This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
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Hermann Torggler's Great Composers - part 2

05 December 2020

With his long hair tied back
and his high collar and wispy cravat
this is plainly not a man from our time
but from an earlier century.
The caption reads:
W. A. Mozart

His face may not be familiar but his name should be.
It is a portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, (1756 – 1791),
undoubtedly the most famous name in all of music.

The painting was the work of Austrian artist Hermann Torggler, (1878-1939), who created several portraits of great composers which the publisher, F. A. Ackermann's Kunstverlag of Munich, Germany, reproduced as a set of postcards. This post is the second of my series on Torggler's artwork. Readers can find the first part by following this link to Herman Torggler's Great Composers - part 1.

It is no surprise that of all the musicians and composers an Austrian artist might chose to paint, Mozart would be a top priority. Born in Salzburg, Austria, Wolfgang Amadeus began performing and writing music at a very young age. In July 1763 his father Leopold Mozart, a violinist and composer with the court orchestra of the  Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, arranged to take Wolfgang, age 7, and his talented older sister Marianne, nicknamed Nannerl, age 12, on a grand concert tour of European courts. The trip last three years and took them to  Munich, Mannheim, Paris, London, Geneva, and the Netherlands, until they finally returned to Salzburg in November 1766. 
The tour not only established Wolfgang's reputation as an astonishing child prodigy on violin and piano, but it gave him a unique worldview for a composer of his time. By his teen years he was fluent in Italian, French, and English and had been introduced to more places and people than many people might know in a lifetime. He would go on to write some of the most beautiful music of all time, producing a prolific output of operas, symphonies, concertos, and chamber music that are now admired throughout the world. 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
medallion in wood
after Leonard Posch
Source: Wikimedia

Hermann Torggler, of course never met Mozart, but as an art student in Munich and then Vienna he undoubtedly came across some of the many portraits of Mozart made during his lifetime. The one shown above was actually a small relief bust of Wolfgang carved in 1789 by Austrian artist Leonhard Posch  (1750–1831). Posch was employed as an assistant stone sculptor by Salzburg's Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo at the same time as young Wolfgang was engaged in the court orchestra. They became lifelong friends perhaps united by a strong desire to escape the conservative town and repressive control of the Archbishop. The both found a more promising artistic court in Vienna – Wien, the capital of the Austrian empire. There Posch gave up the strenuous work of stone carving to find more success in carving miniature relief portraits in wax which he could reproduce casted in metal or plaster. This example was carved in wood, and was considered the best likeness of Mozart by his wife Constanze. 

Torggler animates Posch's sculpture by turning Mozart's head slightly and adding a few years to his age as well. I suspect this painting was made around 1910, possibly on commission by the publisher F. A. Ackermann. It's a thoughtful portrait of the beloved composer whose music was surely a favorite of Torggler's. More historical examples of pictures of Mozart can be found at

This postcard was sent from Lucerne, Switzerland on 6 March 1915.

Mozart was a virtuoso on piano and wrote numerous pieces and concertos for himself. But he also wrote for other solo instruments including 4 concertos for the horn. I was first introduced to them by my high school biology teacher, Mr. Arthur Koeppen, who was an amateur horn player and mentor to the Fine Arts Club. One day after classes he came to our bandroom to coach our horn section. He brought along some records of the British horn soloist Dennis Brain playing Mozart's music. I was instantly captivated and for the next few years most of my allowance went to buying records of any horn soloist I could find. 

I love all of Mozart's music but if I had to pick just one for a Desert Island playlist it would be the Rondo movement from his Horn Concerto No.4, K495. This is a 2017 live performance by the Croatian horn soloist Radovan Vlatković with the Arctic Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra of Tromsø and Bodø, Norway. It's a wonderful performance that conveys all the humor and singing qualities that typify Mozart's music. And Radovan also happens to play the same model horn that I play.

