Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/375

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of Wagner's are strictly applicable, not only to Lohengrin, but to the first performances of every subsequent work of his : ' Musicians had no ob- jection to my dabbling in poetry, poets admitted my musical attainments ; I have frequently been able to rouse the public ; professional critics have always disparaged me.' Lohengrin was given at Wiesbaden, 1853 ; at Leipzig, Schwerin, Frank- furt, Darmstadt, Breslau, Stettin, 1854; at Co- logne, Hamburg, Riga, Prague, 1855 ; Munich, Vienna, 1858; Berlin, Dresden, 1859. The full score, and the Clavierauszug (by Th. TJhlig) were sold for a few hundred thalers to Breitkopf & Hartel, and published in 1852.

Wagner fitly closed the literary work of this period with the publication of a letter to the editor of the Neue Zeitschrift 'Ueber musicalische Kritik,* and of 'Eine Mittheilung an meine Freunde ' (1852). Written simultaneously with Oper und Drama,' the latter production forms the preface to three operatic poems ('Hollander,' 'Tannhauser,' and 'Lohengrin'); it is a fasci- nating piece of psychological autobiography, in- dispensable fora right knowledge of his character. His magnum opus, ' Der King des Nibelungen ' now occupied him entirely.

When I tried to dramatise the most important moment of the mythos of the Nibelungen in Siegfried's Tod, I found it necessary to indicate a vast number of ante- cedent facts so as to put the main incidents in the proper light. But I could only narrate these subordinate matters whereas I felt it imperative that they should be embodied in the action. Thus I came to write Siegfried. But here again the same difficulty troubled me. Finally I wrote Die WalkUre and Das Rheingold, and thus contrived to incorporate all that was needful to make the action tell its own tale. 1

The poem was privately printed early in 1853. 'During a sleepless night at an inn at Spezzia the music to ' Das Kheingold ' occurred to me ; straightway I turned homeward and set to work.' 2 He advanced with astonishing rapidity. In May 1854 * ne score f 'Das Rheingold' was finished. In June he began ' Die Walkure,' and completed the composition all but the instru- mentation during the winter 1854-55. The full score was finished in 1856. The first sketches of the music to ' Siegfried ' belong to the autumn of 1854. In the spring of 1857 * ne ^ u ^ scor e of Act I of Siegfried, and of the larger part of Act II, was finished.

Up to this point there has been but few inter- ruptions to the work, viz. rehearsals and per- formances of Tannhauser at Zurich, Feb. 1855 ; an attack of erysipelas, May 1856; a prolonged visit from Liszt 3 (at St. Gallen, Nov. 3, 1856, Wagner conducted the Eroica, and Liszt his Poemes symphoniques, Orphe"e, and Les Pre- ludes) ; and the eight concerts of the Philhar- monic Society in London, March to June 1855.

In Jan. 1855, Mr. Anderson, one of the directors of the London Philharmonic Society, arrived at

1 The same thing is said more explicitly in 'Bine Mittheilung an meiiip Freunde.'

a Letter to Arrigo Boito. Nov. 7, 1871.

3 In a private letter to Dr. Gille of Jena referring to a subsequent jisit (Lucerne, 1867) Liszt writes: 'I am with Wagner all day long- bis Nibelungen music is a glorious new world which I bare long wished to know. Some day the coolest persons will grow enthu- siastic about it.' And again (1875. letter to Herr Gobbi of Pesth), The Ring of the Nibelungen rises above and dominates our entire art-epoch, as Mont Blanc dominates the surrounding mountains.'



��Zurich to invite Wagner to conduct the coming seasons' concerts. The society, it appeared, was at its wits' end for a conductor of reputation Spohr could not come, Berlioz was re-engaged t>y the New Philharmonic, and it had occurred to the directors that Wagner might possibly be the man they were in want of. Mr. Davison, of the Times ' and the ' Musical World,' and Mr. ihorley, of the ' Athenaeum,' thought otherwise. Wagner arrived in London towards the end of February. The dates of the concerts he con- ducted are: March 12 and 26, April 16 and 30, May 14 and 28, June n and 25, 1855.

A magnificent orchestra as far as the principal mem- bers go. Superb tone the leaders had the finest instru- ments I ever heard a strong esprit de corps but no distinct style. The fact is the Philharmonic people orchestra and audience consumed more music than they could possibly digest. As a rule an hour's music takes several hours' rehearsal how can any conductor with a Few morning hours at his disposal be supposed to do iustice to monster programmes such as the Directors put before me? two symphonies, two overtures, a concerto, and two or three vocal pieces at each concert ! The Direc- tors continuously referred me to what they chose to call the Mendelssohn traditions. But I suspect Mendelssohn tad simply acquiesced in the traditional ways of the society. One morning when we began to rehearse the Leonora overture I was surprised ; everything appeared dull, slovenly, inaccurate, as though the players were weary and had not slept for a week. Was this to be toler- ated from the famous Philharmonic Orchestra ? I stopped and addressed them in French, saying I knew what they could do and I expected them to do it. Some understood and translated they were taken aback, but they knew I was right and took it goodhumouredly. We began again and the rehearsal passed off well. I have every reason to believe that the majority of the artists really got to like me before I left London.

Among the pieces he conducted were Beetho- ven's 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, ;th, 8th, and gih Sym- phonies; Overture Leonora, no. 3, the 2nd PF. Concerto in Bb and the Violin Concerto; Mozart's Symphonies in Eb and C, and Overture Zauber- flote; Weber's Overtures Oberon, Freyschiitz, Eu- ryanthe, Ruler of the Spirits, and Preciosa ; Men- delssohn's ' Italian ' and ' Scotch ' Symphonies, the Overtures ' Isles of Fingal,' and ' A Mid- summer Night's Dream,' and the Violin Concerto ; Spohr's Symphony in C minor, Potter's in G minor; 4 the Overture to Tannhauser (twice), and a selection from Lohengrin (Introduction, Bridal procession, Wedding music, and Epitha- lamium). He occupied rooms at 31 Milton Street, Dorset Square, and at 22 Portland Terrace, Regent's Park, at which latter address a large portion of the instrumentation to 'Die Walkure ' was completed. Karl Klindworfch, 5 who had settled in London the previous year, and with whom Wagner became intimate, now began his pianoforte scores of the Nibelungen.

Whilst at work upon Die Walkure (1854) the stories of ' Tristan und Isolde ' and of ' Par- sifal ' had already taken possession of Wagner's mind, and the plan for Tristan was sketched. In the summer of 1857 he resolved to put aside Die Nibelungen and to proceed with Tristan. Various causes contributed to this resolution. He was tired 'of heaping one silent score upon the other,' tired of the monotony of the task too if he lived to finish it, how should his colossal

  • Chas. Lucas conducted his own symphony at the fourth concert,

s [See KLINDWOETH, vol. ii. p. 64.]

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