Eduard Hanslick

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Hanslick, Eduard


Born Sept. 11, 1825, in Prague; died Aug. 6, 1904, in Baden, near Vienna. Austrian music critic.

A student of the Czech composer V. J. Tomašek, Hanslick graduated from the law faculty of the University of Vienna. In 1856 he became an assistant docent at the University of Vienna in history and the aesthetics of music, and in 1861 he became a professor. In the treatise On the Musically Beautiful (1854), Hanslick took the position of a theoretician of formalism, declaring that “the content of music is moving sound forms” and that music may depict only the dynamic side of feelings divorced from their content. Following the philosopher I. Kant, he affirmed that “the beautiful does not have a goal, for it is pure form.” Influenced by criticism Hanslick recognized that the argument given in his book was inadequate, and subsequently he concerned himself with the history of music. A formalistic approach was expressed also in the critical articles that Hanslick published beginning in 1846. In them he came out against Wagner and Liszt, failed to appreciate the creativity of outstanding composers of the 19th century (including Chopin, Berlioz, and Verdi), and attacked many of the most important developments in Russian music.


Geschichte des Concertwesens in Wien, vols. 1-2. Vienna, 1869-70.
Aus dem Concertsaal, 2nd ed. Munich-Berlin, 1886.
Die moderne Open Kritiken und Studien, vols. 1-9. Berlin, 1875-1900.
Aus meinem Leben, vols. 1-2, 4th ed. Berlin, 1911.
In Russian translation:
O muzykal’no-prekrasnom. Moscow, 1895. [With an introduction by G. Larosh.]


Markus, S. “Voinstvuiushchii formalist E. Ganslik.” Sovetskaia muzyka, 1949, no. 8.
Markus, S. Istoriia musykal’noi estetiki, vol. 2. Moscow, 1968.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Often dismissed as mere decoration, ornament enjoys a long history in musical and philosophical writing extending from Plato through Immanuel Kant, Eduard Hanslick, Edgar Allen Poe, Stephane Mallarme, Jacques Derrida, and Vladimir Jankelevitch, before reaching an apex in France at the turn of the twentieth century.
Chapter 1 concerns the Germanness of "Vienna's leading musical tastemaker," Eduard Hanslick, and chapter 2 discusses the cultural self-perception of Goldmark (to which half of the book is devoted).
The illustrious music critic Eduard Hanslick once passedjudgment on one of his quartets, and it is worth quoting his remarks infull just to get an idea of the violence of the great criticsreaction:
And there is no doubt they have done so wittingly, since the ensemble render Smetana's quartets neither as absolute chamber music, as defined by Eduard Hanslick, nor even programme chamber music, but rather instrumental music dramas.
Commentators have equated his hostility with that of the great Viennese music critic Eduard Hanslick, one of Wagner's most vociferous opponents, who preferred instead the chaste sublimity of Beethoven and Brahms; and some have chosen to see a Wagnerian anti-semitism here in Beckmesser's characterisation, a caricature of wheedling, cajoling and self-seeking, rather like the dwarf Mime in the Ring's Siegfried.
Eduard Hanslick's formalist theory of music as set forth in his
Eduard Hanslick, the influential Viennese music critic, "called Fuchs the 'master of Kleinkunst' (small-scale art)." Although little known now, Fuchs's songs were very popular in Vienna at the time.
"Generally speaking," wrote Eduard Hanslick, the most vehemently literate of Wagner's contemporary critics, "one can be certain that with the appearance of so much as the point of Wotan's spear, a half hour of emphatic boredom is in store." At the other end of the dramatic scale, it seemed Wagner had set the bar on the opera's theatrical high points--the forging of the sword, the killing of the dragon, the breaking of the spear, the winning of the maid--too high.
Critic Eduard Hanslick savaged the composition, saying it "stinks to the ear." But Russian violinist David Oistrakh loved the piece and played it for a packed house in 1942 during the siege of Leningrad.