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On Conducting (Ueber das Dirigiren): by Richard Wagner (translated by Edward Dannreuther)

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This etext was prepared by John Mamoun with
the online distributed prooreading team of Charles Franks.






"Fliegenschnauz' und Muckennas'
Mit euren Anverwandten,
Frosch im Laub und Grill' im Gras,
Ihr seid mir Musikanten!"

* * * * * * * *

"Flysnout and Midgenose,
With all your kindred, too,
Treefrog and Meadow-grig.
True musicians, YOU!"

(After GOETHE).

[The lines travestied are taken from "Oberon und Titanias goldene
Hochzeit." Intermezzo, Walpurgisnacht.--Faust I.]


Wagner's Ueber das Dirigiren was published simultaneously in the
"Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik" and the "New-Yorker Musik-zeitung,"
1869. It was immediately issued in book form, Leipzig, 1869, and
is now incorporated in the author's collected writings, Vol.
VIII. p. 325-410. ("Gesammelte Schriften und Dichtungen von
Richard Wagner," ten volumes, Leipzig, 1871-1883.) For various
reasons, chiefly personal, the book met with much opposition in
Germany, but it was extensively read, and has done a great deal
of good. It is unique in the literature of music: a treatise on
style in the execution of classical music, written by a great
practical master of the grand style. Certain asperities which
pervade it from beginning to end could not well be omitted in the
translation; care has, however, been taken not to exaggerate
them. To elucidate some points in the text sundry extracts from
other writings of Wagner have been appended. The footnotes,
throughout, are the translator's.


The following pages are intended to form a record of my
experience in a department of music which has hitherto been left
to professional routine and amateur criticism. I shall appeal to
professional executants, both instrumentalists and vocalists,
rather than to conductors; since the executants only can tell
whether, or not, they have been led by a competent conductor. I
do not mean to set up a system, but simply to state certain
facts, and record a number of practical observations.

Composers cannot afford to be indifferent to the manner in which
their works are presented to the public; and the public,
naturally, cannot be expected to decide whether the performance
of a piece of music is correct or faulty, since there are no data
beyond the actual effect of the performance to judge by.

I shall endeavour to throw some light upon the characteristics of
musical performances in Germany--with regard to the concert-room,
as well as to the theatre. Those who have experience in such
matters are aware that, in most cases, the defective constitution
of German orchestras and the faults of their performances are due
to the shortcomings of the conductors ("Capellmeister,"
"Musikdirectoren," etc.). The demands upon the orchestras have
increased greatly of late, their task has become more difficult
and more complicated; yet the directors of our art-institutions,
display increasing negligence in their choice of conductors. In
the days when Mozart's scores afforded the highest tasks that
could be set before an orchestra, the typical German
Capellmeister was a formidable personage, who knew how to make
himself respected at his post--sure of his business, strict,
despotic, and by no means polite. Friedrich Schneider, of Dessau,
was the last representative I have met with of this now extinct
species. Guhr, of Frankfort, also may be reckoned as belonging to
it. The attitude of these men towards modern music was certainly
"old fashioned"; but, in their own way, they produced good solid
work: as I found not more than eight years ago [Footnote: Circa,
1861.] at Carlsruhe, when old Capellmeister Strauss conducted
"Lohengrin." This venerable and worthy man evidently looked at my
score with some little shyness; but, he took good care of the
orchestra, which he led with a degree of precision and firmness
impossible to excel. He was, clearly, a man not to be trifled
with, and his forces obeyed him to perfection. Singularly enough,
this old gentleman was the only German conductor of repute I had
met with, up to that time, who possessed true fire; his tempi
were more often a trifle too quick than too slow; but they were
invariably firm and well marked. Subsequently, H. Esser's
conducting, at Vienna, impressed me in like manner.

The older conductors of this stamp if they happened to be less
gifted than those mentioned, found it difficult to cope with the
complications of modern orchestral music--mainly because of their
fixed notions concerning the proper constitution of an orchestra.
I am not aware that the number of permanent members of an
orchestra, has, in any German town, been rectified according to
the requirements of modern instrumentation. Now-a-days, as of
old, the principal parts in each group of instruments, are
allotted to the players according to the rules of seniority
[Footnote: Appointments at German Court theatres are usually for
life.]--thus men take first positions when their powers are on
the wane, whilst younger and stronger men are relegated to the
subordinate parts--a practice, the evil effects of which are
particularly noticeable with regard to the wind instruments.
Latterly [Footnote: 1869.] by discriminating exertions, and
particularly, by the good sense of the instrumentalists
concerned, these evils have diminished; another traditional
habit, however, regarding the choice of players of stringed
instruments, has led to deleterious consequences. Without the
slightest compunction, the second violin parts, and especially
the Viola parts, have been sacrificed. The viola is commonly
(with rare exceptions indeed) played by infirm violinists, or by
decrepit players of wind instruments who happen to have been
acquainted with a stringed instrument once upon a time: at best a
competent viola player occupies the first desk, so that he may
play the occasional soli for that instrument; but, I have even
seen this function performed by the leader of the first violins.
It was pointed out to me that in a large orchestra, which
contained eight violas, there was only one player who could deal
with the rather difficult passages in one of my later scores!

Such a state of things may be excusable from a humane point of
view; it arose from the older methods of instrumentation, where
the role of the viola consisted for the most part in filling up
the accompaniments; and it has since found some sort of
justification in the meagre method of instrumentation adopted by
the composers of Italian operas, whose works constitute an
important element in the repertoire of the German opera theatres.

At the various court theatres, Italian operas have always found
favour with the Directors. From this it follows as a matter of
course, that works which are not in the good grace of those
gentlemen stand a poor chance, unless it should so happen that
the conductor is a man of weight and influence who knows the real
requirements of a modern orchestra. But our older Capellmeisters
rarely knew as much--they did not choose to recognize the need of
a large increase in the number of stringed instruments to balance
the augmented number of wind instruments and the complicated uses
the latter are now put to.

In this respect the attempts at reform were always insufficient;
and our celebrated German orchestras remained far behind those of
France in the power and capacity of the violins, and particularly
of the violoncellos.

Now, had the conductors of a later generation been men of
authority like their predecessors, they might easily have mended
matters; but the Directors of court theatres took good care to
engage none but demure and subservient persons.

It is well worth while to note how the conductors, who are now at
the head of German music, arrived at the honourable positions
they hold.

We owe our permanent orchestras to the various theatres,
particularly the court theatres, small and great. The managers of
these theatres are therefore in a position to select the men who
are to represent the spirit and dignity of German music. Perhaps
those who have been thus advanced to posts of honour, are
themselves cognizant of how they got there--to an unpractised
observer it is rather difficult to discern their particular
merits. The so-called "good berths" are reached step by step: men
move on and push upwards. I believe the Court orchestra at Berlin
has got the majority of its conductors in this way. Now and then,
however, things come to pass in a more erratic manner; grand
personages, hitherto unknown, suddenly begin to flourish under
the protection of the lady in waiting to some princess, etc.
etc.--It is impossible to estimate the harm done to our leading
orchestras and opera theatres by such nonentities. Devoid of real
merit they keep their posts by abject cringing to the chief court
official, and by polite submission to the indolence of their
musical subordinates. Relinquishing the pretence of artistic
discipline, which they are unable to enforce, they are always
ready to give way, or to obey any absurd orders from headquarters;
and such conductors, under favourable circumstances, have even
been known to become popular favourites!

At rehearsals all difficulties are got over by means of mutual
congratulations and a pious allusion to the "old established fame
of our Orchestra." Who can venture to say that the performances
of that famous institution deteriorate year by year? Where is the
true authority? Certainly not amongst the critics, who only bark
when their mouths are not stopped; and the art of stopping mouths
is cultivated to perfection.

Recently, the post of chief conductor has here and there been
filled by a man of practical experience, especially engaged with
a view to stimulating the slumbering energy of his colleagues.
Such "chiefs" are famed for their skill in "bringing out" a new
opera in a fortnight; for their clever "cuts"; for the effective
"closes" they write to please singers, and for their
interpolations in other men's scores. Practical accomplishments
of this sort have, for instance, supplied the Dresden Opera with
one of its most energetic Capellmeisters.