* * *

This next portrait shows an old man in profile
with a careworn countenance of someone
who has seen a lot of the world.
This postcard is captioned:
Franz Liszt

This is the only card in Hermann Torggler's set of composer portraits
that prints the full forename instead of just an initial.
It is of course, the great Hungarian pianist and composer,
Franz Liszt, (1811 – 1886)

Liszt was a native Hungarian but in the 19th century Hungary had been part of the Hapsburg empire for centuries. Most of his early professional life was spent on the road as a concert pianist. The early 19th century was the era when the grand piano transformed into a very different instrument from what Mozart and Beethoven played. The action, tone, range, and dynamics of the improved piano developed a new kind of concert performer. Liszt was only one of several phenomenal pianists/composers like Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, (1809 – 1847); Frédéric Chopin, (1810 – 1849); and Robert Schumann, (1810 – 1856), who developed exciting new music for the Romantic movement in art.

Liszt made his home is several places, but often stayed in Vienna at the Schottenhof, (which by strange coincidence is now occupied by the Austrian Research Institute for Artificial Intelligence which includes a department for Intelligent Music Processing and Machine Learning.) A commemorative stone plaque celebrates his stay there from 1869 to 1886. It has a relief carving showing Liszt in a similar left profile. I don't know for certain that it was in place during the years Hermann Torggler lived in Vienna, but it might have served to inspire his portrait of the composer.

Franz Liszt, memorial plaque,
Freyung 6, Schottenhof, Wien, Austria

My postcard of Franz Liszt was posted on 5 February 1932 to Gunther Wagner of Dresden. No doubt Gunther had to endure a never ending question, "Are you related to Richard?"

The music of Franz Liszt had tremendous influence on many composers who followed him. It is filled with imaginative drama and lush romance. Probably the first music of Liszt that I heard was his Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, which is the ultimate cartoon soundtrack. But the first major work of Liszt's where I encountered his use of the horn was in his tone poem Les Préludes. Here is the soli section for four horns played by the Staatskapelle Weimar under conductor Christian Thielemann.

* * *

This next painting by Torggler shows
another man's distinguished nose in profile.
The caption reads:
R. Wagner

In the late 19th century this face would be easily recognized
by anyone with even a passing appreciation of musical theater.
He is the great German opera composer, Richard Wagner, (1813 – 1883).

According to a brief biography of Hermann Torggler, he was strongly influenced in his style by the portraiture of the German painter Franz von Lenbach, (1836–1904), who studied art in Munich where Torggler later got his training. Lenbach became one of the most successful German portrait artists of his era and he painted Richard Wagner several times. This one from 1882/83 shows Wagner in a similar right profile.

Portrait of Richard Wagner, circa 1882/83
by Franz von Lenbach  (1836–1904)
Source: Wikimedia

Wagner was also photographed many times during his life and those photos were reproduced for sale as souvenirs. This cdv was made in the 1880s by the London photography studio of Elliott & Fry.  It shows Wagner in the same right profile.

carte de visit portrait of Richard Wagner, circa 1880, 
by Elliott & Fry, London
Source: Wikimedia

After Wagner's death in 1883, his music continued to build his reputation as a dominant force in musical theater. Sometime before 1895, Lenbach painted another portrait of an older Richard Wagner. Though this puts the composer in a full direct pose, the darker tone is similar to the pensive viewpoint that Torrgler took with his portrait.

Portrait of Richard Wagner, before 1895
by Franz von Lenbach  (1836–1904)
Source: Wikimedia

The postcard of Wagner was sent from München on 13 August 1912 as a note in a letter. This is the earliest date that I have found on any of Torggler's composer series, which leads me to date their production to around 1910/11. Though all six composers are very deserving of being idolized as music icons on a postcard, it is the composers that Torggler left out that I find curious. He may have considered Johann Sebastian Bach, (1685 – 1685), the great master of the fugue, as too much an old-fashioned composer. Joseph Haydn, (1732 – 1809), who wrote 104 symphonies, and was Austrian and a contemporary of Mozart too, was perhaps no longer a celebrated figure in Vienna. Anton Bruckner, (1824 – 1896), whose symphonies stand like a mountain range as tall as the Alps, may have been too recent. However it's more likely that Torggler's publisher had a very short list of musical greats that it knew would sell at the newsagents and stationary shops.

