , which was later celebrated worldwide, became famous , which culminated in the words that the work "gives us for the first time the gruesome idea of ​​whether there could be pieces of music that stink".


In 1861 Hanslick received a university professorship for aesthetics and his first chair in the history of music in Vienna. This makes Hanslick the first university musicologist in the German-speaking area. According to the standards of value of the period tending towards historicism , he particularly valued contemporaries who orientated themselves to the past and criticized fads. Nevertheless, he took an active part in the opera and salon culture.

Hanslick regarded the music of the Viennese Classic , such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven , as the high point of musical development and saw Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms as worthy successors. He was critical of the so-called New German School around Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner . This did not prevent him from criticizing Schumann's view of music or from praising Wagner's music.


Memorial plaque on the facade of Kaiser-Franz-Ring 12, Baden near Vienna

In the last year of his life, an ailment set in that increasingly exhausted Eduard Hanslick's strength, cures in Meran and Karlsbad were unable to improve, and which ultimately resulted in attacks of cardiac insufficiency. Hanslick took his last use of the spa in Baden near Vienna, which he had repeatedly visited during the summer season since 1869, where he died in the Clementinen-Hof on August 6, 1904 after thirty hours of unconsciousness - on the same street just 200 meters from the place where Moritz Gottlieb died Saphir (1795–1858), whose criticism was just as important for the theater as the Hanslicks were for music. Hanslick's body remained in Baden until the morning of the day of the funeral, August 9, 1904; the funeral in Vienna did not begin at the address of the deceased, but from the editorial building of the Neue Freie Presse , Fichtegasse  11, Vienna-Innere Stadt .


Gravestone Eduard Hanslick
  • Eduard Hanslick's honorary grave is located in the Vienna Central Cemetery (Group 18, Row 1, No. 9).
  • In 1932 a traffic area in Vienna- Ottakring (16th district) was named Eduard-Hanslick-Gasse .
  • In the arcade courtyard of the University of Vienna - the university's hall of fame - there is a bust of Hanslick. As part of “purges” by the National Socialists in early November 1938, ten sculptures by Jewish or supposedly Jewish professors in the arcade courtyard were overturned or smeared with paint in connection with the “ Langemarck Celebration ”. At this point in time, the acting rector Fritz Knoll had the Arkadenhof sculptures checked; on his instructions, fifteen monuments were removed and placed in a depot, including that of Eduard Hanslick. After the end of the war, all damaged and removed monuments were put back in the arcade courtyard in 1947.


Eduard Hanslick was married to the singer Sophie Wohlmuth (1856–1940) from 1876 .

Hanslick and the composers of his time

Richard Wagner

Hanslick and Wagner
silhouette by Otto Böhler

Hanslick is generally regarded as a fierce critic and opponent of Wagner. The figure of the “Merker” Sixtus Beckmesser in Wagner's opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg was initially planned by the composer as a parody of his supposed opponent and critic Hanslick: he later named the figure of the town clerk in the second prose draft of the libretto from 1862 as “Hans Lick” as "Veit Hanslich" (before it then became "Beckmesser"). However, in the time around 1845, when Wagner recorded the original conception of the Meistersinger , Hanslick was still an enthusiastic supporter of Wagner. Wagner and Hanslick met for the first time in the summer of 1845 in Marienbad, where Wagner was staying for a cure, exactly one day after Wagner had completed his first Meistersinger draft there. In 1846 a very detailed and deliberately benevolent review by Tannhauser appeared in eleven daily successive newspaper editions, which established Hanslick's reputation as a critic.

Giuseppe Verdi

In connection with Italian opera music, Hanslick often used the terms "sensuality", "grace" or "sensual beauty". In the spring of 1845, the not even 20-year-old attended a performance by Ernani at the Vienna Kärntnertortheater . Almost 50 years later, Hanslick recalled this event in his autobiography: “Only with all patience and willpower could I endure the opera until the end, it bored me so much. Italian opera music was something strange and unlikely to my taste, which was only developed in German music. I had no sense for vocal virtuosity, and the Verdian opera sounded boring, undramatic and raw to me. ”In his anthology Die Moderne Oper from 1875, Hanslick also noted the term“ ugly brutality ” in connection with Ernani always recurs in his Verdi reviews, but also two positive qualities: the gripping power and dramatic energy with which Verdi clearly surpassed his predecessors, and the advantage of the “roles that move in a good voice, are extremely grateful and yet extremely comfortable in their performance. “Although Hanslick judged Il trovatore , La traviata , Rigoletto and Un ballo in maschera 1875 to be the“ best that the Italian stage produced ”, he adopted the judgment from his earlier newspaper reviews that Verdi remained“ with all his intelligence, his lively one , energetic temperament [a] mean nature ”.

