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Correspondence of Wagner and Liszt, Volume 2 (1889)
By Richard Wagner; Franz Liszt; Francis Hueffer (translator)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
BRIEF BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
CORRESPONDENCE OF WAGNER AND LISZT, Volume 2 INFO ABOUT THIS E-TEXT EDITION
BRIEF BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
The German musical genius Richard Wagner (1811-1883) could be considered to be one of the ideological fathers of early 20th century German nationalism. He was well-suited for this role. Highly intelligent, sophisticated, complex, capable of imagining whole systems of humanistic philosophy, and with an intense need to communicate his ideas, he created great operas which, in addition to their artistic merits, served the peculiar role of promoting a jingoistic, chauvenistic kind of Germanism. There are things in his operas that only a German can fully understand, especially if he would like to see his country closed off to outsiders. It is unlikely, however, that Wagner expected these ideas to achieve any popularity. Time and again he rails against philistines, irrational people and politicians in his letters. With great exasperation and often depression he expressed little hope that his country would ever emerge out of its “philistinism” and embrace “rational” ideas such as he propagated. Add to this the great difficulties he had in getting his works performed, and one might assume that he felt himself to be composing, most of the time, to audiences of bricks. Yes, his great, intensely beloved friend Liszt believed in, fully understood, and greatly appreciated Wagner’s works, but Liszt was just one in a million, and even he, as Wagner suggested, associated with a base coterie incapable of assimilating Wagnerian messages. Considering the sorry state of music and intellectualism in Wagner’s time and setting, he surely would have been surprised if his operas and his ideas achieved any wide currency. That he continued to work with intense energy to develop his ideas, to fix them into musical form and to propagate them, while knowing that probably no sizeable population would ever likely take note of them, and while believing that his existence as an underappreciated, rational individual in an irrational world was absurd and futile, is a testimony to the enormous will-power of this “ubermensch.”
CORRESPONDENCE OF WAGNER AND LISZT, VOLUME 2
Yesterday (Saturday, January 7th) first performance of “Lohengrin” at Leipzig. The public, very numerous in spite of double prices, displayed much sympathy and admiration for this wonderful work. The first act went tolerably well as far as the artists were concerned. Rietz conducted in a precise and decent manner, and the ENSEMBLES had been carefully studied. The second and third acts, however, suffered much from the faults and shortcomings of both chorus and principals. Further performances will, no doubt, show an improvement, although the Leipzig theatre does certainly not possess the proper singers and scenic artists. The flagging in the second act, which I previously took the liberty of pointing out to you, was felt very much on this occasion, and the public seemed painfully and unmistakably tired. The tempi of the choruses seemed to me considerably too fast, and there was more than one break-down in this scene. Altogether, without self-conceit, I may say that the Leipzig performance is inferior to ours, as you will probably hear from other quarters. On the other hand the Leipzig public is in many respects superior to ours, and I feel convinced that the external success of yesterday’s performance will prove very considerable indeed. The grand success of this work can no longer be denied; of that we should be glad, and the rest will follow sooner or later. The actors, Rietz and Wirsing, were called after the first act, and after the last the representatives of the principal parts had to appear again. T., who had come from Paris for this performance, was very dissatisfied with it. I toned him down, not thinking it advisable to impair the chief thing by detailed criticism. Before all, let it be stated that “Lohengrin” is the grandest work of art which we possess so far, and that the Leipzig theatre by performing it has done credit to itself.
If you have to write to Leipzig show yourself, to please me, friendly and appreciative of their goodwill, and of the success which cannot be denied. The only remark you might make concerns the quick tempo of the choruses in Act II., Scene iii., and of the “Lohengrin” passage in the third act
[Here, Liszt illustrates with a 4-bar musical score example where the words, “Ath—-mest Du nicht die su–ssen Dufte” are sung.]
as compared with YOUR METRONOMIC INDICATION. This is the more necessary as the chorus practically broke down, and these passages failed to produce their due effect.
On the next birthday of the Grand Duchess (April 8th) “Lohengrin” will be given here, with Gotze (at present professor of singing at the Leipzig Conservatoire, late first tenor of this theatre) and Frau Fastlinger, and about the middle of May Tichatschek will sing the part here twice. Zigesar has also asked X. to sing Ortrud, and has offered her as well as Tichatschek very decent terms, but her answer is somewhat vague and undecided: “Unless I have to go to England at that time,” etc.
