Part 3 out of 6
And how about your great compositions? To know them at last is
worth a whole life to me. I have never looked forward with such
desire to anything. Let me know AT ONCE that my score has
arrived, so that I may not worry myself about it.
One word, dearest Franz, to say that my score has safely arrived!
I am anxious.
Your "Valkyrie" has arrived, and I should like to reply to you by
your "Lohengrin" chorus, sung by 1,000 voices, and repeated a
thousandfold: "A wonder! a wonder!"
Dearest Richard, you are truly a divine being, and it is my joy
to feel after you and to follow you.
More by word of mouth about your splendid, tremendous work, which
I am reading "in great inner excitement," to the horn rhythm,
page 40, in D:
[musical notation] The scores of Berlioz I possess, but have lent
them all to friends for the moment, and shall not be able to get
them back for some weeks.
About the middle of November I shall send you a parcel of them.
You will find in them much to please you.
The day after tomorrow I am going for a few days to Brunswick to
conduct, on the 18th instant, one of the Symphony Concerts given
by the orchestra there. For the 2lst, Sunday week, your "Flying
Dutchman" is announced here, and at the beginning of November
there will be a performance of "Tannhauser" in honour of several
Berlin people (Hulsen, Dorn, the operatic stage manager Formes,
etc.), who have announced their visit here. I shall send you an
account of it.
Go on with your "Valkyrie," and permit me to adapt the proverb,
"Quand on prend du galon, on n'en saurait trop prendre,"
to your case in the following manner:
"Quand on fait du sublime on n'en saurait trop faire, surtout
quand ce n'est qu'une question de nature et d'habitude!"
WEYMAR, October 12th, 1855.
November 16th, 1855.
Thank the Child a thousand times for her letter, and tell her
that I shall not send the album back till you return from here,
because I want to write something good in it which will not be
finished till then.
I must write many and reasonable things to the Princess, and that
I cannot do at present. So I remain in her debt also, but only to
satisfy her. She may see from this how much I value her letter.
I have not yet gone out into the air; but I am getting accustomed
to my room, and do not particularly long for our autumn mists. I
am doing a little work too. You are coming, are you not?
I should like to be silent till then and for ever, for whenever I
speak or write it is sure to be something stupid.
I am making a tentative effort to rise from the sick bed on which
I have lain again exactly three weeks.
Carl Ritter has informed you of my condition. The thorns of my
existence have now been supplemented by blooming "roses." I have
suffered from continual attacks of erysipelas in the face. In the
luckiest case I shall not be able to go out into the air this
year, and during the whole winter I shall live in continual fear
of relapses. For the slightest excitement, accompanied by the
least cold, may throw me back on my sick bed for two or three
weeks at any moment.
I am now reaping the fruit of my stupid postponement of your
visit, for I cannot possibly expect you to visit me in the
present uncertain state of my health. Anyhow, I thus relieve you
of the burden which a visit in this evil, hard winter would no
doubt have been to you. As concerns myself, nothing can make my
mood worse than it is. I am getting accustomed to all kinds of
trouble, and the disagreeable and the necessary and natural are
to me convertible terms.
I long for news of you, of which you are too chary.
As soon as I get better and am accustomed to sitting up I shall
write more. For today a thousand greetings to the Altenburg.
ZURICH, December 12th, 1855.
Chronos has made another step across all our heads. How can I
write to you, dear poet, without telling you of the kind wishes
which I and the Child entertain for you, and the desire we both
of us have of seeing you again in the course of 1856? I can
assure you that if fate were to send me a messenger with the
assurance of this, I should consider it the best New Year's gift,
although there are many things which I demand of it.
But one must hope--hope is a virtue. Is not this a beautiful
It gives us great pain to know that you are suffering. I would
accept double and treble the rheumatism which I have caught in
this climate, where we have eight months of bad weather, and not
four of fine, if I could secure you perfect liberty thereby.
Liszt is sad because his travelling plans are disarranged,
although he hopes to see you more at his ease another time. He
must be at Vienna at the beginning of January in order to conduct
a Mozart festival given for the centenary of the Master's
birthday; and as Berlioz is coming here at the beginning of
February, he will have to leave Vienna immediately afterwards.
The papers have no doubt informed you of his stay at Berlin,
where he will soon return to attend the first performance of
"Tannhauser," two rehearsals of which he almost entirely
conducted. Stupid people will not be silenced thereby. To poets
living in the tropical regions, where passion expands her
gigantic blossoms and her sidereal marvels, stupid people appear
like little gadflies which sometimes annoy them and draw blood by
their stings, but cannot disturb the enchantment of this
luxuriant nature. Liszt also has been honoured by a swarm of
these insects, which buzz with all the more noise and self-
sufficiency because they can make so little honey. He is quite
composed, and goes quietly on his way, only uttering occasionally
such BONMOTS as "They have cast me down, but I remain standing
none the less," or "What does it matter if other people do things
badly so long as I do them well?" etc., etc.; and so life goes
Write to me, dear poet, and do not always wait for a REASON; and
if you will give pleasure to my daughter send her for the New
Year the autograph for which she has asked you.
Embrace your wife for me, and convey to her my kindest wishes.
She ought to be sure of them, as indeed ought you. Have you
resumed the "Valkyrie?" The duet between Siegmund and Siegliende
has made me shed copious tears. It is as beautiful as love, as
the Infinite, as earth and the heavens.
December 23rdd, 1855.
Today I ought to be with you and prepare your Christmas tree,
where the rays and gifts of your genius should shine. And now we
are apart, you troubled with erysipelas, and I with all manner of
red roses grown in similar gardens. But this abominable FLORA
shall not delay the joy of our meeting too long.
You probably know that I have to go to Vienna, in January, to
conduct the Centenary Mozart Festival, which takes place on
January 27th, and will require at least a few weeks' preparation.
At the beginning of February I shall be back here. Berlioz is
coming on the 8th of February, and Johanna Wagner on the 20th.
Berlioz's "Faust" and "Cellini" will be given before the 16th,
and your niece is announced in three roles. As soon as this is
over I shall write to tell you when I can come to Zurich, but I
am afraid I shall have to wait for the summer.
At Berlin, where I stayed three weeks, I attended a few
pianoforte rehearsals of "Tannhauser," by invitation of Messrs.
von Hulsen and Dorn, and if the first performance is not delayed
after January 6th to 8th (for when it is announced), I shall be
able to send you a report of it as an eye and ear witness.
Johanna will sing and act Elizabeth beautifully, and Formes is
studying his part most conscientiously. Dorn has already had a
number of pianoforte and string rehearsals, and makes it a point
of honour to produce the work as correctly and brilliantly as
No doubt "Tannhauser" will become a "draw" at Berlin, which is
the chief thing, even for the composer, and I hope that the
CRITICAL treatment which I received at the hands of the critics
will redound to the credit of "Tannhauser," and that the
infallible impression of your work on the public will not be
impaired by carping notices. I shall write to you about this at
The day after tomorrow, Boxing-day, we shall have "Tannhauser"
here, which retains its position as a "draw," a distinction which
it shares at Weymar, with "Lohengrin" and "The Flying Dutchman."
Next spring "Lohengrin" is to be mounted again here. Up to the
present we still want an Ortrud, and, unfortunately, cannot get a
good one from elsewhere. The Leipzig one would, for example, be
quite useless, and the voice of Frau Knopp is still much impaired
by her late illness.
I am looking forward to "Lohengrin," that wonderful work, which,
to me, is the highest and most perfect thing in art--until your
"Nibelungen" is finished.
At Berlin, at Count Redern's, I heard a few pieces from
"Lohengrin" splendidly executed by several regimental bands, and
was reminded of our pompous entry into the "Drei Konige" of
Basle: Our new Weymar Union has adopted the entry of the trumpets
as its "Hoch," and I wish we could sing it to you in chorus soon.
Of my concert affairs, etc., I have nothing to tell you. When I
come to you I shall bring some of my scores with me. The rest
will not interest us much. With similar compositions, the only
question is, what is IN them? The publication I shall delay a few
months (although six numbers are already engraved), for the
reason that some of my EXCELLENT friends (an expression which
Kaulbach is fond of using for people who do not like him) had the
EXCELLENT intention of producing these things at once by way of a
WARNING EXAMPLE. That amiable intention I want to forestall by a
few performances under my own direction during the winter.
Try to get better again soon, and remember kindly
December 24th, 1855.
Best remembrances to Ritter.
I am again, or rather still, unwell and incapable of anything. I
was just going to write something in the album, so that the Child
might have it for the new year. But it will not do; my head is
too confused and heavy. I write to you only to tell you so; a
real letter I could not accomplish. Apart from this I have
nothing to tell you; I mean that I have no materials.
I should like to ask you, however, to return the two acts of the
"Valkyrie" to me at once before you start. I have at last found a
good copyist to whom I have promised work, and I am anxious to
have the copy finished soon,--perhaps for the same reason which
induces insects to place their eggs in safety before they die.
