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One of the greatest German conductors and pianists of his age; editor of music.

Career Summary

Hans von Bülow took piano lessons with Friedrich Wieck, and later studied in Dresden with Plaidy and Hauptmann. He read law at Leipzig University; having met Liszt in 1849 he studied piano with him, embarking on a career as a concert pianist in 1853. In 1864, he became conductor at the Court Opera in Munich, where he conducted Wagner music dramas for the first time. He became a champion of the "new school" of German composers, and also of Tchaikovsky. Subsequently he took up conducting positions in Hanover, Meiningen, and Berlin, and taught at conservatories in Frankfurt and Berlin.

Von Bülow worked also as an editor of keyboard music, and it is instructive to itemize some of this work and the publishers concerned: of J. S. Bach, the Italian Concerto, the Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue, and the Fantasies in C minor and A minor (Berlin: Bote & Bock); of C. P E. Bach, six sonatas (Leipzig: Peters); of Handel, selected pieces (Vienna: UE); of Haydn, the C-major Fantasy (Vienna: UE); of Scarlatti, eighteen pieces (Leipzig: Peters); of Beethoven, the piano sonatas Opp. 53-111 (Stuttgart: Cotta, in the firm's Instruktive Ausgabe klassischer Klavierwerke), the piano sonatas Opp. 13, 26, 27/2, 31/3 (Vienna: UE), the C-minor Variations and Fantasy, Op. 80, and Variations on a Russian Dance Theme (Vienna: UE); of Chopin, the collected Etudes, four impromptus, and the Tarantella (Vienna: UE); of Cramer, the Etüdes (Vienna: UE), and works by Weber, Field, and others. (Those published by UE were taken over from other publishers in 1904 and after.)

Von Bülow and Schenker

As a critic in the 1890s, Schenker praised von Bülow's work. In addition to passing references he offered two substantive critiques of von Bülow, in "Konzertdirigenten" (1894) and "Bülow-Weingartner" (1895). In the former, he wrote: He is for me an epochal man who frequently had the power to release the performing musician from the naiveté of his instincts, who had the gift of capturing and communicating in clear, most purposefully chosen words the essence of music, the soul of music. [...] It is only a pity that this genius of a man did not communicate more of his ideas on works.

The above summary of von Bülow's editing shows how closely it intersected with Schenker's own editorial activities as well as the publishers with whom he worked. It seemed essential, perhaps, to Schenker that he prove the higher caliber of his own work. Hence, from early on can be found critical remarks about von Bülow as editor. In 1901, he spoke of him as "a figure less worthy of beatification, less worthy of being taken seriously, than the great star-struck masses believe" (NMI C 176-01, April 13, 1901). In 1908, he used Julius Röntgen, the Director of the Amsterdam Conservatory, as leverage in the eyes of Emil Hertzka at Universal Edition: Prof. Röntgen (Amsterdam) has asked me personally to arrange for him to receive [a copy of] my [C.P.E.] Bach edition--i.e. U.E. No. 548--for him. He tells me that he has been constantly dissatisfied with the Bülow edition (Peters), and I think it would be prudent, in the light of this dissatisfaction, to see whether Prof. Röntgen would replace the Bülow edition by the UE edition, at least at the Amsterdam Conservatory. (WSLB 20, September 28, 1908).

Already the Beitrag zur Ornamentik (1903, 1908) offers extensive criticism of the Foreword to von Bülow's C. P. E. Bach edition for Peters, exposing its misunderstanding of the function of ornamentation and the nature of instrumental sonority by juxtaposing Bach's own words against von Bülow's (1903, pp. 4-6; Eng. trans., pp. 16-22, and in the individual ornament sections). Over the crux between his and von Bülow's edition of the Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue, Schenker wrote to Hertzka: "if it were a choice of playing the sonatas either according to von Bülow or according to me, I can assure you the musical world, those who hang around the Konzertgebäude as well as those who tickle the ivories in their own homes, will turn to me alone--once, that is, they catch sight of my edition." (WSLB 116, June 2, 1912)

Schenker's Later Criticism of von Bülow

Die letzten fünf Sonaten von Beethoven (1913-21) provided an obvious battleground against von Bülow, the attacks appearing in the main analytical sections (e.g. "But when von Bülow explains that his 'new presentation of the [music] text is more vivid also for determining its thematic meaning,' then this is as laughable as it is absurd ...," Op. 110, p. 70), and a single, sustained assault in the "Preliminary Remarks" to Op. 110 (1914, pp. 23-25, ed. Jonas, pp. 7-10). The attacks are kept up in Der Tonwille, as in "Die Kunst zu hören" (The Art of Listening), where Schenker quotes von Bülow's edition of a Scarlatti sonata then belittles the latter's aural ability ("Bülow has no ear for the multifarious processes of elaboration in cases where voices move below the root of the chord," Tonwille 3, p. 24; Eng. trans., vol. I, pp. 119-20), and also in Das Meisterwerk in der Musik (vol. I, pp. 143-44; Eng. trans., vol. I, pp. 79-80). Schenker liked to report Brahms's remark, made in the context of a plan for a von Bülow national monument, that Bülow was "only a Kapellmeister."


  • Schenker, Heinrich, "Konzertdirigenten," Die Zukunft, vol. 7 (1894), pp. 88-92, ed. Federhofer, Hellmut, Heinrich Schenker als Essayist und Kritiker ... (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1990), pp. 75-82, esp. 77-79
  • Schenker, Heinrich, "Bülow-Weingartner," Musikalisches Wochenblatt, Yr. 26 (1895), pp. 610-11, ed. ibid, pp. 171-75
  • Federhofer, Hellmut, Heinrich Schenker nach Tagebüchern und Briefen ... (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1985), pp. 222-25 et passim


  • NGDM2 (2001 and online)
  • MGG1

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