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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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ertain people at court, but no action was
n by the ^Ministry ; and the political catas-
he of May 1849 ®^® long put an end to all
jcts of reform, social or artistic.^
^agner was less concerned with politics proper
. is generally supposed. The speech — one
vo — which he delivered in the ' Vaterlands-
in,' a political club, June 14, 1848, and
;h was then reported in full in the ' Dresden
eiger,' has been unearthed and reprinted by
r Tappert (E. W. p. 33-42). Its tone is
erate enough ; and it had no further con-
ences than a reprimand from the police
orities, who thought it undesirable that a
ligUcher Kapellmeister' should speak in
, a place. In May 1S49, when the court of
>ny fled, and Prussian troops were despatched
oerce the rioters at Dresden, Wagner was
h excited ; but the tale of his having carried
i flag, and fought on the barricades, is not
(berated by the ' acts of accusation ' preserved
le Saxon police records. Alarming rtunours,
jver, reached him that a warrant for his
it was being prepared, and he thought it
ent to get out of the way and await the turn
irents. He went quietly to Weimar, where
t was busy with Tannhiiuser. On tlie 19th
, in course of a rehearsal, news came from
den that orders for Wagner's arrest as a
itically - dangerous individual ' had been
d. There was no time to lose ; Liszt pro-
i a passport, and escorted Wagner as far as
Qach on the way to Paris.
SILE (1849-61, set. 36-48). 'It is impossible
jscribe my delight, after I had got over the
ediate painful impressions, when I felt free
ist — free from the world of torturing and

tracts, ' Sittliche Stellung der Musik zum Staat.' ' Zahl der
trvorstellungen.' * Die katholische Kirchenmusik,' w»;re com-
ited by Theod. Uhlig to the Neue Zeiischrift fur Musik, vol.
and the entire documeut is girea in Ges. ScUriften, vol. ii.



WAGNER.



35?



ever-unsatisfied wishes, free from the annoying
surroundings that had called forth such wishes.'

The hopes which Lizst indulged, that Wagner
might now be able to gain a footing in Pari?,
proved futile. Wagner's desire to publish a series
of articles in a French periodical 'on the pro-
spects of art under the revolution' met with no
response. Paris, said the editor of the Journal
des Debats, would laugh at any attempt to
discuss the notions of a German musician about
the relation of art to politics. — Music altogether
was at a low ebb in France, and no one cared
to risk the production of a tragic opera.

In June, 1S49, Wagner went to Zurich,
where several of his Dresden friends had found
refuge, and where his wife joined him. In Oct.
1849, 1'6 became a citizen of Zurich. The first
years of his residence there are marked by a long-
spell of literary work : ' Die Kunst und die Re-
volution,' 1849 ; 'Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft,'
'Kunst und Klima,' 'Das Judenthum in der
Musik,' 18^0 ; ' Ueber die Goethe Stiftung,' ' Ein
Theater in Zurich,' ' Erinnerangen an Spontini,'
1851 ; ' Ueber die AufFiihrung des TannhJiuser,'
'Bemerkungen zur Auffiihrung der Oper Der
fliegende Hollander,' ' Oper und Drama,' 1852.
•My mental state,' writes Wagner, looking back
upon these books and essays, ' resembled a
struggle.^ I tried to express, theoretically, that
which under the incongruity of laj artistic aims
as contrasted with the tendencies of public art,
especially of the opera, I could not properly
put forward by means of direct artistic pro-
duction.' — An account of the main contents of
these writings belongs to Part II of this article,
and it wUl suffice here to touch upon a few minor
points which are of biographical interest.

