The first performances of classical compositions with us have, as a rule, been very imperfect. (One has but to recall the accounts of the circumstances under which Beethoven's most difficult symphonies were first performed!). A good deal also has, from the first, been brought before the German public in an absolutely incorrect manner (compare my essay on "Gluck's Overture to Iphigenia in Aulis" in one of the earlier volumes of the "Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik.") [Footnote: Wagner. "Gessammelte Schriften." Vol. V.. p.143.] This being so, how can the current style of execution appear other than it is? In Germany the "conservators" of such works are both ignorant and incompetent. And, on the other hand, suppose one were to take an unprejudiced and impartial view of the manner in which a master like Mendelssohn led such works! How can it be expected that lesser musicians, not to speak of musical mediocrities generally, should really comprehend things which have remained doubtful to their master? For average people, who are not specially gifted, there is but one good guide to excellence—a good example; and a guiding example was not to be found in the path chosen by the host of mediocrities. Unfortunately, they entirely occupy this path or pass, at present,—without a guide or leader—and any other person who might, perchance, be capable of setting up a proper example, has no room left. For these reasons I deem it worth while to strip this spirit of reticence and shallow pretence of the halo of sanctity with which it poses as the "chaste spirit of German art." A poor and pretentious pietism at present stifles every effort, and shuts out every breath of fresh air from the musical atmosphere. At this rate we may live to see our glorious music turned into a colourless and ridiculous bug- bear!
I therefore think it advisable to take a straightforward survey of this spirit, to look closely into its eyes, and to openly assert that it has NOTHING in common with the true spirit of German music. It is not easy to estimate the positive weight and value of modern, Beethovenian, music—but we may perhaps hope to get at some negative proof of its worth, by an examination of the pseudo-Beethovenian-classicism now in the ascendant.
It is curious to note how the opposition to the things I advocate finds vent in the press, where uneducated scribblers clamour and create a disturbance, whilst in the profession proper, the utterances are far from noisy, though sufficiently bitter. ("You see he cannot express himself," a lady once said to me with a sly glance at one of these reticent musicians). As I have said at the outset this new musical Areopagus consists of two distinct species: Germans of the old type, who have managed to hold out in the South of Germany, but are now gradually disappearing; and the elegant Cosmopolites, who have arisen from the school of Mendelssohn in the North, and are now in the ascendant. Formerly the two species did not think much of each other; but latterly, in the face of certain disturbances which seem to threaten their nourishing business, they have united in mutual admiration; so that in the South the Mendelssohnian school, with all that pertains to it, is now lauded and protected—whilst, in the North, the prototype of South-German sterility is welcomed [Footnote: Franz Lachner and his Orchestral Suites.] with sudden and profound respect—an honour which Lindpaintner of blessed memory [Footnote: Peter Josef von Lindpainter, 1791-1856, Capellmeister at Stuttgart] did not live to see. Thus to ensure their prosperity the two species are shaking hands. Perhaps at the outset such an alliance was rather repugnant to those of the old native type; but they got over the difficulty by the aid of that not particularly laudable propensity of Germans: namely, a timid feeling of jealousy which accompanies a sense of helplessness (die mit der Unbeholfenheit verbundenc Scheelsucht). This propensity spoilt the temper of one of the most eminent German musicians of later times, [Footnote: Robert Schumann.] led him to repudiate his true nature, and to submit to the regulations of the elegant and alien second species. The opposition of the more subordinate musicians signifies nothing beyond this: "we cannot advance, we do not want others to advance, and we are annoyed to see them advance in spite of us." This is at least honest Philistinism; dishonest only under provocation.
In the newly-formed camp, however, things arc not so simple. Most complicated maxims have there been evolved from the queer ramifications of personal, social, and even national interests. Without going into details, I will only touch one prominent point, that HERE THERE IS A GOOD DEAL TO CONCEAL, A GOOD DEAL TO HIDE AND SUPPRESS. The members of the fraternity hardly think it desirable to show that they are "musicians" at all; and they have sufficient reason for this.
Our true German musician was originally a man difficult to associate with. In days gone by the social position of musicians in Germany, as in France and England, was far from good. Princes, and aristocratical society generally, hardly recognised the social status of musicians (Italians alone excepted). Italians were everywhere preferred to native Germans (witness the treatment Mozart met with at the Imperial Court at Vienna). Musicians remained peculiar half-wild, half-childish beings, and were treated as such by their employers. The education, even of the most gifted, bore traces of the fact that they had not really come under the influence of refined and intelligent society— (think of Beethoven when he came in contact with Goethe at Teplitz). It was taken for granted that the mental organisation of professional musicians was such as to render them insusceptible to the influence of culture. When Marschner, [Footnote: Heinrich Marschner, 1796-1861, operatic composer; Weber's colleague at Dresden, subsequently conductor at Leipzig and Hanover.] in 1848, found me striving to awaken the spirit of the members of the Dresden orchestra, he seriously dissuaded me, saying he thought professional musicians incapable of understanding what I meant. Certain it is, as I have already said, that the higher and highest professional posts were formerly occupied by men who had gradually risen from the ranks, and in a good journeyman-like sense this had brought about many an excellent result. A certain family feeling, not devoid of warmth and depth, was developed in such patriarchal orchestras— and this family feeling was ready to respond to the suggestions of a sympathetic leader. But just as, for instance, the Jews formerly kept aloof from our handicraftsmen, so the new species of conductors did not grow up among the musical guilds—they would have shrunk from the hard work there. They simply took the lead of the guilds—much as the bankers take the lead in our industrial society. To be able to do this creditably conductors had to show themselves possessed of something that was lacking to the musicians from the ranks—something at least very difficult to acquire in a sufficient degree, if it was not altogether lacking: namely, a certain varnish of culture (Gebildetheit). As a banker is equipped with capital, so our elegant conductors are the possessors of pseudo-culture. I say pseudo-culture, not CULTURE, for whoever really possesses the latter is a superior person and above ridicule. But there can be no harm in discussing our varnished and elegant friends.
I have not met with a case in which the results of true culture, an open mind and a free spirit, have become apparent amongst them. Even Mendelssohn, whose manifold gifts had been cultivated most assiduously, never got over a certain anxious timidity; and in spite of all his well-merited successes, he remained outside the pale of German art-life. It seems probable that a feeling of isolation and constraint was a source of much pain to him, and shortened his life. The reason for this is to be found in the fact that the motives of a desire for culture, such as his, lack spontaneity—(dass dem Motive eines solchen Bildungsdranges keine Unbefangenheit innewohnt)—and arise from a desire to cover and conceal some part of a man's individuality, rather than to develop it freely.
