Columbus: Dramatic Cantata for Soloists, Male Choir, Mixed Choir, and Full Orchestra op. 11, which celebrated its premiere at the Graz Music Society Concert Hall on 4 December 1870, is an extraordinary work within Heinrich von Herzogenberg’s oeuvre as a whole and differs greatly from many other compositions by him. During his younger years Herzogenberg was very much attracted to Wagner and the »New German« style – which also had an impact on his Columbus. He designed his musical occupation with this subject in an innovative manner, producing a work that is a combination of the stage and concert genres. Like Wagner, he wrote the libretto himself and did so while
following the model provided by the typical four-part sequence of a drama with a presentation, an intensification, a climactic or turning point, and a resolution. After the successful premiere a review appeared in the Grazer Tagespost that is all the more interesting insofar as it was penned by Friedrich Hausegger, a member of the »progressive camp.« If we think merely of Herzogenberg as the Brahms emulator of his middle and later creative phases, then Hausegger’s words correct our one-sided picture of the composer: »We were most pleasantly surprised by his Columbus. With it the composer proved not only that he can assemble little elements, perhaps ones formed in imitation, to produce a well-formed whole but also that he can draw on impressive resources, that he is able to master a significant subject with a bold and sure hand.« Unlike his later practice with his model Brahms, in his Columbus Herzogenberg did not end up following Wagner to the extreme stylistically. However, it is precisely his thoroughly independent as well as inspired musical treatment of this subject that is a source of special fascination.