Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/363

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WAGNER.

seems to have been comparatively slow, still his gifts attracted attention. I was considered good in litteris.' At German verses he was unusually quick. The boys were asked to write commemora- tive verses on the death of a schoolfellow, and after the removal of much bombast Richard's were printed (set. 1 1). 'I was now bent upon be- coming a poet ; I sketched tragedies in Greek form in imitation of Apel's Polyeidos,' ' Die Aeto- lier,' etc. I attempted a metrical translation of Romeo's monologue, by way of learning English, etc.' German versions of Shakespeare were then, as now, much read. The boy's fancy was excited, and he secretly began a grand tragedy (jet. 14). It was made up of Hamlet and Lear, forty-two men died in the course of it, and some of them had to return as ghosts so as to keep the fifth act going. Weber's music also took hold of him. He knew the airs from Der Freyschiitz by heart, and played the overture ' with atrocious finger- ing.' 'When Weber passed our house on his way to the theatre, I used to watch him with something akin to religious awe.'

It appears that Weber now and then stepped in to have a chat with the delicate-featured and intelligent Frau Geyer. * Her sweet ways and lively disposition had a special charm for artists/ But the pleasant life at Dresden was not to last long. Geyer's salary had been a small one, and soon after his decease pecuniary troubles arose. Three of the grown-up children took to the theatre, and when the elder sister Rosalie got a good engagement as ' erste Liebhaberin' at Leipzig, the mother followed with the younger members of the family. Richard attended the Kreuzschule till the autumn of 1 82 7, and entered the Nicolaischule at Leipzig early in the following year (set. 15). The change proved unfortunate. He had sat in ' Secunda ' at Dresden, and was now put back to ' Tertia ' ; his feelings were hurt, and he came to dislike the school and the masters. ' I grew negligent, and scamped the work ; nothing interested me except my big tragedy.' At the Gewandhaus Concerts he first heard Beethoven's symphonies, and the impres- sion upon him ' was overwhelming.' Music such as that to Egmont appeared to be the very thing needful for the tragedy. He found a copy of Logier's 'Thorough-bass' at a circulating library, and studied it assiduously; but some- how the 'System' could not be turned to account. At length a master was engaged, Gottlieb Muller, subsequently organist at Alten- burg; Richard composed a quartet, a sonata, and an aria, under his guidance ; but it does not appear how far Muller was really responsible for these pieces. The lessons did not last long. Muller thought his pupil wilful and eccentric, and in return was accounted a stupid pedant. The ferment in Richard's mind now took a literary direction. The writings of E. T. A. Hoffmann engrossed his attention, and it is curious to note that so early as in his i6th year he became acquainted with some of the subjects which he treated later on. Thus, Hoffmann's

  • Serapions Briider,' in vol. ii., contains a story

��WAGNER.

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��about the legendary contest of ' Meistersin- ger' (Hoffman s misnomer for 'Minnesinger') at Wartburg (2nd Act of Tannhauser) ; and sundry germs of Wagner's ' Meistersinger ' are to be found in Hoffmann's ' Meister Martin der Kufer von Nurnberg.' Ludwig Tieck's narrative poem 'Tannhauser' was read at the same time. A performance of Beethoven's Pastoral Sym- phony led to an attempt at a musical pastoral, the dramatic aspect of which was suggested by Goethe's 'Laune des Verliebten.' In 1829-30 Richard attended the 'Thomasschule' with re- sults little more satisfactory than at the 'Nicolai.' Practically his philological studies went no further ; ' I chose to write overtures for grand orchestra, and to bluster about politics with young litterati like Heinrich Laube.' An over- ture (in Bb, 6-8) was performed under H. Dorn at the theatre between the acts of a play (1830, set. 17). 'This was the culminating point of my absurdities. The public was fairly puzzled by the persistence of the drum-player, who had to give a tap fortissimo every four bars from be- ginning to end ; people grew impatient, and finally thought the thing a joke.' 1

When he matriculated at the University of Leipzig (1830), Wagner had the good luck to find a proper master, Theodor Weinlig, Cantor at the Thomasschule, an admirable musician and a kindly intelligent man, who at once gained his pupil's confidence and led him in the right direction. Wagner felt deeply indebted to Weinlig, and held his memory in great esteem. In 1877 he spoke at length about the- lessons :

Weinlig had no special method, but he was clear- headed and practical. Indeed you cannot teach com- position, you may show how music gradually came to be what it is, and thus guide a young man's judgment, but this ia historical criticism, and cannot directly result in practice. All you can do is, to point to some working example, some particular piece, set a task in that direction, and correct the pupil's work. This is what Weinlig did with me. He chose a piece, gener- ally something of Mozart's, drew attention to its con- struction, relative length and balance of sections, prin- cipal modulations, number and quality of themes, and general character of the movement. Then he set the task : you shall write about so many bars, divide into so many sections with modulations to correspond so and so, the themes shall be so many, and of such and such a character. Similarly he would set contrapuntal ex- ercises, canons, fugues he analysed an example mi- nutely and then gave simple directions how I was to go to work. But the true lesson consisted in his patient and careful inspection of what had been written. With infinite kindness he would put his finger on some defective bit and explain the why and wherefore of the alterations he thought desirable. I readily saw what he was aiming at, and soon managed to please him. He dismissed me, saying, you have learnt to stand on your own legs. My experience of young musicians these forty years has led me to think that music should be taught all round on such a simple plan. With singing, playing, composing, take it at whatever stage you like, there is nothing so good as a proper example, and careful correction of the pupil's attempts to follow- that example. I made this the basis of my plan for the reorganisation of the Music-school at Munich, etc. 2

The course with Weinlig lasted barely sir

l Antoblographlsche Skizze.

a These and other words of Wagner's, printed In small type, and not otherwise authenticated, were uttered in conversation with th writer in the spring aud summer of 1877. and are here first mad* public.

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