Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/370

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354

��WAGNER.

��were deeply touched, others simply aston- ished. Schumann's Zeitschrift reported that Mme. Devrient's Senta ' was the most original representation she has perhaps ever given.' Wagner's own words tend to show that she made too much of her part ; the rest, especially the representative of the Hollander, Wachter, too little, and that in spite of applause and recalls the performance was unsatisfactory. The work was repeated in due course, and never quite disappeared from the repertoire. 1 The poem was submitted to Spohr, who pronounced it 'a little masterpiece,' and asked for the music, which he conducted at Cassel June 5, 1843. 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 Ltider, 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 pro 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 Capellmeister Morlacchi (1841) and of Musik- director Rastrelli (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 Luttichau the 'Intendant' supported him, and in the end he was appointed Hofcapellmeister with a salary of 1500 thalers (22$)? Jan. 10, 1843, he gave the customary ' trial performance ' by rehears- ing and conducting Weber's ' Euryanthe ' ; and, whilst the rival candidate, Schindelmeisser, was 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

��> On Hay 22, 1843. It was given at Riga ; in 1844 at 'Berlin.

2 At court theatres in Germany the title Hof-Capellmeister usually Implies an appointment for life, with a retiring pension In propor- tion to salary and duration of service.

��WAGNER.

the first of Wagner's official acts to assist Berlioz at the rehearsals for his concerts. 3

Wagner had scruples as to whether he would prove the right man for the place. With every appearance of reason his wife and friends urged that no one in his circumstances could afford to slight a permanent appointment with a fixed salary. No doubt he would have been the right man if the 'Konigliche sachsische Hof-Opern- theater ' had in reality been what it professed to be an institution subsidised for the sake of art. But the words ' Operatic Theatre, Royal and sub- sidised' or otherwise, and 'Art for Art's sake,' convey widely divergent notions . Wagner had experience enough to know as much. He held his peace, however, and accepted ' froh und freudig ward ich koniglicher Kapellmeister.' The duties were heavy : performances every evening all the year round at least three plays, and generally three, sometimes four operas per week besides the music at the Hofkirche and occasional concerts at Court. The Musik-director led at the plays, and looked after the church-music on week-days ; the two Kapellmeisters conducted at church on Sundays and festivals, and each was responsi- ble for certain operas. During his seven years' service Wagner rehearsed and conducted Eury- anthe, Freyschiitz, Don Juan, Zauberflote, Cle- menza di Tito, Fidelio ; Spontini's La Vestale, Spohr's Jessonda, Marschner's Hans Heiling and Adolf von Nassau, Winter's Unterbrochenes Opferfest, Mendelssohn's Sommernachtstraum and Antigone, Gluck's Armida, etc. He made a special arrangement of Iphigenie in Aulis, per- formed Feb. 22, 1847, in which he revised the text, retouched the instrumentation, condensed certain bits, added sundry connecting links, and changed the close. The arrangement has been published, and is now generally adopted. At the 4 Pensionsconcerte ' given by the 'Hofcapelle'his reading of Beethoven's Symphonies, Eroica, C minor, A major, and F major, and particularly of the Choral Symphony, attracted 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 la boys. The accompaniments were played by a full orchestra, on festive occasions as many as 50 performers, 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 prepared Palestrina's Stabat Mater, and suggested other pieces, but my efforts failed.' *

Pee Berlioz's letter to D'Ortigue Feb. 28. 1843 (Corresponded* and Memoires), Lettre a Ernst.

  • In conversation with the writer. The German translation of the

Stabat Mater given in Wagner's edition ii by the late C. Bledel.

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