Friday, June 09, 2006

Remembering Hans Fantel

Hans Fantel, noted author, columnist for the New York Times, and musicologist, died May 21, 2006. Traveling back home from a swim at the local gym, he, somehow, went off the road and hit a tree. Two weeks after the accident, he passed. A NYT obituary can be found here. The following paragraph appeared in the Berkshire Record as a brief remembrance.
Hans and I became good friends only in the past eight years. Our musical passions were somewhat complementary: mine being Bach, his being Strauss. Hans was determined to reveal to this apostate the artistry and depth of the collaborative operas of Strauss and the Austrian poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal. He revered their work (both musical and literary) and regarded operas as Der Rosenkavalier and Ariadne auf Naxos among the greatest achievements in western culture. I was going to be a subject for his evangelical zeal, since I had little taste for Strauss or tolerance for what I perceived as music of gratuitous sentimentality. “You cannot understand the essence of Viennese culture without understanding Der Rosenkavalier,” he would say. Beginning a year ago, Hans methodically educated my taste by lending me his precious tapes, LPs and CDs of his favorite Strauss/von Hofmannsthal operas and poetry. Hans’s endearing enthusiasm and patience paid off. Within weeks I became something of a fanatic convert to his musical sensibility. His tragic loss is almost too much to bear, but the joys and insights he imparted will never be forgotten and will be his endowment. In the opera “Ariadne,” a harlequin sings “Lieben, Hassen, Hoffen, Zagen,/Alle Lust und alle Qual …” one of Hans’s favorite parts: “ The heart knows and must bear, at once and for all, by loving, hating, hoping, fearing – both passion and agony.” These words haunts me now.
Alex Ross has published an article featuring Hans.


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