gershon hepner

Rookie - 10 Points (5 3 38 / leipzig)

Hans Von Bulow - Poem by gershon hepner

Going with the Wagner flow,
cuckolded by him, von Bülow,
whose last name with renown once shone,
ennobled by a tiny von,
while intimately known to fans
by his first name, unhappy Hans
took piano lessons with Franz Liszt,
whose daughter Cosima he kissed
when she was seventeen,
and married. Clearly far less keen
on Hans than Richard Wagner, she
preferred to have adultery
with Germany’s most great composer
than Bülow, a pathetic loser,
who with a honeyed honi soit
reduced their mad ménage à trois
to two, because he thought Liszt’s wish
was that his daughter be the dish
not of her husband but his friend,
great Wagner, who all rules could bend,
because, I here am forced to mention,
that is the rule for Übermenschen.

Like Wagner Bülow hated Jews,
which in those days was hardly news.
He thought of Mendlessohn as measles,
while hating Mahler, both men weasels,
with horrid, haughty racist views
about their greatest fans, the Jews.
For Cosima one wrote an idyll,
but when her thoughts were suicidal
von Bülow saved her wretched life
although he’d found another wife,
an actress who was half his age.
With her he may have turned a page,
conducting Brahms, who had been banned
in Richard Wagner’s music land,
and premiered Tchaikovsky’s great
concerto for the piano, hate
of Jews the greatest common factor
with Richard, though the great attractor
of both, the wife who helped them merge
with Liszt’s genes giving both the urge
to be musicians and to sting
with hate the Jews and love the Ring
should not be underestimated,
as I above have clearly stated.

Inspired by a review of Alan Walker’s “Hans von Bülow: A Life and Times, ” by Norman Lebrecht (The Maestro Was Miserable, ” WSJ, December 24,2009) :
Most men who invent a profession earn lifetime esteem and a place in history. Hans von Bülow is remembered chiefly by the derision of a genius who destroyed him. Bülow established conducting as an independent occupation in the spring of 1865 when he prepared the world premiere of 'Tristan and Isolde' in Munich while its composer, Richard Wagner, was making love to Bülow's young wife. Torn between devotion to the work and despair at his private anguish, Bülow asserted a critical detachment between the creation of a musical score and its orchestral realization, a principle that maestros have lived by ever since. As Lorin Maazel, the former music director of the New York Philharmonic, has written: 'Every conductor is still a pupil of Hans von Bülow.'..
The sickly child of minor nobility, Hans von Bülow was 12 years old when, in 1842, Wagner produced 'Rienzi' in his hometown, Dresden, making the young man want to throw himself at the composer's feet. When Bülow gave up law studies after the 1848 revolution to follow the fugitive Wagner to Switzerland, his father told him 'to freeze in the cold.' He took piano lessons with Wagner's friend Franz Liszt and set off on a playing tour before winding up as a private tutor in 'a herring's pond of Polish solitude, ' where his employer required 'that the temperature inside the castle's main rooms should hover around the freezing point.' His father's curse seemed amply fulfilled until, in 1855, Bülow was appointed head of piano at Berlin's new music conservatory. Importing his mother to keep house, he suddenly had Liszt's daughters, Blandine and Cosima, imposed on him as long-term guests. Liszt, snuggled up in Weimar with Princess Carolyne von Sayn-Wittgenstein, was determined to keep his girls away from their French mother, Marie d'Agoult. It was his rotten parenting that propelled the ensuing calamity. Six weeks after the girls arrived, Bülow conducted music from 'Tannhäuser' and collapsed when booed by anti-Wagnerites. Liszt drove him home and left him in the care of Cosima,17 years old. By morning they were engaged. On their honeymoon, the couple stayed with Wagner in Switzerland. Back in Berlin, the marriage never settled into intimacy. In her diaries, Cosima writes of giving birth to her second child alone while Bülow and his mother were occupied elsewhere in the house.In November 1863, Wagner turned up in Berlin and, during a ride in the Tiergarten, took Cosima into his arms and, by his account, 'sealed our confession to belong to one another alone.' Wagner's years of vagabondage were ending. Bavaria's young King Ludwig was his besotted fan, ordering the state treasury to finance his operas. Wagner summoned the Bülows to join him in Munich—Cosima as mistress, Hans as conductor. Bülow discovered the affair almost at once. In a 1914 court case brought by Cosima's third daughter, Isolde, to establish her heritage rights, Cosima testified that between June and October 1864 she had sexual relations only with Wagner; at one point, a housemaid saw Bülow banging pathetically at the bedroom door. Why did he put up with it? Because, Mr. Walker suggests, he was crushed by Wagner and did not want to upset Liszt…
Mr. Walker's authoritative account, arising from his lifelong study of Liszt, aims to rehabilitate Bülow, a man often seen as an unlikable autocrat. Bülow was indeed a rampant anti-Semite and card-carrying misanthrope, trained by the supreme racist of his day. But he also set professional standards for orchestras and, among much else, liberated Wagner's music from the composer's megalomania and allowed its humanity to find

© 2009 Gershon Hepner 12/24/09

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, December 24, 2009

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