Too many side issues have been raised with
regard to ' Das Judenthum in der Musik,' an
article which first appeared in the Neue
Zeitschrift under the pseudonyiu K. Freigedank.
It is a far less intemperate and injudicious pro-
duction than might be supposed from the sucees
de scandale it met with when Wagner signed
and republished it with additions nineteen years
later. In spite of his belief to the contrary, it
did not at first attract much attention ; the
Zeitschrift, then edited by Franz Brendel, had
only a few hundred subscribers, and no other
German journal, as far as the writer is aware,
reproduced it. The only immedi.ate effect was
a vindictive feeling in musical circles against
Brendel. Eleven masters at the Leipzig Con-
servatorium, where Brendel was engaged as
lecturer on the History of Music, signed a
letter^ requesting him either to give up his post
or to divulge the name of the writer. Brendel
refused to accept either alternative. Wagner's
authorship, however, was suspected, and the
attitude of many professional journalists towards
him grew bitterly hostile. When he issued the
augmented edition in 1S69 dozens of articles and
pamphlets appeared in reply; yet none of these
attempted to deal with the artistic questions

2 • The Music of the Future,' p. 32.

3 Wiitten by Julius Kletz, aud printed in Moscheles" Leben, ii. 217.



358



WAGNER.



WAGNER.



he had raised. The actual contents of the
article were ignored ; but Wagner was persist-
ently reproached with having attempted a dis-
graceful defamation of rival composers ' because
of their Hebrew origin'! It remains significant
that amongst his staunchest and most intelli-
gent friends there were then, and there are still,
manj' of Jewish descent, who may have wished
lie had let the subject alone, but who nevertheless
see no reason to disagree with him in the main.
The noise in the newspapers had an odd result :
other writings of his, hitherto a drug on the
market, suddenly began to sell, and have con-
tinued to do so.

With regard to the fierce attack upon IMeyer-
beer in ' Oper und Drama,' it should not be
overlooked that Wagner's strictures concern
Meyerbeer the musician, not Meyerbeer the man.
The following extracts from a private letter of
1847 comprise ever}' thing Wagner thought fit to
state publicly later on.

I am on a pleasant footing with Meyerbeer, nnd have
every reason to value him as a kind aud amiable man.
But if I attempt to express all that is repellent in the
incoherency and empty striving after outward effect in
the operatic music of the day, I arrive at the conception
' Meyerbeer.'

Whoever mistakes his way in the direction of triviality
has to do penance towards "his better self, but whoever
consciously seeks triviality is lost.

Did Wagner really act as an ungrateful and
ill-conditioned person towards Meyerbeer ? The
two men never Avere friends in the true sense
of the word. The time they actually spent
together can hardly amount to a hundred
hours, 1839-42 at Boulogne and Paris, Meyer-
beer the senior by 22 years, was the patron,
and Wagner the client ; and for the next de-
cade this state of things apparently continued.
Meyerbeer had spoken well of Wagner, and in
return it was expected that Wagner should make
himself useful as a partisan. But this Wagner
would not and could not do ; the broadest hints
produced no effect upon him. — When Wa^^ner
sought Meyerbeer's acquaintance the latter was
surrounded by a host of literary adherents;
willing champions in the press, witli whom his
agent and his publisher could manosuvre as
they pleased. But the support of real musicians
was wanting. Masters like Spohr and Marsch-
ner, Mendelssohn and Schumann, pronounced
Meyerbeer's music an ingeniously contrived
sham, and would have nothing to do with it ;
they attributed a good deal of the success of
'Robert,' etc. to Meyerbeer's business talents and
to the exertions of his literary ' bureau.' ^ Thus
to secure the services of a promising young
musician was a matter of some moment, and
Wagner was regarded as the right sort of man
to enlist. What did Meyerbeer do by way
of patronage ? He wrote a letter introducing
Wagner to M. Fillet, fully aware that there
was not a gliost of a chance for an unknown
German at the ' Op(^ra.' To foist Wagner, with
his ' Liebesverbot,' upon Antenor Joly and the
Theatre de la Renaissance, was, in the eyes of
Parisians, little better than a practical joke ; twice

I Concerning the ' bureau ' see n. Laube's ' Erinneruiigen.'