If I ever finish the last act I will send you the whole, although
you are so great a man of the world. Till then be of good cheer,
and remember that if you are abused you have willed it so. I also
rejoice in the FIASCO of my "Faust" overture, because in it I see
a purifying and wholesome punishment for having published the
work in despite of my better judgment; the same religious feeling
I had in London when I was bespattered with mud on all sides.
This was the most wholesome mud that had ever been thrown at me.
I wish you joy for the Vienna mud.
Adieu, and do your work well. Of your Christianity I do not think
much; the Saviour of the world should not desire to be the
conqueror of the world. There is a hopeless contradiction in this
in which you are deeply involved.
My compliments and thanks to the Princess, and tell the Child
that I was unable to manage it today. WHEN shall I? Heaven knows!
It is largely your own fault.
Adieu. I cannot say more, and have, moreover, talked nonsense
enough. Farewell, and enjoy yourself.
TO R. WAGNER, ZELTWEG, ZURICH.
Yesterday "Tannhauser." Excellent performance. Marvellous mise-
en-scene. Much applause. Good luck.
BERLIN, January 8th, 1856.
From Berlin I brought home so dreadful a cold that I had to go to
bed for a few days, and to delay my journey till this evening. I
have to supplement my Berlin telegram by the following notes:--
Johanna was beautiful to see and touching to hear as Elizabeth.
In the duet with Tannhauser she had some splendid moments of
representation, and her great scene in the finale she sang and
realised in an incomparable manner. Formes's intonation was firm,
pure, and correct, and there was no sign of fatigue in the
narration, where his sonorous, powerful voice told admirably.
Altogether Formes is not only adequate but highly satisfactory,
in spite of his small stature, which, especially by the side of
Johanna, somewhat interferes with the illusion. Herr Radwaner as
Wolfram, although not equal to our Milde, deserves much praise
for the neatness, elegance, and agreeable style of singing with
which he executed his part; and Madame Tuczek proved herself to
be an excellent musician and a well-trained actress, who may be
confidently intrusted with the most difficult part. Dorn and the
band took every pains to carry out your intentions, and the
orchestral performance was throughout successful, with the
exception of two wrong tempi, in the first chorus
[Here, Wagner illustrates with a 2-bar musical example.]
where you have forgotten to mark the tempo as piu moderato, that
is almost twice as slow as before, and in the G major passage
(before the ensemble in B major), which, in my opinion, was also
taken too fast, the rhythmical climax of the second part of the
finale being considerably impaired thereby.
The chorus had studied its part well, but it is much too weak for
Berlin, and in proportion to the vastness of the opera house,
scarcely more efficient than ours, which always gives me great
dissatisfaction. The stringed instruments, also, are not
sufficiently numerous, and should, like the chorus, be increased
by a good third. For a large place like this eight to ten double
basses, and fifteen to twenty first violins, etc., would
certainly not be too many at important performances. On the other
hand, the scenery and mounting of "Tannhauser" left nothing to be
desired, and I can assure you that never and nowhere have I seen
anything so splendid and admirable. Gropius and Herr von Hulsen
have really done something extraordinary and most tasteful. You
have heard, no doubt, that his Majesty the King had ordered the
decorations of the second act to be faithfully reproduced after
the designs for the restoration of the Wartburg, and that he had
sent Gropius to Eisenach for the purpose. The aspect of the hall
with all the historic banners, and the costumes taken from old
pictures, as well as the court ceremonial during the reception of
the guests by the Landgrave, gave me incredible pleasure, as did
also the arrangement of the huntsmen with their horns on the
hill, the gradual filling up of the valley by the gathering of
the hunt (four horses and a falcon bringing up the rear) in the
finale of the first act; and, finally, the fifteen trumpets in
the march of the second act
which blew their flourish from the gallery of the hall in a bold
and defiant manner.
I only hope, dearest Richard, that you will hear and see all this
before very long, and when I pay you a visit in the course of the
summer, we shall have some more talk about it.
Your last letter was very sad and bitter. Your illness must have
put you out still more, and, unfortunately, your friends can do
little to relieve you. If the consciousness of the most sincere
and cordial comprehension of, and sympathy with, your sufferings
can be of any comfort to you, you may rely upon me in fullest
measure, for I do not believe that there are many people in this
universe who have inspired another being with such real and
continual sympathy as you have me.
As soon as you are well again go to work and finish your
"Valkyrie." The first two acts I returned to you. You must sing
them to me at Zurich.
I have to ask you yet another favour today. Schlesinger, of
Berlin, is bringing out a new edition of the scores of Gluck's
overtures, which is dedicated to me, and he wishes to print your
close of the overture of "Iphigenia in Aulis" in addition to that
by Mozart. For that purpose he wants your special permission, and
has asked me to get it from you. If you have no objection to this
close--which has already been published in Brendel's paper--
appearing in this edition, be kind enough to give me your consent
in a few lines, and address your letter, "Hotel Zur Kaiserin von
Oestreich," Vienna, for which I start to-night.
I shall conduct the two concerts for the Mozart centenary
celebration on the 27th and 28th instant, and shall be back in
Weymar on February 4th.
Your speedy recovery and patience is the wish with all his heart,
dearest Richard, of
WEYMAR, January 14th, 1856.
ZURICH, January 18th, 1856.
My letter, dear Franz, you will have received at Vienna through
Gloggl. I once more put the question contained therein, and ask
you: Can you GIVE me the thousand francs, which would be still
better, and can you settle the same sum on me annually for two
years more? If you CAN, I know that you will willingly join with
those who keep me alive by their pecuniary assistance. My own
income is insufficient for the very expensive style of living
here, and every new year I am troubled by a deficit, so that I am
really no better off now than I was before. If it were not for my
wife you would see something curious, and I should be proud to go
about the world as a beggar; but the continual uncertainty, and
the miserly condition in which we live, affects my poor wife more
and more, and I can keep her mind at rest only by a certain
economical security. More of this when I see you. That I ask you
this question at the present moment when I am sick of life, and
would see the end of it today rather than tomorrow, you will
probably understand, when you realise that from the deepest
mental grief I am incessantly aroused to nothing but the mean
troubles of existence, this being my only change. I have no doubt
of your WILL, and believe even that it would give you pleasure to
belong to those from whom I receive a regular pension. It remains
to be asked only: Can you? I know that some time ago you were not
able, although even at that time you occasionally made real
sacrifices to assist me. Perhaps a change has taken place since
then, and on the chance of this "perhaps" I venture to trouble
you with my question.
One other matter I have to place before you. You remember that I
wrote to you some time ago that I had at last discovered here an
excellent and intelligent copyist for my musical manuscripts. To
him I gave, in the first instance, Klindworth's pianoforte score
of the "Valkyrie," and he brought me the first act beautifully
written; but his charge for the time employed, moderate enough
though I found it, appeared to me so high, that I could not
possibly afford the expense from my yearly income. I considered
what might be done, and found that, if I really went on with my
composition, I should have exactly three years' occupation for a
copyist This would include the copying of the full scores, the
pianoforte scores, and all the vocal and orchestral parts. If the
enterprise of the performance should in any way be accomplished,
three years' salary for a copyist might well be added to the
estimate of the costs, and the question would be whether one
could find, at this moment, a small number of shareholders who
would advance the necessary funds. I should have to engage my
amanuensis for exactly three years, and pay him an annual salary
of eight hundred francs. The only awkward part would be that I
should have to bind myself to furnish the compositions in this
given time. I might, however, as soon as I found myself unable to
continue, give notice to both shareholders and copyist. For one
year I have more than sufficient work for the copyist, and
whatever he had written might, in such a case, be handed over to
the shareholders as a security. I think that would be fair
enough. Kindly see, dearest Franz, whether you can manage this
for me. In the meantime I let him go on with the pianoforte
arrangement, but as soon as you are bound to give me a negative
answer I shall stop him, for, as I said before, I cannot bear
this expense from my housekeeping money.
It was an evil, evil fate that we did not see each other last
year. You must come soon, if POSSIBLE this SPRING. I feel that on
our meeting this time everything, everything depends. I am
continually at war with my health, and fear a relapse at every
moment. But let us leave this for today. We shall soon meet.
Many thanks for your letter from Berlin, received today. Alwine
Frommann writes to me every day, always in a great state of
anxiety about the positive and permanent success of "Tannhauser."
It appears that in over-witty and wholly unproductive Berlin
everything has to be born anew. "Kladderadatsch" was quite right
in taunting me with the fact that I had surrendered "Tannhauser"
to Berlin, solely for the sake of the royalties. That is so. It
is my fault, and I have to suffer for it as vulgarly as possible.
Very well, I suffer, but unfortunately I do not even get anything
Could I only bring back the state of things of four years ago!
Enough. It is my own fault, and it serves me right.
Try to be as little annoyed as possible at Vienna. I am anxious
to learn whether you will be at all satisfied.
Your letter has once more done me a great deal of good. Yes, dear
Franz, I trust in you, and I know that there is some higher
meaning in our friendship. If I could live together with you I
might do many fine things yet. Farewell, and be cordially thanked
for your glorious friendship.