But true culture is not the result of such a process: a man may grow extremely intelligent in certain ways; yet the point at which these ways meet may be other than that of "pure intelligence" (reinschende Intelligenz). To watch such an inner process in the case of a particularly gifted and delicately organized individual is sometimes touching; in the case of lesser and more trivial natures however, the contemplation of the process and its results is simply nauseous.
Flat and empty pseudo-culture confronts us with a grin, and if we are not inclined to grin in return, as superficial observers of our civilization are wont to do, we may indeed grow seriously indignant. And German musicians now-a-days have good reason to be indignant if this miserable sham culture presumes to judge of the spirit and significance of our glorious music.
Generally speaking, it is a characteristic TRAIT of pseudo- culture not to insist too much, not to enter deeply into a subject or, as the phrase goes, not to make much fuss about anything. Thus, whatever is high, great and deep, is treated as a matter of course, a commonplace, naturally at everybody's beck and call; something that can be readily acquired, and, if need be, imitated. Again, that which is sublime, god-like, demonic, must not be dwelt upon, simply because it is impossible or difficult to copy. Pseudo-culture accordingly talks of "excrescencies," "exaggerations," and the like—and sets up a novel system of aesthetics, which professes to rest upon Goethe— since he, too, was averse to prodigious monstrosities, and was good enough to invent "artistic calm and beauty" in lieu thereof. "The guileless innocence of art" becomes an object of laudation; and Schiller, who now and then was too violent, is treated rather contemptuously; so, in sage accord with the Philistines of the day, a new conception of classicality is evolved. In other departments of art, too, the Greeks are pressed into service, on the ground that Greece was the very home of "clear transparent serenity;" and, finally, such shallow meddling with all that is most earnest and terrible in the existence of man, is gathered together in a full and novel philosophical system [Footnote: Hanslick's "Vom Musicalish-Schoenen," and particularly Vischer's voluminous "System der AEsthetik."]—wherein our varnished musical heroes find a comfortable and undisputed place of honour.
How the latter heroes treat great musical works I have shewn by the aid of a few representative examples. It remains to explain the serene and cheerful Greek sense of that "getting over the ground" which Mendelssohn so earnestly recommended. This will be best shown by a reference to his disciples and successors. Mendelssohn wished to hide the inevitable shortcomings of the execution, and also, in case of need, the shortcomings of that which is executed; to this, his disciples and successors superadded the specific motive of their "CULTURE": namely, "to hide and cover up in general," to escape attention, to create no disturbance. There is a QUASI physiological reason for this which I accidentally discovered once upon a time.
For the performance of Tannhauser, at Paris, I re-wrote the scene in the "Venusberg" on a larger scale: at one of the rehearsals I explained to the ballet master that the little tripping pas of his Maenads and Bacchantes contrasted miserably with my music, and asked him to arrange something wild and bold for his corps— something akin to the groups of Bacchantes on ancient bas- reliefs. Thereupon the man whistled through his fingers, and said, "Ah, I understand perfectly, but to produce anything of the sort I should require a host of premiers sujets; if I were to whisper a word of what you say, and indicate the attitudes you intend to my people here, we should instantly have the 'cancan,' and be lost." The very same feeling which induced my Parisian ballet-master to rest content with the most vapid pas of Maenads and Bacchantes, forbids our elegant, new-fangled conductors to cut the traces of their "culture." They are afraid such a thing might lead to a scandal a la Offenbach. Meyerbeer was a warning to them; the Parisian opera had tempted him into certain ambiguous Semitic accentuations in music, which fairly scared the "men of culture."
A large part of their education has ever since consisted in learning to watch their behaviour, and to suppress any indications of passion; much as one who naturally lisps and stammers, is careful to keep quiet, lest he should be overcome by a fit of hissing and stuttering. Such continuous watchfulness has assisted in the removal of much that was unpleasant, and the general humane amalgamation has gone on much more smoothly; which, again, has brought it about that many a stiff and poorly developed element of our home-growth has been refreshed and rejuvenated. I have already mentioned that amongst musicians roughness of speech and behaviour are going out, that delicate details in musical execution are more carefully attended to, etc. But it is a very different thing to allow the necessity for reticence, and for the suppression of certain personal characteristics, to be converted into a principle for the treatment of our art! Germans are stiff and awkward when they want to appear mannerly: BUT THEY ARE NOBLE AND SUPERIOR WHEN THEY GROW WARM. And are we to suppress our fire to please those reticent persons? In truth, it looks as though they expected us to do so.
In former days, whenever I met a young musician who had come in contact with Mendelssohn, I learnt that the master had admonished him not to think of effect when composing, and to avoid everything that might prove meretriciously impressive. Now, this was very pleasant and soothing advice; and those pupils who adopted it, and remained true to the master, have indeed produced neither "impression nor meretricious effect;" only, the advice seemed to me rather too negative, and I failed to see the value of that which was positively acquired under it. I believe the entire teaching of the Leipzig Conservatorium was based upon some such negative advice, and I understand that young people there have been positively pestered with warnings of a like kind; whilst their best endeavours met with no encouragement from the masters, unless their taste in music fully coincided with the tone of the orthodox psalms. The first result of the new doctrine, and the most important for our investigations, came to light in the execution of classical music. Everything here was governed by the fear of exaggeration (etwa in das Drastische zu fallen). I have, for instance, hitherto not found any traces that those later pianoforte works of Beethoven, in which the master's peculiar style is best developed, have actually been studied and played by the converts to that doctrine.
For a long time I earnestly wished to meet with some one who could play the great Sonata in B flat (Op. 106) as it should be played. At length my wish was gratified—but by a person who came from a camp wherein those doctrines do NOT prevail. Franz Liszt, also, gratified my longing to hear Bach. No doubt Bach has been assiduously cultivated by Liszt's opponents; they esteem Bach for teaching purposes, since a smooth and mild manner of execution apparently accords better with his music than "modern effect," or Beethovenian strenuousness (Drastik).
