Ed. Hans Jancik (Kritische Gesamtausgabe). Musikwissenschaftlicher Verlag/ Breitkopf


This volume contains all Wolf’s completed piano pieces (including the G major sonata, of which the last leaf is lost). These early works, 1875-82, are significant mainly as stepping-stones to the songs, to which they offer an absorbing accompaniment. They demonstrate how the expressive strata of the Wolfian song were successively laid down.

       First came the earlier Viennese masters, whose voices are plainly heard in the derivative Variations of 1875, as well as the sonata. The former must have been one of the works that the 15-year-old Wolf showed to Wagner, who gravely agreed that it was best to model oneself on the classics. That could hardly have meant Mendelssohn; but that influence on the Rondo Capriccioso of the following year is more than merely nominal.

       Next, a special reception was given to Schumann, whose style and titles are clearly announced in the Humoreske and the two Aus der Kinderzeit pieces (Schlummerlied, Scherz und Spiel). But by the end of his teens, Wolf was fully fluent in the living language of Wagner, whose Meistersinger and Walküre he rather summarily translated into keyboard Paraphrasen. This double distillation – from opera to keyboard, and then from piano solo to accompaniment – yielded the concentrated essence of a new lied style.

       The text of this instructive volume is generally exemplary, though an A# seems to be missing from the left hand in bar 8 on p. 87. The editorial matter and apparatus are discriminating and detailed, as we have come to expect from that distinguished Wolfian Hans Jancik. He and his sponsors in national and local government are again to be congratulated on their continuing enterprise.


The Musical Times, Feb. 1976 (p. 149) © the estate of eric sams