Tichatschek is again behaving splendidly on this occasion, and I thank you for the few friendly lines you have written to him, for he really deserves it by his warm friendship for you and your works. He came to Leipzig together with Krebs, and during the entr’acte we met at the buffet, when he told me that you had written to him, which I was very glad to hear. The Hartels have sent you three hundred thalers for the nine pieces from “Lohengrin.”
Farewell, and let me soon hear from you.
January 8th, 1854.
The “Rhinegold” is done, but I also am done for. Latterly I had intentionally dulled my feeling by means of work, and avoided every opportunity of writing to you before its completion. Today is the first forenoon when no pretext prevents me any longer from letting the long-nourished and pent-up grief break forth. Let it break forth, then. I can restrain it no longer.
In addition to your very kindly notice of the Leipzig “Lohengrin,” I also received that of the “Deutsche Allgemeine”
Zeitung, and discover in it the scornful punishment inflicted upon me for the crime I committed against my being and my inmost conscience when, two years ago, I became unfaithful to my rightful determination and consented to the performance of my operas. Alas! how pure and consistent with myself was I when I thought only of you and Weimar, ignored all other theatres, and entirely relinquished the hope of any further success.
Well, that is over now. I have abandoned my purpose, my pride has vanished, and I am reduced to humbly bending my neck under the yoke of Jews and Philistines.
But the infamous part is that by betraying the noblest thing in my possession I have not even secured the prize which was to be the equivalent. I remain, after all, the beggar I was before.
Dearest Franz, none of my latter years has passed without bringing me at least once to the verge of the resolution to put an end to my life. Everything seems so waste, so lost! Dearest friend, art with me, after all, is a pure stop-gap, nothing else, a stop-gap in the literal sense of the word. I have to stop the gap by its means in order to live at all. It is therefore with genuine despair that I always resume art; if I am to do this, if I am to dive into the waves of artistic fancy in order to find contentment in a world of imagination, my fancy should at least be buoyed up, my imagination supported. I cannot live like a dog; I cannot sleep on straw and drink bad whisky. I must be coaxed in one way or another if my mind is to accomplish the terribly difficult task of creating a non-existing world. Well, when I resumed the plan of the “Nibelungen” and its actual execution, many things had to co-operate in order to produce in me the necessary, luxurious art-mood. I had to adopt a better style of life than before; the success of “Tannhauser,” which I had surrendered solely in this hope, was to assist me. I made my domestic arrangements on a new scale; I wasted (good Lord, wasted!) money on one or the other requirement of luxury. Your visit in the summer, your example, everything, tempted me to a forcibly cheerful deception, or rather desire of deception, as to my circumstances. My income seemed to me an infallible thing. But after my return from Paris my situation again became precarious; the expected orders for my operas, and especially for “Lohengrin,” did not come in; and as the year approaches its close I realise that I shall want much, very much, money in order to live in my nest a little longer. I begin to feel anxious. I write to you about the sale of my rights to the Hartels; that comes to nothing. I write to Berlin to my theatrical agent there. He gives me hopes of a good purchaser, whom I refer to the first performance of “Lohengrin” at Leipzig. Well, this has taken place, and now my agent writes that after such a success he has found it impossible to induce the purchaser to conclude the bargain, willing as he had previously been.
Confess that this is something like a situation. And all this torture, and trouble, and care about a life which I hate, which I curse! And, in addition to this, I appear ridiculous before my visitors, and taste the delightful sensation of having surrendered the noblest work of my life so far to the predetermined stupidity of our theatrical mob and to the laughter of the Philistine.
Lord, how must I appear to myself? I wish that at least I had the satisfaction that some one knew how I appear to myself.
Listen, my Franz; you must help me! I am in a bad, a very bad, way. If I am to regain the faculty of holding out (this word means much to me), something thorough must be done in the direction of prostituting my art which I have once taken, otherwise all is over with me. Have you thought of Berlin again? Something must be done there if all is not to come to a stop.
Before all, I must have money. The Hartels have been very liberal, but what is the good of hundreds where thousands are needed? If the Berlin purchase had come to something, I might at least have used the offer in order to prove to a man of business here that I possessed “capital,” and to induce him to lend me the necessary sum for three years, paying back one-third every year. But this hope also has vanished. No one will undertake such an affair unless he has personal confidence in my future (?) successes. Such a man, dearest Franz, you must find for me. Once more, I want from 3,000 to 4,000 thalers in order to find perfect rest and equipoise. That much my operas may well bring me in in three years IN CASE something real is done for “Lohengrin,” so as to save it. I am willing to lease my rights to the lender; my rights in “Tannhauser” and “Lohengrin” shall be secured to him in any way he thinks desirable or necessary. If I am not worthy of such a service, then you must own that I am in a bad way, and all has been a mistake! Help me over this, and I will undertake once more to hold out.