Now and again the managers look out for "a conductor of
reputation." Generally none such are to be had at the theatres;
but, according to the feuilletons of the political newspapers,
the singing societies and concert establishments furnish a steady
supply of the article. These are the "music-brokers," as it were,
of the present day, who came forth from the school of
Mendelssohn, and flourished under his protection and
recommendation. They differ widely from the helpless epigonae of
our old conductors: they are not musicians brought up in the
orchestra or at the theatre, but respectable pupils of the new-
fangled conservatoires; composers of Psalms and Oratorios, and
devout listeners at rehearsals for the subscription concerts.
They have received lessons in conducting too, and are possessed
of an elegant "culture" hitherto unknown in the realms of music.
Far from shewing any lack of politeness, they managed to
transform the timid modesty of our poor native Capellmeister into
a sort of cosmopolitan bon ton; which stood them in good stead
with the old-fashioned philistine society of our towns. I believe
the influence of these people upon German orchestras has been
good in many respects, and has brought about beneficial results:
certainly much that was raw and awkward has disappeared; and,
from a musical point of view, many details of refined phrasing
and expression are now more carefully attended to. They feel more
at home in the modern orchestra; which is indebted to their
master--Mendelssohn--for a particularly delicate and refined
development in the direction opened up by Weber's original

One thing however is wanting to these gentlemen, without which
they cannot be expected to achieve the needful reconstruction of
the orchestras, nor to enforce the needful reforms in the
institutions connected with them, viz., energy, self-confidence,
and personal power. In their case, unfortunately, reputation,
talent, culture, even faith, love and hope, are artificial. Each
of them was, and is, so busy with his personal affairs, and the
difficulty of maintaining his artificial position, that he cannot
occupy himself with measures of general import--measures which
might bring about a connected and consistent new order of things.
As a matter of fact, such an order of things cannot, and does not
concern the fraternity at all. They came to occupy the position
of those old fashioned German masters, because the power of the
latter had deteriorated and because they had shewn themselves
incapable to meet the wants of a new style; and it would appear
that they, in their turn, regard their position of to-day as
merely temporary--filling a gap in a period of transition. In the
face of the new ideals of German art, towards which all that is
noble in the nation begins to turn, they are evidently at a loss,
since these ideals are alien to their nature. In the presence of
certain technical difficulties inseparable from modern music they
have recourse to singular expedients. Meyerbeer, for instance,
was very circumspect; in Paris he engaged a new flutist and paid
him out of his own pocket to play a particular bit nicely. Fully
aware of the value of finished execution, rich and independent,
Meyerbeer might have been of great service to the Berlin
orchestra when the King of Prussia appointed him "General
Musikdirector." Mendelssohn was called upon to undertake a
similar mission about the same time; and, assuredly, Mendelssohn
was the possessor of the most extraordinary gifts and attainments.
Both men, doubtless, encountered all the difficulties which had
hitherto blocked the way towards improvements; but they were called
upon to overcome these very difficulties, and their independent
position and great attainments rendered them exceptionally
competent to do so. Why then did their powers desert them? It would
seem as if they had no real power. They left matters to take care
of themselves and, now, we are confronted by the "celebrated"
Berlin orchestra in which the last trace of the traditions of
Spontini's strict discipline have faded away. Thus fared Meyerbeer
and Mendelssohn whilst at Berlin: what are we to expect elsewhere
from their neat little shadows?

It is clear from this account of the survivals of the earlier and
of the latest species of Capellmeisters and Musikdirectors, that
neither of them are likely to do much towards the reorganization
of our orchestras. On the other hand the initiative has been
taken by the orchestral performers themselves; and the signs of
progress are evidently owing to the increasing development of
their technical attainments. Virtuosi upon the different
orchestral instruments have done excellent service, and they
might have done much more in the circumstances had the conductors
been competent.

Exceptionally gifted and accomplished players easily got the
upper hand of the decrepit Capellmeisters of the old sort, and of
their successors, the parvenus without authority--pianoforte
pedagogues patronized by ladies in waiting, etc., etc. Virtuosi
soon came to play a role in the orchestra akin to that of the
prima donna on the stage. The elegant conductors of the day chose
to associate and ally themselves with the virtuosi, and this
arrangement might have acted very satisfactorily if the
conductors had really understood the true spirit of German music.

It is important to point out in this connection that conductors
are indebted to the theatres for their posts, and even for the
existence of their orchestra. The greater part of their
professional work consists in rehearsing and conducting operas.
They ought, therefore, to have made it their business to
understand the theatre--the opera--and to make themselves masters
of the proper application of music to dramatic art, in something
like the manner in which an astronomer applies mathematics to
astronomy. Had they understood dramatic singing and dramatic
expression they might have applied such knowledge to the
execution of modern instrumental music.

A long time ago I derived much instruction as to the tempo and
the proper execution of Beethoven's music from the clearly
accentuated and expressive singing of that great artist, Frau
Schroder-Devrient. I have since found it impossible, for example,
to permit the touching cadence of the Oboe in the first movement
of the C minor Symphony--

[Figure: music example]

to be played in the customary timid and embarrassed way; indeed,
starting from the insight I had gained into the proper execution
of this cadence, I also found and felt the true significance and
expression due to the sustained fermata of the first violins

[Figure: musical example (a single note, a G atop the treble
clef, with a fermata)] [Footnote: Ante, bar 21.]

in the corresponding place, and from the touching emotional
impressions I got by means of these two seemingly so
insignificant details I gained a new point of view, from which
the entire movement appeared in a clearer and warmer light.

Leaving this for the present, I am content to point out that a
conductor might exercise great influence upon the higher musical
culture with regard to execution, if he properly understood his
position in relation to dramatic art, to which, in fact, he is
indebted for his post and his dignity. But our conductors are
accustomed to look upon the opera as an irksome daily task (for
which, on the other hand, the deplorable condition of that genre
of art at German theatres furnishes reason enough); they consider
that the sole source of honour lies in the concert rooms from
which they started and from which they were called; for, as I
have said above, wherever the managers of a theatre happen to
covet a musician of reputation for Capellmeister, they think
themselves obliged to get him from some place other than a

Now to estimate the value of a quondam conductor of concerts and
of choral societies at a theatre, it is advisable to pay him a
visit at home, i.e., in the concert-room, from which he derives
his reputation as a "solid" German musician. Let us observe him
as a conductor of orchestral concerts. Looking back upon my
earliest youth I remember to have had unpleasant impressions from
performances of classical orchestral music. At the piano or
whilst reading a score, certain things appeared animated and
expressive, whereas, at a performance, they could hardly be
recognised, and failed to attract attention. I was puzzled by the
apparent flabbiness of Mozartian Melody (Cantilena) which I had
been taught to regard as so delicately expressive. Later in life
I discovered the reasons for this, and I have discussed them in
my report on a "German music school to be established at Munich,"
[Footnote: "Bericht ueber eine in Munchen zu errichtende deutsche
Musikschule" (1865). See Appendix A.] to which I beg to refer
readers who may be interested in the subject. Assuredly, the
reasons lie in the want of a proper Conservatorium of German
music--a Conservatory, in the strictest sense of the word, in
which the traditions of the CLASSICAL MASTERS' OWN style of
execution are preserved in practice--which, of course, would
imply that the masters should, once at least, have had a chance
personally to supervise performances of their works in such a
place. Unfortunately German culture has missed all such
opportunities; and if we now wish to become acquainted with the
spirit of a classical composer's music, we must rely on this or
that conductor, and upon his notion of what may, or may not, be
the proper tempo and style of execution.

In the days of my youth, orchestral pieces at the celebrated
Leipzig Gewandhaus Concerts were not conducted at all; they were
simply played through under the leadership of Conzertmeister
[Footnote: i.e., the leader of the first violins.] Mathai, like
overtures and entr'actes at a theatre. At least there was no
"disturbing individuality," in the shape of a conductor! The
principal classical pieces which presented no particular
technical difficulties were regularly given every winter; the
execution was smooth and precise; and the members of the
orchestra evidently enjoyed the annual recurrence of their
familiar favourites.

With Beethoven's Ninth Symphony alone they could not get on,
though it was considered a point of honour to give that work
every year. I had copied the score for myself, and made a
pianoforte arrangement for two hands; but I was so much
astonished at the utterly confused and bewildering effect of the
Gewandhaus performance that I lost courage, and gave up the study
of Beethoven for some time. Later, I found it instructive to note
how I came to take true delight in performances of Mozart's
instrumental works: it was when I had a chance to conduct them
myself, and when I could indulge my feelings as to the expressive
rendering of Mozart's cantilena.

I received a good lesson at Paris in 1839, when I heard the
orchestra of the Conservatoire rehearse the enigmatical Ninth
Symphony. The scales fell from my eyes; I came to understand the
value of CORRECT execution, and the secret of a good performance.
The orchestra had learnt to look for Beethoven's MELODY in every
bar--that melody which the worthy Leipzig musicians had failed to
discover; and the orchestra SANG that melody. THIS WAS THE

Habeneck, who solved the difficulty, and to whom the great credit
for this performance is due, was not a conductor of special
genius. Whilst rehearsing the symphony, during an entire winter
season, he had felt it to be incomprehensible and ineffective
(would German conductors have confessed as much?), but he
persisted throughout a second and a third season! until
Beethoven's new melos [Footnote: Melody in all its aspects.] was
understood and correctly rendered by each member of the
orchestra. Habeneck was a conductor of the old stamp; HE was the
master--and everyone obeyed him. I cannot attempt to describe the
beauty of this performance. However, to give an idea of it, I
will select a passage by the aid of which I shall endeavour to
shew the reason why Beethoven is so difficult to render, as well
as the reason for the indifferent success of German orchestras
when confronted by such difficulties. Even with first class
orchestras I have never been able to get the passage in the first