I once asked one of the best-reputed older musicians, a friend and companion of Mendelssohn (whom I have already mentioned apropos of the tempo di menuetto of the eighth symphony), [Footnote: Ferdinand Hiller] to play the eighth Prelude and Fugue from the first part of "Das Wohltemperirte Clavier" (E flat minor), a piece which has always had a magical attraction for me. [Footnote: i.e. Prelude VIII., from Part I. of Bach's 48 Preludes and Fugues.] He very kindly complied, and I must confess that I have rarely been so much taken by surprise. Certainly, there was no trace here of sombre German gothicism and all that old- fashioned stuff; under the hands of my friend, the piece ran along the keyboard with a degree of "Greek serenity" that left me at a loss whither to turn; in my innocence I deemed myself transported to a neo-hellenic synagogue, from the musical cultus of which all old testamentary accentuations had been most elegantly eliminated. This singular performance still tingled in my ears, when at length I begged Liszt for once to cleanse my musical soul of the painful impression: he played the fourth Prelude and Fugue (C sharp minor). Now, I knew what to expect from Liszt at the piano; but I had not expected anything like what I came to hear from Bach, though I had studied him well; I saw how study is eclipsed by genius. By his rendering of this single fugue of Bach's, Liszt revealed Bach to me; so that I henceforth knew for certain what to make of Bach, and how to solve all doubts concerning him. I was convinced, also, that THOSE people know NOTHING of Bach; and if anyone chooses to doubt my assertion, I answer: "request them to play a piece of Bach's." [Footnote: See Appendix C]
I would like further to question any member of that musical temperance society and, if it has ever been his lot to hear Liszt play Beethoven's great B flat Sonata. I would ask him to testify honestly whether he had before really known and understood that sonata? I, at least, am acquainted with a person who was so fortunate; and who was constrained to confess that he had not before understood it. And to this day, who plays Bach, and the great works of Beethoven, in public, and compels every audience to confess as much? a member of that "school for temperance?" No! it is Liszt's chosen successor, Hans van Bulow.
So much for the present on this subject. It might prove interesting to observe the attitude these reticent gentlemen take up with regard to performances such as Liszt's and Bulow's.
The successes of their policy, to which they are indebted for the control of public music in Germany, need not detain us; but we are concerned in an examination of the curious religious development within their congregation. In this respect the earlier maxim, "beware of effect"—the result of embarrassment and cautious timidity—has now been changed, from a delicate rule of prudence and security, to a positively aggressive dogma. The adherents of this dogma hypocritically look askance if they happen to meet with a true man in music. They pretend to be shocked, as though they had come across something improper. The spirit of their shyness, which originally served to conceal their own impotence, now attempts the defamation of other people's potency. Defamatory insinuations and calumny find ready acceptance with the representatives of German Philistinism, and appear to be at home in that mean and paltry state of things which, as we have seen, environs our musical affairs.
The principal ingredient, however, is an apparently judicious caution in presence of that which one happens to be incapable of, together with detraction of that which one would like to accomplish one's self. It is sad, above all things, to find a man so powerful and capable as Robert Schumann concerned in this confusion, and in the end to see his name inscribed on the banner of the new fraternity. The misfortune was that Schumann in his later days attempted certain tasks for which he was not qualified. And it is a pity to see that portion of his work, in which he failed to reach the mark he had set himself, raised as the insignia of the latest guild of musicians. A good deal of Schumann's early endeavour was most worthy of admiration and sympathy, and it has been cherished and nurtured by us (I am proud here to rank myself with Liszt's friends) in a more commendable and commending way than by his immediate adherents. [Footnote: See Appendix D.] The latter, well aware that Schumann had herein evinced true productivity, knowingly kept these things in the background, perhaps because they could not play them in an effective way. On the other hand, certain works of Schumann conceived on a larger and bolder scale, and in which the limits of his gifts become apparent are now carefully brought forward. [Footnote: Such as the Overtures to Faust, Die Braut von Messina, Julius Caesar; the "Balladen," Das Gluck von Edenhall, Des Sanger Fluch, Vom Pagen und der Konigstochter, etc.] The public does not exactly like these works, but their performance offers an opportunity to point out how commendable a thing it is to "make no effect." Finally, a comparison with the works of Beethoven in his third period (played as they play them) comes in opportunely.
Certain later, inflated (schwulstig) and dull productions of R. Schumann, which simply require to be played smoothly (glatt herunter gespielt) are confounded with Beethoven; and an attempt is made to show that they agree in spirit with the rarest, boldest and most profound achievements of German music! Thus Schumann's shallow bombast is made to pass for the equivalent of the inexpressible purport of Beethoven—but always with the reservation that strenuous eccentricity such as Beethoven's is hardly admissible; whereas, vapid emptiness (das gleichgiltig Nichtssagende) is right and proper: a point at which Schumann properly played, and Beethoven improperly rendered, are perhaps comparable without much fear of misunderstanding! Thus these singular defenders of musical chastity stand towards our great classical music in the position of eunuchs in the Grand-Turk's Harem; and by the same token German Philistinism is ready to entrust them with the care of music in the family—since it is plain that anything ambiguous is not likely to proceed from that quarter.
BUT NOW WHAT BECOMES OF OUR GREAT AND GLORIOUS GERMAN MUSIC? It is the fate of our music that really concerns us. We have little reason to grieve if, after a century of wondrous productivity, nothing particular happens to come to light for some little time. But there is every reason to beware of suspicious persons who set themselves up as the trustees and conservators of the "true German spirit" of our inheritance.
Regarded as individuals, there is not much to blame in these musicians; most of them compose very well. Herr Johannes Brahms once had the kindness to play a composition of his own to me—a piece with very serious variations—which I thought excellent, and from which I gathered that he was impervious to a joke. His performance of other pianoforte music at a concert gave me less pleasure. I even thought it impertinent that the friends of this gentleman professed themselves unable to attribute anything beyond "extraordinary technical power" to "Liszt and his school," whilst the execution of Herr Brahms appeared so painfully dry, inflexible and wooden. I should have liked to see Herr Brahms' technique annointed with a little of the oil of Liszt's school; an ointment which does not seem to issue spontaneously from the keyboard, but is evidently got from a more aetherial region than that of mere "technique." To all appearances, however, this was a very respectable phenomenon; only it remains doubtful how such a phenomenon could be set up in a natural way as the Messiah, or, at least, the Messiah's most beloved disciple; unless, indeed, an affected enthusiasm for mediaeval wood-carvings should have induced us to accept those stiff wooden figures for the ideals of ecclesiastical sanctity. In any case we must protest against any presentation of our great warm-hearted Beethoven in the guise of such sanctity. If THEY cannot bring out the difference between Beethoven, whom they do not comprehend and therefore pervert, and Schumann, who, for very simple reasons, IS incomprehensible, they shall, at least, not be permitted to assume that no difference exists.
