Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/371

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WAGNER.

There was an odd relic of bygone days there, a musico, a great fat soprano. I used to delight in his extreme conceit and silliness. On holidays and festivals he re- fused to sing unless some aria was especially set apart for him. It was quite wonderful to hear the ancient colossus trill that florid stuff of Basse's : a huge pud- ding, with a voice like a cracked cornet a piston. But lie had a virtue for which we may well envy him ; he could sing as much in one breath as any normal singer I ever met with in two. 1

Wagner became leader of the ' Liedertafel * (a choir of male voices established 1839) and was chosen conductor of the ' Mannergesangfest ' which took place in July 1843, and for which he wrote ' Das Liebesmahl der Apostel ' eine bi- blische Scene. This work requires three separate choirs of male voices, which begin & capella and are ultimately supported by the full orchestra. It is dedicated to Frau Charlotte Weinlig, ' der Wittwe seines unvergesslichen Lehrers.'

In 1844 the remains of C. M. v. Weber were exhumed and brought from London to Dresden. Wagner had taken an active part in the move- ment; and the musical arrangements for the solemn reception of the body and the interment, Dec. 14, were carried out under his direction.

Meantime Tannhauser was completed (April 13, 1844; first revision, Dec. 23 ; further revi- sion of close, Sept. 4, 1846). He bad worked at it arduously, and finished it with the greatest care ; so much so that he ventured to have the full score lithographed from his manu- script. In July 1845 he forwarded a copy to Carl Gaillard at Berlin with a long and in- teresting 2 letter: 'Pianoforte arrangement, etc., has already been prepared, so that on the day after the first performance I shall be quite free. I mean to be lazy for a year or so, to make use of my library and produce nothing .... If a dramatic work is to be significant and original it must result from a step in advance in the life and culture of the artist ; but such a step cannot be made every few months ! ' He desired to rest and read; but he returned from Teplitz after the summer holidays with sketches for ' Die Meistersinger ' and * Lohen- grin.' The first performance of ' Tannhauser ' took place at Dresden Oct. 19, 1845. It was not an unqualified success even the executants con- fessed themselves bewildered. Tichatschek sang the part of Tannhauser, Mme. Devrient that of Venus, Johanna Wagner (Richard Wagner's niece) that of Elizabeth, Mitterwurzer that of Wolfram. The scene in the Venusberg fell flat.

You are a man of genius,' said Mme. Devri- ent, 'but you write such eccentric stuff, it is hardly possible to sing it.' The second act, with the march, fared best ; the third act, with the

  • pointless and empty recitation of Tannhauser '

(i. e. the story of the pilgrimage to Rome which now holds people spellbound) was pronounced a bore. Critics discovered that Wagner had no melody, no form; 'this sort of music acts on the nerves.' ' A distressing, harassing subject'

i Inquiries at Dresden show that this Soprano. Hose Tarqulnio, was a member of the ' KOnigl. Sfichss. musical. Kapelle ' till April 30, 1845 ; also that Angelo Ciccarelli. another musico, acted as instructor to the choirboys, under Wagner. (This is due to the kindness of Heir Woritz Furstenau, custos of the Royal Library of Music at Dresden.)

a Quoted by Tappert in Musicalischei Wochenblatt, 1877, p. 411.

��WAGNER.

��355

��'art ought to be cheerful and consoling' ' why should not Tannhauser marry Elizabeth ?' 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 the public 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, 1848, 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), 'Hofopern- theater' Nov. 19, 1859; Paris March 13, 1861.

Spohr brought out 'Tannhauser' in 185 3.* '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, Lohengrin.' 6

About 1845-46 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 Kienzi and the Hollander. The pianoforte arrange- ment and the full score of Tannhauser were now

Selbstbiographle.il. 356.

  • Letter to Hauptmann, ibid.
  • Letter to Spohr, April 21, 1846.

It is curious to compare with these Just and generous words the following extracts from a letter of Schumann's written some years later (1853) and quoted by Herr Kastner (Richard Wagner Katalog). Wagner is, if I am to put it concisely, not a good musician (kein BUter Musiker) ; he is wanting in 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 uud widenvartijtf, etc,

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