[Figure: musical example]

performed with such equable perfection as I then (thirty years
ago) heard it played by the musicians of the Paris "Orchestre du
Conservatoire." [Footnote: Wagner, however, subsequently admitted
that the passage was rendered to his satisfaction at the
memorable performance of the Ninth Symphony, given May 22nd,
1872, to celebrate the laying of the foundation stone of the
theatre at Bayreuth.] Often in later life have I recalled this
passage, and tried by its aid to enumerate the desiderata in the
execution of orchestral music: it comprises MOVEMENT and
SUSTAINED tone, with a DEFINITE DEGREE OF POWER. [Footnote: ("An
dieser Stelle ist es mir, bei oft in meinem spateren Leben
erneueter Erinnerung, recht klar geworden, worauf es beim
Orchestervortrag ankommt, weil sie die BEWEGUNG und den
GEHALTENEN TON, zugleich mit dem Gesetz der DYNAMIK in sich
schliesst.")] The masterly execution of this passage by the Paris
orchestra consisted in the fact that they played it EXACTLY as it
is written. Neither at Dresden, nor in London [Footnote: Concert
of the Philharmonic Society, 26th March, 1855.] when, in after
years, I had occasion to prepare a performance of the symphony,
did I succeed in getting rid of the annoying irregularity which
arises from the change of bow and change of strings. Still less
could I suppress an involuntary accentuation as the passage
ascends; musicians, as a rule, are tempted to play an ascending
passage with an increase of tone, and a descending one with a
decrease. With the fourth bar of the above passage we invariably
got into a crescendo so that the sustained G flat of the fifth
bar was given with an involuntary yet vehement accent, enough to
spoil the peculiar tonal significance of that note. The
composer's intention is clearly indicated; but it remains
difficult to prove to a person whose musical feelings are not of
a refined sort, that there is a great gap between a commonplace
reading, and the reading meant by the composer: no doubt both
readings convey a sense of dissatisfaction, unrest, longing--but
the quality of these, the true sense of the passage, cannot be
conveyed unless it is played as the master imagined it, and as I
have not hitherto heard it given except by the Parisian musicians
in 1839. In connection with this I am conscious that the
impression of dynamical monotony [Footnote: i.e., a power of tone
the degree of which remains unchanged.] (if I may risk such an
apparently senseless expression for a difficult phenomenon)
together with the unusually varied and ever irregular movement of
intervals in the ascending figure entering on the prolonged G
flat to be sung with such infinite delicacy, to which the G
natural answers with equal delicacy, initiated me as by magic to
the incomparable mystery of the spirit. Keeping my further
practical experience in view, I would ask how did the musicians
of Paris arrive at so perfect a solution of the difficult
problem? By the most conscientious diligence. They were not
content with mutual admiration and congratulation (sich
gegenseitig Complimente zu machen) nor did they assume that
difficulties must disappear before them as a matter of course.
French musicians in the main belong to the Italian school; its
influence upon them has been beneficial in as much as they have
thus been taught to approach music mainly through the medium of
the human voice. The French idea of playing an instrument well is
to be able to SING well upon it. And (as already said) that
superb orchestra SANG the symphony. The possibility of its being
well sung implies that the TRUE TEMPO had been found: and this is
the second point which impressed me at the time. Old Habeneck was
not the medium of any abstract aesthetical inspiration--he was
[Footnote: MELODY in all its aspects.] OF THE SYMPHONY.

RIGHT TEMPO; these two things are inseparable: the one implies
and qualifies the other. As a proof of my assertion that the
majority of performances of instrumental music with us are faulty
it is sufficient to point out that OUR CONDUCTORS SO FREQUENTLY
I have not yet met with a German Capellmeister or Musik-director
who, be it with good or bad voice, can really sing a melody.
These people look upon music as a singularly abstract sort of
thing, an amalgam of grammar, arithmetic, and digital
gymnastics;--to be an adept in which may fit a man for a
mastership at a conservatory or a musical gymnasium; but it does
not follow from this that he will be able to put life and soul
into a musical performance. The whole duty of a conductor is
comprised in his ability always to indicate the right TEMPO. His
choice of tempi will show whether he understands the piece or
not. With good players again the true tempo induces correct
phrasing and expression, and conversely, with a conductor, the
idea of appropriate phrasing and expression will induce the
conception of the true tempo.

This, however, is by no means so simple a matter as it appears.
Older composers probably felt so, for they are content with the
simplest general indications. Haydn and Mozart made use of the
term "Andante" as the mean between "Allegro" and "Adagio," and
thought it sufficient to indicate a few gradations and
modifications of these terms.

Sebastian Bach, as a rule, does not indicate tempo at all, which
in a truly musical sense is perhaps best. He may have said to
himself: whoever does not understand my themes and figures, and
does not feel their character and expression, will not be much
the wiser for an Italian indication of tempo.

Let me be permitted to mention a few facts which concern me
personally. In my earlier operas I gave detailed directions as to
the tempi, and indicated them (as I thought) accurately, by means
of the Metronome. Subsequently, whenever I had occasion to
protest against a particularly absurd tempo, in "Tannhauser" for
instance, I was assured that the Metronome had been consulted and
carefully followed. In my later works I omitted the metronome and
merely described the main tempi in general terms, paying,
however, particular attention to the various modifications of
tempo. It would appear that general directions also tend to vex
and confuse Capellmeisters, especially when they are expressed in
plain German words. Accustomed to the conventional Italian terms
these gentlemen are apt to lose their wits when, for instance, I
write "moderate." Not long ago a Capellmeister complained of that
term (massig) which I employed in the score of "Das Rheingold";
the music, (it was reported) lasted exactly two hours and a half
at rehearsals under a conductor whom I had personally instructed;
whereas, at the performances and under the beat of the official
Capellmeister, it lasted fully three hours! (according to the
report of the "Allgemeine Zeitung"). Wherefore, indeed, did I
write "Massig"? To match this I have been informed that the
overture to "Tannhauser," which, when I conducted it at Dresden,
used to last twelve minutes, now lasts twenty. No doubt I am here
alluding to thoroughly incompetent persons who are particularly
shy of Alla breve time, and who stick to their correct and normal
crotchet beats, four in a bar, merely to shew they are present
and conscious of doing something. Heaven knows how such
"quadrupeds" find their way from the village church to our opera
theatres. But "dragging" is not a characteristic of the elegant
conductors of these latter days; on the contrary they have a
fatal tendency to hurry and to run away with the tempi. THIS
TENDENCY TO HURRY is so characteristic a mark of our entire
musical life latterly, that I propose to enter into some details
with regard to it.

Robert Schumann once complained to me at Dresden that he could
not enjoy the Ninth Symphony at the Leipzig Gewandhaus concerts
because of the quick tempi Mendelssohn chose to take,
particularly in the first movement. I have, myself, only once
been present at a rehearsal of one of Beethoven's Symphonies,
when Mendelssohn conducted; the rehearsal took place at Berlin,
and the Symphony was No. 8 (in F major). I noticed that he chose
a detail here and there--almost at random--and worked at it with
a certain obstinacy, until it stood forth clearly. This was so
manifestly to the advantage of the detail that I could not but
wonder why he did not take similar pains with other nuances. For
the rest, this incomparably bright symphony was rendered in a
remarkably smooth and genial manner. Mendelssohn himself once
remarked to me, with regard to conducting, that he thought most
harm was done by taking a tempo too slow; and that on the
contrary, he always recommended quick tempi as being less
detrimental. Really good execution, he thought, was at all times
a rare thing, but short-comings might be disguised if care was
taken that they should not appear very prominent; and the best
way to do this was "to get over the ground quickly." This can
hardly have been a casual view, accidentally mentioned in
conversation. The master's pupils must have received further and
more detailed instruction; for, subsequently, I have, on various
occasions, noticed the consequences of that maxim "take quick
tempi," and have, I think, discovered the reasons which may have
led to its adoption.

I remembered it well, when I came to lead the orchestra of the
Philharmonic Society in London, 1855. Mendelssohn had conducted
the concerts during several seasons, and the tradition of his
readings was carefully preserved. It appears likely that the
habits and peculiarities of the Philharmonic Society suggested to
Mendelssohn his favourite style of performance (Vortragsweise)--
certainly it was admirably adapted to meet their wants. An
unusual amount of instrumental music is consumed at these
concerts; but, as a rule, each piece is rehearsed once only. Thus
in many instances, I could not avoid letting the orchestra follow
its traditions, and so I became acquainted with a style of
performance which called up a lively recollection of
Mendelssohn's remarks.

The music gushed forth like water from a fountain; there was no
arresting it, and every Allegro ended as an undeniable Presto. It
was troublesome and difficult to interfere; for when correct
tempi and proper modifications of these were taken the defects of
style which the flood had carried along or concealed became
painfully apparent. The orchestra generally played mezzoforte; no
real forte, no real piano was attained. Of course, in important
cases I took care to enforce the reading I thought the true one,
and to insist upon the right tempo. The excellent musicians did
not object to this; on the contrary, they showed themselves
sincerely glad of it; the public also approved, but the critics
were annoyed and continued so to browbeat the directors of the
society that the latter actually requested me to permit the
second movement of Mozart's Symphony in E flat to be played in
the flabby and colourless way (ruschlich herunter spielen) they
had been accustomed to--and which, they said, even Mendelssohn
himself had sanctioned.

The fatal maxims came to the front quite clearly when I was about
to rehearse a symphony by a very amiable elderly contrapuntist,
Mr. Potter, [Footnote: Cipriani Potter, 1792-1871, pianist and
composer, author of "Recollections of Beethoven." etc.] if I
mistake not. The composer approached me in a pleasant way, and
asked me to take the Andante rather quickly as he feared it might
prove tedious. I assured him that his Andante, no matter how
short its duration might be, would inevitably prove tedious if it
was played in a vapid and inexpressive manner; whereas if the
orchestra could be got to play the very pretty and ingenious
theme, as I felt confident he meant it and as I now sang it to
him, it would certainly please. Mr. Potter was touched; he
agreed, and excused himself, saying that latterly he had not been
in the habit of reckoning upon this sort of orchestral playing.
In the evening, after the Andante, he joyfully pressed my hand.

