Dresel, Otto


The friend and co-worker of Robert Franz, who has been called " the high priest of the Franz cult in America," was born at Andernack-on-the-Rhine, and after being taught the rudiments of music, he was placed under the instruction of Ferdinand Hiller at Cologne and then studied under Mendelssohn at Leipsic. He did much to make German music, particularly the songs of Robert Franz, known in the United States. In 1852 he came to Boston, where he resided until his death, except for occasional visits to Germany. He was for many years the leading pianist of Boston, but withdrew from the concert room in 1868 and gave up teaching a few years later. Dresel exercised a great influence for good upon the musical taste of Boston and was a highly cultivated musician of much feeling. Only shortly before his death did he decide to publish anything, and when his compositions did appear it was generally regretted that he kept them from the .public so long. Even when a young man he was a tireless worker, exacting to the smallest detail and severely criticising everything he did. He kept back for years numerous songs and other pieces, waiting until he could give the public what he believed to be worthy and of value. His friend, Robert Franz, was his best critic and many claim to find in Dresel's songs music that is reminiscent of Franz's best works. Among Dresel's compositions, which consist for the most part of songs, are O, Listen My Darling; Maud; Moonlight; and The Flowers All are Faded, all of which says one musician, " Even Franz himself might have been proud of." Among Dresel's other compositions are In Memoriam, a ballad for soprano and orchestra, set to Longfellow's verses; an army hymn to words of Oliver Wendell Holmes; trio for violin and violoncello; piano trio; quartets, and many other pianopieces, all of which bear the impress of a finished musician. Among his works still in manuscript that have been performed in Boston, is a quartet for piano and strings. His piano score of Handel's Messiah, arranged from Franz's completed score, is in every respect a model. Dresel died at Beverley, near Boston.

A beautiful tribute to Dresel and his life-long friend, Robert Franz, is given by W. F. Apthorp, in the chapter, entitled " Two Modern Classicists " in his Musicians and Music-Lovers, in which he says among other things: " Franz and Dresel were the last prominent figures in that goodly company of musical purists and with their death the old fineness of musical sense became virtually extinct ... In both of these men was to found, in the highest perfection what I might call for lack of a better name, the sense of musical beauty, the keenest sense for beauty of expression, beauty of form, proportion and color . . . They were staunch, life-long friends, their agreement on musical subjects was as complete as their friendship; they both worked together toward the same end, though they lived long apart, neither gave anything to the world without the ordeal of its passing through the other's criticism; they died within two years of each other. It is well to speak of them together . . . Their best work was to exclude trash and let what was genuine come into its rights. And of all men of their day they were the best fitted for the task . . . Franz alone was a creator. Dresel composed to a certain extent and what he wrote was often surpassingly fine, but in him the spirit of self-criticism was stronger than the creative impulse."