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A dictionary of music and musicians (A.D. 1450-1889) by eminent writers, English and foreign : with illustrations and woodcuts (Volume 4) online

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figure of Tannhauser in far clearer and
pier outlines.' He was especially struck by

connection of Tannhauser with the contest
Hinnesanger at Wartburg, which the Volks-
h establishes in a loose sort of way. There-
n, he endeavoured to trace the story of the
ngerkrieg' to its source. A German philo-
st of his acquaintance happened to possess
ipy of the mediaeval German poem. It in-
isted him greatly, and he was tempted to
3ue the subject further. — One of the MS.
ies of the 'Wartburgkrieg'- introduces the
m of ' Loherangrin.' ^ Wagner was thus led to
study of Wolfram von Eschenbach's ' Parzi-
and 'Titurel'; 'and thus an entirely new
Id of poetical matter suddenly opened before

»EESDEN (1S42-49, Jet. 29-36). Before the
imble rehearsals for ' Eienzi ' began in July,
gner made an excursion to the Bohemian
!, and at Teplitz completed the sketches
the book of ' Tannhauser.' * Rienzi ' had
id friends in the person of Herr Eischer
chorusmaster, and of Josef Tichatschek the
>r, who felt sure that his ' trumpet tones '
ild tell in the title-role. Mme. Schroeder-
rient, in spite of her contours tant soit pen

>r the original ' Tannh.HUserlied ' see Uhland's ' Alte hoch- und

r-deutsche Volkslieder,' Bk. v, p. W7.

« Simrock's edition of "Der Wartburgkrieg" (1S5S) and his

in into modem German of Wolfram von Eschenbach's ' Pai zival

'ituffl ■ (x\\. Loherangrin. 3rd edit. If57i.

rimed by GOrres in lbl3, and in 1858 again edited by Eiickcrt.

OX.. IV, PT. 3.



WAGNER.



353



maternels* would make the most of Adriano.
There was amjjle opportunity for novel scenic
effects, dumb show, and the display of choral
masses. The chorus-master and the stage-mana-
ger were ready to make special efforts; Reissiger,
the conductor, was well disposed, and had a
good orchestra ; in short, the night of Oct. 20,
1842, proved a memorable one. The perform-
ance began at 6, and came to an end just before
midnight, amid immense applause. 'We ought
all to have gone to bed,' relates a witness, ' but
we did nothing of the kind.' Early next morn-
ing Wagner appeared in the band-room to make
excisions. In the afternoon he re-appeared to
see whether they had been properly indicated in
the parts ; the copyist excused himself on the
plea that the singers objected ! ' Ich lasse mir
nichts streichen,' said Tichatschek, ' es war
zu himmlisch ! ' During the next ten days two
repetitions were given to crowded houses at in-
creased prices. When Reissiger, after the third
performance, offered Wagner the baton, the
enthusiasm redoubled. Wagner was the hero
of the day. By and by Rienzi came to occupy
two evenings : acts i and 2 — and 3, 4, 5. The
attraction at Dresden has continued more or
less ever since. But it was five years before the
work was performed at Berlin, Oct. 26, 1847;
it was produced at Hamburg, i S44 ; at Kiinigs-
berg, 1845; at Munich and Cassel, 1S70; at
Vienna, 1871.

Nov. 26, 1842, a soiree' was given at the
Gewandhaus, Leipzig, by Sojjhie Schroeder, the
tragedian (Mme. Devrient's mother), at which
Tichatschek sang Rienzi's prayer and Mme.
Devrient the air of Adriano. Wagner's lite-
rary friend Laube ('Der sich gar nichts daraus
machte wie etwas klang') mistook a duet from
Marschner's 'Templer und Jiidin' for another
extract from. 'Rienzi,' and reported that the three
pieces '' were rather dry and poor in thought.'
Laube was about to assume the editorship of the
'Zeitung fiir die elegante Welt,' and asked
Wagner for materials towards a biographical
article. This was the origin of the ' Autobio-
graphische Skizze,' repeatedly quoted above, and
reprinted in vol. i. of Wagner's collected writ-
ings. It was printed verbatim in the 5th and
6th numbers of that journal, Eeb. i and 8,
I S43, and was accompanied by a portrait ' after
Kietz.'

