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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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5 naspprini. p. .53.

c This was the old Salle Ventadour. at which, as the Theitre de 1»
Eenaissance. 'Das Liebesverbot' was to have beeu given twenty
years previously. It is now a Bureau d'escompte. ISee VentaDOOB.) :



WAGNER.



WAGNER.



361



:e for Elisabeth, Mile. Tedesco for Veuiis,
le. Keboux for the shepherd, Cazaux for the
mdgiaf,' and Morelli for Wolfram. The
nber of rehearsals, according to the official
3rd, was 164 : — 73 at the pianoforte, 45
ral, 27 with the vocalists on the stage but
hout orchestra, 4 for sceiiic changes, and 14
, with orchestra.^ The total costs appear
have amounted to something like £Sooo.
igner entirely rewrote the opening scene in
Venusberg, and m.ide a number of minor
Dges. On the advice of jNI. Villot (curateur des
sees imperiaux), he also published 'Quatre
mes d' operas traduits en prose fran9aise, pre-
es d'une lettre sur la musique,' giving a resume
lis aims and opinions.^ After numerous iu-
:uptions, misunderstandings and quarrels, in-
iing a complete rupture with the conductor
!tsch — the quondam chorusmaster and com-
er of ' Le Vaisseau fantome,' who proved
jmpetent, and whom Wagner could not get
of — the performances began March 13, 1S61.
le cabale tres-active. tres-puissante, trfes-detei-
lee, s'etait organisee de bonne heure. Un
iain nombre d'abonnes de I'opera, qui savaient
I la pifece navait pas de hallet,' etc. — The
adal need not be repeated here. — After the
:d performance Wagner withdrew his work.

be less said the better as to the complicated causes of
disaster. But it was a blow to me : everybody con-
led had been paid per month ; my share was to con-
in the usual honoraritim after each performance,
this was now cut short ^ So I left Paris with a lead
ebt, not knowing where to turn. — Apart from stich
ig«, however, my recollections of this distracting
r are by no means unpleasant.

)n Wednesday evenings the little house* he
abited with his wife in the rue Newton, near

Arc-de-Triomphe, welcomed many remark-
i Parisians, — 'c'est ainsi,' reports Gasperini,
e j'ai vueM. Villot (to whom Wagner dedicated
' Music of the Future'), Emile OUivier, Mme.
Lvier (Liszt's daughter), Jules Ferry, Le'on
oy ; et Eerlioz, et Champfleury, et Lorbac, et
idelaire, etc.'^

'rincess Mettemichs' enthusiasm had a fur-
r result : whilst at work upon the additions
'annhjinser, permission arrived for Wagner ' to
:nter German states other than Saxony.' It
I not till March 1862 {i.e. after thirteen years)
t the ban was completely raised ; and he
leave, in truly paternal phrase, 'to return to

kingdom of Saxony without fear of punish-
at.'

iETURN TO Germany, iS6i (set. 48). — The
ister in Paris produced a strong reaction,
gner was received with enthusiasm wherever
appeared. Yet the three years to come until
4, when he was suddenly called to Munich,

Les 164 repetitions et les 3 representations du Tannhiiuser k
>.' par Oh. Nuitter. (See ' Ba5reuther Festblatter ' for lcS4.)
ee th» English translation: 'The Music of the Fature.'
'he customary remaneration for each performance of a new
1 at Paris was 500 francs, so that IcOO francs would have been
tier's share for the three eTenings ; but it had been arranged
for the first 20 performances half of the remuneration was to be
to the translators of the libretto: thus 7.^ francs was the sum
ner received for something like a year's work.
fow demolished.

h. Baudelaire's article in the 'Eevue Europeenne," augmented
reprinted as a pamphlet, April IgOl, " Cichard Wagner et Tann-
er,' is a masterpiece.