While Hanslick decidedly rejected Verdi's inclination towards the French Grand Opéra , in particular Giacomo Meyerbeer , and the critic was convinced that Verdi's musical creativity was over, Aida convinced him of the opposite of this judgment: “This Aïda is a strange, genuinely artistic one , after Verdi's earlier operas a highly surprising work. In short, it is a pleasure to see how a man of Verdi's ingenious talent has worked his way up so nicely out of his loose, nasty morals. ”Hanslick's change from the negative, almost hateful critic of the early and middle Verdi operas to the appreciative judge who himself “Has kept an open eye for the composer's further development”, must be emphasized. While Hanslick was of course not immune to many misjudgments, his endeavor to illuminate the positive as well as the negative aspects of the musical works he discussed was evident in the Verdi reviews from around 1860 onwards.

Anton Bruckner

Hanslick is repeatedly portrayed, especially by the Bruckner biographers, as the antagonist of Anton Bruckner . It is true that Bruckner would probably not have gone to Vienna without Hanslick's influence, because he encouraged him to go to Vienna in a song contest in Linz in June 1865, stating that he would go far there. Hanslick received a photograph from this period, which he sent to Bruckner with a dedication. It can also be said that Hanslick talked exuberantly about the organist Bruckner - and raved about Bruckner's successes on his organ tour in Nancy and Paris - and that Hanslick always emphasized in his reviews how sympathetic he was to Bruckner, but that he liked his music could not understand. However, the often unobjective spitefulness towards Bruckner in Hanslick's criticisms (“dream-confused Katzenjammerstil”) is thought-provoking, and from today's perspective it is also very astonishing that Hanslick, who had coined the phrase that music is nothing more than soundly moving form, did not recognize it that Bruckner and his symphonic architecture corresponded most closely to this concept of form among all of his contemporaries. As Egon Erwin Kisch reports, it was said in Vienna that Bruckner was asked for a wish at an imperial audience, whereupon he exclaimed with tears: “Your Majesty, couldn't you put in a word for me with Mr. Hanslick that he wouldn't always be me so rebuke? "

Gustav Mahler

The works of Gustav Mahler - whom Hanslick held in high esteem as a conductor - also received strong criticism from Hanslick. For the Vienna premiere of Mahler's Symphony No. 1 in 1900, Hanslick wrote: “'One of us two must be crazy - it's not me !' This ended the long argument for one of the two stubborn scholars. Probably it is me , I thought with honest humility after recovering from the terrifying finale of Mahler 's D major symphony. As a sincere admirer of the director Mahler, to whom the opera and the Philharmonic Concert are so deeply indebted, I do not want to rush to judge his wonderfully grand symphony. On the other hand, I owe my readers sincerity, and so I confess sadly that the new symphony belongs to that genre of music that for me is not. "

Hugo Wolf

Hanslick is also known as Hugo Wolf's critic . He influenced Anton Bruckner's biography to the extent that, in his position as professor of aesthetics, he had to decide on Bruckner's application for a position as a lecturer in composition at the University of Vienna. Hanslick rejected the application first; but later he bowed to an opposing majority in the responsible body.


