Felix Draeseke. Der Lebens- und Leidensweg eines deutschen Meisters.
By Erich Roeder. Wilhelm Limpert, Dresden. M. 6.30.
We know nothing in England about Felix Draeseke (1835-1913), a
fact of which this elaborate biography and glowing appreciation might
well make us ashamed. Still, we share the shame with his own compatriots, who in fact appear to be much more to blame, since,
according to Dr. Roeder, they have never done honour to this 'German
master' in anything like an appropriate measure. Even after a perusal
of this volume we may be justified in feeling that it is for them to do
something about the revival of Draeseke's work, if the author has
succeeded in stinging them sufficiently, and then to convey to us such
newly-won enthusiasm as they may discover in themselves. After
reading Dr. Roeder we should by by no means disinclined to listen
to a German pianist who chose to play the apparently remarkable
'Sonata quasi una fantasia' at a London recital or to a singer who
gave us a group of Draeseke's songs. The sample of the latter given
In the book, a setting of Morike's 'Das verlassene Magdlein,' which
does not compare at all unfavourably with that of Hugo Wolf, is
Unfortunately there are no other musical quotations in the volume,
and the trouble is that biographies written with such fervour, but never
giving chapter and verse, cannot make their conviction contagious.
At the most they can rouse our desire to judge for ourselves. But
perhaps that is enough, even for the most ardent of authors.
Dr. Roeder makes us think of Draeseke as a strong, original and,
for his time, very advanced composer, but also as an artist lacking
in restraint and perhaps in taste. We are duly impressed by the fact
that when he knew nothing later of Wagner's than 'Lohengrin,' he
had already a music-drama on a Germanic Saga in hand himself; but
at the same time we gain an impression that ' Konig Sigurd ' is an
untamed, dishevelled and measureless creation. However, the fact
remains dominant that we want to hear something of his, though we
should hardly dare to hope for one of the operas. He wrote enough
other music, to be sure - symphonies and symphonic poems, large
choral works, chamber music, as well as numberless piano pieces and
Draeseke's career was one of endless disappointments, and thus does
not make a very interesting story. It is to Dr. Roeder's credit to have made his book quite readable all the same. The work, by the
way, only takes us as far as 1876, though there is nothing on the
title page to indicate this. A second volume is promised for 1935, the
composer's centenary year.