I have no objection to my close of Gluck's "Iphigenia" overture
being used, seeing that I have already published it. It would be
advisable, however, that the overture should appear with the
correct tempi and some necessary marks of expression. Apart from
this, Herr Schlesinger, in his musical paper, might adopt a
pleasanter tone towards me in case Herr M. will permit him to do
My letters to Vienna seem to have put you in a very awkward
position. Forgive me, and do not punish me any longer by your
Before anything else in the world I ask you to pay me as soon as
possible the visit, which was so unfortunately postponed. My
desire to consult with you definitely about my future life has
reached a painful pitch, and my longing for you is unspeakable. I
am very unhappy.
March 21st, 1856.
At last I am able to tell you that you will receive one thousand
francs at the BEGINNING of May. When you wrote to me at Vienna
about this matter it was impossible for me to tell you anything
definite, and even now I am unable to undertake an ANNUAL
I am always sincerely sorry to have to tell you anything
disagreeable, and for that reason I waited for the moment when I
should be able to state that the aforesaid sum would be sent to
you. I have more than once explained to you my difficult
pecuniary situation, which simply amounts to this, that my mother
and my three children are decently provided for by my former
savings, and that I have to manage on my salary as Capellmeister
of one thousand thalers, and three hundred thalers more by way of
a present for the court concerts. For many years, since I became
firmly resolved to live up to my artistic vocation, I have not
been able to count upon any additional money from the music
publishers. My Symphonic Poems, of which I shall send you a few
in full score in a fortnight's time, do not bring me in a
shilling, but, on the contrary, cost me a considerable sum, which
I have to spend on the purchase of copies for distribution
amongst my friends. My Mass and my "Faust" symphony, etc., are
also entirely USELESS works, and for several years to come I have
no chance of earning money. Fortunately I can just manage, but I
must pinch a good deal and have to be careful not to get into any
trouble, which might affect my position very unpleasantly. Do not
be angry, therefore, dearest Richard, if I do not enter upon your
proposal, because for the present I can really not undertake any
regular obligations. If, which is not quite impossible, my
circumstances should improve later on, it will be a pleasure to
me to relieve your position.
About my journey to Zurich I can tell you nothing until I know
when the consecration of the Gran cathedral is to take place.
Some papers state that this solemnity will come off in the course
of September. In that case I shall come to you before, at the
beginning of August. As soon as I have official news I shall
write to you. In the meantime I must stay here. On April 8th, the
birthday of the Grand Duchess, I have to conduct "I due Foscari"
by Verdi, and at the end of April the performances of your niece
Unfortunately I missed Carl Ritter when he called; I had gone to
Gotha for that day to hear the Duke's opera "Tony." Carl Formes
sang the title part. I hope I shall see Carl at Zurich. Remember
me kindly to him. Through his sister Emilie you have probably had
news of our last "Lohengrin" performance, which went off very
well. Caspari sang "Lohengrin" much better than it had been heard
here before. The Princess of Prussia had asked for the
performance, and for want of a local Ortrud (Frau Knopp, who used
to sing the part here, has given up her engagement and gone to
Konigsberg) we had to write for Madame Marx, of Darmstadt, in all
haste. An overcrowded house and a most attentive public were
foregone conclusions. Berlioz was present.
Do you correspond with Counsellor Muller? He is sincerely
devoted to you, and well intentioned.
Dingelstedt, who was here lately, intends to give "Lohengrin"
next winter, and NOT BEFORE. Of the very DECIDED success of the
performance at Prague you have probably heard. Fraulein Stoger,
daughter of the manager there, sang Ortrud, and wrote me a letter
full of enthusiasm about the enthusiasm of the public and the
musicians. She was engaged at Weymar until last season.
Farewell, and be patient, dearest friend, and write soon to
March 25th, 1856.
Your letter has grieved me very much. Do you really think it
necessary to explain to me by an exact description of your
situation why you cannot comply with my request for new pecuniary
assistance? If you only knew how ashamed and humiliated I feel!
It is true that I applied elsewhere first, and then came back to
you, because the feeling of having to accept benefits from less
intimate friends frequently becomes absolutely unbearable to me.
This induced me to apply for assistance to you, who never allow
me to feel the deepest obligations in a painful sense. I thought,
of course, more of your protection and intercession than of a
sacrifice of your personal income, because I know sufficiently
well how limited your resources are. That I spoke in so
determined a manner was owing to the eccentric nature of my whole
situation, which makes everything concerning my most intimate
feeling take a violent form.
About this also I feel the absolute necessity of personal
communication with you. Everything here is so delicate, so finely
threaded, that it cannot be explained by letter. I want so much
patience to preserve courage and love of work in my precarious
position, that in my daily efforts to keep up that courage in
spite of my miserable circumstances, I can only gain a few
moments in which I am happy in my work, and forget all around me.
The reason is that delusive possibilities of escape continually
haunt my troubled imagination. But about this we must have some
Your offer of help in the circumstances in which you make it to
me has placed me in a painful position, and so much is certain,
that I cannot accept the sum which you promise to me for May in
order to make my life more pleasant. I must put my income on a
different basis, that is understood, and you will understand me
if I say so. If, on the other hand, you contrive to dispose of
that sum in my favour under conditions less troublesome to
yourself, I accept it for the purpose of meeting the expenses of
the copying of my scores and pianoforte arrangements, which is
very expensive here. I have already spent some money on it, and
the hole this has made in my income I must fill up somehow. I
certainly cannot go on paying for the copying with my own money.
I therefore undertake, for the sum already named, to have all the
scores and pianoforte arrangements of my "Nibelung" dramas
copied, and to place the copies at your disposal as your
property, assuming at the same time that you will kindly lend
them to me, as soon and as often as I want them. Are you
satisfied with this?
The copy of the "Rhinegold" is quite ready, and I expect it back
from London, together with Klindworth's arrangement. This
therefore, would be at your disposal at once. Of the pianoforte
arrangement of the "Valkyrie," the first two acts will be
finished very soon; the third act I recently sent to Klindworth.
Hoping that you will accept my proposal, I shall now have the
copy of the full score of the "Valkyrie" taken in hand, and this
also you can have as soon as it is finished, because Klindworth
works from my sketches of the parts. If at this moment you have
leisure, and wish to look at it, I will with pleasure let you
have the original score of the finished work for some time, and
shall occupy the copyist with the pianoforte arrangement of the
"Rhinegold" which I expect very soon. I am very anxious to know
how the last act will please you, for, besides you, there is
really no one to whom I could show it with any satisfaction. I
have succeeded, and it is probably the best thing I have written.
It contains a terrible storm of the elements and the hearts,
which is gradually calmed down to the miraculous sleep of
Brynhild. What a pity you will be far from me for so long! Could
you not pay me a short flying visit soon?
And am I at last to see some of your new compositions? Their
arrival and entry into my home shall be blessed. I have desired
to see them ever so long.
Had you nothing more to tell me about Berlioz? I was expecting to
hear a great deal of him. And cannot you send me any of his
scores? I am, as you may imagine, making a pause in my work now.
I am waiting to see what my health will do; my doctor wants to
send me to some watering place, but to this I will not, and
cannot agree. If I knew how to manage it I should go with Semper
to Rome in the autumn. We frequently talk about it, always in the
silent hope that you might be one of the party. Here you have my
latest whim. A thousand greetings to the Princess and her
daughter. She has written me a very cheerful and friendly letter,
for which I am deeply obliged to her. I ask you fervently,
dearest friend, not again to keep me waiting for a letter so
long. Write to me soon and at some length, as we are not going to
meet just yet.
Farewell, and continue to love me.
MY DEAR FRANZ,
Before taking any steps with regard to my amnesty, I must, once
more, take counsel with you, and as this is impossible by word of
mouth, as I should have wished, it must be done by letter as
briefly as possible.