I have already indicated sundry special aspects of this sanctimoniousness. Following its aspirations a little further we shall come upon a new field, across which our investigation on and about conducting must now lead us. Some time ago the editor of a South German journal discovered "hypocritical tendencies" (muckerische Tendenzen) in my artistic theories. The man evidently did not know what he was saying; he merely wished to use an unpleasant word. But my experience has led me to understand that the essence of hypocrisy, and the singular tendency of a repulsive sect of hypocrites (Mucker), may be known by certain characteristics:—they wish to be tempted, and greedily seek temptation, in order to exercise their power of resistance!—Actual scandal, however, does not begin until the secret of the adepts and leaders of the sect is disclosed;—the adepts reverse the object of the resistance—they resist with a view to increasing the ultimate sense of beatitude. Accordingly, if this were applied to art, one would perhaps not be saying a senseless thing if one were to attribute hypocritical tendencies to the queer "school for chastity" of this Musical Temperance Society. The lower grades of the school may be conceived as vacillating between the orgiastic spirit of musical art and the reticence which their dogmatic maxim imposes upon them—whilst it can easily be shewn that the higher grades nourish a deep desire to enjoy that which is forbidden to the lower. The "Liebeslieder Walzer" of the blessed Johannes (in spite of the silly title) might be taken as the exercises of the lower grades; whereas the intense longing after "the Opera," which troubles the sanctimonious devotions of the adepts, may be accepted as the mark of the higher and highest grades. If a single member, for once only, were to achieve a success with an opera, it is more than probable that the entire "school" would explode. But, somehow, no such success has hitherto been achieved, and this keeps the school together; for, every attempt that happens to fail, can be made to appear as a conscious effort of abstinence, in the sense of the exercises of the lower grades; [Footnote: For a curious example of such exercises, see Ferdinand Hiller's "Oper ohne Text;" a set of pianoforte pieces, a quatre mains.] and "the opera," which beckons in the distance like a forlorn bride, can be made to figure as a symbol of the temptation, which is to be finally resisted—so that the authors of operatic failures may be glorified as special saints.
Seriously speaking, how do these musical gentlemen stand with regard to "THE OPERA?" Having paid them a visit in the concert- room to which they belong, and from which they started, we shall now, for the sake of "conducting," look after them at the theatre.
Herr Eduard Devrient, in his "Erinnerungen," has given us an account of the difficulties his friend Mendelssohn met with in the search for a textbook to an opera. It was to be a truly "GERMAN" opera, and the master's friends were to find the materials wherewith to construct it. Unfortunately, they did not succeed in the quest. I suspect there were very simple reasons for this. A good deal can be got at by means of discussion and arrangement; but a "German" and "nobly-serene" opera, such as Mendelssohn in his delicate ambition dreamt of, is not exactly a thing that can be manufactured—nor old nor new testamentary recipes will serve the purpose. The master did not live to reach the goal: but his companions and apprentices continued their efforts. Herr Hiller believed he could force on a success, simply by dint of cheerful and unflagging perseverance. Everything, he thought, depends upon a "lucky hit," such as others had made in his very presence, and which steady perseverance, as in a game of chance, must, sooner or later, bring round to him. But the "lucky hit" invariably missed. Schumann also did not succeed, [Footnote: "Genoveva," Oper in vier Acten, nach Tieck und F. Hebbel, Musik von Robert Schumann. Op. 81."] and many other members of the church of abstinence, both adepts and neophytes, have since stretched forth their "chaste and innocent" hands in search of an operatic success—they troubled greatly—but their efforts proved fruitless—"the fortunate grip" failed.
Now, such experiences are apt to embitter the most harmless persons. All the more so, since Capellmeisters and Musikdirectors are daily occupied at the theatres, and are bound to serve in a sphere in which they are absolutely helpless and impotent. And the causes of their impotence, with regard to the composition of an opera, are also the causes of their inability to conduct an opera properly. Yet such is the fate of our public art, that gentlemen who are not even able to conduct concert music, are the sole leaders in the very complicated business of the opera theatres! Let a reader of discretion imagine the condition of things there!
I have been prolix in showing the weakness of our conductors, in the very field, where, by rights, they ought to feel at home. I can be brief now with regard to the opera. Here it simply comes to this: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." To characterize their disgraceful doings, I should have to show how much that is good and significant MIGHT be done at the theatres, and this would lead me too far. Let it be reserved for another occasion. For the present I shall only say a little about their ways as operatic conductors.
In the concert room these gentlemen go to work with the most serious mien; at the opera they deem it becoming to put on a nonchalant, sceptical, cleverly-frivolous air. They concede with a smile that they are not quite at home in the opera, and do not profess to understand much about things which they do not particularly esteem. Accordingly, they are very accommodating and complaisant towards vocalists, female and male, for whom they are glad to make matters comfortable; they arrange the tempo, introduce fermatas, ritardandos, accelerandos, transpositions, and, above all, "cuts," whenever and wherever a vocalist chooses to call for such. Whence indeed are they to derive the authority to resist this or that absurd demand? If, perchance, a pedantically disposed conductor should incline to insist upon this or that detail, he will, as a rule, be found in the wrong. For vocalists are at least at home and, in their own frivolous way, at ease in the opera; they know well enough what they can do, and how to do it; so that, if anything worthy of admiration is produced in the operatic world it is generally due to the right instincts of the vocalists, just as in the orchestra the merit lies almost entirely in the good sense of the musicians. One has only to examine an orchestra part of "Norma," for instance, to see what a curious musical changeling (Wechselbalg) such innocent looking sheets of music paper can be turned into; the mere succession of the transpositions—the Adagio of an Aria in F sharp major, the Allegro in F, and between the two (for the sake of the military band) a transition in E flat—offers a truly horrifying picture of the music to which such an esteemed conductor cheerfully beats time.
It was only at a suburban theatre at Turin (i.e., in Italy) that I witnessed a correct and complete performance of the "Barber of Seville;" for our conductors grudge the trouble it takes to do justice even to a simple score such as "Il Barbiere." They have no notion that a perfectly correct performance, be it of the most insignificant opera can produce an excellent impression upon an educated mind, simply by reason of its correctness. Even the shallowest theatrical concoctions, at the smallest Parisian theatres, can produce a pleasant aesthetical effect, since, as a rule, they are carefully rehearsed, and correctly rendered. The power of the artistic principle is, in fact, so great that an aesthetic result is at once attained, if only some part of that principle be properly applied, and its conditions fulfilled: and such is true art, although it may be on a very low level. But we do not get such aesthetic results in Germany, unless it be at PERFORMANCES OF BALLETS, in Vienna, or Berlin. Here the whole matter is in the hands of one man—the ballet-master—and that man knows his business. Fortunately, he is in a position to dictate the rate of movement to the orchestra, for the expression as well as for the tempo, and he does so, not according to his individual whim, like an operatic singer, but with a view to the ensemble, the consensus of all the artistic factors; and now, of a sudden, it comes to pass that the orchestra plays correctly! A rare sense of satisfaction will be felt by everyone who, after the tortures of an opera, witnesses a performance of one of those Ballets.