I have often been astonished at the singularly slight sense for
tempo and execution evinced by leading musicians. I found it
impossible, for instance, to communicate to Mendelssohn what I
felt to be a perverse piece of negligence with regard to the
tempo of the third movement in Beethoven's Symphony in F major,
No. 8. This is one of the instances I have chosen out of many to
throw light upon certain dubious aspects of music amongst us.

We know that Haydn in his principal later symphonies used the
form of the Menuet as a pleasant link between the Adagio and the
final Allegro, and that he thus was induced to increase the speed
of the movement considerably, contrary to the character of the
true Menuet. It is clear that he incorporated the "Landler,"
[Footnote: A South German country dance in 3/4 time, from which
the modern waltz is derived.] particularly in the "Trio"--so
that, with regard to the tempo, the designation "Menuetto" is
hardly appropriate, and was retained for conventional reasons
only. Nevertheless, I believe Haydn's Menuets are generally taken
too quick; undoubtedly the Menuets of Mozart's Symphonies are;
this will be felt very distinctly if, for instance, the Menuetto
in Mozart's Symphony in G minor, and still more that of his
Symphony in C major, be played a little slower than at the
customary pace. It will be found that the latter Menuet, which is
usually hurried, and treated almost as a Presto, will now shew an
amiable, firm and festive character; in contrast with which, the
trio, with its delicately sustained

[music score excerpt]

is reduced, as usually given, to an empty hurry-skurry (eine
nichtssagende Nuschelei). Now Beethoven, as is not uncommon with
him, meant to write a true Menuet in his F major Symphony; he
places it between the two main Allegro movements as a sort of
complementary antithesis (ein gewissermassen erganzender
Gegensatz) to an Allegretto scherzando which precedes it, and to
remove any doubt as to his intentions regarding the Tempo he
designates it NOT as a Menuetto: but as a Tempo di Menuetto. This
novel and unconventional characterization of the two middle
movements of a symphony was almost entirely overlooked: the
Allegretto scherzando was taken to represent the usual Andante,
the Tempo di Menuetto, the familiar "Scherzo" and, as the two
movements thus interpreted seemed rather paltry, and none of the
usual effects could be got with them, our musicians came to
regard the entire symphony as a sort of accidental hors d'oeuvre
of Beethoven's muse--who, after the exertions with the A major
symphony had chosen "to take things rather easily." Accordingly
after the Allegretto Scherzando, the time of which is invariably
"dragged" somewhat, the Tempo di Minuetto is universally served
up as a refreshing "Landler," which passes the ear without
leaving any distinct impression. Generally, however, one is glad
when the tortures of the Trio are over. This loveliest of idylls
is turned into a veritable monstrosity by the passage in triplets
for the violoncello; which, if taken at the usual quick pace, is
the despair of violoncellists, who are worried with the hasty
staccato across the strings and back again, and find it
impossible to produce anything but a painful series of scratches.
Naturally, this difficulty disappears as soon as the delicate
melody of the horns and clarinets is taken at the proper tempo;
these instruments are thus relieved from the special difficulties
pertaining to them, and which, particularly with the clarinet, at
times render it likely to produce a "quack" [FOOTNOTE: Anglice,
"a goose,"] even in the hands of skilful players. I remember an
occasion when all the musicians began to breathe at ease on my
taking this piece at the true moderate pace: then the humorous
sforzato of the basses and bassoons at once produced an
intelligible effect; the short crescendi became clear, the
delicate pianissimo close was effective, and the gentle gravity
of the returning principal movement was properly felt. Now, the
late Capellmeister Reissiger, of Dresden, once conducted this
symphony there, and I happened to be present at the performance
together with Mendelssohn; we talked about the dilemma just
described, and its proper solution; concerning which I told
Mendelssohn that I believed I had convinced Reissiger, who had
promised that he would take the tempo slower than usual.
Mendelssohn perfectly agreed with me. We listened. The third
movement began and I was terrified on hearing precisely the old
Landler tempo; but before I could give vent to my annoyance
Mendelssohn smiled, and pleasantly nodded his head, as if to say
"now it's all right! Bravo!" So my terror changed to
astonishment. Reissiger, for reasons which I shall discuss
presently, may not have been so very much to blame for persisting
in the old tempo; but Mendelssohn's indifference, with regard to
this queer artistic contretemps, raised doubts in my mind whether
he saw any distinction and difference in the case at all. I
fancied myself standing before an abyss of superficiality, a
veritable void. SOON after this had happened with Reissiger, the
very same thing took place with the same movement of the Eighth
Symphony at Leipzig. The conductor, in the latter case, was a
well-known successor of Mendelssohn at the Gewandhaus concerts.
[FOOTNOTE: Ferdinand Hiller.] He also had agreed with my views as
to the Tempo di Menuetto, and had invited me to attend a concert
at which he promised to take it at the proper moderate pace. He
did not keep his word and offered a queer excuse: he laughed, and
confessed that he had been disturbed with all manner of
administrative business, and had only remembered his promise
after the piece had begun; naturally he could not then alter the
tempo, etc. The explanation was sufficiently annoying. Still I
could, at least, flatter myself that I had found somebody to
share my views as to the difference between one tempo and
another. I doubt, however, whether the conductor could be fairly
reproached with a want of forethought and consideration;
unconsciously, perhaps, he may have had a very good reason for
his "forgetfulness." It would have been very indiscreet to risk a
change of tempo which had not been rehearsed. For the orchestra,
accustomed to play the piece in a quick tempo, would have been
disturbed by the sudden imposition of a more moderate pace;
which, as a matter of course, demands a totally different style
of playing.

We have now reached an important and decisive point, an
appreciation of which is indispensable if we care to arrive at a
satisfactory conclusion regarding the execution of classical
music. Injudicious tempi might be defended with some show of
reason inasmuch as a factitious style of delivery has arisen in
conformity with them, and to the uninitiated such conformity of
style and tempo might appear as a proof that all was right. The
evil, however, is apparent enough if only the right tempo is
taken, in which case the false style becomes quite unbearable.

To illustrate this, in the simplest possible way, let us take the
opening of the C minor Symphony

[Musical Score excerpt of the famous main motif from Beethoven's

Usually the fermata of the second bar is left after a slight
rest; our conductors hardly make use of this fermata for anything
else than to fix the attention of their men upon the attack of
the figure in the third bar. In most cases the note E flat is not
held any longer than a forte produced with a careless stroke of
the bow will last upon the stringed instruments. Now, suppose the
voice of Beethoven were heard from the grave admonishing a
conductor: "Hold my fermata firmly, terribly! I did not write
fermatas in jest, or because I was at a loss how to proceed; I
indulge in the fullest, the most sustained tone to express
emotions in my Adagio; and I use this full and firm tone when I
want it in a passionate Allegro as a rapturous or terrible spasm.
Then the very life blood of the tone shall be extracted to the
last drop. I arrest the waves of the sea, and the depths shall be
visible; or, I stem the clouds, disperse the mist, and show the
pure blue ether and the glorious eye of the sun. For this I put
fermatas, sudden long-sustained notes in my Allegro. And now look
at my clear thematic intention with the sustained E flat after
the three stormy notes, and understand what I meant to say with
other such sustained notes in the sequel."

[FOOTNOTE: In the original this fine passage is: "Nun setzen wir
den Fall, die Stimme Beethoven's habe aus den Grabe einem
Dirigenten zugerufen; Halte du meine Fermate lange und furchtbar!
Ich schrieb keine Fermaten zum Spass oder aus Verlegenheit, etwa
um mich auf das Weitere zu besinnen; sondern, was in meinem
Adagio der ganz und voll aufzusaugende Ton fur den Ausdruck der
schwelgenden Empfindung ist, dasselbe werfe ich, wenn ich es
brauche, in das heftig und schnell figurirte Allegro, als wonnig
oder schrecklich anhaltenden Krampf. Dann soll das Leben des
Tones bis auf seinen letzten Blutstropfen aufgesogen werden; dann
halte ich die Wellen meines Meeres an, und lasse in seinen
Abgrund blicken; oder hemme ich den Zug der Wolken, zertheile die
wirren Nebelstreifen, und lasse einmal in den reinen blauen
Aether, in das strahlende Auge der Sonne schauen. Hierfur setze
ich Fermaten, d. h. plotzlich eintretende lang auszuhaltende
Noten in meine Allegro's. Und nun beachte du, welche ganz
bestimmte thematische Absicht ich mit diesem ausgehaltenen Es
nach drei sturmisch kurzen Noten hatte, und was ich mit allen den
im Folgenden gleich auszuhaltenden Noten gesagt haben will."]

Suppose a conductor were to attempt to hold the fermata as here
directed, what would be the result? A miserable failure. After
the initial power of the bow of the stringed instruments had been
wasted, their tone would become thin and thinner, ending in a
week and timid piano: for--(and here is one of the results of
indifferent conducting)--our orchestras now-a-days hardly know
what is meant by EQUALLY SUSTAINED TONE. Let any conductor ask
any orchestral instrument, no matter which, for a full and
prolonged FORTE, and he will find the player puzzled, and will be
astonished at the trouble it takes to get what he asks for.

expression, [FOOTNOTE: Die Basis aller Dynamik.] with the voice
as with the orchestra: the manifold modifications of the power of
tone, which constitute one of the principal elements of musical
expression, rest upon it. Without such basis an orchestra will
produce much noise but no power. And this is one of the first
symptoms of the weakness of most of our orchestral performances.
The conductors of the day care little about a sustained forte,
but they are particularly fond of an EXAGGERATED PIANO. Now the
strings produce the latter with ease, but the wind instruments,
particularly the wood winds do not. It is almost impossible to
get a delicately sustained piano from wind instruments.