From Prague the Director of Police there, Baron von Peimann, sent
me the advice that I should become a Swiss citizen. In that case
the Austrian minister would give his vise to my passport for all
the Imperial states, and I might then reside there without being
disturbed, for if Saxony should claim me, the reply would be that
no Saxon subject of the name of R. W. was known. This would give
me some air at least in one direction, and although not much
would be gained by it, I might make use of it if there were an
intention of performing "Tannhauser" at Vienna, which opera I
should let them have there only on condition of my conducting it
personally. It is of course more important to me to be allowed to
return to Germany proper, not in order to reside there
permanently, for I can thrive only in the retirement which I can
best secure in a little quiet place in Switzerland, but in order
to be present now and then at an important performance,
especially of "Lohengrin," and to gain the necessary excitement,
without which I must perish at last. I am FIRMLY RESOLVED not to
allow "Lohengrin" to be given at either Berlin or Munich WITHOUT
ME. A performance of my "Nibelungen" can of course not be thought
of, unless I have the permission to travel through Germany so as
to gain a knowledge of the acting and singing materials at the
theatres. Finally I feel the absolute necessity of living, at
least part of every year, near YOU, and you may be assured that I
should make a more frequent and more constant use of the
possibility of visiting you than you do. To gain all this has now
become a matter of the greatest importance to me, and I cannot go
on living without at last and quickly taking a decisive step in
that direction. I am therefore determined to apply to the King of
Saxony for my amnesty in a letter in which I shall candidly own
my rashness, and at the same time explicitly state that my
promise, never and in no manner to meddle with politics, comes
from my very heart. The drawback to this is that, if the other
side were ill-inclined, my letter might easily be published in
such a manner that I should be compelled to protest publicly
against a false and humiliating explanation of my step, and this
would lead to a permanent breach, which would make reconciliation
impossible. Taking all this into account, I must think it the
best thing if my request were laid before the King by word of
mouth, through a third person. To satisfy me completely, and give
me a chance of success, this could only be done by you, dear
Franz. Therefore I ask you plainly, Will you undertake to demand
an audience of the King of Saxony on the strength of a letter
from the Grand Duke of Weimar? What you should say to the King at
such an audience I need not indicate, but we surely agree that in
asking for my amnesty stress should be laid upon my ARTISTIC
NATURE. On account of that nature and of my individual character
as an artist, my startling political excess can alone be
explained and excused, and the reasons for my amnesty should be
considered in the same light. With regard to that excess and to
its consequences, which have continued for several years, I am
ready to admit that I appear to myself as one who was in error
and led away by passion, although I am not conscious that I have
committed a real crime, which would come under a judicial
sentence, and I should therefore find it difficult to plead
guilty to such a crime. Concerning my conduct in the future, I
should be prepared to make any binding promise that could be
desired of me. I should only have to announce the modified and
clearer view which makes me look upon the affairs of this world
in a light in which I did not see them previously, and which
induces me to confine myself to my art, without any reference to
political speculation. You might also point out that my
reappearance in Germany could in no circumstances give rise to a
demonstration which, although it might be meant for the artist
only, could be explained and applied in a political sense by
evil-disposed persons. Fortunately I have, as AN ARTIST, reached
such a stage that I need consider only my works of art and their
success, but no longer the applause of the multitude. I would
therefore promise, with the greatest determination and quite in
accordance with my own wishes, to avoid every public
demonstration of sympathy which might be offered to me, even as
an artist, such as complimentary dinners and the like. These I
should most positively decline, and indeed make them, as far as
would be in my power, impossible by the mode of my sojourn in
various places. I should not even insist upon conducting the
performance of any of my operas in person. All I should care for
would be to secure a correct rendering on the part of the artists
and the conductor by my presence at the rehearsals. If, for the
purpose of avoiding any possible demonstration, it should be
thought necessary, I should be prepared to leave the town after
the completion of the rehearsals and before the performance,
which would show clearly enough what is alone of importance to
me. In addition to this, I will undertake to avoid in my
writings, even of a purely artistic nature, such combative
expressions open to misapprehension as may have escaped me
formerly in my irritability. Considering all these declarations,
the future need be dealt with no longer, only the past. And over
that it would be well, in the case of an artist, to throw the
veil of forgetfulness, not to make it a cause for revenge. All
this you might in conversation explain in a much more
comprehensive and conciliatory manner than I could do by letter,
especially in a petition for amnesty.
I therefore ask you most fervently, perform this great service of
friendship for me. Sacrifice to me the two days which a visit to
Dresden would cost you, and explain the matter with that emphasis
which alone can avail. From no other measure can I expect a
definite and positive result. You alone can speak for me in the
manner which is required. If, for special reasons, you should
refuse my demand, it would only remain to me to write to the King
myself, and in that case we should have to consider by whom my
letter could be forwarded to the King, perhaps through the Weimar
ambassador. In case the King should refuse my request I might
fall back upon the intercession of one of the Prussian ministers,
which has been offered to me for that purpose. But I rely little
on that, while I expect everything from you and your personal
pleading. Be good enough then to let me know soon what I had
Farewell, and accept the cordial greetings of your
ZURICH, April 13th, 1858.
Perhaps you might on the same occasion hand a copy of my
"Nibelungen" poem to the King.
I have not neglected the steps for your return to Germany.
Unfortunately my late efforts and endeavours have not as yet led
to a favourable result, which proves by no means that such may
not be the case in the future. Your hint about the roundabout
way, viz., Prague, I believe to be an illusion which you ought
not to cherish, because it might lead to the most dangerous
The only thing that I can advise, and which I most urgently
request you to do, is to send at once your petition to His
Majesty the King of Saxony.
The stage into which this affair has got makes such a step
absolutely necessary, and you may be sure that I should not urge
you to it if I were not firmly convinced that your return to
Germany cannot be brought about in any other way. As you have
already told me that you would write to the King, I feel sure
that you will do so without delay. Send me a copy of your letter
to the King. You should, in the first instance, ask for an
amnesty to the extent only THAT YOU MIGHT BE PERMITTED TO HEAR
YOUR WORKS AT WEYMAR, because this would be necessary for your
intellectual development, and because you felt sure that the
Grand Duke of Weymar would receive you in a kindly spirit. It
breaks my heart to have to prescribe such tedious methods, but
believe me, in that direction lies your only way to Germany. When
you have once been here for a few weeks the rest will be easily
arranged, and I shall give you the necessary information in due
In the meantime we must have patience and again patience.
Take heart of grace in the hope which I have by no means
abandoned, that we shall see you here.
Johanna has been here this last week, and has sung Orpheus and
Romeo with the MOST ENORMOUS applause.
I shall have to tell you many things about her when we meet.
By this post you receive the three first numbers of my Symphonic
Poems, which have just been published.
Your last letter found me again on a sick bed. Today I am
scarcely recovered, and fear another relapse; that is how I am.
Today I received the second instalment of your Symphonic Poems,
and I feel all of a sudden so rich that I can scarcely believe
it. Unfortunately it is only with great difficulty that I can
gain a clear conception of them. This would be done with
lightning rapidity if you could play them to me. I am looking
forward with the eagerness of a child to studying them. If I
could only be well again!
(Do you want the third act of the "Valkyrie?" My copyist works so
slowly that there will be plenty of time for you to let me know
your wishes. The copy of the full score of the "Rhinegold" I
expect back from Klindworth before long, and shall send it to
I am going to take a purgative in order to avoid the return of my
illness. I wish I could, instead, start for Purgatory at once.
Adieu. A thousand thanks for your friendship.
MORNEX, near GENEVA, July 12th, 1856.
MY DEAR FRANZ,
I have flown, as you see, to this place in order to seek final
recovery. I could not help laughing when the excellent Princess,
with much sorrow and sympathy, announced the impending arrival of
the M. family at Zurich. From evils of that kind I am safe. No
outsider can know approximately what troubles and tortures people
of our stamp suffer when we sacrifice ourselves in the
intercourse with heterogeneous strangers. These tortures are all
the greater because no one else can understand them, and because
the most unsympathetic people believe that we are in reality like
themselves; for they understand only just that part of us which
we really have in common with them, and do not perceive how
little, how almost nothing that is. To repeat it, the tortures of
this kind of intercourse are positively the most painful of all
to me, and I am only intent upon keeping to myself. I force
myself to solitude, and to achieve this is my greatest care. When
I was on the point of taking flight, at the end of May,
Tichatschek suddenly called on me. This good man, with his
splendid, childlike heart, and his amiable little head, was very
agreeable to me, and his enthusiastic attachment to me did me
good. I was specially pleased with his voice, and tried to
persuade myself that I still had confidence in it.
I wanted to take him to Brunnen, but bad weather delayed our
purpose; still we risked it after all, when the carriage drive
brought me another attack of erysipelas in the face--the TWELFTH
this winter. I had foreseen all this, and therefore during
Tichatschek's stay of twelve days, was in a state of continual,
painful anxiety. This abominable illness has brought me very low.
In the month of May alone I had three relapses, and even now not
an hour passes without my living in fear of a new attack. In
consequence, I am unfit for anything, and it is obvious that I
must think of my thorough recovery. For that purpose a painfully
strict regime with regard to diet and general mode of life is
required; the slightest disorder of my stomach immediately
affects my complaint. What I want is absolute rest, avoidance of
all excitement and annoyance, etc.; also Carlsbad water, certain
warm baths later on cold ones, and the like. In order to get away
from home as far as possible, and to avoid all temptation to
social intercourse, I have retired here, where I have found a
very convenient refuge. I live at two hours' distance from
Geneva, on the other side of Mont Saleve, halfway from the top,
in splendid air. At a Pension I discovered a little summer-house,
apart from the chief building, where I live quite alone. From the
balcony I have the most divine view of the whole Mont Blanc
range, and from the door I step into a pretty little garden.
Absolute seclusion was my first condition. I am served
separately, and see no one but the waiter. A dear little dog, the
successor of Peps, Fips by name, is my only company. ONE thing I
had to concede in return for the favour of possessing this garden
salon; every Sunday morning from nine till twelve I have to turn
out. At that hour a clergyman comes from Geneva and performs
divine service for the Protestants of this place, in the same
locality which I, a godless being, occupy for the rest of the
time. But I willingly make this sacrifice, were it only for the
sake of religion. I fancy I shall meet with my reward. But the
thing is frightfully dear, and without your subsidy I could not
have undertaken this expedition. I have had to make an inroad
into the money which I had destined for the copying of the
scores; I could not help it. The money from Vienna arrived
exactly on my birthday; accept my cordial thanks for this
sacrifice. I know it is infamous that you have to give me money;
why do you do it? On the same occasion I was gratified by a few
very friendly lines from your relative, of whose existence I was
not aware; they somewhat sweetened the bitterness of having to
take money from you. Remember me to him, and thank him cordially
in my name.