J



or thrice in the year that rotten concern had faitf ^'
and risen again : ' mon theatre est mort, vi^ '■'
mon the'atre,' was M. Joly's motto. Meyerbai |*
introduced W.igner to liis publisher Schlesing( '"
And this is all that came to pass at Paris "■
unless the fact be taken into account th ■'
Scribe imitated an important scene fioni Riei »5
in Le Prophete^ without acknowledgment, j s'
Dresden a letter from Meyerbeer to Herr \-
Lxittichau, dated March 18, 1841,^ turned f •*
scales in favour of Rienzi, and both Eienzi aj ™
the Hollander were accepted (but not performs *'
on his recommendation at Berlin. After ti *
surprising success of Rienzi, open hostility w ''
shown by certain sections of the press. As ti< }'
went on, Wagner traced some queer attacks l *
their source, and came upon members of Mey< »^
beer's ' bureau ' ! No one who is .aware of ti '
large and complicated interests at stake wi '^
regard to the success or failure of a grand opes! *
will be surprisedat the existence of press scanda^ f
and it is of course impossible to say at presafi '
whether or not Meyerbeer was personally coft ^
eerned. Wagner certainly thought he was, bifl <
chose to remain silent. It was not until 1850-51 ^
that Meyerbeer's peojile came to know in thai '
turn w^hom they were dealing with. By this tinii ^
when Le Prophfete was pitted in Germany againll '
Lohengrin, the words 'friendship' or 'persona!"
obligation' cannot have conveyed the usual mean-
ing to Wagner's mind ; j'et there is little that
savours of revenge or recrimination in 'Oper und
Drama' and 'Das Judenthum.' Serious questions
of art are treated, and Meyerbeer's works are
quoted as glaring examples of o^jeratic good and
evil.

Besides the vast mass of theoretical and critical ^
writing, Wagner got through much other work
during the first two years at Zurich. He
completed the prose version of a drama in
three acts ' Wieland der Schniiedt ' (meant to be
carried out in French verse with a view to per-
formance in Paris), conducted orcliestral conceila,
superintended the performances at the Stadt- '
theater (where his young disciples, Carl Rittei
and H. von Bulow acted as conductors),* lec-
tured on the musical drama (reading the poem |
of Siegfried's Tod by way of illustration), and
kept up a lively correspondence with German
friends.

The first performance of Lohengrin took place
under Liszt at Weimar, Aug. 28, 1S50. The
date chosen was that of Goethe's birth and oi
the inauguration of the statue to Herder ; Liszt
had invited musical and literary friends from all
parts of Europe, and the work, jierformed (for
once) without cuts, made a powerful impression.
From that memorable night dates the success
of the Wagner movement in Germany.^ The
reception of Lohengrin by the musical profession,
the press, and the general public, resembled that
of Tannhauser described above. It is not worth
while to give details here. The following word:;

2 See Oper und Drama. I, in Ges. Schriften. iii. 373, etc.

3 Printed in Tappert, p. 20.

< ISe; BiJLOw. vol. i. p. 2^0 ]

s On Liszt's relations to Wagner [.see LiSZT, vol. li. p. 148. J



WAGNER.



WAGNER.



ragner's are strictly applicable, not only to
engrin, but to the first performances of every
equent work of his : ' Musicians had no ob-
on to my dabbling in poetry, poets admitted
nusical attainments ; I have frequently been
to rouse the pubUc ; professional critics Lave
lys disparaged me.' Lohengrin was given at
sbaden, 1S53 : at Leipzig, Schwerin, Frank-
Darmstadt, Breslau, Stettin, 1S54; at Co-
e, Hamburg, Riga, Prague, 1855; Munich,
ma, 1858; Berlin, Dresden, 1S59. The full
J, and the Clavierauszug (by Th. Uhlig)
! sold for a few hundred thalers to Breitkopf
artel, and published in 1S52.
'^agner fitly closed the literary work of this
)d with the publication of a letter to the
)r of the Xeue Zeitschrift 'Ueber musicalische
ik,' and of ' Eine Mittheilung an meine
inde' (1852). Written simultaneously with
;r und Drama,' the latter production forms
)reface to three operatic poems ('Hollander,'
mhauser,' and ' Lohengrin ') ; it is a fasci-
ig piece of psychological autobiography, in-
msable for a right knowledge of his character.
is magnum opus, ' Der Ring des Nibelungen '
occupied him entirely.