The players, flautists particularly, have transformed their
formerly delicate instruments into formidable tubes
(Gewaltsrohren). French oboists, who have preserved the pastoral
character of their instrument, and our clarinetists, when they
make use of the "Echo effect," are the exceptions.

This drawback, which exists in our best orchestras, suggests the
question: why, at least, do not conductors try to equalise
matters by demanding a somewhat fuller piano from the strings?
But the conductors do not seem to notice any discrepancy.

To a considerable extent the fault lies not so much with the wind
instruments, as in the character of the piano of the strings; for
we do not possess a TRUE PIANO, just as we do not possess a TRUE
FORTE; both are wanting in fulness of tone--to attain which our
stringed instruments should watch the tone of the winds. Of
course it is easy enough to produce a buzzing vibration by gently
passing the bow over the strings; but it requires great artistic
command of the breath to produce a delicate and pure tone upon a
wind instrument. Players of stringed instruments should copy the
full-toned piano of the best winds, and the latter, again, should
endeavour to imitate the best vocalists.

The sustained soft tone here spoken of, and the sustained
powerful tone mentioned above, are the two poles of orchestral
expression. [FOOTNOTE: Dynamik des Orchesters.]

But what about orchestral execution if neither the one nor the
other is properly forthcoming? Where are the modifications of
expression to come from if the very means of expression are
defective? Thus, the Mendelssohnian rule of "getting over the
ground" (des flotten Daruberhinweggehens) suggested a happy
expedient; conductors gladly adopted the maxim, and turned it
into a veritable dogma; so that, nowadays, attempts to perform
classical music correctly are openly denounced as heretical!

I am persistently returning to the question of tempo because, as
I said above, this is the point at which it becomes evident
whether a conductor understands his business or not.

Obviously the proper pace of a piece of music is determined by
the particular character of the rendering it requires; the
question, therefore, comes to this: does the sustained tone, the
vocal element, the cantilena predominate, or the rhythmical
movement? (Figuration). The conductor should lead accordingly.

The Adagio stands to the Allegro as the sustained tone stands to
the RHYTHMICAL MOVEMENT (figurirte Bewegung). The sustained tone
regulates the Tempo Adagio: here the rhythm is as it were
dissolved in pure tone, the tone per se suffices for the musical
expression. In a certain delicate sense it may be said of the
pure Adagio that it cannot be taken too slow. A rapt confidence
in the sufficiency of pure musical speech should reign here; the
languor of feeling grows to ecstasy; that which in the Allegro
was expressed by changes of figuration, is now conveyed by means
of variously inflected tone. Thus the least change of harmony may
call forth a sense of surprise; and again, the most remote
harmonic progressions prove acceptable to our expectant feelings.

None of our conductors are courageous enough to take an Adagio in
this manner; they always begin by looking for some bit of
figuration, and arrange their tempo to match. I am, perhaps, the
only conductor who has ventured to take the Adagio section of the
third movement of the Ninth Symphony at the pace proper to its
peculiar character. This character is distinctly contrasted with
that of the alternating Andante in triple time; but our
conductors invariably contrive to obliterate the difference,
leaving only the rhythmical change between square and triple
time. This movement (assuredly one of the most instructive in the
present respect), finally (in the section in twelve-eight time),
offers a conspicuous example of the breaking up of the pure
Adagio by the more marked rhythms of an independent
accompaniment, during which the cantilena is steadily and broadly
continued. In this section we may recognize, as it were, a fixed
and consolidated reflex

[FOOTNOTE: In the original: "Hier erkennen wir das gleichsam
fixirte Bild des zuvor nach unendlicher Ausdehnung verlangenden
Adagio's, und wie dort eine uneingeschrankte Freiheit fur die
Befriedigung des tonischen Ausdruckes das zwischen zartesten
Gesetzen schwankende Maass der Bewegung angab, wird hier durch
die feste Rhythmik der figurativ geschmuckten Begleitung das neue
Gesetz der Festhaltung einer bestimmten Bewegung gegeben, welches
in seinen ausgebildeten Konseqnenzen uns zum Gesetz fur das
Zeitmaass des Allegro wird."]

of the Adagio's tendency towards infinite expansion; there,
limitless freedom in the expression of sound, with fluctuating,
yet delicately regulated movement; here, the firm rhythm of the
figurated accompaniments, imposing the new regulation of a steady
and distinct pace--in the consequences of which, when fully
developed, we have got the law that regulates the movement of the
Allegro in general. We have seen that sustained tone with its
modifications is the basis of all musical execution. Similarly
the Adagio, developed, as Beethoven has developed it in the third
movement of his Ninth Symphony, may be taken as the basis of all
regulations as to musical time. In a certain delicate sense the
Allegro may be regarded as the final result of a refraction
(Brechung) of the pure Adagio-character by the more restless
moving figuration. On careful examination of the principal
motives of the Allegro it will be found that the melody (Gesang)
derived from the Adagio, predominates. The most important Allegro
movements of Beethoven are ruled by a predominant melody which
exhibits some of the characteristics of the Adagio; and in this
wise Beethoven's Allegros receive the EMOTIONAL SENTIMENTAL
significance which distinguishes them from the earlier naive
species of Allegro. However, Beethoven's [Musical Score: Symphony
III. "Eroica."] and Mozart's [Footnote: Symphony in C major,


[Musical Score excerpt]

are not far asunder. And with Mozart, as with Beethoven, the
exclusive character of the Allegro is only felt when the
figuration gets the upper hand of the melody (Gesang) that is,
when the reaction of the rhythmical movement against the
sustained tone is entirely carried out. This is particularly the
case in those final movements which have grown out of the
Rondeau, and of which the Finales to Mozart's Symphony in E flat,
and to Beethoven's in A, are excellent examples. Here the purely
rhythmical movement, so to speak, celebrates its orgies; and it
is consequently impossible to take these movements too quick. But
whatever lies between these two extremes IS SUBJECT TO THE LAWS
fundamentally identical with the laws which modify all
conceivable nuances of the sustained tone.

I shall now turn to the question of the MODIFICATION OF TEMPO; a
question of which our conductors know nothing, and for which they
consequently profess contempt. Whoever has followed me so far
with attention will, I trust, understand that this question goes
to the root of the matter before us. In the course of the
argument so far, two species of Allegro have been mentioned; an
emotional and sentimental character has been assigned to the
latter, the true Beethovenian Allegro, whereas the older
Mozartian Allegro was distinguished as showing a naive character.
I have adopted the expressions "sentimental" and "naive" from
Schiller's well-known essay upon "sentimental and naive poetry."

It is needless to discuss the aesthetic problems Schiller touches
upon. It is enough to state here that I take Mozart's quick Alla-
breve movements as representative of the naive Allegro. The
Allegros of the overtures to his operas, particularly to "Figaro"
and "Don Giovanni" are the most perfect specimens. It is well
known that Mozart wished these pieces to be played as fast as
possible. Having driven his musicians into a sort of rage, so
that to their own surprise they successfully rendered the unheard
of Presto of his overture to "Figaro," he commended them, saying:
"that was beautiful! Let us take it still quicker this evening."
Quite right. As I have said of the pure Adagio that, in an ideal
sense, it cannot be taken too slowly, so this pure unmixed
Allegro cannot be given too quickly.

The slow emanations of pure tone on the one hand, and the most
rapid figurated movement on the other, are subject to ideal
limits only, and in both directions the law of beauty is the sole
measure of what is possible. The law of beauty establishes the
point of contact at which the opposite extremes tend to meet and
to unite. The order of the movements in the symphonies of our
masters--from the opening Allegro, to the Adagio, and thence by
means of a stricter dance-form (the Menuet or Scherzo), to the
quickest Allegro (Finale)--shows a perfect sense of fitness. To
my mind, however, there are signs of a deterioration of the sense
of fitness when composers exhibit their platitudes in the SUITE
[FOOTNOTE: Compare Franz Lachner's Suites for Orchestra.] and
attempt to bolster up that old form, with its less thoughtfully
arranged succession of typical dance tunes; for these have been
fully developed elsewhere, and have already been embodied in far
richer, more extensive and complex forms.