A piano, although not of the first order, stands in my salon. I
hope I shall soon have the courage to begin my "Siegfried" at
last, but first of all I must take your scores thoroughly in
hand. How many things you have sent me! I had been longing to
have, at last, some of your new works; but now this wealth almost
embarrasses me, and I shall require time to take in everything
properly. For that purpose it would, of course, be necessary for
me to hear your poems, or for you to play them to me. It is very
well to read something of that kind, but the real salt, that
which decides and solves all doubts, can only be enjoyed by
actual hearing. In that terrible month of May I was able only to
look at your scores with a tired eye, and as through dark clouds;
but even then I received the electric shock, which none but great
things produce on us, and so much I know that you are a wonderful
man, by whose side I can place no other phenomenon in the domains
of art and of life. So much was I struck by your conception, and
by the design of your execution in its larger outlines, that I at
once longed for something new--the three remaining pieces, and
"Faust" and "Dante." There you see what I am. Without having made
myself acquainted with the finer details of the artistic
execution proper I wanted to go on, probably because I had to
despair of recognizing these without hearing them. For nothing is
more misleading and useless than to attempt this by a laborious,
halting and blundering performance on the piano, while an
excellent and expressive execution in the right tempo at once
produces the right picture in its varied colours. That is why you
are so fortunate in being able to do this with supreme
excellence. If I look upon your artistic career, different as it
is from any other, I clearly perceive the instinct which led you
into the path now trodden by you. You are by nature the genuine,
happy artist who not only produces, but also represents. Whatever
formerly, as a pianist, you might play, it was always the
personal communication of your beautiful individuality which
revealed entirely new and unknown things to us, and he only was
able and competent to judge you to whom you had played in a happy
mood. This new and indescribably individual element was still
dependent on your personality, and without your actual presence
it did, properly speaking, not exist. On hearing you one felt
sad, because these marvels were to be irretrievably lost with
your person, for it is absurd to think that you could perpetuate
your art through your pupils, as some one at Berlin boasted
lately. But nature, by some infallible means, always takes care
of the permanent existence of that which she produces so seldom
and only under abnormal conditions; and she showed you the right
way. You were led to perpetuate the miracle of your personal
communication in a manner which made it independent of your
individual existence. That which you played on the piano would
not have been sufficient for this purpose, for it became only
through means of your personal interpretation what it appeared to
us to be; for which reason, let me repeat it, it was frequently
indifferent what and whose works you played. You, therefore,
without any effort, hit upon the idea of replacing your personal
art by the orchestra, that is, by compositions which, through the
inexhaustible means of expression existing in the orchestra, were
able to reflect your individuality without the aid of your
individual presence. Your orchestral works represent to me, so to
speak, your personal art in a monumental form; and in that
respect they are so new, so incomparable to anything else, that
criticism will take a long time to find out what to make of them.
Ah me! all this seems very awkward and open to misunderstanding
in a letter; but when we meet I think I shall be able to tell you
many new things which you have made clear to me. I hope I shall
have the necessary leisure and sufficient lucidity of expression.
For that purpose I want good health; for, failing this, I always
lapse into that fatal irritability which frustrates everything,
and always leaves the best things unsaid. For the same reason,
and because our meeting is to me, as it were, the goal for which
I strive as the one desirable end, my only care now is the
perfect recovery of my health. Let us hope that my efforts and
many sacrifices will lead me to it. I shall take care to send you
accounts at frequent intervals. My amnesty is of importance to me
for this reason ONLY, that in the case of success my way to you
would always lie open; if it is granted to me you will have to
put up with me for some time next winter.
Franz Muller has congratulated me on my birthday in a very
touching manner. I cannot write to him today, but I ask you to
give him the news I send you, and to assure him that his
friendship is a great boon to me. In case he cannot accompany you
when you visit me, I hope to become thoroughly acquainted with
him at your house in the autumn, if only the Saxon Minister of
Justice will listen to reason. Even his intention of visiting me
has made me very happy.
A thousand cordial thanks for the letter of the dear Princess,
who soon will have to take the title of private secretary. My
best greetings to ALL.
The splendid air and the quiet sympathetic surroundings which I
have been enjoying for two days have already cheered me up a
little, and I begin to have hopes of perfect health.
Farewell, my dearest, my only friend. For heaven's sake, do not
be so chary of your communications.
When we compare letters some day, I shall appear a veritable
babbler by the side of you; while you, on the other hand, will
make a noble show as a man of deeds. But, dearest Franz, a little
confidential talk is not to be despised. Take note of this, you
Farewell, and write to me soon. I shall once more have a good go
at your scores, and hope to get well into them. My address is
still Poste restante, Geneve.
Your "Mazeppa" is terribly beautiful; I was quite out of breath
when I read it for the first time. I pity the poor horse; nature
and the world are horrible. I would really rather write poetry
than music just now; it requires no end of obstinacy to stick to
one thing. I have again two splendid subjects which I must
execute. "Tristan and Isolde," you know, and after that the
"Victory," the most sacred, the most perfect salvation. But that
I cannot yet tell you. For the final "Victory" I have another
interpretation than that supplied by Victor Hugo, and your music
has given it to me, all but the close; for greatness, glory, and
the dominion of nations I do not care at all.
My Hungarian journey has, during the last three weeks, become
unexpectedly a doubtful matter, and I did not like, dearest
Richard, to write to you before I could tell you something more
definite; for the time of my visit must be arranged according to
that journey taking or not taking place. The consecration of Gran
cathedral is fixed for August 31st, and in case I go there to
conduct my Mass, I should be with you in Zurich about September
15th or 20th; but if I am relieved of that duty I shall be at
Zurich about the end of August. I hope to know by the end of next
week what has been settled, and shall then ask the Princess to
let you know particulars. In the meantime, albeit used to
waiting, I did not care to wait any longer before I told you that
I am an hungered and athirst for being together with you, and
going through our programme of NONSENSE; the hors d'oeuvre
(which, as you know, have the quality of exciting both hunger and
thirst) of your feast of "Rhinegold" and "Valkyrie" will be my
symphony to Dante's "Divina Commedia," which will belong to you
and was finished yesterday. It takes a little less than an hour
in performance, and may amuse you.
After that you will speak to me about your VICTORY, the most
sacred, the most perfect salvation....What will it be? The few
hints in your last letter have made me very curious to know the
Your amnesty business will, for the present, remain in statu quo,
but I hope you will come to me next winter, and am preparing your
rooms at Altenburg. Speak to no one about it. I shall tell you
what I have heard when I see you. Before all, take care of your
health, and do all you can so that more rosy aspects may open
before you than the roses which erysipelas has painted on your
face. Unfortunately, with regard to external matters, I cannot
present you with many rosy things, although, as far as
appearances go, I am counted amongst the happy. It is true I am
happy, as happy as a child of this earth can be. I may confess
this to you, because you know the infinite self-sacrifice and
invincible love which have supported my whole existence for the
last eight years. Why need I be disturbed by other troubles? All
else is only the peace-offering for my exalted happiness.
Do not reproach me any longer for not telling you anything about
myself, for in these words I confide to you the secret of my
Forgive me for not having written to you so long; the Hungarian
troubles, caused by my Mass, were at fault. Let me know soon
whether you are back at Zurich, and whether my coming to you
about the end of August or the middle of September will suit you.
You will receive more definite news before long. You have
probably seen in the newspapers that Herr and Frau Milde sang the
duet from the Dutchman at the Magdeburg Musical Festival
excellently, and with splendid success. At the rehearsal I made
the horns repeat several times, till at last they succeeded in
pulsating tenderly and passionately. The critic of the Magdeburg
"Although we were at first not sorry that Wagner's name did not
appear in the programme, it was very interesting to hear this
scene sung by the two Mildes, who have studied these compositions
under the direction of Herr Liszt, the chief representative of
the Wagner movement. Both sang beautifully, and in many passages,
especially in the second half, with overpowering beauty. We close
our notice with the words of the duet, 'We were conquered by a
Criticisms in the newspapers remind me of A., whom, during my
stay at Berlin, I found in the most touching state of anxiety
about the notices of the performance of "Tannhauser" that might
be published by the Berlin press. Highly estimating, as I do, her
friendship for you, which also keeps up a kind of amiable feeling
between us two, I could not avoid offending her a little by my
indifference. Again, during her last stay here, about three weeks
ago, she excited me to a few bad jokes by the enthusiastic
interest with which she attended a performance of Auber's "Le
Macon" at the theatre here. She was indeed near being seriously
offended by my bad jokes at the many-sidedness of taste, or
rather, the want of taste, shown by her veneration for this
musique de grisettes. When an occasion offers I will try to make
it up with her.