As a student I first learned of Richard Wagner's music from recordings and playing a couple of his overture transcriptions for band. I regret that in my professional career I have only played a few of his opera overtures, and none of his full operas. Many years ago I did play a concert that showcased orchestral excerpts from the four operas in Wagner's Ring Cycle, but that was as close as I've come to playing his most famous music. The orchestration for these operas requires an enormous force of musicians, including 9 horn players with 4 of them doubling on small Wagner tubas. Only a few opera companies have the stage, orchestra, singers, and money to produce these gigantic works of musical theater. 

This next video has the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Georg Solti rehearsing Siegfried Funeral Music from Götterdämmerung, the final opera in the Ring Cycle. It will give a taste of the gargantuan sound Wagner demanded of an orchestra. Notice the six (!) harps on either side behind Sir George. And remember that singers are supposed to be heard through this dense musical texture. 

* * *

This last painting by Hermann Torggler
shows two men in profile.
One sits at a piano while the other man
sits by his shoulder looking at the sheet music.

There is no caption, 
but because we've seen both composers
in Torggler's previous portraits
in nearly the same pose,
they are recognizable as Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt. 

The two composers first met in 1853 when Richard Wagner had not yet started on his great Ring Cycle of operas. Franz Liszt was then arguably the most famous piano virtuoso in all Europe after years of concert tours. He had also produced a wide variety of music for piano, organ, voice, and orchestra which inspired many composers of his time, including Richard Wagner.

Both men were prone to scandalous behavior, especially in regards to women. It's far too complicated to explain in detail here, so this is a short synopsis. In 1857 Liszt's daughter, Cosima, (1837 – 1930) married Hans von Bülow, a talent piano student of Liszt who became a noted advocate and conductor of Richard Wagner's operas. 

In 1863 after Wagner became estranged from his first wife, Minna, he began an affair with Cosma. They produced three children before Hans would grant Cosima a divorce, allowing her to become Wagner's 2nd wife in 1870. The happy couple posed for this formal photograph in 1872. 

Richard and Cosima (Liszt) Wagner, 1872,
by Fritz Luckhardt  (1843–1894)
Source: Wikimedia

By the 1870s, Franz Liszt had retired from the concert stage and renounced his worldly life, in part due to the untimely deaths of his other two children. A devout Catholic, in 1865 Liszt took minor orders in a monastery outside Rome. Afterward he was often called Abbé Liszt, which is why in Torggler's painting he wears a white clerical collar. 

I'm not certain if this postcard of the two composers, son-in-law and father-in-law, was part of Torggler's series of composer portraits. But it was painted at around the same time as this card has a postmark from Berlin of 20 January 1914. It was sent to Herrn Karl Krendel(?) with the honorific of  Hochwohlgeboren  which stands for "High Well-born", a German form of address for someone from a noble family. 

* * *

When I first discovered Herman Torggler's charming postcard etchings I was impressed with his sentimental depiction of German/Austrian culture and fashions from the turn of the 19th to 20th century. They included musical elements that matched many of the musician photographs in my collection, and I liked Torggler's simple unpretentious characters, devoid of any overt advertising imagery. 

When I found his portraits of Brahms, Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart, Liszt, and Wagner, which I've featured in my series here and last week, I realized Torggler was  much more than a commercial artist. I believe these works are more representative of his mature artistic output as a portrait painter. I've tried to connect his portraits to those of other artists and photographers in order to demonstrate Torggler's perceptive skill and fine craft. Any artist's eye always involves their personal interpretation and I think Torggler chose to render each composer in both a realistic manner and a respectful way as his tribute to their music, the sound of which can not be painted. 