The managers of the Dresden theatre were
now eager to bring out 'Der fliegende Holliinder.' -
The opera was ha.stily prepared, and Wagner
conducted the first performance on Jan. 2, 1S43
(Senta, Madame Schroeder-Devrient). ' I had
aimed at presenting the action in its simplest
traits, and at avoiding needless details and every-
thing that might flavour of intrigue; the inci-
dents of the story were to tell their own tale.'
The public had expected a second 'Rienzi,'
and were disappointed. It was by no means
a failure, nor was it a succes d'estime : some

* Eerlioz. Memoires, 274.

5 JlL-ndelssolin (who conducted his o\erture to 'Buy Bias') wrote
about it to his mother, Not. %j.

Aa



354



WAGNER.



WAGNER.



1



were deeply touched, others simply aston-
ished. Schumann's Zeitschrift reported that
]NIme. Devrient's Senta 'was the most original
representation she has perhaps ever given.'
Wagner's own words tend to show that she made
tOD much of her part ; the rest, especially the
representative of the Hollander, Mitterwurzer,
too little, and that in spite of .npplause and
recalls the performance was unsatisfactory. The
work was repeated in due course, and never
quite disappeared from the repertoire. '^ The poem
was submitted to Spohr, who pronounced it
'a little masterpiece,' and asked for the
music, which he conducted at Cassel June 5,
1S43. Wagner wrote a warm letter of thanks,
and a pleasant correspondence ensued. Alto-
gether Spohr appears to have been the only
eminent musician of an earlier generation who
cordially held out his hand to young Wagner.
Spohr's 'Selbstbiographie ' (ii. 272) contains ex-
tracts from a letter to his friend Liider, written
whilst the rehearsals were going on : ' Der
fliegende Hollander interests me in the highest
degree. The opera is imaginative, of noble inven-
tion, well written for the voices, immensely diffi-
cult, rather overdone as regards instrumentation,
but full of novel effects ; at the theatre it is
sure to prove clear and intelligible. ... I have
come to the conclusion that among composers
for the stage fro tern Wagner is the most
gifted.'

The 'Hollander' was originally meant to be
performed in one Act, as a ' dramatic Ballade.'
A reference to the score will show that the
division into three Acts is made by means of
crude cuts, and new starts equally crude. The
first reading should be restored.

When 'Rienzi' was produced, the death of
Capellnieister Morlacchi (1841) and of Musik-
director Eastrelli (1842) had left two vacancies
at Dresden. The names of Schindelmeisser,
Glaser, and Wagner were put forward as candi-
dates. Wagner appears at first to have tried for
the lesser post of Musikdirector, with a salary of
1200 thalers (£180). But Herr von Liittichau
the 'Intendant' supported him, and in the end he
was appointed Hofcapellmeister with a salary
of 1500 thalers (£225).^ Jan. 10, 1843, he gave
the customary ' trial performance ' by rehears-
ing and conducting Weber's 'Euryanthe'; and,
whilst the rival candidate, Schindelmeisser, M'as
busy with Spontini's ' La Vestale,' he repaired to
Berlin to press forward ' Rienzi ' and the ' Hol-
lander.' But it appeared that the managers of
the Royal Prussian Opera did not care to risk a
performance of either work just then, their
acceptance of Wagner's libretti having been a
mere act of politeness towards Meyerbeer.
Before the end of January Wagner's appoint-
ment at Dresden was ratified by the authorities.
The ceremony of installation took place on Feb.
2 — the day after Berlioz's arrival — and it was



1 On May 22. 1843. It was given at Riga ; In lft44 at'Berlin.

2 At court tlieatres in Uermanj- tlie title Hof-Capeilmeister usually
Implies an appointment fi)r iile, witli a retiring pension In propor-
tion to salary and duration of service.



i



the first of Wagner's official acts to
Berlioz at the rehearsals for his concerts.^