I have only too many opportunities of experiencing what you so
justly say of the troubles and inconveniences which arise to us
from intercourse with heterogeneous persons, although I may boast
of possessing a thicker and more impenetrable skin, and a much
larger portion of patience, than you.
For today I must not tax your patience any more by gossip of this
kind. In a few weeks we shall communicate without the aid of ink
and paper, which is the real and wholesome thing for us.
Perhaps the Princess will accompany me to Zurich this time.
MORNEX, NEAR GENEVA, July 2Oth, 1856.
You may easily imagine, dearest Franz, how delighted I was by
your letter. Sometimes I grow anxious about you when I do not see
you or have proper news from you for such a long time; I always
think then that you care for me no longer. I shall not write to
you anything rational now, for your letter can be answered only
by word of mouth. God knows, I castigate my flesh by this cure
chiefly in order to be quite well when we meet at last. As
regards my health, I could not have done better than place myself
under the immediate guidance and supervision of an excellent
French physician, Dr. Vaillant, who conducts a hydropathic
establishment here. I conquered my first aversion to the course
when I recognized the valour of this Parisian Vaillant. I go
thoroughly to work in using this new and careful treatment, and
feel sure of being completely cured of my ailment, which, after
all, was caused by nervousness. But it is more than possible that
I shall be detained by it till the end of August, and I should
therefore prefer, after all, if you could come about the middle
of September. This also seems to me more likely, because I cannot
believe that you will give up Gran altogether. I expect then to
see you crowned with glory on your return from the land of your
Your Symphonic Poems are now quite familiar to me; they are the
only music which occupies me at present, for during my cure I
must not think of doing any work. I read one or other of the
scores every day, just as I might read a poem, fluently and
without stopping. I feel every time as if I had dived into a deep
crystal flood, to be there quite by myself, leaving all the world
behind me, and living for an hour my real life. Refreshed and
strengthened, I rise again to long for your presence. Yes,
friend, you can do it, YOU CAN DO IT!
Well, not much can be said about it; the noblest expressions
might easily seem a little trivial in such a connection. Enough,
you will soon be here, and bring me my Dante. This is a
beautiful, glorious lookout; I thank you.
I sent you yesterday a parcel containing the original scores of
"Rhinegold" and the "Valkyrie." Their fate will probably be a
peculiar one. Let me explain briefly:--
I shall perish, and shall be quite incapable of further work,
unless I find a habitation such as I require, viz., a small house
to myself and a garden, both removed from all noise, and
especially from the damnable pianoforte noise, which I am doomed
not to escape wherever I turn, not even here, and which has made
me so nervous that even the very thought of it prevents me from
thinking of work. Four years I tried in vain to realise this
wish, which I can accomplish only by buying a piece of ground
and building a house on it. Over this possibility I brooded like
a madman, when it occurred to me not long ago to offer my
"Nibelungen" to the Hartels, and to get the necessary money from
them. They have expressed to me their willingness of doing
something out of the way in order to gain possession of my work,
and I have in consequence made the following demand: They are to
purchase the two pieces which have already been finished, and are
to expect "Siegfried" in the course of next year, and
"Siegfried's Death" at the end of 1858, paying in each instance
the honorarium on the delivery of the manuscript. They also bind
themselves to publish the whole in 1859, the year of the
performance. I have been led to this by sheer despair; the
Hartels are to supply me with means for the purchase of a piece
of ground according to my fancy. If we agree, which must be
decided soon, I shall have to send them, in the first instance,
my two scores, so as to place them in possession of the material
for their future publication. But they will only keep them long
enough to take a copy, and then return the originals to you. In
any case, if I want the money, I must enable them to take actual
possession. They must of course lend me the scores, in case they
have not yet been copied, during your visit to me; that is
understood. As you do not yet know the last act of the
"Valkyrie," I send you the score before taking further steps, so
that you, and no one else, may be the first to whom I communicate
it. If you have time, read the act quickly, and then keep the
whole in readiness for sending it to the Hartels as soon as I ask
you. About this whole matter, however, we must come to a better
understanding when we meet.
During my cure here I have become terribly indifferent towards my
work. Lord knows, if I am not much encouraged to finish it, I
shall leave it alone. Why should a poor devil like me worry and
plague himself with these terrible burdens if my contemporaries
will not even grant me a place for doing my work? I have told the
Hartels as much; if they will not help me to a house, detached
and situated on an eminence, such as I want it, I shall leave the
whole rubbish alone.
Well, if you only will come, I shall not trouble Saxony and the
rest of Germany for some time. Bring the Princess with you, do
you hear? And the Child, too, must come. If you put me in a good
temper I shall perhaps lay my "Victors" before you, although this
will be very difficult. For although I have carried the idea
about with me for a long time, the material for its embodiment
has only just been shown to me as in a flash of lightning. To me
it is most clear and definite, but not as yet fit for
communication. Moreover, you must first have digested my
"Tristan," especially the third act, with the black flag and the
white. After that you will understand the "Victors" better.
But I am saying vague things.
Come and bring me the divine comedy, and we shall see then how we
can come to an understanding about the divine tragedy.
Thine for ever and aye,
I pray you most ardently to let me know AT ONCE by a line the
receipt, or possibly the non-receipt, of my scores.
I always feel nervous when I know they are on the road. They left
My address is:-
a Mornex, Poste restante, No. III, a Geneve.
I say, Franz, a divine idea strikes me.
YOU MUST GET ME AN ERARD GRAND!
Write to the widow and tell her that you visit me THREE TIMES
every year, and that you must absolutely have a better grand
piano than the old and lame one in my possession. Tell her
a hundred thousand fibs, and make her believe that it is for her a
point of honour that an Erard should stand in my house.
In brief, do not think, but act with the impudence of genius. I
MUST HAVE AN ERARD. If they will not give me one let them lend me
one on a yard-long lease.
I am leaving Mornex.
I shall be better than ever on September 20th.
Write to Madame Erard that she must send me a grand piano at
once. I will pay her in instalments of five hundred francs a year
without a doubt.
It must be here when you come.
Happiness and joy to you.
I thank you, dearest, most unique of men, for having sent me your
scores of "Rhinegold" and the "Valkyrie." The work has for me the
fabulous attractive power of the magnet mountain, which fetters
irresistibly the ship and the sailor. H. has been with me for a
few days, and I was unable to withhold from him the joy of
viewing Valhall. So he tinkles and hammers the orchestra on the
piano, while I howl, and groan, and roar the vocal parts; this by
way of prelude to OUR great performance at your Zurich palace, to
which I am looking forward with longing.
In a week's time I start for Hungary, and my Mass will be
performed on August 31st, on the occasion of the Gran ceremony,
for which it has been written. For several minor reasons I must,
after that, stay at Pesth and Vienna for a few weeks, and shall
therefore not be at Zurich till about September 20th. Probably
the Princess will come, too, together with her daughter.
Franz Muller will pay you a visit at Mornex about the middle of
this month, and will show you his work on the "Nibelungen."
The two scores I shall leave here in the keeping of the Princess
until you write to HER that they are to be sent to the Hartels.
Your idea of becoming a houseowner at Zurich is quite peculiar,
and I congratulate you cordially on the building delights which
Dawison told me recently that his starring engagement had enabled
him to buy a villa near Dresden. At the same rate, you ought to
be able to purchase with your scores at least the whole of
Zurich, together with the Sieben Churfursten and the lake.
Whether Madame Erard will be inclined to dispose of a grand piano
on the advantageous terms you mention is a questionable question,
which I shall put to her when I have the chance. Try, first of
all, to get quite well; the other ARRANGEMENTS will come in due
May God protect you.
August 1st, 1856.
We are just going together with H. (who wishes to be remembered
to you), to have another try at the last act of the "Valkyrie."
In order to give you a little more diversion I herewith introduce
to you Herr Zeugherr, an architect, and an acquaintance of
Ernst's; he is in search of a little villa for me to compose in,
but has as yet found nothing. Perhaps you will inspire him.
Farewell, and receive best greetings from your
That I ran away from you was a perfect inspiration, which should
bring noble fruit both to you and to me.
I shall go to bed at nine; do you likewise, and sleep by the
book, so that we may present to each other to-morrow morning a
couple of fresh faces, ready to face the world.
I shall study "Mephistopheles" a little today.
If you like we will do some Valkyring tomorrow.
May a thousand gods protect you.
R. W. 225.
Believe me, by all that is sacred to you and me, that I am ill,
and require the most perfect rest and care today, in order, let
us hope, to enjoy you again tomorrow. A very considerable, though
welcome and wholesome, catarrh weighs down my limbs like lead. It
developed during last night, together with an inflamed throat and
other addenda. The slightest excitement would impede my recovery.
Au revoir in a rational matter tomorrow.
MY DEAREST FRANZ,
I must think it really fortunate that you this time cultivate a
few other acquaintances, and that I may therefore disappear for a
short time without attracting too much attention.