In this way the stage manager might lend his aid to the ensemble of the opera. But, singularly enough, the fiction that the opera is a branch of absolute music is everywhere kept up; every vocalist is aware of the musical director's ignorance of the business of an opera; yet—if it should happen that the right instincts of gifted singers, musicians and executants generally are aroused by a fine work, and bring about a successful performance—are we not accustomed to see the Herr Capellmeister called to the front, and otherwise rewarded, as the representative of the total artistic achievement? Ought he not himself to be surprised at this? Is he not, in his turn, in a position to pray, "Forgive them, they know not what they do?"
But as I wished to speak of Conducting proper, and do not want to lose my way in the operatic wilderness, I have only to confess that I have come to the end of this chapter. I cannot dispute about the conducting of our capellmeisters at the theatres. Singers may do so, when they have to complain that this conductor is not accommodating enough, or that the other one does not give them their cues properly: in short, from the stand-point of vulgar journeyman-work, a discussion may be possible. BUT FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF TRULY ARTISTIC WORK THIS SORT OF CONDUCTING CANNOT BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT AT ALL. Among Germans, now living, I am, perhaps, the only person who can venture openly to pronounce so general a condemnation, and I maintain that I am not exceeding the limits of my province when I do so.
If I try to sum up my experiences, regarding performances of my own operas, I am at a loss to distinguish with which of the qualities of our conductors I am concerned. Is it the spirit in which they treat German music in the concert rooms, or the spirit in which they deal with the opera at the theatres? I believe it to be my particular and personal misfortune that the two spirits meet in my operas, and mutually encourage one another in a rather dubious kind of way. Whenever the former spirit, which practices upon our classical concert music, gets a chance—as in the instrumental introductions to my operas—I have invariably discovered the disastrous consequences of the bad habits already described at such length. I need only speak of the tempo, which is either absurdly hurried (as, for instance, under Mendelssohn, who, once upon a time, at a Leipzig Gewandhaus concert, produced the overture to Tannhauser as an example and a warning), or muddled (like the introduction to Lohengrin at Berlin, and almost everywhere else), or both dragged and muddled (like the introduction to "Die Meistersinger," lately, at Dresden and at other places), yet never with those well-considered modifications of the tempo, upon which I must count as much as upon the correct intonation of the notes themselves, if an intelligible rendering is to be obtained.
To convey some notion of faulty performances of the latter sort it will suffice to point to the way in which the overture to "Die Meistersinger" is usually given. The main tempo of this piece is indicated as "sehr massig bewegt" (with very moderate movement); according to the older method, it would have been marked Allegro maestoso. Now, when this kind of tempo continues through a long piece, particularly if the themes are treated episodically, it demands modification as much as, or even more than any other kind of tempo; it is frequently chosen to embody the manifold combinations of distinct motives; and its broad divisions into regular bars of four beats are found convenient, as these tend to render modifications of movement both easy and simple. This moderate 4/4 time can be interpreted in many and various ways; it may consist of four vigorous crotchet-beats, and thus express a true animated Allegro (this is the main tempo I intend, which becomes most animated in those eight bars of transition
[2 measures of music are shown here]
which lead from the march proper to the theme in E major); or, it may be taken to consist of a demi-period made up of two 2/4 beats; as when, at the entrance of the shortened theme,
[2 measures of music are shown here]
it assumes the character of a lively Scherzando; or, it may even be interpreted as Alia breve (2/2 time) when it would represent the older, easily moving Tempo andante (often employed in church music) which is to be rendered with two moderately slow beats to a bar. I have used it in the latter sense, beginning from the eighth bar after the return to C major, in a combination of the principal march theme, now allotted to the basses, with the second main theme, now sung broadly and with commodious ease, in rhythmical prolongation, by the violins and violoncellos:
[Three measures of music are shown here]
This second theme has previously been introduced in diminution, and in common 4/4 time:
[Two measures of music are shown here]
Together with the greatest delicacy which the proper execution demands, it here exhibits a passionate, almost hasty character (something like a whispered declaration of love). Not to disturb the main characteristic, delicacy, it is, therefore, necessary slightly to hold back the tempo (the moving figuration sufficiently expresses passionate haste), thus the extreme nuance of the main tempo, in the direction of a somewhat grave 4/4 time, should be adopted here, and, to do this without a wrench (i.e., without really disfiguring the general character of the main tempo), a bar is marked poco rallentando, to introduce the change. Through the more restless nuance of this theme:
[A musical score]
which, eventually, gets the upper hand, and which is indicated with "leidenschaftlicher" (more passionate) it is easy to lead the tempo back into the original quicker movement, in which, finally, it will be found capable to serve in the above-mentioned sense of an Andante alla breve, whereby it is only needful to recur to a nuance of the main tempo, which has already been developed in the exposition of the piece; namely, I have allowed the final development of the pompous march theme to expand to a lengthy coda of a cantabile character conceived in that tempo Andante alia breve. As this full-toned cantabile
[A musical score]
is preceded by the weighty crochets of the fanfare the modification of the tempo must obviously begin at the end of the crochets, that is to say with the more sustained notes of the chord on the dominant which introduces the cantabile. And, as this broader movement in minims continues for some time with an increase in power and modulation, I thought conductors could be trusted to attain the proper increase of speed; the more so, as such passages, when simply left to the natural impulse of the executants always induce a more animated tempo. Being myself an experienced conductor, I counted upon this as a matter of course, and merely indicated the passage at which the tempo returns to the original 4/4 time, which any musician will feel, at the return of the crochets and in the changes of harmony.
At the conclusion of the overture the broader 4/4 time, quoted above in the powerfully sustained march-like fanfare, returns again; the quick figured embellishments are added, and the tempo ends exactly as it began.
This overture was first performed at a concert at Leipzig, when I conducted it as described above. It was so well played by the orchestra that the small audience, consisting for the most part of non-resident friends, demanded an immediate repetition, which the musicians, who agreed with the audience, gladly accorded. The favourable impression thus created was much talked of, and the directors of the Gewandhaus Concerts decided to give the native Leipzig public a chance to hear the new overture.
