Emile Wennekes.

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Kraut-Kitsch or Musical Masterpiece? Elements of Mozart Reception in 19th Century Holland

a paper by Emile Wennekes
from the book:
Mozart and the Netherlands (p. 147)

Emile Wennekes builds an important diachronic analysis of the reception of Mozart's music in the Netherlands across the 19th century, by moving her first steps from the concerts organization behind the first centenary of the birth of Mozart (28 January 1856) and thanks to such documents, like the papers and the accounts of the intellectuals of that time, in particular the pages of the music magazine Caecilia.
       This article by Wennekes, even though limited to the analysis of the reception of Mozart's music in the Netherlands, can stand also as a valid general model for similar attempts on the Mozart reception in other countries; moreover, certain attitudes of the great public towards Mozart reception documented here must have been not too different in other countries, because (as revealed in other papers in this book: see, for example, p. 101) a few frustrating experiences about the scores and the performances of Mozart's music, in the end, led to a fruitful and long collaboration between the Dutch Mozart Associations of scholars & musicians and the Mozarteum of Salzburg itself, in order to improve, develop and promote the knowledge of Mozart's music in its truest and purest form, thus indicating (among other actions and already in the 1930s) the path towards the comprehension and the use of original instruments which were available to Mozart.

The central role for the 1856 Mozartian centenary was played by the Requiem and by the sacred cantata Davidde Penitente (which were popular works since the beginning of the 19th century). Then fragments from The Magic Flute, Don Giovanni and La Clemenza di Tito made their appearances. A bizarre habit of that time (but typical and still typical of also other countries) was to have the original texts of the Mozartian works translated into German and/or into Dutch and even adapted to the taste of the local public, by using, for example, formulas like a generic obscure term Hymne attributed to Mozart's sacred works in order to disguise the too catholic original text of such works (sic!). 
       But it is a fact that in the same period in England (due to political reasons) Rossini's Guglielmo Tell (through a bizarre 1830 anti-Napoleon translation) became a totally different story with the same music, a story about the Tyrol (!?), and such confusion generated also British/Scottish Rossinian extremely successful military ballads famous both during the Crimean War and then in 1960s with the title A Scottish Soldier.

An example of 19th century bizarre translation which totally transformed
the comprehension of the original work: Rossini text of Guglielmo Tell
becomes a story in Tyrol, and Rossini's music becomes first a military
ballad about The Green Hills of Tyrol in 1850s and then in 1960s a military
ballad about a dying Scottish soldier, who doesn't want to die in Tyrol. 

A point of great interest, which emerges from the paper by Wennekes (and that creates a trait-d'union with the article by Flothuis on Mozart and the Haydns and the theme of the cultic non omnis moriar), is probably the documentation of the words of ecstatic exaltation and adoration of Mozart as otherworldly genius of music and the rich and lavish apparatus of flowers and symbols used to celebrate the composer during the concerts.
       «The composer's richly talented soul, which had chosen Mozart's brain as its abode, wherefrom emerged a new light, shining on all Musical Art, never before seen, producing an unknown reflection by which many are blinded by its intensity and brightness.» was an expression of adoration for Mozart used in 1856 or...
       «... during the performance of works by this immortal genius among composers, before the Finale, his name, Mozart, appeared in golden letters behind and above the orchestra, printed on a blue background and decorated with a laurel wreath and bouquets of blossoming flowers, as if lit by a star. This drew an immediate fanfare from the orchestra and ovational applause from the public, in true consensus that this was an appropriate memorial to the great man.» was the only kind of concert apparatus suitable for a genius like Mozart in 1856.
       Those scholars who have a certain knowledge of the more obscure and lesser known pages of the Mozartian studies have already recognized in such Dutch forms of Mozart adoration in 1856 a peculiar practice of Mozart Apotheosis Concerts as already organized and promoted after 1791 (wherever possible!) across Europe by Constanze Mozart herself and/or by her own connections. A form of concert that had heavily influenced certain artistic choices of Beethoven himself.

Wennekes, at this point, treats the single musical genres which were part of the Mozartian production and explores the diffusion and success of the music performances in the Netherlands throughout the 19th century: the string quartets, the symphonic music, the keyboard music, the opera and the religious works.
       While we leave the most interesting details on this subject to a complete reading of this beautiful paper by Wennekes, it may be useful to make some considerations on which kind of pieces was the favourite and which not and why.
       Given that a great part of the professional and not professional performances were organized within private groups, private circles, private salons, private houses, Mozart's works for solo piano (without orchestra), the string quartets and the arrangements of other works for a small domestic performance remained extremely popular throughout the whole century.
        Among the symphonies by Mozart the most popular were the Nos. 25, 35, 38, 39, 40, 41; however, in general, the orchestra performances of symphonic music always tended to remain substantially very limited. 
        For the opera production by Mozart, we must say that the popularity never really abandoned Mozart's works. According to the type of Opera Production Company working in a certain period, Mozart's operas received continuous performances and operas like The Magic Flute, Don Giovanni, Le Nozze di Figaro, the Serail and La Clemenza di Tito practically never left the opera theatre stages.
        As far as the religious works are concerned, the Requiem remained the most favourite work, continuously performed and even in many different forms.
        However, at some point its popularity (and the strange, bizarre translations of its text and that of other works by Mozart, like the operas) started to work against it and against Mozart, and, for a while, many critics began considering Mozart an old surpassed master and began demanding the performance of more modern and contemporary music, instead of the old music by Mozart. Such bizarre treatment of the translations even led to the strange formulation of the term kraut-kitsch (i.e. ultimate trash) as a bad word attached to the works by Mozart (sic!).

The history of the reception of the piano concertos in the Netherlands deserves a different treatment, because the bad diffusion and quality of the performances and the general real oblivion became somehow one of the first sparkles that, at the end of the 19th century, led a group of Dutch Mozartian intellectuals to demand more performances and better performances for Mozart's piano concertos. How this and other requests created the various Dutch Mozart Societies in collaboration with the Mozarteum of Salzburg and how Flothuis and Lili Kraus worked, in the 1930s, for a full Renaissance of the whole Mozart's keyboard literature... well, you can read this in the other papers of this marvellous book.

S. & L.M. Jennarelli