Thursday, November 02, 2006

Hugo Wassmann & The Mizler Society

The recent release of Rohan Kriwaczek’s AN INCOMPLETE HISTORY OF THE ART OF FUNERARY VIOLIN has opened a pandora’s box of questions surrounding Hugo Wassmann’s involvement in the Guild of Funerary Violinists. No less puzzling, however, were Hugo’s ties to the Mizler Society. This late-Baroque musical society was founded by Loren Christoph Mizler von Kolof for the programmatic study of music’s innate relationship to science. Mizler, who attended the University of Leipzig and was a former student of Bach’s, devoted his master's thesis, “Quod musica ars sit pars eruditionis philosophicae,” to the development of a scientific approach to music grounded in mathematics and philosophy. Early members of the society included Bach, Handel and Telemann. Gatherings posed such troubling questions as why parallel fifths were undesirable.

Hugo Wassmann (Johann Dieter Wassmann's next elder brother, pictured dimly here in 1869) was introduced to the then-struggling Mizler Society while studying philosophy at the University of Leipzig. For reasons that are not well understood, Hugo remained a devotee to this antiquated, and decidedly anti-modern, society right up until his death in Weimar in 1915, at the age of 76.

A charming website examining the Mizler Society was recently launched by violinist John Rodgers, so turn up your speakers, click through and enjoy.

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