My catarrh has developed so thoroughly and nobly, that I may hope
it will rid me of my usual winter illness, if I take proper care
of it; even now I perceive the beneficial effect of nature's
self-relief, although I feel as if leaden fetters were on me. I
am sure that I shall be better in a few days, and am looking
forward to offering you the fruits of my recovery in the shape of
an excellent temper.
For today I am a strict patient, and must not think of a visit to
Herwegh. If you will give me the pleasure of seeing you today, I
inform you that I shall have to perspire from noon to 4 p.m.;
before or afterwards my aspect would be less horrible. The
hardest thing was that I had to miss the organ concert yesterday.
But resignation helps me over everything.
I will try to finish the letter to the Grand Duke today.
A hundred thousand most cordial remembrances to the whole
Rectory. How are you, indefatigable man?
Here I sit again gazing after you. My best thanks to your dear
Princess for the first news. My mind was set at rest not a little
on hearing that you had been able to continue your journey to
Munich without mishap. There you will be able to rest a little
more comfortably than at the Hecht of St. Gallen. Rest? Ye
A thousand ardent blessings follow you everywhere. What you have
become to me your hearts will tell you. You are so rich a
possession to me that I scarcely know how to realise it. But on
the other hand, you are to me a continual sermon of repentance; I
cannot think of you without being heartily ashamed of myself.
How can you bear with me, who appear so unbearable to myself?
But I am not without good resolutions of amendment. Although I
shall palm off great part of the care on my doctor, who is to put
me completely on my legs again next spring, I am too well aware
that an enormous labour--less watercure than purgatory--lies
before me. Yes, I will shut myself up in that Purgatorio, and
hope, dearest Franz, that I shall do so well that I may greet you
with a MAGNIFICAT soon. It is true that I shall never be able to
equal you, but then you are the only genuine virtuoso.
My aesthetic efforts will, I hope, cure my moral prostration to
some extent. I must try tomorrow to break the news of the death
of his mother to "Siegfried." On Thursday evening I arrived at
the Zeltweg, freezing and empty, with a violent cold and in
terrible weather; since then I have not set foot out of doors.
All I did was to find a good place for the Madonna and Francesca,
which was a difficult job. I hammered like Mime. Now all is safe
and sound. The Madonna hangs over my writing table and Francesca
over the sofa, under the looking-glass, where she looks
beautiful. When I begin "Tristan" Francesca will have to go over
the writing table, and the turn of the Madonna will not come
again until I take the "Victors" in hand. For the present I will
try to inspire myself a little with the victrix, and to imagine
that I could do the same thing.
My studs are much finer than yours, dear Child; that any one can
see. Yours have the sole advantage of moving one to resignation,
while mine excite my vanity terribly--a kind of surreptitious
vanity, not before the eyes of people, but all to myself; merely
for the sake of the studs, not for effect. It is just the same
with my "Nibelungen." You always think of the effect of the
performance, I of the shirt studs that may be hidden in it.
Well, my blessings on you. If only the dear "lady friend" would
soon recover her health, so that the great professors of Munich
might delight in the "Rectory family"! Dear, good Princess, and
dear, dear Franz,
MON BON GRAND! Good and great you are. My blessings on you!
Farewell, and forget all bad and unpleasant things about me.
Remember only the kindness of which you thought me worthy.
Adieu. I am always yours.
My wife has not scolded me once, although yesterday I had the
spleen badly enough. She greets you with all her power, and is
thankful for your friendship.
ZURICH, December 6th, 1856.
I have not forgotten to convey your greetings and inquiries.
Wesendonck has written to me in reply, and enclosed a letter of
his wife's to the Princess, which I herewith ask you to hand to
I long for news from you. How are you, dear Franz, and does the
Princess keep her health? From her daughter I soon expect a
letter, as we have promised to correspond with each other.
I feel so-so. I shall finish the first scene one of these days.
Curiously enough, it is only during composition that the real
essence of my poem is revealed to me. Everywhere I discover
secrets which had been previously hidden from me, and everything
in consequence grows more passionate, more impulsive. Altogether
it will require a good deal of obstinacy to get all this done,
and you have not really put me in the right mind for it.
However, I must think that I am doing all this for myself, in
order to pass the days. Be it so.
You may believe me or not, I have no other desire than that of
coming to you soon. Do not fail to let me know always what
chances there are. I want music, too, and, Heaven knows, you are
the only one who can supply me with it. As a musician, I feel
perfectly mean, while I think I have discovered that you are the
greatest musician of all times. This will be something new to
Adieu. Tell M. that I have overhauled the old red letter case,
and have got my biography up to December 1st, 1856, into shape.
A hundred thousand remembrances to mother and child.
Farewell, and take care to let me have some of your new scores
Your R. W.
MUNICH, December 12th, 1856.
I have come to a close of my stay at Munich, and want to send you
a few short notes of it before returning to Weymar, which will
happen tomorrow evening. First of all about the performance of
"Tannhauser", which took place last Sunday (apart from the
subscription nights) for the benefit of the Munich poor. The
Princess had taken two boxes, which we occupied together with
Kaulbach, E. Forster, Liebig, Carriere, and others. The scenery
and dresses are brilliant, but probably you would not like them
particularly, and I, for my part, think them mannered and
pretentious. In the orchestra the wind (especially flutes,
clarinets, and bassoon) is excellent. The violins and double
basses (six in number) are a little hazy, and lack the necessary
energy, both in bowing, which is short and easy-going, and in
rhythm. The PIANOS and CRESCENDOS are insufficient, and for the
same reason there is no fulness in the FORTES. "Lachner" has, no
doubt, studied the score with the greatest accuracy and care, for
which thanks and praise are due to him. But in the drama, as you
know and say best, "we must become WISE by means of FEELING."
"Reason tells us SO IT IS, only after feeling has told us SO IT
MUST BE;" and as far as I can tell, Lachner's feeling says little
about "TANNHAUSER", although he was called several times before
the curtain at the first performances. The part of "Tannhauser"
was sung by "Herr Jung", the husband of "Lucile Gran." He
succeeded, in my opinion, better than the public here seemed to
think, which is, as a rule, somewhat lukewarm and stolid. "Frau
Dietz", whose figure and personality do not particularly fit her
for "Elizabeth", sang the beginning of the second act with
intelligence and feeling, but in the last act she was no longer
up to the mark, and the prayer in the third act was applauded as
if it had been "The Last Rose of Summer." "Kindermann's" voice is
splendid, but there is no trace of "Wolfram" about him. Still
less was "Fraulein X." able to identify herself with Venus, whom
she seemed to conceive as an ideal Munich barmaid. "Lindemann",
the Landgrave, you know, from Hamburg; his voice is as powerful
as ever, and he might, later on, serve you as "Fafner" or
"APROPOS", your "X." is a perfect madman, and I should certainly
not advise you to have anything to do with a man like him. He
asked me to attend a vocal practice of his pupils, when the poor
people had to shout nothing but four or five notes do, de, da!
"X." has entirely surrendered himself to his monomania of method,
which to him has become a kind of dram-drinking. His
circumstances are in a very bad way, and I am told that he keeps
himself alive chiefly by acting as clerk in a tailor's business
here. This, of course, is by no means to his discredit, and I
think, on the contrary, that he would do much better to give up
his method, and take to tailoring EX PROFESSO.
Our concert at St. Gallen has not been without an echo at Munich,
and Lachner, with whom I lived on friendly terms, proposed to me
soon after my arrival to write for the parts of the two Symphonic
Poems to St. Gallen, so as to have them played during my stay at
the subscription concerts. I thanked him politely for the
distinction intended for me, and reserved to myself the
permission of making use of it another time. At the theatre I
heard CLEMENZA DI TITO (the festival opera on the King's
birthday), JESSONDA, THE PROPHET, and TANNHAUSER; at the
subscription concert the D minor symphony by "Lachner", his
fourth, if I am not mistaken. LOHENGRIN is promised--that is,
they are talking about it; but amongst the present artists one
would have to search for "Ortrud" with a lantern. The Munich
public is more or less neutral, more observing and listening than
sympathetic. The Court does not take the slightest interest in
music, but "H.M." the King spoke to me about TANNHAUSER as
something that had PLEASED him. "Dingelstedt" complains of the
impossibility of giving importance to the drama, and gives two or
three operas every week for the sake of the receipts.
"Kaulbach" and I have become sincere friends. He is the right
sort of fellow who will please you too, for the very reason that
many people call him intolerable. As lately as yesterday I roared
[Here, Liszt illustrates with a 2 1/2 bar musical score example
with the words, "He - da! He - da! He - do!"]
His designs for Shakespeare's "Tempest" (Ariel as Capellmeister
in the air) are splendid. He must paint your portrait for me
Farewell, dearest Richard. I must take care that we meet soon.
ZURICH, December 16th, 1856.
Several times, dearest friend, I made an attempt to write to you
on serious, and to me important, matters, but I had many things
to settle in my own mind first. At last I feel sufficiently
mature, and will tell you in plain words what is in my heart.