must be counted among the most distressing of
his entire career. His hopes and prospects lay
in a successful performance of Tristan, and all
his efforts to bring about such a performance
failed. At Vienna, after 57 rehearsals, Tristan
was definitely shelved, owing to the incom-
petence, physical or otherwise, of the tenor Ander ;
at Karlsruhe, Prague and Weimar, the negotia-
tions did not even lead to rehearsals. He found
it impossible to make both ends meet, and had
to ssek a precarious subsistence by giving concerts.
A few words will explain this strange state
of things at a time when his works were
so unmistakeably popular. The customary hon-
orarium on the first performance of an opera
in Germany varied from 10 to 50 or 60 Louis d'or
(£8 to £48) according to the rank and size of
the theatre. On evei-y subsequent repetition the
author's share consisted either of some little sum
agreed upon or of a small percentage on the
receipts — generally five per cent, occasionally
seven — never more than ten per cent. As most
German towns possess a theatre, a successful
opera on its first round may produce a consider-
aiole amount ; but afterwards the yield is small.
It is impossible to run the same piece night after
night at a court or town theatre, the prices of
admission are always low, and the system of
subscription per season or per annum tends to
reduce the number of performances allowed to
any single work.

Mt operas were to be heard right and left ; but I could
not live on the proceeds. At Dresden Tannhiiuser and
the Hollander had grown into favour ; yet I was told
that I had no claim with regard to them, since they
were produced during my Capellmeistership, and a
Hofcapel 1 m eister in Saxony is bound to furnish an.
opera once a year ! When the Dresden people wanted
Tristan I refused to let them have it unless they agreed
to pay for Tannhauser. Accordingly they thought they
could dispense with Tristan. Afterw.trds, when the
public insisted upon Die Meistersinger, I got the better
of them.

On May 15, 1861, Wagner heard Lohengrin for
the first time at Vienna. Liszt and a large circle
of musicians welcomed him at the Tonkiinstler
Versammlung at Weimar in August. His long-
cherished plan of writing a comic opera was now
taken up. He elaborated tlie sketch for ' Die
Bleistersinger von Niirnberg,' which dates from
1845, and was intended to be a comic pendant
to the contest of Minnesingers in Tannhiiuser.
The poem was finished during a temporary stay
at Paris in the winter of 1861-62. Me.«srs. Schott
of Mayence secured the copyright of the new
work, and the poem was printed in i S62 for private
cii-culation.^ W'agner settled opposite Mayence at
Biebrich-am-Rhein to proceed with the music.
On the 1st November of the same year (1S62) he
appeared at a concert given by Weudaiin Weiss-
heimer in the Gewandhaus at Leipzig, to conduct
the overture to Die Meisteisinger. — The writer,
who was present, distinctly remembers the half-
empty room, the almost complete absence of
professional musicians, the wonderful perfoi-m-
ance, and the enthusiastic demand for a repeti-
tion, in which the members of the orchestra took
part as much as the audience.

6 The final version differs considerably from this.



SC2



WAGNER.



That curious concert at Leipzig -was the first of a
long series of such absurd umiertukingj to which my
straitened means led me. At other towns the public nt
least appeared en masfe, and I could record an artistic
success; but it was not till I went to Kussia that the
pscuniary results were worth mentioning.

Dates of such concerts, at which he conducted
BeetbovenSyni phonies, fragments of theNibelun-
gen and Die Meistersinger, etc., are Dec. 26,
1862, and first weeks in Jan. 1863, Vienna; Feb.
8, Prague; Feb. 19, March 6, 8, St. Petersburg;
March, Moscow; July 23, 28, Pesth ; Nov.
14, 19, Karlsruhe, and a few days later Lowen-
berg ; Dec, 7, Breslau. At the end of Dec. 1 863.
at a concert of Carl Tausig's, he astonished the
Viennese public with the true traditional reading
of the overture to ' Der Freyscliiitz.' ^

In his 50th year (^whilst living at Penzing
near Vienna at work upon Die Meistersinger)
Wagner published the poem to Der King des
Nibelungen, 'as a literary product.' 'I can
hardly expect to find leisure to complete the
music, and I have dismissed all hope that I may
live to see it performed.' His private affairs went
from bad to worse. In the spring of 1864 his
power of resistance was almost broken ; he deter-
mined to give up his public career, and accepted
an invitation to a country home in Switzerland.

