- Hofmannsthal Jahrbuch: Zur europäischen Moderne 24 ed. by Maximilian Bergengruen
This handsomely illustrated 2016 edition of the Hofmannsthal Jahrbuch is divided into five treasure-trove divisions. The first 120 pages center on the interviewer and littérateur Hermann Menkes (1869–1931) and include eight of his Neues Wiener Journal interviews and two of his Czernowitzer Allgemeine Zeitung interviews with Hofmannsthal and other leading Viennese imaginative writers and performing artists conducted mostly at their homes. The second portion is a readable twenty-first-century German translation by Rudolf Brandmeyer of Paul Bourget’s iconic “dilettantisme” essay (1882) in what is, remarkably, the first German translation since 1903. This piece is followed in the Menkes vein by a brief but informative essay [End Page 119] on the history behind Hofmannsthal’s eighteenth-century “Schlösschen”—the playwright’s own residential “Turm” in Rodaun by Katja Kaluga and Katharina J. Schneider. It, in turn, serves as an introduction to the tome’s fourth and longest section covering over two hundred pages and containing seven essays on Hofmannsthal’s Der Turm based on papers presented at the eighteenth conference of the Hofmannsthal Gesellschaft held in Basel in 2014. Two rich non-Hofmannsthal-specific essays conclude the volume: one, heavily researched and footnoted, on the literary historical significance of the Süddeutsche Monatshefte (covering its publication from 1904 to 1914) by Michael Pilz and the other, lavishly illustrated, on Egon Schiele’s self-portrait figures by Dalia Klippenstein—fittingly titled “Pantomime auf einem Blatt Papier.”
Of the Menkes interviews, three are devoted to Hofmannsthal. Menkes is a gifted and personable interviewer, and Hofmannsthal speaks freely with him throughout. In the 1907 piece, Menkes first describes the physical beauty of Rodaun before he actually interviews the writer at home. At the end, Hofmannsthal unabashedly praises Richard Strauss’s innate sense of stage drama in his operatic setting of Hofmannsthal’s Elektra: “Er komponiert den Text wie er ist und wo was zu streichen ist, findet er es selbst mit grossem Geschmack und grosser Sicherheit” (48). This unconditional approbation looks ahead to the librettist’s and composer’s five future operatic projects. The interview from 1910 is full of Hofmannsthal’s thoughts on Der Rosenkavalier, including his praise of Reinhardt’s recent Dresden world premiere production, the future Viennese cast, and the Viennese comic operatic tradition running from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro to Rosenkavalier. In addition, Hofmannsthal reminisces on how he had first made the acquaintance of Strauss a decade before. The 1913 interview focuses both on Hofmannsthal’s remarks on the genesis of his Jedermann drama and his contrasting the previous Berlin Reinhardt production with the pending Viennese performances. The Hofmannsthal selections conclude with Menkes’s celebratory piece in honor of Hofmannsthal’s fiftieth birthday in the Neues Wiener Journal, in which he evokes the writer’s choice of Rodaun as his home, with its late Baroque architectural style, as a veritable physical reflection of Hofmannsthal’s art: “Ein Virtuose der Anempfindung hat sein Heim im idyllischen Rodaun auf diesen Stil und Ton gestimmt” (117). Other interviews included in the Jahrbuch are with such operatic interpreters of the Strauss/Hofmannsthal canon as Marie Gutheil-Schoder and Alma Bahr-Mildenburg, and other house visits include [End Page 120] those to Arthur Schnitzler and Hermann Bahr. Ursula Renner, the scrupulous editor of this first section, bookends it with her biographical essay of Menkes and a bibliography of his journalistic writings, which for the first time includes citations of Menkes’s earliest work.
The essays dealing with Der Turm begin with Sabine Schneider’s “Einführung,” in which she raises the key question as to why Hofmannsthal was unable to amalgamate his three different printed versions of the play into a single final version—the earlier version being more mythic and fairy tale–like and the later versions emphasizing political disorder and the social chaos of the 1920s. Hans-Thies Lehmann’s “Tragödie auf dem Theater” effectively analyzes the criticism of the first version by...