Wagner had scruples as to whether he woi
prove the right man for the place. With evei*
appearance of reason his wife and friends urg
tliat no one in his circumstances could afford t
slight a permanent appointment with a fixl
salary. No doubt he would have been the rigfi
man if the 'Kiiiiigliche sachsische Hof-Open
theater' had in reality been what it professed j
be — an institution sub5idised for the sake of ai!
But the words ' Operatic Theatre, Royal and sul
sidised' or otherwise, and 'Art for Art's sake; Jj
convey widely divergent notions . Wagner ha(
experience enough to know as much. He held hi|
peace, however, and accepted — ' froh und freudii
ward ich koniglicher Kapellmeister.' The dutig|
were heavy : performances every evening all th(
year round — at least three plays, and generalh
three, sometimes four operas per week — besides tr
mu.sic at the Hofkirchc and occasional concerts
Court. The Musik-director led at the plays, a]
looked after the church-music on week-dajtB
the two Kapellmeisters conducted at church U
Sundays and festivals, and each was rcsponsi'
ble for certain operas. During his seven yean
service Wagner rehearsed and conducted Eury<
anthe, Freyschiitz, Don Juan, Zauberflote, Cle<
menza di Tito, Fidelio ; Spontini's La Vestal^
SjDohr's Jessonda, Marschner's Hans Heiling
and Adolf von Nassau, Winter's Unterbrochena
Opferfest, Mendelssohn's Sommernachtstraun
and Antigone, Gluck's Armida, etc. He made
special arrangement of Iphigenie in Aulis, per
formed Feb. 22, 1847, in which he revised tlM,i
text, retouched the instrumentation, condenseiili
certain bits, added sundry connecting links, and"
changed the close. The arrangement has beep
published,and is now generally accepted. At thsl
' Pensionsconcerte ' given by the 'Hofcapelle'hit,
reading of Beethoven's Symphonies, Eroica, C,
minor, A major, and F major, and particularly oi,
the Choral Symphony, attiacted much attention.
' It was worth while to make the journey from)
Leipzig merely to hear the recitative of the con-^
trabasses,' said Niels Gade, concerning the last. .

Wagner had not much to do with the music
at the Hofkirche, but he detested the routine
work there. The Catholic Court chose to have
none but Catholics in the choir, women's voices
were excluded, and the soprano and alto parts,
were taken by boys. All told, the choir consisted >
of 24 or 26 — 14 men and 10 or 12 boys. The,
accompaniments were played by a full orchestra, j
on festive occasions as many as 50 performers, 1
including trumpets and trombones! 'The;
echoes and reverberations in the building were
deafening. I wanted to relieve the hard-worked
members of the orchestra, add female voices,
and introduce true Catholic church-music a
capella. As a specimen I prepaied Palestrina s
Stabat Mater, and suggested other pieces, but
my efibrts failed.' *

8 See Eerlioz's letter to D'Ortigue Tela. 28, 184S (Correspondence
and Memoires), Lettre k Ernst.
4 In conversation with the writer.



WAGNER.



WAGNER.



355



re was an odd relic of bygone days there, a musico,
at fat soprano. I used to deliglit in his extreme
it and silliness. On holidays and festivals he re-

to sing unless some aria was especially set apart
im. It was quite wonderful to hear the ancient
ius trill that florid stuif of Hasse's : a huge pud-
with a voice like a cracked cornet a piston. But
id a virtue for which we may well envy him ; he

sing as much in one breath as any normal singer

• met with in two.'

agner became leader of the ' Liedertafel ' (a

• of male voices established 1839) and was
m conductor of the ' Mannergesangfest '
h took place in July 1S43, and for which he
e ' Das Liebesmahl der Apostel ' — eine bi-
he Scene. This work requires three separate
•s of male voices, which begin d capella and
ultimately supported by the full orchestra.

dedicated to Frau Chaiiotte Weinlig, ' der
iwe seines unvergesslichen Lehrers.'
. 1844 the remains of C. M. v, Weber were
inied and brought from London to Dresden,
^ner had taken an active part in the niove-
t; and the musical arrangements for the
nn reception of the body and the interment,
, 14, were carried out under his direction.
Meantime Tannhauser was completed (April
1844; first revision, Dec. 23; further revi-

of close, Sept. 4, 1846). He had worked
. arduously, and finished it with the greatest