MuxicH and LucEKNE, 1S64-1S72 (set. 51-56).
The poem of Der Ring des Nibelungen, with its
preface, must have got into the hands of the young
King Ludvvig II. of Bavaria. The King was ac-
quainted with Beethoven's Symphonies, and in
his i6th year had heard Lohengrin. One of the
first acts of his reign was to despatch a piivate
secretary to find Wagner, with the message, 'Come
here and finish your work.' Wagner had already
left Vienna in despair — had passed through
Munich on his way to Zurich — and for some
reason h;id turned about to Stuttgart. The
secretary tracked and there found him. In !May
the Augsburger Allgeraeine Zeitung brought tlie
news that King Ludwig had allowed to the
composer Richard Wagner a ' Sustentationsgehalt
von 1 200 Gulden aus der Kabinetscasse ' (a sti-
pend of about £100, from the privy purse).
Here was relief at last. Wagner's hopes revived,
his enthusiasm returned and redoubled.

Jly creditors were quieted, I could go on with ray
wi irk, — and this noble younu man's trust made me happj-.
There have been many troubles since — not of mymaking
i\or of his— but in spite of them I am free to this day—
and by his grace.' ^1877,)

Cabals without end were speedily formed
atjainst Wagner — some indeed of a singularly
di-^graceful character ; and he found it impossible
to I'eside at Munich, although the King's favour
and protection remained unaltered.- There
can be no doubt that the Nibelungen Ring
would not have been completed, and that the
idea of Bayreuth would not have come to any
practical residt (the exertions of the Wagner
Societies notwithstanding) if it had not been for
the steady support of the royal good wishes and
the royal purse. It must sutfice here to indicate

1 See ' TJeber das Dirigiren,' and Glasenapp. ii. p. 113.

2 See Cilasenapp. ii. chap. 3, for true details regarding the extra
ordiuary means employed to oust Wagner.



WAGNER.

the dates and events which are biograiihicallj it
interesting. e

Waijner was naturalised as a Bavarian subjeci i
in 1S64. He settled in Munich, and composed ri
the ' Huldigungsmarsch' for a military band;^ ai J
the King's request he wrote an essaj', ' Uebei it
Staat und Religion,* and the report concerning a ii
' German music school to be established at Mu- '/
nich (March 31, 1S65). In the autumn of 1S64 d
he was formally commissioned to complete the !
Nibelungen ; and, further to ease his pecuniary
affairs, the stipend was increased,* and a little
house in the outskirts of Munich, •' bevor den
Propylaen' was placed at his disposal.' Dec. 4,
1S64, the Hollander was given lor the first time
at Munich ; Dec. 11, Jan. i, and Feb. i, 1865,
Wagner conducted concerts there. In Jan. 1 865
his friend Semper the architect, was con-
sulted by the King about a theatre to be erected
for the Nibelungen. With a view to the per-
formance of Tristan, von Blilow was called to
Munich, and under his direction, Wagner super-
vising, the work was performed, exactly as
Wagner wrote it, on June 10, 1865, and repeated
June 13 and 19 and July i — Tristan, Ludwig
Schnorr v. Carolsfeld;^ Isolde, Frau Schnons
In July 1865 the old Conserv'atorium was closed
by the King's orders, and a commission began t4
deliberate as to the means of carrying out Wag>
ner's proposals for a new ' music school.' But
nothing tangible came of this ; owing, it would
seem, to ill-will on the part of Franz Lachnei
and other Munich musicians, and also, as was
alleged, to the insufficiency of the available
funds.^ In December 1865 Wagner left Munich
and settled, after a short stay at Vevey and
Geneva, at Triebschen near Lucerne, where he
remained with little change until he removed to
Bayreuth in April 1872. At Triebschen, the
Meistersinger was completed (full score finished
Oct. 20, 1867), twenty-two years after the first
sketches! (seeo;(/e). Hans Richter arrived there
in Oct. 1 866 to copy the .score, and the sheets were
at once sent off to Mayence to be engra\ed.

