Letters of Robert Franz
- Full title: Letters of Robert Franz
- Year of publication: 1921
- Published in: The Music Quarterly 7
- Language: Englisch
LETTERS OF ROBERT FRANZ
By WILLIAM BARCLAY SQUIRE
THE five letters here printed were written by Robert Franz to Carl Armbruster (1846-1917), who for the last years of his life lived in England. Armbruster was intimately connected with the Wagner circle, and Fraulein Cramer, who is frequently mentioned in the letters, will be remembered by early frequenters of Bayreuth as one of the four Youths who carry the Graal in the first and third acts. Franz was a voluminous correspondent, largely owing to the deafness which came upon him in his later years. A collection of his letters, addressed from 1861 to 1888 to Baron Arnold Senfft von Pilsach was published at Berlin in 1907. They are characterized by many bitter judgments of contemporary musicians and do not altogether give a pleasing idea of his disposition. But it must be remembered in extenuation that throughout his life he was a disappointed man. He suffered from poverty, from deafness, and from an affection by which his right hand became almost entirely crippled. Moreover, the period in which he lived was one in which musical polemics were carried on in Germany with a bitterness that now it is hardly possible to realize. The followers of Schumann, of Wagner, of Liszt, and of Brahms fought and abused one another with extreme violence and incredible want of reticence. Musically, it might have been thought that Franz would have belonged to the Schumann-Brahms following, but as this party was more or less allied with Chrysander, whose editions of Handel were bitterly criticised by Franz, who had his own definite ideas of editing Bach and Handel, the Halle song-writer was generally to be found in the opposite camp of Wagner and Liszt. That Franz was, and still is, never appreciated at his full worth, is quite true; but the reason is not far to seek, and various passages in his letters show that he realized it himself. His songs are too intimate to produce their full effect on the general public, and moreover they require a perfection of performance in which the shares of both singer and accompanist shall be fused with a degree of sympathy that is rarely attainable. The admirable article by E. Dannreuther in Grove's Dictionary says the last words on Franz's songs, and is as true now as when it was written. They will probably always remain caviare to the multitude; but, in the history of music, they will keep for Franz's name a place by the side of those of Schumann, Schubert and Wolf. It only remains to be said that the originals of the following letters are preserved in the Library of the Royal College of Music, by the permission of the Director of which institution they are now printed. I am also indebted to Mrs. Knight for having kindly transcribed Franz's rather difficult handwriting. The translation only claims to be a paraphrase.