  • From the musically beautiful. A contribution to the revision of the aesthetics of music art , 1854 ( full text of the first edition )
  • History of concerts in Vienna , two volumes, 1869–70 ( first part and second part in Austrian Literature Online )
  • The modern opera. Reviews and Studies , 1875 ( )
  • Musical stations (The "Modern Opera" Part II) , 1880 ( )
  • From the operatic life of the present (The "Modern Opera" III. Part). New Reviews and Studies , 1884 ( )
  • Suite. Essays on music and musicians , 1884 (essays from 1877–1884, )
  • Concerts, composers and virtuosos from the past fifteen years. 1870-1885. Reviews , 1886 ( )
  • Musical sketchbook (The "Modern Opera" IV. Part). New reviews and descriptions , 1888 (reviews from 1883–1887, )
  • Musical and literary (The "Modern Opera" V. Theil). Reviews and accounts , 1890 ( )
  • From the diary of a musician (The "Modern Opera" VI. Part) , 1892 ( )
  • From my life , two volumes, 1894
  • Five Years of Music [1891–1895] (The "Modern Opera" Part VII) , 1896 ( )
  • At the end of the century [1895–1899] (The "Modern Opera" VIII. Part). Musical reviews and descriptions , 1899 ( )
  • From new and recent times (The "Modern Opera" IX. Part). Musical reviews and descriptions , 1900 ( )

Dietmar Strauss has been publishing a 22-volume historical and critical complete edition of All Writings at Böhlau / Vienna since 1993 . Essays and reviews , seven volumes of which had been published by 2011.


  1. The Clementinen-Hof , built in 1902 as a branch of the closest Hotel Herzoghof , was demolished in the 1970s as a "worthless ruin" and replaced by a multi-party apartment building. On June 19, 1985 (about four meters above street level) the plaque reminiscent of Hanslick was unveiled. - Viktor Wallner : Houses, people and stories - a Baden anecdotal walk . Society of Friends of Baden, Baden 2002, p. 31.
  2. ^ Wohllebengasse  1, Vienna-Wieden . - See: Lehmann's general housing indicator . Volume 1904.2. Hölder, Vienna 1904, p. 415. - Online


Web links

Wikisource: Eduard Hanslick  - Sources and full texts
Commons : Eduard Hanslick  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Hanslick: Concerts, Composers and Virtuosos of the Last 15 Years , p. 296  - Internet Archive
  2. Local news. Councilor Dr. Eduard Hanslick †. In:  Badener Zeitung , No. 64/1904 (XXV. Volume), August 10, 1904, p. 3, top left. (Online at ANNO ). Template: ANNO / Maintenance / bzt.
  3. † Eduard Hanslick. In:  Neue Freie Presse , Morgenblatt, No. 14351/1904, August 7, 1904, p. 7, top right. (Online at ANNO ). Template: ANNO / Maintenance / nfp.
  4. ^ Councilor Dr. Eduard Hanslick. In:  Neue Freie Presse , Abendblatt, No. 14352/1904, August 8, 1904, p. 9, center left. (Online at ANNO ). Template: ANNO / Maintenance / nfp.
  5. ^ Eduard Hanslick's funeral. In:  Neue Freie Presse , Morgenblatt, No. 14354/1904, August 10, 1904, p. 7, center left. (Online at ANNO ). Template: ANNO / Maintenance / nfp.
  6. (...) Dr. Eduard Hanslick, (...). In:  Neue Freie Presse , Abendblatt, No. 14352/1904, August 8, 1904, p. 13, top left. (Online at ANNO ). Template: ANNO / Maintenance / nfp.
  7. Hedwig Abraham: Dr., Prof. Eduard Hanslick . In: , accessed on July 25, 2012.
  8. ^ Mitchell G. Ash, Josef Ehmer: University - Politics - Society . Vienna University Press, June 17, 2015, ISBN 978-3-8470-0413-4 , p. 118.
  9. Eduard Hanslick: From my life . Volume 1. Berlin 1894, p. 90.
  10. ^ Eduard Hanslick: The modern opera. Reviews and studies. Berlin 1875, p. 222.
  11. ^ Eduard Hanslick: The modern opera. Reviews and studies. Berlin 1875, p. 234.
  12. ^ Eduard Hanslick: The modern opera. Reviews and studies. Berlin 1875, p. 237.
  13. ^ Eduard Hanslick: The modern opera. Reviews and studies. Berlin 1875, p. 247.
  14. ^ Friedrich Lippmann: Hanslick and Italian Music . In: Analecta musicologica , Volume 28, 1993, p. 138.
  15. ^ Eh:  Theater and Art News: Second Philharmonic Concert. In:  Neue Freie Presse , November 20, 1900, p. 7 f. (Online at ANNO ).Template: ANNO / Maintenance / nfp