The ' Meistersinger ' was performed at Munich,
under von Blilow (H. Richter chorusmaster),
Wagner personally supervising everything, on
June 21, 1868 — Eva, Frl. Mallinger ; Magdelena,
Frau Dietz ; Hans Sachs, Betz ; Walther, Nach-
bauer ; David, Schlosser ; Beckmesser, Holzel-
perfect performance ; the best that has hitherto
been given of any work of the master's, Parsifal
at Bayreuth not excepted.

Before Wagner had quite done with the Meis-
tersinger he published a series of articles in the
'Siiddeutsche Presse ' (one of the chief editors ol
which was his former Dresden colleague Musik-
direktor Aug.Roeckel) entitled 'Deutsche Kunst
und Deutsche Politik.'

During the quiet residence at Triebschen,
the unfinished portion of The Ring progressed

3 Xot published in that form.

4 The exact amount has not been made ptiblic.
6 n was returned to the K. Kabinetscassa in 1866.

6 Schnorr died .suddenly at Dresden on Jul.v21, lB6'i.and Tristu
was again 'impossible' until Herr and Frau Vogl sang it in June 180).

7 The present Conservatorium. opened under v. Biilow in 1867, ii
practically the old institution, and dues uot carry out Wagner's ideas,



WAGNER.



WAGNER.



363



adily. Early in 1869 the instrumentation of
! third Act of Siegfried was completed, and the
uposition of the Vorspiel and first Act of Got-
dammerung finished, June 1870.
^ug. 25, 1870, is the date of Wagner's mar-
Lje to Cosima von Biilow nee Liszt ; his first
fe, Minna Wagner, having died Jan. 25, 1S66 ;
er close upon 25 years of married life she had
ired to Dresden in 18 61.

[S69 he published ' Ueber das Dirigiren' in
! Neue Zeitschrift fiir Musik. 'Beethoven'
3eared in September 1870, during the Franco-
lassian War. The King's plan to build a special
iatre for the Nibelungen Ring at Munich
ng abandoned,^ Wagner fixed upon Bayreuth.
Batreuth (1872). The municipality of this
•le Franconian town did its best to further
igner's objects ; he left Triebschen and settled
ire in April, and on his 60th birthday May 22,
J2, he was able to celebrate the foundation of

theatre with a magnificent performance of
ethoven's Choral Symphony and his own Kai-
marsch. A large portion of the funds was got
;ether by private subscription. The sum ori-
lally estimated, 300,000 thalers (£45,000), was
be raised in accordance with Carl Tausig's plan
on 1000 ' Patronatsscheine,' i.e. loco certifi-
es of patronage, each entitling tlie holder to
seat at the three complete performances
itemplated. [See Tausig, vol. iv. p. 64.] A
isiderable number of these were taken up before
usig's death ; then Emil Heckel of Mannheim
jgested ' Wagner Societies,' and started one
Qself. It appeared at once that all over Ger-
.ny there were numbers of people who were
idy to contribute their share of work and
mey, but to whom individually the 300 thalers
ced for by Tausig would have been impossible,
eieties sprang up on all sides — not only in
rman towns, but in the most unexpected
arters — St. Petersburg, Warsaw, New York,
nsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Siockholm, Cairo,
ilan, London,^ etc.

In connection with the efforts of the societies,
agner conducted concerts at Mannheim,
enna, Hamburg, Schwerin, Berlin, Cologne,
;. In Nov. 1874 the instrumentation of
itterdammerung was completed ; and prelim-
iry rehearsals with the vocalists had already
oduced satisfactory results. The ensemble
iearsals, with full orchestra, in the summer

1875 under Hans Richter (Wagner always
esent) left no doubt as to the possibility of

performance in exact accordance with the
ister's intentions. The scenery and stage-
Jichinery promised well, and the effects of
nority in the auditorium proved excellent.
It had at first been a matter of some doubt
lether the invisible orchestra would answer
r the more subtle effects of orchestration ;
it it turned out eventually that all details
jre perfectly audible ; and, moreover, that cer-

Eheingold ana Walkiire were performed at the Munich Hof-
later in ]869 and 70 respectively.

