Once again the music sounds

Hausegger’s happiness did not last for long. Not even two years after the »profession of faith« of the colossal and no less impressive Natursymphonie (1911) death cut asunder the creative twoness, and the composer – suddenly thrust into the role of the »single parent« of a one-month-old boy – enshrouded himself in the deepest silence. The same uncompromising stance distinguishing his activity as a conductor saved him from any sort of halfness: where the biotope was not pure, there was no place for Hausegger. In 1906, for instance, he had resigned as conductor of the Frankfurt Museum Concerts because art is »not a commodity that is offered for sale and has to adapt itself to the wishes of the buyers, that is, of the public. Art is not an amusement serving society as the most refined luxury article. It is the brightest emanation of the human spirit and therefore for me the most important cultural factor« (Kunst und Gesellschaft).

That this emanation, for its part, needs inspiration is something that is self-evident from this vantage point. When enthusiasm (»spirit to spirit«) is lacking, there is also nothing to compose. Accordingly, in the little that Siegmund von Hausegger left to posterity, we will not find »showiness« of any kind. Whether or not we agree with his view of the world in all its points, even the attempt to imagine that he might have conducted the Natursymphonie in an American department store or accepted cash to write anthems for any sort of imperial festivity, activates in us antipathetic energies because we have the sense that things like this would have been incompatible with his integrity.

And so his last major work is also of disarming uprightness. After the birth of his daughter Veronika and certainly with a glance at Friedrich, who by then was five years old, Siegmund von Hausegger in 1917 wrote the Aufklänge [1] on the children’s song »Schlaf, Kindchen, schlaf« (Sleep, little child, sleep), out of which he hears an absolutely incredible wealth of phenomena and creates the design of a musical dream: in the simple program, which is of a moving naiveté that unquestionably stands in reverse relation to the artistic realization of the whole and its parts, we read the following lines: »The old melody evokes before our soul the picture of the slumbering child that lets a thousand hopes blossom in us but also lets be heard a thousand tones of quiet happiness, mysterious inkling, and deep thought. They are like a prelude to that bold song of life that someday will noisily fill the heart of the youth optimistically looking ahead to the future, of the strong man of action with his mighty tones.« Hausegger’s treatment of the significantly sized orchestra with three woodwind instruments each, six (!) horns, three trumpets (without low brass instruments) along with harp, celesta, percussion, and strings, again thoroughly admirable and of an opulence similar to that of the Dionysische Phantasie and Wieland der Schmied; the delicate, extraordinarily natural, sometimes entirely organic transitions between the eight variations; the elements originating in the thematic design, which even has the bird world twitter after its own fashion, and flowing in filigree into the finale of scherzo character (from 17’42); and finally the great line of development extending from evening to evening (»a day«) make these Aufklänge, in my view, a brilliant achievement in the field of the symphonic variation.

And not only that: I cannot resist the impression that with this fabulously executed work Siegmund von Hausegger created a third (and last) self-portrait in which he once again looked back on his own Cloud-Cuckoo-Land and on the ideals which he had lived there – a dreamer perhaps who had lost contact with his home world and who had to concede that middle ground was now nowhere to be found? From then on he would only rarely break his silence with a song composition. The youthful dream of Barbarossa was over. A nightmare loomed on the horizon. notes back

All translations by Susan M. Praeder