Bulow, Hans Guido von


Musician of rare skill and intellectuality, chief pianist of the advanced school of piano playing, a renowned teacher, and a conductor of world-wide reputation. He was born at Dresden in 1830, and died at Cairo, in 1894.

When a career was being planned for young Hans von Bülow, it was intended that he study law. Though there was no thought of a great future in music for him, at an early age he was given instruction in that line and was most fortunate in one of his early teachers, Friedrick Wieck, father of Clara Schumann and a noted teacher of the piano. Under him yon Bülow received excellent technical instruction and doubtless Wieck laid the foundation of von Billow's marvelous technical ability. Further musical study progressed under Herr Eberwein, with whom he studied harmony and thorough-bass. In 1848 he entered Leipsic University, and here, while engaged in the study of law, found time to continue his musical education, now having Hauptmann for a teacher. Law and music did not, however, wholly absorb him, for shortly he is heard of at the University of Berlin, taking an active interest in political affairs, which interest led to his becoming a contributor to the democratic journal, Die Abendpost. At this period von Bülow made acquaintance with those advanced spirits, Liszt and Wagner, and with much enthusiasm and ardor he set to work to champion Wagner's radical views in Die Abendpost. At Weimar, hearing a performance of Lohengrin, he decided to give up the law and ally himself unreservedly with Wagner, then in exile at Zurich. At Zurich and St. Gall he gained some knowledge of the art of conducting and then, his piano playing giving promise of a brilliant future, he was enrolled as a pupil of Liszt, and under this master perfected his studies. In 1857 he married Liszt's daughter, Cosima. In 1853, von Bülow made his first concert tour, playing at Vienna, Pesth, Carlsruhe, Bremen, Hamburg and Berlin. In 1855 he was given the post of principal master of piano playing at the Stern and Marx Conservatory in Berlin, and for nine years occupied this post. In the programs organized by him during this period, a marked preference is shown for music of the modern German school.

His activities at this time were varied; he still contributed to the papers, writing on political and musical subjects, and he made a tour through Germany, Holland and Russia, adding to his fame as player and conductor. In 1864, King Ludwig II., of Bavaria appointed him conductor of the Royal Opera and director of the Conservatory at Munich, and he remained in this city till 1869. Then followed a series of concerts in Germany, Italy, Russia, Poland, England and America.

On his first tour in America, von Bülow gave one hundred and thirtynine concerts. He visited this country again some thirteen years later, and was paid homage as " one of the most able of living pianists, the most magnetic and inspired of living conductors." Von Bülow became the greatest living authority on Beethoven, and published a most valuable edition of his works for the piano. On some of his concert tours, he gave programs made up entirely of the most difficult of Beethoven's sonatas. Von Bülow had a marvelous musical memory, playing and conducting without a book. His repertory as pianist, Grove says, " embraced the master works of all styles and schools from the early Italian to the present day; it would in fact be difficult to mention a work of any importance by any composer for the piano which he did not play in public and by heart." His rank as composer does not equal the exalted place he holds in the fields spoken of. He is the author of songs, compositions for the piano, and some orchestral work. Mention should be made of his transcriptions for the piano from Wagner, Liszt and Berlioz. In 1878, Bülow was appointed music-director of the Court Theatre at Hanover, but disputes soon caused his surrender of this post. From 1880 to 1885 he held the post of Hofmusikintendant to the Duke of Meiningen, and under him the Meiningen Orchestra attained the widest celebrity. He served as director of the Philharmonic Societies of Berlin and Hamburg, and both in Berlin and Frankfort continued his work as teacher, for which work he had very exceptional ability.

Hans von Bülow was a most eccentric genius. A sufferer from illhealth the greater part of his life, he was of an extremely nervous, highstrung temperament; hasty of speech, given to saying without* modification what he thought, he made many enemies, and was looked upon generally as an artist of exceedingly irritable nature. But "The Early Correspondence of Hans von Bülow," edited by his widow, and published .shortly after his death, gives quite another side of his character. And one biographer, Nohl, speaks of von Bülow as "incomparably unselfish and self-sacrificing," these superlative words are used in reference to von Btilow's attitude toward Wagner, who caused the separation between himself and his wife, and to whom Cosima was eventually married. After the separation yon Bülow retired to Florence, and lived here, save when absent on concert tours, from 1869 to 1872, becoming, a power in the music life of Florence. In 1882 he married again, his second wife being Marie Schlanzer, court actress at Meiningen.

Buffen in his "Musical Celebrities" speaks thus of Hans von Billow's work as a pianist: "With the exception of the famous Moldavian, Anton Rubinstein, Hans von Bülow may be regarded as the first of pianoplayers, and in the interpretation of the severely classical masters, such as Bach and Beethoven, he is acknowledged by musicians to be unapproachable by any living artist. With him everything is emphatically learned and profound. His piano playing exhibits great subtlety and power of analysis, and his intellectual grasp is so great that it has been more than once observed of him that he thinks music, but does not feel it."