Mihalovich, Ödon


Mihalovich, Ödon

Die Nixe (The mermaid), Ballad for large orchestra

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Ödön Mihalovich – Die Nixe. Ballad for large orchestra

(b. Fericsánci, Slavonia, 13. September 1842 – d. Budapest, 22. April 1929)

Ödön Mihalovich was born in a Hungarian-Croatian aristocratic family in the Kingdom of Hungary which was ruled by the Habsburg Empire. His childhood was deeply marked by two tragic events: the defeat in the Hungarian Freedom War of 1848 and 1849 and his father’s premature death in 1863. Mihalovich started to play the piano at an early age but devoted himself to become a composer at the age of 18. After one year at the Faculty of Law at Budapest University he left for Leipzig and Munich to study composition with Salomon Jadassohn, Moritz Hauptmann and Peter Cornelius. The latter mentioned him in his letters as a friend and “A man of feeling!”1 Soon, Mihalovich met Hans von Bülow, Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt. Bülow taught him formal piano lessons, but soon asked him to be his private secretary in law cases. He spiritually supported Bülow and consoled him many times during his marital tragedy with Cosima Liszt.2

The encounter with Richard Wagner’s music determined his style (mainly in the aspect of dramaturgy). Mihalivch wrote in his diary: „The impression was overwhelming; I immediately became an enthusiastic admirer and supporter of Wagnerian music.“3 His aim was to reinvent Hungarian opera through Wagnerian music drama, and for this purpose, he composed four operas: Hagbarth und Signe (1874), Wieland der Schmied (1879), Eliane (1887) and Toldi szerelme (Toldi’s Love, 1890/94). Hagbarth was premièred in Dresden (1882) and Budapest (1886); Eliane was played in Budapest (1908) and Vienna (1909). The Toldi opera, with its tragic love story of a Hungarian knight in the Middle Ages, successfully synthesized Wagner’s dramaturgy, Liszt’s narrative music and some Hungarian style melodies. Arthur Nikisch conducted it several times, and it remained in the repertoire for 20 years. …


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