Dear friend, do not be angry. I have a claim on you as on my creator. You are the creator of the person I am now; I live through you: it is no exaggeration. Take care of your creation. I call this a duty which you have towards me.
The only thing I want is money; that at least one ought to be able to get. Love I abandon, and art!
Well, the “Rhinegold” is ready, readier than I ever thought it would be. I went to this music with so much faith, so much joy; and with a true fury of despair I continued, and have at last finished it. Alas! the need of gold held me too in its net. Believe me, no one ever has composed in this manner; my music, it seems to me, must be terrible; it is a slough of horrors and sublimities.
I shall soon make a clean copy, black on white, and that will probably be the end of it; or shall I give permission to have this also performed at Leipzig for twenty louis d’or? I cannot write more to you today. You are the only person to whom I could tell such a thing; no one else has an idea of it, least of all the people near me.
Do not think that the news of Leipzig has made me suddenly desperate. I anticipated this, and knew everything beforehand. I can also imagine that the Leipzig failure may still be repaired, that “it is not as bad as we think,” and much more to the same effect. It may be, but let me see evidence. I have no faith, and only one hope: sleep, sleep, so profound, so profound, that all sensation of the pain of living ceases. That sleep at least is within my reach; it is not so difficult to get.
Good heavens, I give you bad blood as well! Why did you ever come across me?
The present of the Princess caused me a smile,–a smile over which I could shed tears. I shall write to her when I have lived through a few more days; then I shall also send you my portrait, with a motto, which might make you feel awkward after all. How are you? Burn this letter: it is godless; but I too am godless. Be you God’s saint, for in you alone I still have faith. Yea! yea! and once more yea!
January 15th, 1854
Something must be done in London; I will even go to America to satisfy my future creditor; this too I offer, so that I may finish my “Nibelungen.”
My dearest Franz,
I write once more to try whether I can ease my heart a little.
Dearest friend, this continual suffering is becoming at last intolerable. Always to submit to things, never, even at the risk of one’s own perdition, to give a turn to the wheel of suffering and to determine its direction–that must at last rouse the meekest of men to revolt. I must now act, do something. Again and again the thought comes to me of retiring to some distant corner of the world, although I know full well that this would mean only FLIGHT, not the conquest of a new life, for I am too LONELY. But I must at least begin something that will make my life, such as it is, sufficiently tolerable to enable me to devote myself to the execution and completion of my work, which alone can divert my thoughts and give me comfort. While here I chew a beggar’s crust, I hear from Boston that “Wagner nights” are given there. Every one persuades me to come over; they are occupying themselves with me with increasing interest; I might make much money there by concert performances, etc. “Make much MONEY!” Heavens! I don’t want to make money if I can go the way shown to me by my longing. But if I really were to undertake something of this kind, I should even then not know how to get with decency out of my new arrangements here in order to go where I could make money. And how should I feel there?
Alas! this is so impossible that the impossibility is equalled only by the ridiculous position into which I sink when I commence brooding over the possibility of the plan. My work, my “Nibelungen,” would then of course be out of the question.
This WORK is truly the only thing which still ties me to the desire of life. When I think of sacrifices and demand sacrifices, it is for this work; in it alone I discover an object of my life. For its sake I must hold out, and hold out here, where I have got a foothold, and have settled down to work. If I consider it rightly, all my intended action can only have the object of enabling me to hold out till the completion of my work. But for that very reason I can DO nothing; all must be done by OTHERS. On that account I latterly again felt the liveliest desire to obtain my amnesty, and thus to gain free access to Germany. In that case I might at least be active in helping on the performances of my operas. I might at last produce “Lohengrin” myself, while as it is I torture myself for the sake of it. The most necessary thing for the moment seems to me to repair the Leipzig disaster; I was on the point of venturing there without passport and of endangering my personal liberty (good God! “liberty!” What irony!). In calmer moments I intended to write to the King of Saxony, till this also appeared quite useless and even dishonourable to me. Then again, as lately as last night, I thought of writing to the Grand Duke to explain my new situation to him and to ask him for his energetic intercession at Dresden. But this morning early I came to think that this also would be in vain, and probably you agree with me. Where can ENERGY and real WILL be found? Everything has to be done by halves, quarters, or even tenths or twelfths, a la X.
