Michał Hertz

Tchaikovsky Research

Polish composer, pianist, conductor and teacher (b. 28 September 1844 in Warsaw; d. 26 December 1917/8 January 1918 in Warsaw).

After studying piano and composition at the Music Institute in Warsaw, and later in Breslau and Leipzig, Hertz also trained as a conductor with Hans Richter and Hans von Bülowin Leipzig. He was conductor at the Polish Theatre in Poznań from 1870 until 1872, when he became professor of piano at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin, where he also studied composition. In 1878 he returned to Warsaw to teach the piano in various educational establishments. He was also accompanist and répétiteur at the Warsaw Opera, as well as assistant director of the Warsaw Music Society, and author of music reviews for two prominent Warsaw journals.

Tchaikovsky seems to have met Hertz in January 1892 when he conducted his only concert in Warsaw (2/14 January), and the latter wrote to him the following year to inform him that the Warsaw Theatre was intending to use his incidental music to Hamlet for a forthcoming staging of Shakespeare's tragedy. Hertz asked Tchaikovsky in this letter if he could provide more specific indications as to the scenes and lines in the play which were meant to be illustrated by the musical numbers in the score published by Jurgenson [1]. The composer, however, replied that he did not consider this incidental music to be a serious artistic work: "I wrote it very quickly for the benefit of one of my friends [Lucien Guitry], only so that he could amuse himself in seeing my name on the concert bill. It is scored for a very small orchestra, and would not be suitable for a Grand Imperial Theatre" [2]. Instead, Tchaikovsky suggested that Hertz might wish to consider using the "wonderful music to Hamlet by George Henschel".

Hertz replied shortly afterwards, saying how everyone at the theatre in Warsaw had been touched by Tchaikovsky's modesty with regard to his own music:

I am not at all surprised that the maestro who has written Romeo and Juliet, a significant number of operas, a piano concerto [sic], and lots of other outstanding works, rates his music to Hamlet quite differently; but we, mere mortals that we are, understand very well the difference between Fidelio, the Ninth Symphony and The Ruins of Athens, and yet we do appreciate the latter overture even if it cannot compare with those other works [3].

Hertz also explained that the theatre had already purchased copies of the score of the incidental music to Hamlet and that together with his colleagues he had managed to match the individual numbers to the scenes in the play. The premiere of Shakespeare's Hamlet at the Bolshoi Theatre in Warsaw accordingly took place on 3/15 November 1893, with Tchaikovsky's incidental music, although the composer's name was not included in the play-bill.

Correspondence with Tchaikovsky

1 letter from Tchaikovsky to Michał Hertz has survived, dating from 1893, and has been translated into English on this website:

2 letters from Michał Hertz to the composer, dating from 1893, are preserved in the Klin House-Museum Archive.

Bibliography

Notes and References

  1. Letter from Michał Hertz to Tchaikovsky, 16/28 August 1893. Included in Чайковский и зарубежные музыканты (1970), p. 85.
  2. Letter 5020 to Michał Hertz, 23 August/4 September 1893.
  3. Letter from Michał Hertz to Tchaikovsky, 20 September/2 October 1893. Included in Чайковский и зарубежные музыканты (1970), p. 85.