len I tried to dramatise the most important mompnt
B mythoi of the Nibelungen in Siegfried's Tod, I
[ it necessary to indicate a vast number of ante-
t facts so as to put the main incidents in the proper
But I could only narrate these subordinate
!rs— whereas I felt it imperative that they should
nbodied in the action. Thus I came to write
ried. But here again the same difficulty troubled
Finally I wrote Die Walkure and Das Kheingold,
hus contrived to incorporate all that was needful
ke the action tell its own tale.'

le poem was privately printed early in 1853.
ing a sleepless night at an inn at Spezzia
music to ' Das Rheingold ' occurred to me ;
ghtway I turned homeward and set to
:.'^ He advanced with astonishing rapidity.
[ay 1854 the score of 'Das Rheingold' was
3ed. In June he began ' Die Walkiire,' and
)leted the composition all but the instru-
ction during the winter 1854-55. The full
I was finished in 1856. The first sketches of
music to ' Siegfried ' belong to the autumn
I54. In the sjiring of 1857 *^^ ^'■^^^ score of
[ of Siegfried, and of the larger part of Act II,
finished.

p to this point there has been but few inter-
ions to the work, viz. rehearsals and per-
ances of Tannhauser at Zurich, Feb. 1855 ;
ttack of erysipelas. May 1856; a prolonged
from Liszt ^ (at St. Gallen, Nov. 3, 1856,
:ner conducted the Eroica, and Liszt his
nes sjTnphoniques, Orphee, and Les Pre-
b) ; and the eight concerts of the Philhar-
ic Society in London, March to June 1855.
I Jan. 1855, Mr. Anderson, one of the directors
le London Philharmonic Society, arrived at



tier to Arrigo Eoito. Nov. 7, IbTl.

a private letter to Dr. Gille of Jena referring to a subsequent
Lucerne, lSo7) Liszt writes; 'I am with Wagner all day long—
belungen music is a glorious new world which I have long
1 to know. Some day the coolest persons will grow enthu-
about it." And again (1S75. letter to Herr Gobbi of Pesth),
Sing of the Xibelungen rises above and dominates our entire
och. as Mont Blanc dominates the surrounding mountains.*



Zurich to invite Wagner to conduct the coming
seasons' concerts. The society, it appeared, was
at its wits' end for a conductor of reputation —
Spohr could not come, Berlioz was re-engaged
by the New Philharmonic, and it had occurred
to the directors that Wagner might possibly be
the man they were in want of. Mr. Davison, of
the ' Times ' and the ' Musical World,' and Mr.
Chorley, of the ' Athen»um,' thought otherwise.
Wagner arrived in London towards the end of
February. The dates of the concerts he con-
ducted are: — March 12 and 26, April 16 and
30, May 14 and 28, .June 11 and 25, 1855.

A magnificent orchestra as far as the principal mem-
bers go. Superb tone — the leaders had the finest instru-
ments I ever heard — a strong esprit de corps — but no
distinct style. The fact is the Philharmonic people —
orchestra and audience— consumed more music than they
could possibly digest. As a rxile an hour's music takes
several hours' rehearsal — how can any conductor with a
few morning hours at his disposal be supposed to do
justice to monster programmes such as the Directors put
before me ? two symphonies, two overtures, a concerto,
and two or three vocal pieces at each concert ! The Direc-
tors continuously referred me to what they chose to call
the Mendelssohn traditions. But I suspect Mendelssohn
had simply acquiesced in the traditional ways of the
society. One morning when we began to rehearse the
Leonora overture I was surprised ; everything appeared
dull, slovenly, inaccurate, as though the players were
weary and had not slept for a week. Was this to be toler-
ated from the famous Philliarmonio Orchestra ? I stopped
and addressed them in Frencli, sayin,g I knew what
they could do and I expected them to do it. Some
understood and translated— they were taken aback, but
they knew I was right and took it goodhnraouredly.
We began again and tlie rehearsal passed off well. I
have every reason to believe that the majority of the
artists really got to like me before I left London.

