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HANS GUIDO VON BULOW (1830-1894)

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Originally appearing in Volume V04, Page 795 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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HANS GUIDO VON BULOW (1830-1894), German pianist and conductor, was born at Dresden, on the 8th of January 1830.795 At the age of nine he began to study music under Friedrich Wieck as part of a genteel education. It was only after an illness while studying law at Leipzig University in 1848 that he deter-mined upon music as a career. At this time he was a pupil of Moritz Hauptmann. In 1849 revolutionary politics took possession of him. In the Berlin Abend post, a democratic journal, the young aristocrat poured forth his opinions, which were strongly coloured by Wagner's Art and Revolution. Wagner's influence was musical no less than political, for a performance of Lohengrin under Liszt at Weimar in 185o completed von Billow's determination to abandon a legal career. From Weimar he went to Zurich, where the exile Wagner instructed him in the elements of conducting. But he soon returned to Weimar and Liszt; and in 1853 he made his first concert tour, which extended from Vienna to Berlin. Next he became principal professor of the piano at the Stern Academy, and married in his twenty-eight year Liszt's daughter Cosima. For the following nine years von Billow laboured incessantly in Berlin as pianist, conductor and writer of musical and political articles. Thence he removed to Munich, where, thanks to Wagner, he had been appointed Hofkapellmeister to Louis II., and chief of the Conservatorium. There, too, he organized model performances of Tristan and Die Meistersinger. In 1869 his marriage was dissolved, his wife subsequently marrying Wagner, an incident which, while preventing Billow from revisiting Bayreuth, never dimmed his enthusiasm for Wagner's dramas. After a temporary stay in Florence, Billow set out on tour again as a pianist, visiting most European countries as well as the United States of America, before taking up the post of conductor at Hanover, and, later, at Meiningen, where he raised the orchestra to a pitch of excellence till then unparalleled. In 1885 he resigned the Meiningen office, and conducted a number of concerts in Russia and Germany. At Frankfort he held classes for the higher development of piano-playing. He constantly visited England, for the last time in 1888, in which year he went to live in Hamburg. Nevertheless he continued to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic Concerts. He died at Cairo, on the 13th of February 1894. Billow was a pianist of the highest order of intellectual attainment, an artist of remarkably catholic tastes, and a great conductor. A passionate hater of humbug and affectation, he had a ready pen, and a biting, sometimes almost rude wit, yet of his kindness and generosity countless tales were told. His compositions are few and unimportant, but his annotated editions of the classical masters are of great value. Billow's writings and letters (Briefe and Schriften), edited by his widow, have been published in 8 vols. (Leipzig, 1895–1908).
End of Article: HANS GUIDO VON BULOW (1830-1894)
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