In this instance Herr Capellmeister Reinecke, who had heard the piece under my direction, conducted it, and the very same orchestra played it—in such wise that the audience hissed! I do not care to investigate how far this result was due to the straightforward honesty of the persons concerned; let it suffice that competent musicians, who were present at the performance, described to me the SORT OF TIME the Herr Capellmeister had thought fit to beat to the overture—and therewith I knew enough.
If any conductor wishes to prove to his audience or to his directors, etc., what an ambiguous risk they will run with "Die Meistersinger," he need take no further trouble than to beat time to the overture after the fashion in which he is wont to beat it to the works of Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach (which fashion suits the works of R. Schumann fairly well); it will then be sufficiently obvious that he is dealing with a very unpleasant kind of music—let anyone imagine so animated, yet so sensitive a thing as the tempo which governs this overture, let this delicately constituted thing suddenly be forced into the Procrustus-bed of such a classical time-beater, what will become of it? The doom is: "Herein shalt thou lie, whatsoever is too long with thee shall be chopped off, and whatsoever is too short shall be stretched!" Whereupon the band strikes up and overpowers the cries of the victim! Safely bedded in this wise, not only the overture, but, as will appear in the sequel, the entire opera of Die Meistersinger, or as much of it as was left after the Capellmeister's cuts, was presented to the public of Dresden. On this occasion, correctly and technically speaking, the merits of the conductor [Footnote: The late Julius Rietz.] consisted in this: he made a guess at the main tempo, chose the broadest nuance of it, and spread this over the whole, beating the steadiest and stiffest square time from beginning to end! The ultimate results were as follows: I had made use of the combination of the two main themes under an ideal Tempo Andante alia breve (quoted above from the conclusion of the overture, page 94) to form a pleasant and cheerful conclusion to the entire opera, something after the manner of a burden to some old popular song: I had augmented and enlarged the treatment of the thematic combination for this purpose, and now employed it as a sort of accompaniment to Hans Sachs's epilogising praise of the "Master- singers," and to his consolatory rhymes upon German art, with which the work ends. Though the words are serious, the closing apostrophe is none the less meant to have a cheering and hopeful effect; and, to produce this, I counted upon that simple thematic combination, the rhythmical movement of which was intended to proceed smoothly, and was not meant to assume a pompous character, except just before the end, when the chorus enters. Now in the overture, the conductor had failed to see the necessity of a modification of the original march-like tempo in the direction of an Andante alla breve; and, of course, here—at the close of the opera—he equally failed to feel that the movement was not directly connected with the march tempo—his first mistake was therefore continued, and he proceeded to confine and hold fast the warmly-feeling singer of the part of Hans Sachs in rigid 4/4 time, and to compel him to deliver his final address in the stiffest and most awkward manner possible. Friends of mine requested me to permit a large "cut" for Dresden, as the effect of the close was so very depressing. I declined; and the complaints soon ceased. At length I came to understand the reason why; the Capellmeister had acted for the obstinate composer; "solely with a view to the good of the work," he had followed the dictates of his artistic insight and conscience, had laid his hands on the troublesome apostrophe, and simply "CUT" it.
"Cut! Cut!"—this is the ultimo ratio of our conductors; by its aid they establish a satisfactory equilibrium between their own incompetence, and the proper execution of the artistic tasks before them. They remember the proverb: "What I know not, burns me not!" ("was ich nicht weiss, macht mich nicht heiss") and the public cannot object to an arrangement so eminently practical. It only remains for me to consider what I am to say to a performance of my work, which thus appears enclosed between a failure at Alpha, and a failure at Omega? Outwardly things look very pleasant: An unusually animated audience, and an ovation for the Herr Capellmeister—to join in which the royal father of my country returns to the front of his box. But, subsequently, ominous reports about cuts which had been made, and further changes and abbreviations super-added; whilst the impression of a perfectly unabbreviated, but perfectly correct performance, at Munich, remains in my mind, and makes it impossible for me to agree with the mutilators. So disgraceful a state of things seems inevitable, since few people understand the gravity of the evil, and fewer still care to assist in any attempts to mend it.
On the other hand there is some little consolation in the fact that in spite of all ill-treatment the work retains some of its power—that fatal power and "effect" against which the professors of the Leipsic conservatorium so earnestly warn their pupils, and against which all sorts of destructive tactics are applied in vain! Having made up my mind, not to assist personally at any future performance like the recent ones of "Die Meistersinger" at Dresden, I am content to accept the "success" of the work as a consolatory example illustrating the fate of our classical music in the hands of our conducting musicians. Classical music retains its warmth, and continues to exist in spite of the maltreatment they subject it to. It appears truly indestructible: and the Spirit of German art may accept this indestructibility as a consoling fact, and may fearlessly continue its efforts in future. It might be asked: But what do the queer conductors with celebrated names amount to, considered simply as practical musicians? Looking at their perfect unanimity in every practical matter one might be led to think that, after all, they understand their business properly, and that, in spite of the protest of one's feelings, their ways might even be "classical." The general public is so ready to take the excellence of their doings for granted, and to accept it as a matter of course, that the middle- class musical people are not troubled with the slightest doubt as to who is to beat time at their musical festivals, or on any other great occasion when the nation desires to hear some music. No one but Herr Hiller, Herr Rietz, or Herr Lachner is thought fit for this. It would be simply impossible to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of Beethoven's birth if these three gentlemen should happen suddenly to sprain their wrists. On the other hand, I am sorry to say I know of no one to whom I would confidently entrust a single tempo in one of my operas; certainly to no member of the staff of our army of time-beaters. Now and then I have met with some poor devil who showed real skill and talent for conducting: but such rare fellows find it difficult to get on, because they are apt not only to see through the incompetence of the celebrities, but imprudent enough to speak about it. If, for instance, a man happens to discover serious mistakes in the orchestra parts of "Figaro," from which the opera had been played with special unction—heaven knows how often— under the solemn conductorship of a celebrity, he is not likely to gain the favour of his chief. Such gifted poor fellows are destined to perish like the heretics of old.
As everything is thus apparently in good order, and seems likely to remain so, I am again tempted to ask how CAN this be? We entertain lurking doubts whether these gentlemen really ARE musicians; evidently they do not evince the slightest MUSICAL FEELING; yet, in fact, they HEAR very accurately (with mathematical, not ideal, accuracy; contretemps like that of the faulty orchestra parts do not happen to everyone); they are quick at a score, read and play at sight (many of them, at least, do so); in short, they prove true professionals; but, alongside of this, their general education (Bildung)—in spite of all efforts- -is such as can pass muster in the case of a musician only; so that, if music were struck from the list of their attainments, there would be little left—least of all, a man of spirit and sense. No, no! they certainly ARE musicians and very competent musicians, who know and can do everything that pertains to music. Well, then? As soon as they begin to perform music they muddle matters, and feel unsafe all round, unless it be in "Ewig, selig," or at best in "Lord Sabaoth!"