Mozart's ABSOLUTE Allegros belong to the naive species. As
regards the various degrees of power of tone (Nach der Seite der
Dynamik hin) they consist of simple changes of piano and forte;
and, as regards structure they show certain fixed and stable
rhythmic melodic traits (Formen) which, without much choice or
sifting, are placed side by side, and made to chime with the
changes of piano and forte; and which (in the bustling ever-
recurring semi-cadences) the master employs with more than
surprising ease. But such things--even the greatest negligence
(Achtlosigkeit) in the use of common-place phrases and sections--
are explicable and excusable from the nature of this sort of
Allegro, which is not meant to interest by means of Cantilena,
but in which the restless incessant movement is intended to
produce a certain excitement. It is a significant trait in the
Allegro of the overture to Don Giovanni that this restless
movement ends with an unmistakable turn towards the
"sentimental." Here--where the extremes meet, at the point of
contact indicated above--it becomes necessary to modify the tempo
in the bars leading from the overture to the first tempo of the
opera (which is also an alla-breve but a slower one)--and the
pace must be slackened accordingly. But our conductors, in their
customary crude way, generally miss this point in the overture.
We need not, however, now be lead into premature reflections. Let
us merely consider it established that the character of the older
classical or, as I call it, naive Allegro differs greatly from
the new emotional sentimental Allegro, peculiar to Beethoven.
Mozart became acquainted with the orchestral crescendo and
diminuendo at Mannheim, (in 1777) when the orchestra there had
acquired it as a novelty: up to that time the instrumentation of
the old masters shows that, as a rule, nothing was inserted
between the forte and piano sections of the allegro movements
which can have been intended to be played with emotional
expression. Now, how does the true Beethovenian Allegro appear
with regard to this? To take the boldest and most inspired
example of Beethoven's unheard-of innovation in this direction,
the first movement of his Sinfonia eroica: how does this movement
appear if played in the strict tempo of one of the Allegros of
Mozart's overtures? But do our conductors ever dream of taking it
otherwise? Do they not always proceed monotonously from the first
bar to the last? With the members of the "elegant" tribe of
Capellmeisters the "conception" of the tempo consists of an
application of the Mendelssohnian maxim "chi va presto va sano."

Let the players who happen to have any regard for proper
execution make the best of it in passages like:--

[Musical Score]

or the plaintive:--

[Musical Score]

the conductors do not trouble their minds about such details;
they are on "classic ground," and will not stop for trifles; they
prefer to progress rapidly "grande vitesse," "time is money."

We have now reached the point in our discussion from which we can
judge the music of the day. It will have been noticed that I have
approached this point with some circumspection. I was anxious to
expose the dilemma, and to make everyone see and feel that since
Beethoven there has been a very considerable change in the
treatment and the execution of instrumental music. Things which
formerly existed in separate and opposite forms, each complete in
itself, are now placed in juxtaposition, and further developed,
one from the other, so as to form a whole. It is essential that
the style of execution shall agree with the matter set forth--
that the tempo shall be imbued with life as delicate as the life
of the thematic tissue. We may consider it established that in
classical music written in the later style MODIFICATION of Tempo
is a sine qua non. No doubt very great difficulties will have to
be overcome. Summing up my experiences I do not hesitate to
assert that, as far as public performances go, Beethoven is still
a pure chimera with us. [FOOTNOTE: i.e.. in 1869.]

I shall now attempt to describe what I conceive to be the right
way of performing Beethoven, and music akin to his. In this
respect also the subject seems inexhaustible, and I shall again
confine myself to a few salient points.

One of the principal musical forms consists of a series of
VARIATIONS upon a theme. Haydn, and eventually Beethoven, have
improved this form, and rendered it artistically significant, by
the originality of their devices, and particularly, by connecting
the single variations one with the other, and establishing
relations of mutual dependence between them. This is accomplished
with the happiest results in cases where one variation is
developed from another--that is to say, when a degree of
movement, suggested in the one is carried further in the other,
or when a certain satisfactory sense of surprise is occasioned by
one variation supplying a complementary form of movement, which
was wanting in the one before it. The real weakness of the
Variation-form, however, becomes apparent when strongly
contrasting parts are placed in juxtaposition, without any link
to connect them. Beethoven often contrives to convert this same
weakness into a source of strength; and he manages to do so in a
manner which excludes all sense of accident or of awkwardness:
namely--at the point which I have described above as marking the
limits of the laws of beauty with regard to the sustained tone
(in the Adagio), and the unfettered movement (in the Allegro)--he
contrives to satisfy, in a seemingly abrupt way, the extreme
longing after an antithesis; which antithesis, by means of a
different and contrasting movement, is now made to serve as a
relief. This can be observed in the master's greatest works. The
last movement of the Sinfonia eroica, for instance, affords
excellent instruction in this respect; it should be understood as
a movement consisting of a greatly expanded series of variations;
and accordingly it should be interpreted with as much variety as
possible. To do this properly, here as in all similar cases, the
above mentioned weakness of the Variation-form, and the
disadvantage which is felt to result from it, must be taken into
account. Single and separate variations are frequently seen to
have had each an independent origin, and to have merely been
strung together in a conventional manner. The unpleasant effects
of such fortuitous juxtaposition are particularly felt in cases
where a quiet and sustained theme is followed by an exceptionally
lively variation.

The first variation on that most wonderful theme in Beethoven's
grand Sonata in A major for piano and violin (Kreutzer) is an
example. Virtuosi always treat this as "a first variation" of the
common type--i.e., a mere display of musical gymnastics, which
destroys all desire to listen any further. It is curious that,
whenever I have mentioned the case of this variation to anyone,
my experience with the tempo di minuetto of the eighth symphony
has been repeated. Everybody agreed with me "on the whole"; but
in particular, people failed to see what I was aiming at.
Certainly (to go on with the example) this first variation of
that lovely sustained theme is of a conspicuously lively
character; when the composer invented it he could hardly have
thought of it as immediately following the theme, or as being in
direct contact with it. The component parts of the Variation-form
are each complete in themselves, and perhaps the composer was
unconsciously influenced by this fact. But, when the entire piece
is played, the parts appear in uninterrupted succession. We know
from other movements of the master's (for instance the second
movement of the C minor symphony, the Adagio of the great quartet
in E flat, and above all from the wonderful second movement of
the great sonata in C minor, Op. III), which are all written in
the form of Variations, but in which the parts are conceived as
standing in immediate connection, how deftly and delicately the
links between the different variations can be contrived. A player
who, in a case like that of the so-called "Kreutzer-Sonata,"
claims the honour of representing the master in full, might, at
least, attempt to establish some sort of relation and connection
between the sentiment of the theme and that of the first
variation; he might begin the latter at a more moderate pace, and
gradually lead up to the lively movement. Pianoforte and violin
players are firmly persuaded that the character of this variation
differs considerably from that of the theme. Let them then
interpret it with artistic discrimination, and treat the first
part of the variation as a gradual approach to the new tempo;
thus adding a charm to the interest the part already possesses
per se.

A stronger case, of similar import, will be found in the
beginning of the first Allegro 6-8 after the long introductory
Adagio of the string quartet in C sharp minor. [FOOTNOTE: Op.
131.] This is marked "molto vivace," and the character of the
entire movement is thus appropriately indicated. In quite an
exceptional way, however Beethoven has, in this quartet, so
arranged the several movements that they are heard in immediate
succession, without the customary interval; indeed they appear to
be developed one from the other according to certain delicate
laws. Thus the Allegro immediately follows an Adagio full of a
dreamy sadness, not to be matched elsewhere in the master's
works. If it were permitted to interpret the Allegro as showing a
state of feeling, such as could in some sort be reproduced in
pictorial language, (deutbares Stimmungsbild) one might say that
it shews a most lovely phenomenon, which arises, as it were, from
the depths of memory, and which, as soon as it has been
apprehended, is warmly taken up, and cherished. Evidently the
question, with regard to execution, here is: how can this
phenomenon (the new Allegro theme) be made to arise naturally
from the sad and sombre close of the Adagio, so that its abrupt
appearance shall prove attractive rather than repellant? Very
appropriately, the new theme first appears like a delicate,
hardly distinguishable dream, in unbroken pp, and is then lost in
a melting ritardando; thereafter, by means of a crescendo, it
enters its true sphere, and proceeds to unfold its real nature.
It is obviously the delicate duty of the executants to indicate
the character of the new movement with an appropriate
modification of tempo--i.e., to take the notes which immediately
succeed the Adagio for a link, and so unobtrusively to connect
them with the following that a change in the movement is hardly
perceptible, and moreover so to manage the ritardando, that the
crescendo, which comes after it, will introduce the master's
quick tempo, in such wise that the molto vivace now appears as
the rhythmical consequence of the increase of tone during the
crescendo. But the modifications here indicated are usually
overlooked; and the sense of artistic propriety is outraged by a
sudden and vulgar vivace, as though the whole piece were meant
for a jest, and the gaiety had at last begun! People seem to
think this "classical." [FOOTNOTE: For further comments upon this
Quartet see Appendix B.]

I may have been top circumstantial, but the matter is of
incalculable importance. Let us now proceed to look still more
closely into the wants and requirements of a proper performance
of classical music. In the foregoing investigations I hoped to
have elucidated the problem of the modification of tempo, and to
have shewn how a discerning mind will recognise and solve the
difficulties inherent in modern classical music. Beethoven has
furnished the immortal type of what I may call emotional,
sentimental music--it unites all the separate and peculiar
constituents of the earlier essentially naive types; sustained
and interrupted tone, cantilena and figurations, are no longer
kept formally asunder--the manifold changes of a series of
variations are not merely strung together, but are now brought
into immediate contact, and made to merge one into the other.
Assuredly, the novel and infinitely various combinations of a
symphonic movement must be set in motion in an adequate and
appropriate manner if the whole is not to appear as a
monstrosity. I remember in my young days to have heard older
musicians make very dubious remarks about the Eroica. [FOOTNOTE:
Beethoven's Symphony, No. III.] Dionys Weber, at Prague, simply
treated it as a nonentity. The man was right in his way; he chose
to recognise nothing but the Mozartian Allegro; and in the strict
tempo peculiar to that Allegro, he taught his pupils at the
Conservatorium to play the Eroica! The result was such that one
could not help agreeing with him. Yet everywhere else the work
was thus played, and it is still so played to this day! True, the
symphony is now received with universal acclamations; but, if we
are not to laugh at the whole thing, the real reasons for its
success must be sought in the fact that Beethoven's music is
studied apart from the concert-rooms--particularly at the piano--
and its irresistible power is thus fully felt, though in rather a
round-about way. If fate had not furnished such a path of safety,
and if our noblest music depended solely upon the conductors, it
would have perished long ago.

