Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/380

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


364

��WAGNER.

��his acquaintance with the ins and outs of musical matters in London was superficial. 1 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, I2th, i4th, i6th and ipth May. Copious extracts, of his own making, from all his works were to represent and illustrate Wagner as poet and composer : selections from Rienzi, the Hollander, Tannhauser, Lohengrin, Meistersin- ger, Tristan, in the first part of the programmes ; and from Der Ring des Nibelungen in the second part. An orchestra of 1 70 (wood-winds double) and several of the singers who had taken leading parts at Bayreuth (Frau Materna, Frau Griin, Herren Hill, Schlosser, Unger), besides sundry subordinates, were engaged; Wagner himself was to conduct the first half of each programme, and Hans Richter 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 footh 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 prices, and programmes made up 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 tantiemes 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.' 2 During this third residence in London (April 30 to June 4) Wagner resided at 12 Orme Square, Bayswater.

' Erinnerungen,' he wrote from Ems on June 39, 'so weit sie sich nicht auf die Ausii- bung meiner kleinen Kunstfertigkeiten beziehen, foeniich.' 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 <:an 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. 3 He was thoroughly at home in the orchestra, though

1 The writer, whose name has been mentioned In Glasenapp's Bio- graphy and elsewhere In connection with this 'London episode,' desires to state that he had nothing whatever to do with the planning of the 'festival,' nor with the business 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.

2 (Aug. 22, 1877.) ' Strange things happen in the realms of music, wrote a surprised subscriber.

3 See the striking testimony of the veteran violoncellist Dotzauer

  • nd of Weber's widow as to Der Freyschutz. in Ueber das Dlrigiren.'

��WAGNER.

he had never learnt to play upon any orchestral instrument. He had an exquisite sense for beauty of tone, nuances of tempo, precision and proportion of rhythm. His beat was distinct, and his extraordinary power of communicating his enthusiasm to the executants never failed. The writer was present at one of the great occasions when he appeared as conductor the rehearsals and performance of the Ninth Symphony at Bayreuth, May 22, 1872 and felt that for spirit, and perfection of phrasing, it was the finest musical performance within the whole range of his experience.* But at the Albert Hall Wagner did not do himself justice. His strength was already on the wane. The re- hearsals fatigued him, and he was frequently faint in the evening. His memory played him tricks, and his beat was nervous. Still there were moments when his great gifts appeared as of old. Those who witnessed his conducting of the ' Kaisermarscb ' at the first rehearsal he attended (May 5) will never forget the superb effect.

Wagner brought the manuscript of the poem of ' Parsifal ' with him to London, and read it for the first time entire to a circle of friends at Orme Square (May 17). It was published in Dec. 1877.

A plan for a sort of school for the performance of classical orchestral music, together with clas- sical operas, and ultimately of his own works at Bayreuth, came to nothing. Greatly against his wish he was obliged to permit Der Ring des Nibelungen to take its chance at the German theatres. The first number of 'Bayreuther Blat- ter,' a monthly periodical edited by Herr von Wolzogen and published by and for the Wagner Verein, appeared in January 1878. Wagner, whilst at work upon Parsifal, found time to con- tribute a delightful series of essays : ' Was ist Deutsch?' 'Modern'; 'Publikum und Popu- laritat'; 'Das Publikum in Zeit und Raum' 1878; 'Wollen wir hoffen ?' 'Ueber das Dich- ten und Komponiren' ; ' Ueber das Opern-Dichten und Komponiren im Besonderen'; 'Ueber die Anwendung der Musik auf das Drama,' 1879. A more elaborate work, a sort of comment upon the ethical and religious doctrine of Par- sifal, 'Religion und Kunst,' with its sequel, 'Was nutzt diese Erkenntniss ? ' 'Erkenne dich selbst,' and ' Heldenthum und Chris tenthum ' (i 880-81), he did not live to finish a fragment only of the concluding part was written in 1883. It is given under the heading 'Ueber das Weibliche im Menschlichen,' in a posthumous publication, ' Entwnrfe, Gedanken, Fragmente, aus nachgelassene Papieren zusammengestellt ' (Leipzig, Sept. 1885), pp. 125-129.

Wagner began the music to Parsifal in his sixty- fifth year. The sketch of the first act was com- pleted early in the spring of 1878, and the greater part of the second act by the middle of June (completed on Oct. n); the third act was begun after Christmas, and completed

For Interesting particulars concerning it see H. Forge's ' Ueber die Aufftthrung der neunten Symphonic unter B. Wagner in Bayreuth.'

�� �