The London Wagner Society's Orchestral Concerts took place
t). 19. 27, May 9. Nov. 14, Uec 12, 1&73 ; and Jan. 23, Feb. 13,
rch 13, May 13, li>74.



tain shortcomings of our customary orchestra-
arrangements had been removed. Flutes,
oboes, clarinets, and bassoons were heard more
distinctly, and the explosive blare which ordi-
narily seems inseparable from a sudden forte
of trumpets and trombones, was less apparent.
It may be well here to record the disposition of
the Nibelungen orchestra: — conductor (quite in-
visible from the auditorium) facing the orchestra
and the stage ; to left of him, ist violins ; to right,
2nd violins ; violas near violins ; violoncellos and
basses flanking to left and right ; in the middle
of the orchestra, somewhat nearer the stage, the
wood-winds; behind these again, partially under
the stage, the brass and percussion instruments.
Total, exclusive of conductor, 114.

A notion of the auditorium may be gained by
fancying a wedge, the thin end of which is sup-
posed to touch the back of tlie stage, the thick
end the back of the auditorium ; the seats arranged
in a slight curve, each row further from the stage
raised a little above the one in front of it, and the
several seats so placed that every person seated
can look at the stage between the heads of two
persons before him ; all seats directly facing the
stage ; no side boxes or side galleries, no prompter's
box. Total number of seats 1,500 ; a little over
1,000 for the patrons, the rest, about 500, for
distribution gratis to young musicians, etc.

In November and December 1875 Wagner
superintended rehearsals of Tannhiiuser and
Lohengrin at Vienna, which were performed,
'without cuts,' on Nov. 22 and Dec. 15. Tristan,
also under his supervision, was given at Berlin
on March 20, 1876.

At last, 28 years after its first conception —
on Aug. 13, 14, 16, 17, again from 20-23, and
from 27-30, 1876 — Der Ring des Nibelungen was
performed entire at Bayreuth. Wotan, Betz ;
Loge, Vogel; Alberich, Hill; Mime, Schlosser ;
Fricka, Frau Griin; Donner and Gunther, Gura;
Erda and Waltraute, Frau Ja'ide ; Siegmund,
Niemann ; Sieglinde, Frl. Schefzky ; Briinn-
liilde, Frau Materna ; Siegfried, Unger ; Hagen,
Siehr ; Gutrune, Frl. Weckerlin ; Rheintochter,
Frl. Lili and Marie Lehman and Frl. Lammert.
Leader of strings, Wilhelmj ; Conductor, Hans
Richter. From a musical point of view the per-
formances were correct throughout — in many
instances of surpassing excellence ; sundry short-
comings on the stage were owing more to want of
money than to anything else. In spite of the sacri-
fices readily made by each and all of the artists
concerned, there was a heavy deficit, £7500, the
responsibility for which pressed upon Wagner. He
had hoped to be able to repeat the performances
in the following summer; this proved impossible,
and his efforts to discharge the debts of the
theatre failed for the most part. The largest of
these efforts, the so-called Wagner Festival at
the Albert Hall in London, 1877, came near to
involving him in further difficulties.

London, May 1877. Herr Wilhelmj be-
lieved that a series of concerts on a large
scale under Wagner's personal supervision would
pay; but the sequel proved all too clearly that



364



WAGNER.