Your last visit, much disturbed as was our intercourse, has left
a decisive impression on me, which is this: your friendship is
the most important and most significant event of my life. If I
can enjoy your conversation frequently and quietly, and in my own
way, I shall have all that I desire, and the rest will be of
subordinate value. You cannot have a similar feeling, because
your life is just the opposite of mine. You love diversion, and
live in it, and your desire of self-concentration is therefore
temporary. I, on the contrary, live in the most absolute
solitude, and therefore want occasional diversion, which,
however, in my meaning, is nothing but artistic stimulus. That
stimulus the musical world cannot give me; you alone can. All
that I lack, especially as a musician, owing to nature and
insufficient education, my intercourse with you and no one else
can alone give me. Without this stimulus my limited musical
capacity loses its fertility; I become discontented, laborious,
heavy, and producing becomes torture to me. I never had this
feeling more vividly than since our last meeting.
I have therefore but one desire, that of being able to visit you
when I wish, and of living with you periodically.
Well, seriously speaking, how does this matter stand? This letter
will find you at Weimar. What news have you to give me from the
Grand Duke? I ask you urgently, let me have conclusive and
definite information soon. Much depends upon it. Let me explain
about Weimar. I want to come to the Altenburg, not to Weimar; and
if it were possible I should be quite willing to live there
incognito. As this will be impossible, my existence might be
noticed by the Court. If the Court wants anything of me, I am
prepared to appear there in person, either reading my poems, or
performing fragments of my music, such as the first act of the
"Valkyrie," in conjunction with you, and after our fashion. I do
not want to go before the public at all. Can this be arranged,
and can the possibility of my visit to Weimar be accelerated?
Concerning my income and my recent hopes of a pension from the
Weimar Court separately, or in conjunction with others, you have
given me some important hints, which I have not left unnoticed or
unconsidered. I should prefer to remain without subvention from
that quarter which would make any subsequent relation to the
Weimar Court much easier to me, because it is my nature to give
rather than receive.
I do not deny it would be very desirable if you could soon make
an arrangement with the Hartels about the "Nibelungen," for which
object, in accordance with your kind offer, I gave you
discretionary power. If you should succeed in this, it would
certainly be advisable to interest the Weimar Court in my work,
to the extent that it might for some time grant me certain
advantages on account of the honorarium which I should receive
for the publication.
If you could not ask this without loss of dignity, my only way
would be to give up the "Nibelungen," and begin a simple work
such as "Tristan" instead, which would have the advantage that I
could presumably dispose of it to the theatres at once, and
receive royalties in return, although, as you know, the music
trade would give me nothing for it.
Let me express my sincere regret at giving you again care and
anxiety. If you decline to meddle with what I ask you, I shall
think it quite natural on your part; but more depends upon your
decision, and especially upon your success, than you may perhaps
imagine. I cannot drag on like this.
Since my return from St. Gallen I have not seen a soul except
Herwegh. Solitary walks, a little work and reading, constitute my
whole existence, in addition to which there were some unpleasant
attacks on the little rest I have, which did not allow me to
breathe freely, and impaired my health to an unbearable extent.
The correspondence between Goethe and Schiller alone pleased me
much; it reminded me of our relation, and showed me the precious
fruits which, in favourable circumstances, might spring from our
Your Munich news showed you to me in your ever serene artistic
element, which I cordially enjoyed with you. Your encounter with
X. I regret. All I told you of the man was, that at one time I
was pleased with his voice and manner, but could form no judgment
whatever of his method. As you were no longer able to hear him
sing, and as none of his pupils was sufficiently advanced to let
you hear some real thing, I can well understand that the poor man
must have bored you terribly with his theory; but I thank you for
the trouble you have taken, and shall make use of your hint. I
thought you would have been able to let me know something about
Dingelstedt, and his conduct towards "Tannhauser," etc. Probably
there was nothing pleasant to tell, and you remained silent in
consequence. A thousand thanks to the most excellent Princess for
the most astonishing cushion, and especially for the famous
German letter. I sent her a short answer to Munich, but it
probably did not reach you.
To the good Child I shall write shortly; continue to love me all
three of you. I need it. Best remembrances from my wife.
Farewell, and let me soon hear something comforting.
I must think of protecting myself against any conceivable
unpleasantness in connection with the impending warlike troubles
Could not the Grand Duke get me from the Prince of Prussia, as
chief of the army, a safe conduct against any possible ill-
treatment or imprisonment on the part of the Prussian
authorities? If this is impossible, I should have to fly to
France in case of a Prussian occupation, which would be
unpleasant to me. I am sure you will be good enough to do all in
your power to set my mind at rest.
Of course the best thing would be if I could soon come to Weimar;
but it appears that none of the difficulties of my position will
be spared me.
Shall I hear from you soon?
A thousand loving and longing greetings.
January lst, 1857.
I am in bed once more, covered with the whole flora of my Zurich
ills. Unfortunately I am no longer near you, and must be content
to celebrate the New Year with you by letter. You could not meet
with better luck than I wish you from the bottom of my heart. The
hope of serving you and, perhaps, of living together with you
soon for some time, keeps me active and cheerful, although the
external aspects are not of the most favourable kind. At
Carlsruhe, where I stayed a day three weeks ago, the Grand Duke
and Grand Duchess spoke with the warmest interest of your works.
("Lohengrin" was being studied for production at Christmas.) Our
Grand Duke here did the same at my arrival, adding, however, his
apprehension, that for the present nothing could be done for you,
and that I must have patience. How sick I am of this patience you
may easily imagine.
I wrote to the Prince of Prussia the day before yesterday
explaining your business at some length to him. I shall probably
have a reply, which I will communicate to you in due course. The
warlike dangers in Switzerland do not appear to me of a very
urgent kind, but I thought this a good opportunity for calling
the attention of the Prince to your miserable fate, which is in
such glaring contrast to your fame and artistic activity. The
Prince is an honourable character, and it may be expected that
his intercession will be of service to you later on. In the
meantime, you ought, I think, to take no further step, nor waste
a single word, because this would lead only to useless
humiliation for you.
As soon as the favourable moment arrives which I expect, I shall
write to you. On the occasion of the performance of "Lohengrin"
for the wedding of the son of the Prince of Prussia, I advise you
again to write to the young Prince in the sense previously
discussed by us. Probably your affair will have entered a
different stage by then.
"Tannhauser" was given here on Boxing-day with great success, and
"Lohengrin" will follow soon. For the latter we shall have to get
Frau Stager from Prague, because amongst our local artists there
is none who could undertake Ortrud. Otherwise everything here is
very much in the old groove, and there is little to please me.
I long very much for my work. As soon as I am quite recovered I
shall shut myself up in it, and you will be always present to my
mind, until we may at last live together in the body.
January 6th, 1857.
Is not this a miserable thing, dearest Franz? I had been looking
forward to your letter as to a Christmas present, and now it
brings me nothing but sad and comfortless news. That you are once
more confined to your bed is the crown of my sorrow.
Ah, heavens! Why do we not give in altogether?
It seems to me that you have not received my long letter, which I
sent you at Weimar on the supposition that you would go there
straight from Munich, and the same has, I fear, been the case
with my letter to M., or else she would have surely sent me a few
lines in reply. Concerning my letter to YOU, it touches upon a
point to which I must urgently return once more, because I want
your definite reply as soon as possible. Since you left me an
important change has taken place in my situation; I have
absolutely given up the annual allowance which the R.'s made me.
In such circumstances, my only hope is the speedy success of the
Hartel affair in connection with the "Nibelungen," which had been
broken off. In accordance with your kind offer, I gave you
unlimited power with regard to it. But now you are again tied to
your bed, and cannot, in any case for the present, pay the visit
to Leipzig which would be necessary for the settlement of such an
affair. Consider, therefore, whether you are quite confident that
the bargain will be completed after all, provided that I declare
myself willing, as I do herewith, to accept any offer, knowing
well that, however small the result may be, I could not get more
in any other way. If you are quite sure of a final success, the
further question would be, how it would be possible to raise some
money on account at once. In any case, I ask you, and authorise
you, and request you, as soon as possible, to come to a distinct
understanding with the Grand Duke as to whether he would be
inclined to confirm his favourable opinion of me by granting me a
pension, or, at least, a sufficient annual subsidy for the three
years which it will take me to complete my "Nibelungen." In the
eventuality of a pension for life I should, of course, accept the
obligation of staying every year some time at Weimar, and give
him my services according to his wish, as soon as the return to
Germany is opened to me. You no doubt remember our discussion of
this point, and of the possible concurrence of other princes well
inclined towards me. But what I particularly care for is SPEEDY
AND ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY. At this moment, when I am most in need of
help, I want to know DEFINITELY how matters stand. This
uncertainty places me in a wavering position of hoping,
expecting, wishing, and desiring, which involves my circumstances
more and more, apart from demoralising me. In short, I want to
know WHERE to look for my friends. Therefore, much-tried friend,
look upon this as your last attempt at intercession between me
and a world, my position towards which I must know exactly.
Patience of any kind is no longer in question. My amnesty will be
granted no sooner than at the moment when Saxony herself