; so much so that he ventured to have

full score lithographed from his manu-
)t. In July 1845 he forwarded a copy to
. Gaillard at Berlin with a long and in-
3ting ^letter: — 'Pianoforte arrangement,

has already been prepared, so that on the
after the first performance I shall be quite
. I mean to be lazy for a year or so, to
:e use of my library and produce nothing
. If a dramatic work is to be significant and
inal it must result from a step in advance in
life and culture of the artist ; but such a

cannot be made every few months ! ' He
red to rest and read; but he returned
1 Teplitz after the summer holidays with
;ches for ' Die Meistersinger ' and ' Lohen-
1.' The first performance of ' Tannhauser '
: place at Dresden Oct. 19, 1845. It was not
mqualified success — even the executants con-
ed themselves bewildered. Tichatschek sang

part of Tannhauser, Mme. Devrient that
T^enus, Johanna Wagner (Richard Wagner's
;e) that of Elizabeth, Mitterwurzer that of
Ifram. The scene in the Venusberg fell flat.
5u are a man of genius,' said Mme. Devri-
, 'but you write such eccentric stuff, it is
dly possible to sing it.' The second act, with

march, fared best ; the third act, with the
intless and empty recitation of Tannhauser '
3. the story of the pilgrimage to Rome which
r holds people spellbound) was pronounced a
B. Critics discovered that Wagner had no
ody, no form; 'this sort of music acts on

nerves.' ' A distressing, harassing subject '

nquiries at Dresden show that this Soprano. Mose Tarqulnio,
a member of the • KOnigl. Sfichss. musical. Kapelle ' tiU April 30,
; also that Angelo Ciccarelli. another musico, acted as instructor
le choirboys, under Wagner. (This is due to the kindness of Herr
tz Furstenau. cuslos of the Eoyal Library of Music at Dresden.)
iuoted by Tappert In Musicaliscbes Wuchenblatt, 1677, p. 4U.



— 'art ought to be cheerful and consoling' —
' why should not Tannhauser marry Elizabeth V
The Intendant explained to Wagner that his
predecessor, 'the late Kapellmeister' Weber,
had managed matters better, ' since he under-
stood how to let his operas end satisfactorily ! '
The public was fairly puzzled. ' A feeling of
complete isolation overcame me,' writes Wagner.
' It was not my vanity — I had knowingly de-
ceived myself, and now I felt numbed. I saw a
single possibility before me : induce tJie puMic
to understand and 'participate in my aims as an
artist.^ And this is the root of his subsequent
literary and theoretical efforts.

Liszt conducted the overture to Tannhauser at
Weimar Nov. 12, 1S48, and produced the entire
work Feb. 16, 1849. Other leading theatres fol-
lowed at intervals — Wiesbaden 1852, Munich
1855, Berlin 1856, Vienna ('Thalia theater'
and ' Theater in der Josefstadt '1857),' Hof opern-
theater' Nov. 19, 1859; Paris March 13, 1861.

Spohr brought out 'Tannhauser' in 1853.*
' The opera,' he wrote, ' contains much that is
new and beautiful, also several ugly attacks on
one's ears ... * A good deal that I disliked at
first I have got accustomed to on repeated
hearing — only the absence of definite rhythms
(das Rhythmuslose) and the frequent lack of
rounded periods (Mangel an abgerundeten Perio-
den) continue to disturb me,' etc. Mendelssohn
witnessed a performance, and said to Wagner
'that a canonical answer in the adagio of the
second finale had given him pleasure.' Moritz
Hauptmann (Weinlig's successor at the Thomas-
schule) pronounced the Overture 'quite atrocious
(ganz grasslich), incredibly awkward, long and
tedious.'* Schumann (who settled in Dresden
in the autumn of 1844) wrote to Heinrich Dorn,
Jan. 7, 1846, ' I wish you could see Tannhauser ;
it contains deeper, more original, and altogether
an hundredfold better things than his previous
operas — at the same time a good deal that is
musically trivial. On the whole, Wagner may
become of great importance and significance to
the stage, and I am sure he is possessed of the
needful courage. Technical matters, instrumenta-
tion, I find altogether remarkable, beyond com-
parison better than formerly. Already he has
finished a new text-book, Lohengi-in.'^