So I sit down again, cross my arms, and surrender myself to pure, unalloyed SUFFERING. I can do nothing, except create my “Nibelungen”; and even that I am unable to do without great and energetic help.
My dearest, my only friend, listen. I CAN do nothing unless others do it for me. The sale of the rights of my operas must be brought about, unless I am to free myself from my situation by violent means. In the way of pure business this has become impossible by the Leipzig performance, which, if my wish and my conditions had been observed, would not have taken place; it must be simply a work of friendship. To no one but you can I explain myself accurately, because you are the only one who can understand at its true estimate, and without a shake of the head, my position, such as it has been brought about by my moods, inclinations, whims, and wants. How can I expect a Philistine to comprehend the transcendent part of my nature, which in the conditions of my life impelled me to satisfy an immense inner desire by such external means as must to him appear dangerous, and certainly unsympathetic? No one knows the needs of people like us; I am my self frequently surprised at considering so many “useless” things indispensable. To YOU alone can I explain how painfully I am placed, and how necessary immediate help is to me. This is the first and most indispensable thing to preserve me for my whole future. Owing to my extreme sensitiveness in this matter, I shall otherwise be compelled–because for such a frivolous reason I do not want to take my own life–to start at once and fly to America.
I am in a pitiful condition, and I know that to such a friend as you pity comes from love. Give me up if you can; that will settle all. With my terrible care my violent nervous disorder has also returned. During my work I frequently felt quite well; the thunder-clouds seemed to have cleared away. I often felt beautifully elevated, gently supported; generally I was silent, but it was from inner joy; even hope wound itself softly round my heart; the children of fable came to the weeping elf, saying, “Weep not; thou too mayst still be happy.” But the word resounded from farther and farther distance, till at last I could hear it no longer. Silence! now the old night holds me again; let it devour me altogether!
Pardon me. I CANNOT help it.
Farewell, my Franz; farewell; farewell.
You were going to send me your “Kunstler.” Why does it not arrive?
How about the “Faust” symphony? I am writing the “Rhinegold” at once in full score. I did not see my way to jotting down clearly the introduction (the depth of the Rhine) as a sketch; so I hit upon the full score. This is a slower way of proceeding, and my head is still a little confused.
The Princess has done well; greet her and thank her warmly from me. Who knows how it will turn out? I do not care to know.
This is a sign of life to which you must respond sympathetically.
Zurich, February 7th, 1854
It is a sad fate that we have to live apart from each other. I can tell you nothing but that I think of you constantly and love you from my heart of hearts.
Latterly my time has been painfully occupied by all manner of business, visits, work, etc. I have written to nobody, as you may well imagine, because you did not receive a letter from me.
Together with this I send you the score of my “Kunstler” chorus, and between this and the autumn I intend to publish half-a-dozen orchestral pieces, also in full score. By October the “Faust” symphony will be finished, which also will be published soon afterwards.
Let us leave these trifles alone and speak of your “Rhinegold.” Have you really finished it? That has been wonderfully quick work indeed. You know how delighted I should be if you would let me see the score. Send it to me as soon as you can do without it.
In the meantime I have not neglected your pecuniary affairs, and hope that my intentions will not be frustrated. CANDIDLY answer me two questions:–
1. Have you pressing debts, and what sum do you absolutely require to meet them?
2. Can you manage to live this year on your present income?
There is a probability that Berlin may come off next autumn, and in that case I shall let you know the little result of my effort in good time. For the present DO NOT SPEAK ABOUT IT. Dorn was here, and conducted the second performance of his “Nibelungen.” The work is to be given at Berlin in six weeks.
Brendel wrote several things to me about the “Lohengrin” affair in Leipzig. In my opinion, nothing further can be done for the moment, and you have every reason to be calm and SATISFIED. Lohengrin’s barque is drawn by a swan; the cackling of geese and the barking of dogs are of no avail.
Berlioz is coming to Hanover at the end of March, and goes from there to Dresden, where he will conduct a few concerts at the theatre. Fischer wrote to me recently about an intended performance of “Cellini” at Dresden. This is as yet a secret, which I, for my part, should like to see made public very soon. The opera is Berlioz’s freshest and roundest work, and its failure in Paris and London must be attributed to low villainy and misapprehension. It would be a fine thing if Dresden were to offer him a brilliant REVANCHE, such as he deserves.
