Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/384

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


868

��WAGNER.

��first the mediaeval romance and its offspring the modern novel; secondly the Greek drama, or rather the formal essence thereof as given by Aristotle in his Poetics. He points to the plays of Shakespeare as being for the most part dra- matised stories, and to those of Racine as con- structed on the lines of Aristotle. In the course of the argument, the works of Schiller and Goethe are examined, and the conclusion is arrived at that historical subjects present special difficulties to the dramatist. 'The modern stage appeals to our sensuous perceptions rather than to the imagination.' Thus, Schiller was overburdened with the mass of historical facts in his Wallen- stein ; whereas ' Shakespeare, appealing to the spectator's imagination, would have represented the entire thirty years war in the time occupied by Schiller's trilogy.' An interesting parallel is drawn between the rhetorical art of Racine and Gluck's opera. Racine puts forward the motives for action, and the effects of it, without the action proper. ' Gluck's instincts prompted him to translate Racine's tirade into the aria' In view of the difficulties experienced by Goethe and Schiller in their efforts to fuse historical matter and poetic form, Wagner asserts that mythical subjects are best for an ideal drama, and that music is the ideal language in which such subjects are best presented. In the Third part he shows that it is only the wonderfully rich development of music in our time, totally unknown to earlier centuries, which could have brought about the possibility of a musical drama such as he has in view. The conclusions arrived at in 'Oper und Drama* are again discussed in his lecture ' On the destiny of the Opera,' where particular stress is laid on the fact that music is the informing element of the new drama. Further statements regarding the main heads of the argument of the concluding part of 'Oper und Drama,' and of the lecture ' Ueber die Bestim- mung der Oper,' will be found incorporated later on in this article, where details as to Wagner's method and practice as playwright and musician are given.

Nineteen years after his ' Oper und Drama ' Wagner published 'Beethoven' (1870). This work contains his contributions towards the metaphysics of music, if indeed such can be said to exist. It is based on Schopenhauer's view of music ; l which that philosopher candidly admitted to be incapable of proof, though it satisfied him. Wagner accepts it and supple- ments it with quotations from Schopenhauer's ' Essay on Visions and matters connected there- with,' a which contains equally problematic matter. Apart, however, from metaphysics, the work is an ' exposition of the author's thoughts on the significance of Beethoven's music.' It should be read attentively.

One of the finest of his minor publications, and to a professional musician perhaps the most instructive, is ' Ueber das Dirigiren ' (On Con-

l 'Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung* (1818), vol. L J 52. Ibid, vol. 11. chap. 39.

2 'Parerga und Paraltpomena,' Berlin 1851. (See the appendix to the English translation of ' Beethoven.'}

��WAGNER.

ducting), a treatise on style ; giving his views as to the true way of rendering classical music, with minute directions how to do it and how not to do it, together with many examples in musical type from the instrumental works of Beethoven, Weber, Mozart, etc. 3

Zum Vortrag der Qten Symphonie,' is of great interest to students of instrumentation.

The general reader will be interested in Wag- ner's smaller essays and articles: 'Zukunftsmusik,' 'Ueber die Bestimmung der Oper,' 'Ueber das Dichten und Komponiren,' ' Ueber das Opern- Dichten und Komponiren im Besonderen,' and especially in his graphic ' Erinnerungen,' recollec- tions of contemporaries, Spohr, Spontini, Rossini, Auber. Three of the latter are excerpts from his 'Lebenserinnerungen' apparently impro- visations, showing the master-hand in every touch, valuable for their width of range and exquisite fidelity. Intending readers had better begin with these and ' Ueber das Dirigiren.'

III. Regarding Wagner's weight and value as a musician it is enough to state that his technical powers, in every direction in which a dramatic composer can have occasion to show them, were phenomenal. He does not make use of Bach's forms, nor of Beethoven's ; but this has little if anything to do with the matter. Surely Bach would salute the composer of 'Die Meister- singer' as a contrapuntist, and the poet-composer of the ' Eroica ' and the ' Pastorale ' would greet the author of ' Siegfried ' and of ' Siegfrieds Tod.' Wagner is best compared with Beethoven. Take Schumann's saying, ' you must produce bold, ori- ginal and beautiful melodies,' as a starting-point, and supplement it with 'you must also produce bold and beautiful harmonies, modulations, con- trapuntal combinations, effects of instrumenta- tion.' Let excerpts be made under these heads from Beethoven's mature works, and a similar number of examples be culled from ' Die Meister- singer,' 'Tristan,' and the 'Nibelungen' could it be doubtful that the aspect of such lists would be that of a series of equivalents? and as for originality, who can study the score of ' Tristan ' and find it other than original from the first bar to the last?

Wagner's musical predilections may, perhaps, be best shown by a reference to the works that were his constant companions, and by a record of a few of his private sayings. Everyday friends, household words with him, were Bee- thoven's Quartets, Sonatas, and Symphonies ; Bach's ' Wohltemperirtes Clavier'; Mozart's ' Zauberflote,' 'Entfuhrung,' ' Figaro,' and 'Don Juan'; Weber's ' Freyschiitz,' and 'Euryanthe"; and Mozart's Symphonies in Eb, G minor, and C. He was always ready to point out the beauties of these works, and inexhaustible in supporting his assertions with quotations from them.

% Give me Beethoven's quartets and sonatas for In- timate communion, his overtures and symphonies for public performance. I look for homogeneity of mate- rials, and equipoise of means and ends. Mozart's music and Mozart's orchestra are a perfect match:

  • See the English translation 'On Conducting.' London, 1886.

�� �