I am also intrigued that the faces of these six musicians needed no introduction or explanation on the postcards. I think the publisher felt it was unnecessary because they expected the people who purchased the cards to know who the composers were. Their market was for the music-loving audience of Europe who could only enjoy the music of these six great composers in live performances. What better way to remember a performance of a Mozart opera, or a concert of Liszt's piano concerto than to buy a souvenir portrait of the composer?

Writing this series also made me appreciate how I came to love the music of Brahms, Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart, Liszt, and Wagner through the magic of recordings. My parents gave me much to be grateful for, but it was their love of music which led me to become a musician and ultimately to be writing this blog. Likewise I am beholden to my biology teacher for generously sharing of his love of horn music, and grateful for my other teachers and colleagues who all played a part in guiding me to discover more about the art of music. My path through life would have been very different had I not received these many gifts. Thank you.


This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where no thread can not be untangled.

The theme image for this weekend's Sepia Saturday challenge
is a group of Mennonite church women working on a large quilt.
I can't pass this opportunity by
without showing off an example
of my maternal grandmother's quilting talent. 

As long as I can remember,
my grandmother was always sewing, knitting, or crocheting.
She made many quilts, but this one is a true work of art.

It is a "Cathedral Pattern" quilt
with small squares of colored fabric
framed by folded muslin. 
There are 1,480 squares,
each skillfully handsewn by my grandmother.
She completed it on June 17, 1980
and it now hangs in the stairway of my home.

In 2010 created a tribute blog for my grandmother,
Blanche Elizabeth Shaw Dobbin,
entitled Remembering Dobbin.


Kathy said...

Another interesting post. I was intrigued by Torggler's depiction of each man later in life. If he used some of the work of other artists as a model, he seemed to have aged his subjects. I don't know if this is accurate or not - just my impression based on what you shared. I especially enjoyed the horn solo you shared from Mozart. I tried to continue to read your post as it played, but had to just stop and enjoy the music.
And the cathedral quilt - I've always wanted to make one. Maybe I will! Yours is beautiful.

ScotSue said...

I very much enjoyed the second part of your profile of great composers and thank you for introducing us to Herman Torggler - a name new to me. And I loved the quilts.

Barbara Rogers said...

I too, loved the Mozart horn solo, and paid a lot more attention to hearing the music...thinking I should be reading about the portraiture. Happily I read most of the descriptions. And I want to send my thanks to your family and teachers too...because of the education you pass on to many others here on your blogs. That quilt is superb! And now back to the art of painting. Torggler certainly did create excellent portraits. By using them for commercial distribution, more people saw them than if they'd been in museums. That's the way commercial art vs. fine art has always been...since reproductions have been available anyway. I'm glad you reminded us that there was only live musical performances at the time. It's certainly been a wonderful experience of mine, where discounting the occasional coughing in the audience, a live performance of music far surpasses even a recording made of the same performance. But again, records and now CD's and downloads have certainly allowed for many more to hear the beautiful music.

La Nightingail said...

Beautiful paintings although I was a little puzzled with Mozart's gray hair. He was only 35 when he died? The horn pieces were interesting in their differences. The conductor of the Siegfried Funeral music was a hoot to watch. He really felt that music! Your grandmother's quilt is gorgeous. What patience she must have had to work at something like that.

Molly of Molly's Canopy said...

Fascinating that Torggler chose to portray mature, pensive musicians in this series, rather than the composers in their youth. I was particularly fascinated by his portrait of Liszt, who in his youth was the touring "rock star" of his era right down to his series of mistresses. Is it any wonder he retired to monastery life in his mature years? This has been an excellent series highlighting Torggler's sensitive portraits. I particularly love the musical clips that accompany each of your blog entries. Have a great holiday season!


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