To support so astounding an assertion I will take a popular
example:--Has not every German heard the overture to Der
Freyschutz over and over again? I have been told of sundry
persons who were surprised to find how frequently they had
listened to this wonderful musical poem, without having been
shocked when it was rendered in the most trivial manner; these
persons were among the audience of a concert given at Vienna in
1864, when I was invited to conduct the overture. At the
rehearsal it came to pass that the orchestra of the imperial
opera (certainly one of the finest orchestras in existence), were
surprised at my demands regarding the execution of this piece. It
appeared at once that the Adagio of the introduction had
habitually been taken as a pleasant Andante in the tempo of the
"Alphorn," [FOOTNOTE: A sentimental song by Proch.] or some such
comfortable composition. That this was not "Viennese tradition"
only, but had come to be the universal practice, I had already
learnt at Dresden--where Weber himself had conducted his work.
When I had a chance to conduct Der Freyschutz at Dresden--
eighteen years after Weber's death--I ventured to set aside the
slovenly manner of execution which had prevailed under Reissiger,
my senior colleague. I simply took the tempo of the introduction
to the overture as I felt it; whereupon a veteran member of the
orchestra, the old violoncellist Dotzauer, turned towards me and
said seriously: "Yes, this is the way Weber himself took it; I
now hear it again correctly for the first time." Weber's widow,
who still resided at Dresden, became touchingly solicitous for my
welfare in the position of Capellmeister. She trusted that my
sympathy with her deceased husband's music would bring about
correct performances of his works, for which she had no longer
dared to hope. The recollection of this flattering testimony has
frequently cheered and encouraged me. At Vienna I was bold enough
to insist upon a proper performance. The orchestra actually
STUDIED the too-well-known overture anew. Discreetly led by R.
Lewi, the Cornists entirely changed the tone of the soft
woodnotes in the introduction, which they had been accustomed to
play as a pompous show piece. The magic perfume of the melody for
the horns was now shed over the PIANISSIMO indicated in the score
for the strings. Once only (also as indicated) the power of their
tone rose to a mezzoforte and was then gradually lost again
without the customary SFORZANDO, in the delicately inflected

The Violoncellos similarly reduced the usual heavy accent, which
was now heard above the tremolo of the violins like the delicate
sigh it is intended to be, and which finally gave to the
fortissimo that follows the crescendo that air of desperation
which properly belongs to it. Having restored the mysterious
dignity of the introductory Adagio, I allowed the wild movement
of the Allegro to run its passionate course, without regard to
the quieter expression, which the soft second theme demands; for
I knew that I should be able SUFFICIENTLY TO SLACKEN THE PACE AT
THE RIGHT MOMENT, so that the proper movement for this theme
might be reached.

Evidently the greater number, if not all modern Allegro
movements, consist of a combination of two essentially different
constituent parts: in contrast with the older naive unmixed
Allegro, the construction is enriched by the combination of the
pure Allegro with the thematic peculiarities of the vocal Adagio
in all its gradations. The second theme of the overture to
"Oberon," which does not in the least partake of the character of
the Allegro, very clearly shows this contrasted peculiarity.
Technically, the composer has managed to merge the character of
this theme into the general character of the piece. That is to
say: on the surface, the theme reads smoothly, according to the
scheme of an Allegro; but, as soon as the true character of the
theme is brought out, it becomes apparent that A COMPOSER MUST

To continue the account of the performance of the Freyschutz
overture at Vienna: after the extreme excitement of the tempo
Allegro, I made use of the long drawn notes of the clarinet--the
character of which is quite that of the Adagio--so as
imperceptibly to ease the tempo in this place, where the
figurated movement is dissolved into sustained or tremulous tone;
so that, in spite of the connecting figure:

[music score example]

which renews the movement, and so beautifully leads to the
cantilena in E flat, we had arrived at the very slight nuance of
the main tempo, which has been kept up all along. I arranged with
the excellent executants that they were to play this theme

[music score example]

legato, and with an equable piano, i.e., without the customary
commonplace accentuation and NOT as follows:

[music score example]

The good result was at once apparent, so that for the gradual
reanimation of the tempo with the pulsating

[music score example]

I had only to give the slightest indication of the pace to find
the orchestra perfectly ready to attack the most energetic nuance
of the main tempo together with the following fortissimo. It was
not so easy on the return of the conflict of the two strongly
contrasted motives, to bring them out clearly without disturbing
the proper feeling for the predominant rate of speed. Here, when
the despairing energy of the allegro is concentrated in
successively shorter periods, and culminates in

[music score example]

the success of the ever-present modification of tempo was perhaps
shown best of all.

After the splendidly sustained C major chords, and the
significant long pauses, by which these chords are so well
relieved, the musicians were greatly surprised when I asked them
to play the second theme, which is now raised to a joyous chant,
NOT as they had been accustomed, in the violently excited nuance
of the first allegro theme, but in the milder modification of the
main time.

This worrying and driving to death of the PRINCIPAL theme at the
close of a piece is a habit common to all our orchestras--very
frequently indeed nothing is wanting but the sound of the great
horse-whip to complete the resemblance to the effects at a
circus. No doubt increase of speed at the close of an overture is
frequently demanded by composers; it is a matter of course in
those cases where the true Allegro theme, as it were, remains in
possession of the field, and finally celebrates its apotheosis;
of which Beethoven's great overture to "Leonora" is a celebrated
example. In this latter case, however, the effect of the
increased speed of the Allegro is frequently spoilt by the fact
that the conductor, who does not know how to modify the main
tempo to meet the various requirements of the thematic
combinations (e.g., at the proper moment to relax the rate of
speed), has already permitted the main tempo to grow so quick as
to exclude the possibility of any further increase--unless,
indeed, the strings choose to risk an abnormal rush and run, such
as I remember to have heard with astonishment, though not with
satisfaction, from this very Viennese orchestra. The necessity
for such an eccentric exertion arose in consequence of the main
tempo having been hurried too much during the progress of the
piece; the final result was simply an exaggeration--and moreover,
a risk to which no true work of art should be exposed--though, in
a rough way, it may be able to bear it.

However, it is difficult to understand why the close of the
Freyschutz overture should be thus hurried and worried by
Germans, who are supposed to possess some delicacy of feeling.
Perhaps the blunder will appear less inexplicable, if it is
remembered that this second cantilena, which towards the close is
treated as a chant of joy, was, already at its very first
appearance, made to trot on at the pace of the principal Allegro:
like a pretty captive girl tied to the tail of a hussar's
charger--and it would seem a case of simple practical justice
that she should eventually be raised to the charger's back when
the wicked rider has fallen off--whereat, finally, the
Capellmeister is delighted, and proceeds to apply the great whip.

An indescribably repulsive effect is produced by this trivial
reading of a passage, by which the composer meant to convey, as
it were, a maiden's tender and warm effusions of gratitude.
[Footnote: See the close of the Aria in E, known as "Softly
sighing," in Der Freyschutz (No. 8).] Truly, certain people who
sit and listen again and again to a vulgar effect such as this,
whenever and wherever the Freyschutz overture is performed, and
approve of it, and talk of "the wonted excellence of our
orchestral performances"--and otherwise indulge in queer notions
of their own about music, like the venerable Herr Lobe,
[Footnote: Author of a "Kompositionslehre," "Briefe eines
Wohlbekannten," etc.] whose jubilee we have recently celebrated--
such people, I say, are in the right position to warn the public
against "the absurdities of a mistaken idealism"--and "to point
towards that which is artistically genuine, true and eternally
valid, as an antidote to all sorts of half-true or half-mad
doctrines and maxims." [Footnote: (See Eduard Bernsdorf in
Signale fur die musicalishe Welt, No. 67, 1869).]

As I have related, a number of Viennese amateurs who attended a
performance of this poor maltreated overture, heard it rendered
in a very different manner. The effect of that performance is
still felt at Vienna. People asserted that they could hardly
recognize the piece, and wanted to know what I had done to it.
They could not conceive how the novel and surprising effect at
the close had been produced, and scarcely credited my assertion
that a moderate tempo was the sole cause. The musicians in the
orchestra, however, might have divulged a little secret, namely
this:--in the fourth bar of the powerful and brilliant entrata I
interpreted the sign >, which in the score might be mistaken for
a timid and senseless accent, as a mark of diminuendo [Figure:
diminuendo sign] assuredly in accordance with the composer's
intentions--thus we reached a more moderate degree of force, and
the opening bars of the theme were at once distinguished by a
softer inflection, which, I now could easily permit to swell to
fortissimo--thus the warm and tender motive, gorgeously supported
by the full orchestra, appeared happy and glorified.

Our Capellmeisters are not particularly pleased at a success such
as this.