That which makes our great music great is the very thing which confuses these people; unfortunately, this cannot be expressed in words and concepts, nor in arithmetical figures. Yet, what is it other than music? and music only! What, then, can be the reason of this barrenness, dryness, coldness, this complete inability to feel the influence of true music, and, in its presence, to forget any little vexation, any small jealous distress, or any mistaken personal notion? Could Mozart's astonishing gift for arithmetic serve us for a vague explanation? On the one hand, it seems that with him—whose nervous system was so excessively sensitive to any disturbing sound, whose heart beat with such overflowing sympathy—the ideal elements of music met and united to form a wondrous whole. On the other hand, Beethoven's naive way of adding up his accounts is sufficiently well known; arithmetical problems of any sort or kind assuredly never entered into his social or musical plans. Compared with Mozart he appears as a monstrum per excessum in the direction of sensibility, which, not being checked and balanced by an intellectual counterweight from the arithmetical side, can hardly be conceived as able to exist or to escape premature destruction, if it had not fortunately been protected by a singularly tough and robust constitution. Nor can anything in Beethoven's music be gauged or measured by figures; whilst with Mozart a good deal that appears regular— almost too regular (as has already been touched upon) is conceivable, and can be explained as the result of a naive mixture of those two extremes of musical perception. Accordingly the professional musicians under examination appear as monstrosities in the direction of musical arithmetic; and it is not difficult to understand how such musicians, endowed with the very reverse of a Beethovenian temperament, should succeed and flourish with a nervous system of the commonest kind.
If then our celebrated and uncelebrated conductors happen to be born for music only under the sign of Numbers (im Zeichen der Zahl), it would seem very desirable that some new school might be able to teach them the proper tempo for our music by the rule of three. I doubt whether they will ever acquire it in the simple way of musical feeling; wherefore, I believe, I have now reached the end of my task.
Perhaps the new school is already in sight. I understand that a "High-School of Music" has been established at Berlin, under the auspices of the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences, and that the directorship of the school has been entrusted to the celebrated violinist, Herr Joachim. To start such a school without Herr Joachim, if his services are available, would be a great mistake. I am inclined to hope for much from him; because everything I know and have heard concerning his method of playing proves that this virtuoso is a complete master of the style of execution I demand for our classical music. By the side of Liszt and his disciples he is the only living musician to whom I can point as a practical proof and example in support of the foregoing assertions. It is immaterial whether or not Herr Joachim likes to see his name mentioned in such connection; for, with regard to that which a man can do and actually does, it matters little what he chooses to profess. If Herr Joachim thinks it expedient to profess that he has developed his fine style in the company of Herr Hiller, or of R. Schumann, this may rest upon its merits, provided he always plays in such wise that one may recognise the good results of several years intimate intercourse with Liszt. I also think it an advantage that when a "High-School of Music" was first thought of, the promoters at once secured the services of an admirable PRACTICAL MASTER OF STYLE AND EXECUTION. If, to-day, I had to put a theatre capellmeister in the way of comprehending how he ought to conduct a piece, I would much rather refer him to Frau Lucca, than to the late Cantor Hauptmann at Leipzig, even if the latter were still alive. In this point I agree with the naive portion of the public, and indeed, with the taste of the aristocratic patrons of the opera, for I prefer to deal with persons who actually bring forth something that appeals to the ear and to the feelings. Yet, I cannot help entertaining some little doubt, when I see Herr Joachim—all alone and solitary— sitting on high in the curule chair of the Academy—with nothing in his hand but a violin; for towards violinists generally I have always felt as Mephistopheles feels towards "the fair," whom he affects "once for all in the plural." The conductor's baton is reported not to have worked well in Herr Joachim's hands; composition, too, appears rather to have been a source of bitterness to him than of pleasure to others. I fail to see how "the high-school" is to be directed solely from the "high-stool" of the violinist. Socrates, at least, was not of opinion that Themistocles, Cimon and Pericles would prove capable of guiding the State by reason of their abilities as commanders and speakers; for, unfortunately, he could point to the results of their successes, and shew that the administration of State affairs became a source of personal trouble to them. But perhaps the case is different in the realms of music.
Yet another thing appears dubious. I am told that Herr J. Brahms expects all possible good to result from a return to the melody of Schubert's songs, and that Herr Joachim, for his own part, expects a NEW MESSIAH for music in general. Ought he not to leave such expectations to those who have chosen him "high- schoolmaster?" I, for my part, say to him "Go in, and win!" If it should come to pass that he himself is the Messiah, he may, at all events, rest assured that the Jews will not crucify him.
[BERICHT an Seine Majestat den Konig Ludwig II., von Bayern uber eine in Munchen zu errichtende Deutsche Musik-schule. (Report concerning a German music-school to be established at Munich) 1865. Reprinted in Wagner's "Gesammelte Schriften," Vol. VIII., p. 159-219, Leipzig, 1873.]
p. 20. ... "WE POSSESS CLASSICAL WORKS, BUT WE ARE NOT IN POSSESSION OF A CLASSICAL STYLE FOR THE EXECUTION OF THESE WORKS." ... "Does Germany possess a school at which the proper execution of Mozart's music is taught? Or do our orchestras and their conductors manage to play Mozart in accordance with some occult knowledge of their own? If so, whence do they derive such knowledge? Who taught it them? Take the simplest examples, Mozart's instrumental pieces (by no means his most important works, for these belong to the operatic stage), two things are at once apparent: the melodies must be beautifully SUNG; yet there are very few marks in the scores to shew HOW they are to be sung. It is well known that Mozart wrote the scores of his symphonies hurriedly, in most cases simply for the purpose of performance at some concert he was about to give; on the other hand, it is also well known that he made great demands upon the orchestra in the matter of expression. Obviously he trusted to his personal influence over the musicians. In the orchestra parts it was thus sufficient to note the main tempo and piano or forte for entire periods, since the master, who conducted the rehearsals, could give spoken directions as to details, and, by singing his themes, communicate the proper expression to the players.