About 1 845-46 pecuniary troubles again began
to press upon Wagner. The success of ' Rienzi '
had naturally led him to hope that his operas
would soon find their way to the leading theatres.
To facilitate this he had entered into an agree-
ment with a firm of music-publishers (C. F.
Meser, Dresden) to print the pianoforte scores of
Rienziand theHolliinder. The pianoforte arrange-
ment and the full score of Tannhauser were now

s Pelbstbiographie, li. 356.

4 Letter to Hauptmann, ibid.

6 Letter to Spohr. April 21. 184G.

6 It is curious to compare with these just and generous words the
following extracts from a letter of Schumann's written some years
later C1S.')3) and quoted by Herr Kastner (Kichard Wagner Katalog).
■Wagner is. if I am to put It concisely, not a good musician (keia
guter Musiker) ; he is wanting i[i the proper sense for form and for
beauty of sound. . . . Apart from the performance the music is poor
(gering). quite amateurish, empty, and repelling (gehaltlos uad
wlderwfirtiK), etc,

A A 2



35G



WAGNER.



WAGNER.



:idcleil to these. The conditions of the contract
have not been made public; the results, however,
proved disastrous. Issued at high prices, and by-
publishers whose business relations were not very
extensive, the editions did not sell well, and
Wagner became liable for a considerable sum. His
professional duties, too, began to grow irksome.
He had gradually drifted into the position of
an agitator and a party leader. The more
gifted among his musical colleagues admired and
liked him, but to the majority his excitable
temperament was antipathetic ; and his rest-
less activity was found inconvenient. No one
disputed his personal ascendancy, yet he was
made to feel the effects of jealousy and ill-will.
The press did its best to confuse matters, and to
spread damaging gossip. The accredited critic at
Dresden, Eeissiger's friend J. Schladebach, was
the champion of existing usages, which he chose to
call classical traditions. A person of some educa-
tion and an experienced writer, Schladebach can-
not be accused of having treated Wagner unfairly,
as journalism goes. At first he was inclined to
be rather patronising; in course of time he took
care to minimise whatever might tell in Wagner's
favour and to accentuate everything that looked
like a departure from the beaten tracks. Unfor-
tunately he was the principal Dresden corre-
spondent of the musical and literary journals of
Leipzig, Berlin, etc. Thus the effect of his
reports was more detrimental to Wagner's pros-
pects than perhaps he intended it to be. Mana-
gers of theatres and German musicians generally
took their cue from the journals, and in the end
Wagner came to be regarded as an eccentric and
unruly personage difficult to deal with. The
libretti and scores he submitted were hardly
glanced at ; in sundry cases indeed the parcels
were returned unopened !

Except the performance of Gluck's Iphigenia
in Aulis,^ arranged by Wagner, and of Bee-
thoven's Choral Symphony, which was repeated
at the Pensionsconcert, there was nothing
remarkable in the musical doings of 1S47. —
AVagner led a more retired life than hereto-
fore, and worked steadily at Lohengrin. On
the 28th August the introduction was written,
and the instrumentation of the entire work com-
pleted during the winter and early spring. He
knew that he had made a considerable step in
advance since Tannhiiuser, but he was also con-
scious of having moved still further away from
the standards of contemporary taste. It is enough
to state that whilst he was writing Lohengrin,
the repertoire at Dresden consisted in a large
measure of Donizetti. A letter written early in
1S47 exhibits an alniost apologetic tone: 'I am
inclined rather to doubt my powers than to
overrate them, and I must look upon my present
undertakings as experiments towards deter-
mining whether or not the opera is possible.''
The management at Dresden did not care for
such experiments, and indefinitely put off the

> For details concerning Wagner"s reading of the overture, and for
» description of his ■arrangement" of the entire opera, see Ges.
SCiiriil. V. 113, aud Glaseiiapp, p. ^26,






!1



«



t



production of Lohengrin ; so that the finale
the first act, which was performed on the 30ot
anniversary of the Kapelle, Sept. 22, 1848, vn
all he heard of the work.