Herr Dessof, however, whose business it was afterwards to conduct
"Der Freyschutz," at the Viennese opera, thought it advisable to
leave the members of the orchestra undisturbed in the possession
of the new reading. He announced this to them, with a smile,
saying: "Well, gentlemen, let us take the overture a la Wagner."

Yes, Yes:--a la Wagner! I believe, there would be no harm in
taking a good many other things, a la Wagner! [Footnote:
"Wagnerisch"--there is a pun here: wagen = to dare; erwagen--to
weigh mentally: thus "Wagnerisch," may be taken as--in a daring
well considered manner.]

At all events this was an entire concession on the part of the
Viennese Capellmeister; whereas in a similar case, my former
colleague, the late Reissiger, would only consent to meet me HALF
way. In the last movement of Beethoven's A major symphony, I
discovered a PIANO which Reissiger had been pleased to insert in
the parts when he conducted the work. This piano concerned the
grand preparation for the close of this final movement, when,
after the powerful reiterated chords on the dominant seventh A
(Breitkopf and Haertel's Score, page 86) the figure

[Figure: musical example]

is carried on forte, until with "sempre piu forte," it becomes
still more violent. This did not suit Reissiger; accordingly, at
the bar quoted, he interpolated a sudden piano, so that he might
in time get a perceptible crescendo. Of course, I erased this
piano and restored the energetic forte in its integrity. And
thus, I presume, I again committed an offence against "Lobe and
Bernsdorf's eternal laws of truth and beauty," which Reissiger,
in his day, was so careful to obey.

After I had left Dresden, when this A major symphony came to be
performed again under Reissiger, he did not feel at ease about
that passage; so he stopped the orchestra, and advised that it
should be taken mezzo forte!

On another occasion (not very long ago, at Munich), I was present
at a public performance of the overture to "Egmont," which proved
instructive--somewhat after the manner of the customary
performances of the overture to "Der Freyschutz." In the Allegro
of the Egmont overture [Footnote: Beethoven: op. 84.] the
powerful and weighty sostenuto of the introduction:

[Figure: musical example]

is used in rhythmical diminution as the first half of the second
theme, and is answered in the other half, by a soft and smooth

[Figure: musical example]

The conductor, [Footnote: Franz Lachner] in accordance with
"classical" custom, permitted this concise and concentrated
theme, a contrast of power and gentle self-content, to be swept
away by the rush of the Allegro, like a sere and withered leaf;
so that, whenever it caught the ear at all, a sort of dance pace
was heard, in which, during the two opening bars the dancers
stepped forward, and in the two following bars twirled about in
"Laendler" [Footnote: Laendler--an Austrian peasant's dance, in
triple time, from which the waltz is derived.] fashion.

When Bulow, in the absence of the favourite senior conductor, was
called upon to lead the music to Egmont at Munich, I induced him,
amongst other things, to attend to the proper rendering of this
passage. It proved at once strikingly effective--concise,
laconic--as Beethoven meant it. The tempo, which up to that point
had been kept up with passionate animation, was firmly arrested,
and very slightly modified--just as much, and no more than was
necessary to permit the orchestra properly to attack this
thematic combination, so full of energetic decision and of a
contemplative sense of happiness. At the end of the 3/4 time the
combination is treated in a broader and still more determined
manner; and thus these simple, but indispensible, modifications
brought about a new reading of the overture--the CORRECT reading.
The impression produced by this properly conducted performance
was singular, to say the least of it; I was assured that the
manager of the Court theatre was persuaded there had been "a

No one among the audience of the celebrated Odeon Concerts at
Munich dreamt of "a break-down" when the above-mentioned senior
"classical" conductor led the performance of Mozart's G minor
symphony, when I happened to be present. The manner in which the
Andante of the symphony was played, and the effect it produced
was altogether surprising. Who has not, in his youth, admired
this beautiful piece, and tried to realize it in his own way? In
what way? No matter. If the marks of expression are scanty, the
wonderful composition arouses one's feelings; and fancy supplies
the means to read it in accordance with such feelings. It seems
as though Mozart had expected something of the kind, for he has
given but few and meagre indications of the expression. So we
felt free to indulge ourselves in the delicately increasing swing
of the quavers, with the moon-like rise of the violins:

[Figure: musical example]

the notes of which we believed to sound softly legato; the
tenderly whispering

[Figure: musical example]

touched us as with wings of angels, and before the solemn
admonitions and questionings of

[Figure: musical example]

(which, however, we heard in a finely sustained crescendo) we
imagined ourselves led to a blissful evanescence, which came upon
us with the final bars. Fancies of this sort, however, were not
permitted during the "strictly classical" performance, under the
veteran Capellmeister, at the Munich Odeon; the proceedings,
there, were carried on with a degree of solemnity, enough to make
one's flesh creep, with a sensation akin to a foretaste of
eternal perdition.

The lightly floating Andante was converted into a ponderous
Largo; not the hundredth part of the weight of a single quaver
was spared us; stiff and ghastly, like a bronze pigtail, the
battuta of this Andante was swung over our heads; even the
feathers on the angel's wings were turned into corkscrew curls--
rigid, like those of the seven year's war. Already, I felt myself
placed under the staff of a Prussian recruiting officer, A.D.
1740, and longed to be bought off--but! who can guess my terror,
when the veteran turned back the pages, and recommenced his
Largo--Andante, merely to do "classical" justice to the two
little dots before the double bar in the score! I looked about me
for help and succour--and beheld another wondrous thing: the
audience listened patiently: quite convinced that everything was
in the best possible order, and that they were having a true
Mozartian "feast for the ears" in all innocence and safety.--This
being so, I acquiesced, and bowed my head in silence.

Once, however, a little later on, my patience failed. At a
rehearsal of "Tannhauser" I had quietly allowed a good deal to
pass by unnoticed--even the clerical tempo at which my knights
had to march up in the second act. But now it became evident that
the undoubtedly "veteran" master could not even make out how 4/4
time was to be changed to an equivalent 6/4: i.e., two crotchets

[Figure: two crotchets (quarter notes)]

into a triplet of three crotchets

[Figure: a triplet of three crotchets (quarter notes)]

The trouble arose during Tannhauser's narrative of his pilgrimage
(Act III.), when 4/4

[Figure: musical score example]

is replaced by 6/4

This was too much for the veteran. He was very properly
accustomed to beat 4/4 on the square; but it is also the custom
of such conductors to beat 6/4 after the manner of 6/8, that is,
with an Alla breve beat--two in the bar. (Only in the Andante of
the G minor symphony did I witness six grave quaver beats = 1, 2,
3,--4, 5, 6). But, for my poor narrative about the Pope at Rome,
the conductor thought two timid Alla breve beats sufficient--so
that the members of the orchestra might be left at liberty to
make out the crotchets as best they could. Thus it came to pass
that the tempo was taken at exactly double the proper pace:
namely, instead of the equivalents just described, things
appeared thus:

[Figure: musical score example]

Now, this may have been very interesting, musically, but it
compelled the poor singer of Tannhauser to relate his painful
recollections of Rome to a gay and lively waltz-rhythm (which,
again, reminds me of Lohengrin's narrative about the Holy Grail,
at Wiesbaden, where I heard it recited scherzando, as though it
were about Queen Mab). But as I was, in this case, dealing with
so excellent a representative of Tannhauser as Ludwig Schnorr,
[Footnote: Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld, the first "Tristan"
died 1865.] I was bound to establish the right tempo, and, for
once, respectfully to interfere. This, I am sorry to say, caused
some scandal and annoyance. I fear in course of time, it even
caused some little martyrdom, and inspired a cold-blooded Gospel-
critic [Footnote: David Strauss, author of "Das Leben Jesu."] to
celebrate and console the veteran-martyr in a couple of sonnets.
Indeed, we have now got sundry "martyrs of classical music"
crowned with a halo of poetry. I shall beg leave to examine them
still more closely in the sequel.

It has repeatedly been pointed out that our conductors dislike
attempts at modification of tempo, for the sake of perspicuity in
the rendering of Beethoven and other classical music. I have
shewn that plausible objections can be urged against such
modifications, so long as they are not accompanied by
corresponding modifications of tone and expression; and I have
further shewn that such objections have no foundation other than
the incompetence of conductors, who attempt to perform functions
for which they are not fit. In fact, there is but one valid
objection which can be urged against the mode of procedure I
advocate, namely this: nothing can be more detrimental to a piece
of music than ARBITRARY NUANCES of tempo, etc., such as are
likely to be introduced by this or that self-willed and conceited
time-beater, for the sake of what he may deem "effective." In
that way, certainly, the very existence of our classical music
might, in course of time, be undermined. Now, what is to be said
or done in the face of so sad a state of things? A sound public
opinion with regard to questions of art does not exist in
Germany; and there is nothing amongst us that could effectually
put a stop to such vagaries. Thus, the above objection, valid as
it is (though seldom put forward in good faith), again points
towards the conductors; for, if incompetent persons are not to be
permitted to maltreat classical music at their pleasure, how is
it that the best and most influential musicians have not taken
this matter in hand? why have they themselves led classical music
into such a groove of triviality and actual disfigurement? In
many instances the objection in question is merely put forward as
a pretext for opposition to all efforts in the direction I have
indicated. Indolent and incompetent persons form an immense
majority: and, under certain circumstances, incompetency and
sluggishness unite, and grow aggressive.

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-

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

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
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

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

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

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

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
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"

"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
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.]

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


[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."


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