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Music critic Gustav Michel

Author(s): Vasić Aleksandar N.

Journal: Muzikologija
ISSN 1450-9814

Volume: 2004;
Issue: 4;
Start page: 167;
Date: 2004;
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The writers whose real vocation was not music left significant traces in the history of Serbian music critics and essayism of the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. Numerous authors, literary historians theoreticians and critics, jurists and theatre historians, wrote successfully on music in Serbian daily newspapers, literary and other magazines, until the Second World War. This study is devoted to Gustav Michel (1868 - 1926), one of the music amateurs who ought to be remembered in the history of Serbian music critics. Gustav Michel was a pharmacist by vocation. He ran a private pharmacy in Belgrade all his life. But he was a musician as well. He played the viola in the second (in chronological order of foundation) Serbian String Quartet. The ensemble mostly consisted of amateurs, and it performed standard pieces of chamber music (W. A. Mozart L. v. Beethoven, F. Schubert, F. Mendelsohn-Bartholdy, A. Dvořžak). These musicians had performed public concerts in Belgrade since 1900 up until Michel’s death. Belgrade music critics prised the performances of this string ensemble highly. Gustav Michel was also a music critic. Until now only seven articles, published by this author between 1894 and 1903, in Order (Red), Folk Newspaper (Narodne novine) and Serbian Literary Magazine (Srpski književni glasnik) have been found. Michel’s preserved articles unambiguously prove that their author had a solid knowledge of music theory and history, the knowledge that exceeded amateurism. Nevertheless, Michel did not burden his first critics with expert language of musicology. Later on, in Serbian Literary Magazine, the magazine which left enough room for music, Michel penetrated more into musical terminology, thus educating slowly forming Serbian concert-going public. The analysis of Michel’s texts showed that he was not, in contrast to the majority of professional music critics, an opponent of virtuosity. Gentle and liberal, he did not oppose the National Theatre administrations when they decided to add operettas to its repertoire. Here he also differs from expert critics, for example Miloje Milojević or Petar Krstić - who led a real crusade against operetta. Michel paid scrupulous attention to correct diction, as an important part of the vocal technique. As a critic, Gustav Michel was inclined to relatively modern music. He was not strict in his judgments of Serbian performers’ and composers’ achievements; he always took account of very difficult conditions under which the Serbian people, after many centuries of the Turkish occupation, started its cultural and musical emancipation in the 19th century. (He was especially considerate towards novice musicians) However his critical assessment of the genre status of the overture to the first Serbian opera, "Na uranku" ("At Dawn") by Stanislav Binički, revealed an incisive critic. The weak side of his critic lies in too general language not exact enough for characteristics of musical interpretations. However Gustav Michel was a witty and ironic writer, and his few articles marked the beginning of an expert and modern music critic in Serbia.
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