Among the pieces he conducted were Beetho-
ven's 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th Sym-
phonies; Overture Leonora, no. 3, the 2nd PF.
Concerto in Bb and the Violin Concerto; Mozart's
Symphonies in Eb and C, and Overture Zauber-
flote; Weber's Overtures Oberon, Freyschiitz, Eu-
ryanthe. Ruler of the Spirits, and Preciosa ; Men-
delssohn's ' Italian ' and ' Scotch ' Symphonies,
the Overtures ' Isles of Fingal,' and ' A Mid-
summer Night's Dream,' and the Violin Concerto ;
Spohr's Symphony in C minor. Potter's in G
minor;* the Overture to Tannhauser (twice),
and a selection from Lohengrin (Introduction,
Bridal procession, Wedding music, and Epitha-
lamiura). He occupied rooms at 31 Milton
Street, Dorset Square, and at 22 Portland
Terrace, Regent's Park, at which latter address
a large portion of the instrumentation to ' Die
Walkiire ' was completed. Karl Klind worth,*
who had settled in London the previous year,
and with whom Wagner became intimate, now
began his pianoforte scores of the Nibelungen.

Whilst at work upon Die Walkiire (1854)
the stories of ' Tristan und Isolde ' and of ' Par-
sifal ' had already taken possession of Wagner's
mind, and the plan for Tristan was sketched.
In the summer of 1857 he resolved to put aside
Die Nibelungen and to proceed with Tristan.
Various causes contributed to this resolution.
He was tired 'of heaping one silent score upon
the other,' tired of the monotony of the task too
— if he lived to finish it, how should his colossal

4 Chas. Lucas conducted his own symphony at the fourth concert,

5 [See Klikdwoeih, vol. ii. p. 64.]



SCO



WAGNER.



WAGNER.



I



work ever be performetl ? He longed to hear
something of his own, he had moreover pecu-
niary needs, which made it desirable that he
should again write something that stood a chance
of performance. Finally a curious incident con-
cluded the matter. A soi disant agent of the Em-
peror of Brazil called: would Wagner compose
an opera for an Italian troupe at Rio Janeiro ?
would he state his own terms, and promise to
conduct the work himself? Much astonished,
Wagner hesitated to give a decisive answer ; but
he forthwith began the poem to Tristan I ^

Wagner looked upon 'Tristan' as an accessory
to the Nibelungen, inasmuch as it presents cer-
tain aspects of the mythical matter for which in
the main worlv there was no room. He was
proud of the poem, proud of the music :

I readily submit tins work to the severest test based
on my theoretical pviuciples. Not that I constructed it
after a system— for I entirely forgot all theory — but be-
cause I here moved with entire freedom, independent
of theoretical misgivings, so that even whilst I was
writing I became conscious how far I had gone beyond
my system.- There can be no greater pleasure than an
artist's perfect abandonment whilst composing— I have
admitted no repetition of words in the music of Tristan
— the entire extent of the music is as it were prescribed
in the tissue of the verse — that is to say the melody (i. e.
the vocal melody) is already contained in the poem,
of which again the symphonic music forms the 8ub-
stratuni.3

The poem was finished early in 1857; in the
winter of the same year the full score of the
first act was forwarded to Breitkopf & Hiirtel
to be engraved. The second act was written at
Venice, where Wagner, with the permission of
the Austrian authorities, had taken up his re-
sidence, and is dated Venice, March 2, 1S59 ! ^^^
third, Lyons, August 1859. In connection with
Tristan, attention must be called to the strong
and lasting impression made upon Wagner' .s mind
by the philosojjhical writin'^s of Schopenhauer.
Tristan represents the emotional kernel of Scho-
penhauer's view of life as reflected in the mind
of a poet and a musician. Even in Die Meister-
singer (Hans Sachs's monologue. Act III) there
are traces of Schopenhauer, and the spirit of
his Buddhistic quietism pervades Parsifal. The
publication of Schopenhauer's 'Parerga undPara-
lipomena' in 1851 took the intellectual public
of Germany by surprise, and roused a spirit of
indignation against the official representatives
of ' Philosophy ' at the Universities and their
journals, who had secreted Schopenhauer's 'Die
Welt als Wille und Vorstellung' (1S18 and
1844). The little colony of refugees at Zurich
was among the first to hail Schopenhauer's
genius as a moralist. Wagner acce23ted his meta-
physical doctrine, and in 1S54 forwarded to Scho-
penhauer at Frankfurt a copy of Der Ring des
Nibelungen as a token of 'thanks and veneration.'
Wagner adhered to Schopenhauer's teaching to
the end, and has even further developed some
of its most ch.aracteristic and perhaps question-
able phases.^ It will be seen in the sequel that

1 The offer from Eio appears to have been genuine ; tlie Emperor
of Brazil subsequently became a patrou of the theatre at Eayieuth
and witnessed a performance of The Rin? there.