his acquaintance with the ins and outs of musical
matters in London was superficial.^ Messrs.
Hodge and Essex of Argyll Street acted as
' entrepreneurs.' The Albert Hall was chosen,
and six prodigious programmes were advertised
for the 7th, 9th, 12th, 14th, 16th and 19th May.
Copious extracts, of his own making, from all
his works were to represent and illustrate Wagner
as poet and composer : selections from Kienzi, the
Hollander, Tannhiiuser, Lohengrin, Meistersin-
ger, Tristan, in the first part of the programmes ;
and from Der King des Nibelungen in the second
part. An orchestra of 170 (wood-winds double)
and several of the sinoers who had taken leading
parts at Bayreuth (Frau Materna, Frau Griin,
Herren Hill, Schlosser, linger), besides sundry
subordinates, were engaged; Wagner himself was
to conduct the first half of each programme,
and Hans Eichter the second. The expenditure
for advertisements and salaries to vocalists was
lavish ; the attendance, though always large,
nothing like what had been anticipated ; the
result of the six concerts, a difficulty in making
both ends meet. Thereupon the 'undertakers'
were persuaded to try again : that is, to give
two further concerts (May 28 and 29) with a
minimum of expenditure all round, reduced
jirices, and programmes made u}) of the most
telling pieces. This saved the venture, and
enabled Wagner to forward a little over £700
to Bayreuth. After his departure, and without
his knowledge, an attempt was made to get up
a testimonial. A considerable sum was speedily
subscribed, but before it reached him 'another
way out of the difficulty had been found' — viz.
that the honorarium and fantihnes to come
from performances of The Ring at Munich
should be set aside to cover the debt of
the Bayreuth theatre — and the promoters of
the testimonial had the satisfaction of return-
ing the contributions with a warm letter of
thanks from Wagner ' to his English friends.' "
During this third residence in London (April 30
to June 4) Wagner resided at 1 2 Orme Square,
Bays water.

' Erinnerungen,' he wrote from Ems on June
29, 'so weit sie sich niclit auf die Ausii-
bung meiner kleinen Kunstfertiglceiten beziehen,
herrlich.' The expression 'kleine Kunstfertig-
keiten' (little artistic attainments") was a hint
at his conducting at the Albert Hall, which
had been a good deal commented upon.
Was Wagner really a great conductor ? There
can be no doubt that he was ; particularly with
regard to the works of Weber and Beethoven.
His perfect sympathy with these led him to find
the true tempi as it were by intuition.^ He
was thoroughly at home in the orchestra, though

I The writer, whose name has been mentioned in Glasenapp's Eio-
praphy and elsewhere in connection with this 'London episode,*
desires to state tliat he had nothing whatever to do with the
planning of the 'festival,' nor with tlie Ijusiness arrangements. All he
did was to attend to the completion of the orchestra with regard to
the 'extra' wind instruments, and at Wagner's request to conduct
the preliminary rehearsals.

- (Aug. 22, 1S77.) 'Strange things happen in the realms of musici
wrote a surprised subscriber.

3 See the striking testimony of the veteran violoncellist Dotrauer
and of Weber's widow as to Der Freyschtttz. in 'UeberdasDirigireu.'



WAGNER.

he had never learnt to play upon any orchestr
instrument. He had an exquisite sense f
beauty of tone, nuances of tempo, precision ar
proportion of rhythm. His beat was distinc
and his extraordinary power of commvmicatir
his enthusiasm to the executants never faile
The writer v/as present at one of the r/re.
occasions when he appeared as conductor-
the rehearsals and performance of the Nin1
Symphony at Bayreuth, May 22, 1872 — and fe
that for spirit, and perfection of phrasing,
was the finest musical performance within tl
whole range of his experience.* But at the Albe
Hall Wagner did not do himself justice. H
strength was already on the wane. The r
hearsals fatigued him, and he was frequent
faint in the evening. His memory played hi
ti'icks, and his beat was nervous. Still the
were moments when his great gifts appeared
of old. Those who witnessed his conducting
the ' Kaisermarscb ' at tlie first rehearsal ]
attended (May 5) will never forget the supe
effect.

Wagner brought the manuscript of the poe
of 'Parsifal' with him to London, and read
for the first time entire to a circle of friends
Orme Square (May 17). It was published
Dec. 1S77.

A plan for a sort of school for the performan
of classical orchestral music, together with cla
sical operas, and ultimately of his own wor
at Bayreuth, came to nothing. Greatly agair
his wi.sh he was obliged to permit Der Ring d
Nibelungen to take its chance at the Germi
theatres. The first number of 'Bayreuther Bis
ter,' a monthly periodical edited by Herr v
Wolzogen and published by and for the Wagn
Verein, appeared in January 1S78. Wagm
whilst at work upon Parsifal, found time to co
tribute a delightful series of essays : ' Was
Deutsch?' 'Modern'; 'Publikum und Pop



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 86 of 194)