We are, now-a-days, accustomed to mark all details of expression in the parts; nevertheless an intelligent conductor frequently finds it expedient to indicate important but very delicate nuances of expression by word of mouth to the particular musicians whom they concern; and, as a rule, such spoken directions are better understood and attended to than the written signs. It is obvious that in the rendering of Mozart's instrumental music spoken directions played an important part. With Mozart the so-called development sections, and the connecting links between the main themes, are frequently rather slight, whereas his musical originality shows to greatest advantage in the vocal character of the melodies. Compared with Haydn's the significance of Mozart's symphonies lies in the extraordinarily expressive vocal character of his instrumental themes. Now, had Germany been in possession of an authoritative institution, like the Conservatoire of Paris, and had Mozart been asked to assist in the execution of his works, and to superintend the spirit of the performances at such an institution, we might possibly have something like an authoritative tradition amongst us—a tradition such as, in spite of decay and corruption, is still surprisingly vivid at the Paris Conservatoire—for instance, in the case of Gluck's operas. But nothing of the sort exists with us. Mozart, as a rule, wrote a symphony for some special concert, performed it once, with an orchestra casually engaged, at Vienna, Prague, or Leipzig; and the traditions of such casual performances are completely lost.
No trace is preserved, except the scantily-marked scores. And these classical relics of a once warmly vibrating work are now accepted, with mistaken trust, as the sole guide towards a new living performance. Now, let us imagine such an expressive theme of Mozart's—Mozart, who was intimately acquainted with the noble style of classical Italian singing, whose musical expression derived its very soul from the delicate vibrations, swellings and accents of that style, and who was the first to reproduce the effects of this vocal style, by means of orchestral instruments— let us imagine such a theme of the Master's played neatly and smoothly, by an instrument in the orchestra, without any inflection, or increase or decrease of tone and accent, without the slightest touch of that modification of movement and rhythm so indispensable to good singing—but monotonously enunciated, just as one might pronounce some arithmetical number—and then, let us endeavour to form a conclusion as to the vast difference between the master's original intention, and the impression thus produced. The dubious value of the veneration for Mozart, professed by our music-conservators, will then also appear. To show this more distinctly, let us examine a particular case—for example, the first eight bars of the second movement of Mozart's celebrated symphony in E flat. Take this beautiful theme as it appears on paper, with hardly any marks of expression—fancy it played smoothly and complacently, as the score apparently has it- -and compare the result with the manner in which a true musician would feel and sing it! How much of Mozart does the theme convey, if played, as in nine cases out of ten it is played, in a perfectly colourless and lifeless way? "Poor pen and paper music, without a shadow of soul or sense." (Eine seelenlose Schriftmusik).
[See p. 62, et seq. of Wagner's "Beethoven," translated by E Dannreuther, London, 1882.]
"A BEETHOVEN DAY:" Beethoven's string quartet in C sharp minor. "If we rest content to recall the tone-poem to memory, an attempt at illustration such as the following may perhaps prove possible, at least up to a certain degree; whereas it would hardly be feasible during an actual performance. For, whilst listening to the work, we are bound to eschew any definite comparisons, being solely conscious of an immediate revelation from another world. Even then, however, the animation of the picture, in its several details, has to be left to the reader's fancy, and an outline sketch must therefore suffice. The longer introductory Adagio, than which probably nothing more melancholy has been expressed in tones, I would designate as the awakening on the morn of a day that throughout its tardy course shall fulfil not a single desire: not one. [FOOTNOTE: "Den Tag zu sehen, der Mir in seinem Lauf Nicht einen Wunsch erfullen wird, nicht Einen." Faust.] None the less it is a penitential prayer, a conference with God in the faith of the eternally good. The eye turned inwards here, too, sees the comforting phenomena it alone can perceive (Allegro 6/8), in which the longing becomes a sweet, tender, melancholy disport with itself; [FOOTNOTE: Ein Wehmuthig holdes Spiel.] the inmost hidden dream-picture awakens as the loveliest reminiscence. And now, in the short transitional Allegro moderate it is as though the Master, conscious of his strength, puts himself in position to work his spells; with renewed power he now practises his magic (Andante 2/4), in banning a lovely figure, the witness of pure heavenly innocence, so that he may incessantly enrapture himself by its ever new and unheard of transformations, induced by the refraction of the rays of light he casts upon it. We may now (Presto 2/2) fancy him, profoundly happy from within, casting an inexpressibly serene glance upon the outer world; and, again, it stands before him as in the Pastoral Symphony. Everything is luminous, reflecting his inner happiness: It is as though he were listening to the very tones emitted by the phenomena, that move, aerial and again firm, in rhythmical dance before him. He contemplates Life, and appears to reflect how he is to play a dance for Life itself (Short Adagio 3/4); a short, but troubled meditation—as though he were diving into the soul's deep dream. He has again caught sight of the inner side of the world; he wakens and strikes the strings for a dance, such as the world has never heard (Allegro Finale). It is the World's own dance; wild delight, cries of anguish, love's ecstacy, highest rapture, misery, rage; voluptuous now, and sorrowful; lightnings quiver, storm's roll; and high above the gigantic musician! banning and compelling all things, proudly and firmly wielding them from whirl to whirlpool, to the abyss.— He laughs at himself; for the incantation was, after all, but play to him. Thus night beckons. His day is done.
"It is not possible to consider the man, Beethoven, in any sort of light, without at once having recourse to the wonderful musician, by way of elucidation."
[See p. 24 of "Bericht" and "Wagner, Ges. Schriften," Vol. VIII., p. 186.]
"IT is difficult to understand Bach's music without a special musical and intellectual training, and it is a mistake to present it to the public in the careless and shallow modern way we have grown accustomed to. Those who so present it show that they do not know what they are about....The proper execution of Bach's music implies the solution of a difficult problem. Tradition, even if it could be shown to exist in a definite form, offers little assistance; for Bach, like every other German master, never had the means at his command adequately to perform his compositions. We know the embarrassing circumstances under which his most difficult and elaborate works were given—and it is not surprising that in the end he should have grown callous with regard to execution. and have considered his works as existing merely in thought. It is a task reserved for the highest and most comprehensive musical culture, to discover and establish a mode of executing the works of this wonderful master, so as to enable his music to appeal to the emotions in a plain direct manner."
[See Sir George Grove's "Dictionary of Music and Musicians." Vol. IV., p. 369. Article "Wagner."]
"IN early days I thought more would come of Schumann. His Zeitschrift was brilliant and his pianoforte works showed great originality. There was much ferment, but also much real power, and many bits are quite unique and perfect. I think highly, too, of many of his songs, though they are not as great as Schubert's. He took pains with his declamation—no small merit forty years ago. Later on I saw a good deal of him at Dresden; but then already his head was tired, his powers on the wane. He consulted me about the text to his opera, 'Genoveva,' which he was arranging from Tieck's and Hebbel's plays, yet he would not take my advice—he seemed to fear some trick."