2 • The Music of the Future." pp. SC. 27. s Ibid.

4 fe> 'Beethoven.' particuliily the supplement to the English
traLSlatio.i ; also ' i;elii:;oQ und Kunst,' lssu-8t.



i,



Wagner had more trouble in connection with tU( 5i
performance of Tristan than with any other of
his works. At first the difficulty was to get
permission to return to Germany ; even ths
solicitations of the Grand Dukes of Weimar aoj
of Baden in his favour had no effect upon the
court at Dresden. Projects for producing Tristan
at Strassburg and Karlsruhe came to nothing. ..

Pakis, In September 1859 (^^- 4*^) Wagna?
again went to Paris, with a faint hope of proi
ducing his new work there with the help of
German artists, or perhaps getting Tamihausei
or Lohengrin performed in French. M. Car^
vallio, director of the Theii.tre-Lyrique, seemed
inclined to risk Tannhauser. 'II avait t4»
moigiie a Wagner le desir de connaitre w
partition.' Un soir, en arrivant chez lui Rue
Matignon j'entends un vacarme inusite. Wa;'-
ner etait au piano ; il se debattait avec le
formidable finale du second acte ; il chantait, '
il criait, il se demenait, il jouait des mains, ;i
des poignets, du coude. M. Carvalho re- '
stait impassible, attendant avec une patienOB
digne de I'antique que le sabbat fdt fini. La
partition acheve'e M. Carvalho balbutia quelquee
paroles de politesse, tourna les talons et difr
parut.' Determined to bring some of his muaie
forward, Wagner made arrangements for three
orchestral and choral concerts at the Tlieatre IiDr
ptirial Italien," Jan. 25, Feb. i and 8, 1S60. Thjj
programme, consisting of the overture to Der Hol-
lander, 4 pieces from Tannhauser, the prelude to
Tristan, and 3 numbers from Lohengrin, wasthrice
repeated. 'De nombreiises repetitions fure^
faites a la salle Herz, a la salle Beethoven, oi
H. de Billow conduisait les choeurs.' 'Ife
parti trt;s-ardent, trfes-actif, s'etait forme autOB?
de Wagner; les ennemis ne s'endoruiaient pM
davantage, et il etait Evident que la batiiUe
serait acharnee.' The performances conducted
by Wagner made a great sensation — 'Wagner
avait reussi a passionner Paris, h, dechainer la
presse' — but the expenses had been inordinate,
and there was a deficit of something like £400.
which he had to meet with part of the honorarium
paid by IMessrs. Schott for the copyright of
Der Ring des Nibelungen. Two similar pro-
grammes were conducted by him at the Brussels
Opera house in March 1S60, also, it would seem,
with unsatisfactory results.

Unexpected events, however, sprang from the
exertions at Paris. ' Sur les instances pres-
tantes de Mme. de Metternich, I'empereur avait
ordonne la mise a I'f^tude de Tannhauser h,
I'opera.' A substantial success seemed at last
within Wagner's reach. Preparations on a vast
scale were begun. Edmond Roche and Ch.
Nuitter translated the text; the management
met every wish of Wagner's; sumptuous scenery
and stage properties were prepared ; Wagner
was invited to choose his own singers, and to
have as many rehearsals as he might think
fit. He chose Niemann for Tannhauser, Mile.



Online LibraryGeorge GroveA dictionary of music and musicians (A.D. 1450-1889) by eminent writers, English and foreign : with illustrations and woodcuts (Volume 4) → online text (page 85 of 194)