At Berlin Tannhauser had been refused i f,
' too epic,' whatever that may mean. After
years' delay preparations were begun there
Rienzi, and the King of Prussia's birthday,
5, 1847, was fixed for the first performani
When Wagner arrived to superintend rehea)
he was received in a singularly lukewarm man
ner; personal attacks and injurious insinua
tions appeared in the local journals, and it S(
became evident that Rienzi was foredoo:
The management discovered that political cal
words, ' liberty,' ' fraternity,' and the like, coi
be culled from the libretto ; another opera
chosen for the royal fete, and Rienzi postpoi
till October 26, when the court did not atb
and ' General-Musikdirector Meyerbeer thoi
fit to leave town.' A large miscellaneous U
dience applauded vigorously, but the succa
proved ephemeral and Wagner's hopes of bettV
ing his pecuniary position were disappointed. '

In 1S48 the universal distress and politiMJ
discontent told upon musical matters at ^ ''
as it did elsewhere. The repertoire showe^
signs of rapid deterioration. Flotow's 'Martlift
attracted the public. With the exception
three subscription concerts given by the orches
tra, at the first of which, in January, Wagnei
conducted Bach's 8-part motet 'Singet den
Herrn ein neues Lied,' nothing of interest was
performed. Towards the end of jNIarch, when th(
instrumentation of Lohengrin was finished, hi:
restless mind had already begun to brood upor
new subjects. Sketches for ' Jesus von Nazareth
— a tentative effort in the direction of Parsiia'
— were laid aside, as he failed to find a satis
factory mode of treating the subject. For th(
last time the conflicting claims of History anc
of Legend presented themselves — Friedrich del
Rothbart on the one side, and Siegfried on th(
other. The former subject would have beec
particularly opportune at a time when the name
of the great emperor was in everybody's mouth:
but Wagner's historical studies regarding Bar-
barossa had no other result than a curious essaj
treating of that vague borderland which separate.'
historical fact from mythical tradition, entitlec'
Die Wibelnngen, Weltyescliiclite aus der Sar/e. It
was written in 184S, and j^rinted in 1850.^ Tc
students for whom the growth of a great man'f
mind is almost as interesting as the ultimate
result, this essay presents many points of in-
terest; to others it cannot be attractive, except
as evidence of Wagner's peculiar earnestness ol
purpose and his delight in hard work.

He decided to dramatise the myths of tin
Nibelungen, and made his first grip at the sub
ject in a prose version (1S48) 'Der Nibelungen
Mythus als Entwurf zu einem Drama. '^ Thii (
was immediately followed by ' Siegfried's Tod,'
in three acts and a prologue (autumn, 1848)
written in alliterative verse, and subsequeritlj

2 Ges. Schrift. 11. 3 Ibid. ♦ Ibid.



WAGNER.

rporated with many additions and emenda-
5 in ' Gotterdiiramerung.' Sundry gei-ms of

music, too, were conceived at this early
^d.

'agner entertained hopes that the general
re for political reform might lead to a better
; of things in musical and theatrical matters.
jrdingly he wrote out an elaborate plan for
organisation of a ' national theatre.' His
cts were: — thorough reform of the theatre
)resden ; amalgamation of the existing art
tutions of Saxony, with head-quarteis at
jclen; increase of efficiency and reduction of
inditure. Supported throughout by detailed
?ments of facts and figures, his proposals
;ar eminently practical, and might have
I carried out entire or in part with obvious
mtage. The new liberal Minister of the
rior, Herr Oberlander, sympathised with
jner, but had little hope of surmounting

initiatory difficulty, viz. to detach the
ices of the theatre from those of the court,

get an annual grant of public money in
5 of the subsidies from the king's privy
e. Derisory pencil notes on the margin of
manuscript showed that it had been read



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