Brendel will publish his book within a few days. When you have read it, tell me your candid opinion. Raff also has finished a stout volume on the “Wagner Question” (!). He refuses to show me ANYTHING of it, although he has read parts to several other persons. Fortunately you are no longer to yourself nor to me a QUESTION….
[Here, Liszt illustrates with a 3 1/2 bar musical score example where the words “Ath – mest Du nicht die hol den Duf – te–” are sung.]
Live in your “Rhinegold,” and think lovingly of
WEYMAR, February 21st, 1854.
Many thanks for your “Kunstler.” You had in me a somewhat adverse judge of this composition–I mean, I was not in the mood for it. I have got so unaccustomed to judging in an objective sense that in everything I go entirely by inclination. I take up only what attracts my sympathy, and enjoy it, without in the least analysing that enjoyment in a critical manner. Imagine then the contradictions which the very choice of the poem necessarily roused within me. It is more or less a didactic poem. In it speaks to us a philosopher who has finally returned to art, and does so with the greatest possible emphasis of resolution;–in brief Schiller to the life! Besides this, a chorus for a concert! I have no longer any feeling for that kind of thing, and could not produce it at any price. I should not know where to take my inspiration. One other thing: my musical position towards verse and metre has undergone an enormous change. I could not at any price write a melody to Schiller’s verses, which are entirely intended for reading. These verses must be treated musically in a certain arbitrary manner, and that arbitrary manner, as it does not bring about a real flow of melody, leads us to harmonic excesses and violent efforts to produce artificial wavelets in the unmelodic fountain. I have experienced all this myself, and in my present state of development have arrived at an entirely different form of treatment. Consider, for instance, that the ENTIRE instrumental introduction to the “Rhinegold” is based upon the common chord of E flat. Imagine then how sensitive I am in these matters and how startled I was when, on opening your “Kunstler,” I hit upon the exact contrary of my PRESENT system. I do not deny that I shook my head while going on, and that stupidly I observed in the first instance only the things which startled me–I mean details, always details. At the same time, there was something in these details which seemed to strike me in spite of my unsympathetic mood. At the close I reflected and arrived at the reasonable idea of letting the WHOLE pass by me in full swing. In fact, I imbibed it in a manner with the most fortunate results. I saw you suddenly at your desk, saw you, heard you, and understood you. In this way I received another proof of the experience that it is our own fault if we cannot receive what is magnanimously offered. This your address to the artists is a grand, beautiful, splendid trait of your own artistic life. I was deeply moved by the force of your intention. You give utterance to it, body and soul, at a time, in circumstances, and before people who would be well advised in trying to understand you. You have done well in drawing Schiller’s lines out of their literary existence and in proclaiming them loudly and clearly to the world with trumpet sound. You have, as I say, done well. How to do it was your own affair. YOU knew HOW these lines should be proclaimed to the world, for to none but you had occurred the necessity of that proclamation. I at least know nobody who could do something of this kind with such force. WHAT an artist intends to do shows to him HOW he should do it, and by this HOW we recognize the WHAT. What you intended to do here you could not have expressed otherwise than by this tremendous display of eloquence, of emotion, of overpowering strength. This is my criticism. I have no other. But who will be able to sing this to your liking? Mercy on me when I think of our tail-coated concert singers! During the performance at Carlsruhe you had, probably from your own inspiration, worked yourself into such a state of excitement, that you thought you heard them sing as they should have sung. I suspect, however, that the public heard correctly what was sung, and therefore could of course not understand the matter at all. Dear friend, you require singers such as I want for my Wotan, etc. Consider this! I have become so abominably practical that the moment of actual representation is always before my eyes, and this is another source of my joyful despair.
Thanks then for your “Kunstler.” I feel as if it were meant for a present to myself only, and as if no one else were to know what you have really given to the world.
I am hard at work. Can you tell me of any one who would be able to compile a score from my wild pencil sketches? I worked this time quite differently from what I did before, but this having to make a clean copy kills me. I lose time over it which I might employ to better purpose; and apart from this, the continual writing tires me to such an extent that I feel quite ill and lose the inclination for real work. Without a clever man of this kind I am lost; WITH HIM the WHOLE will be finished in two years. For that time I should require the man. If there were a pause in the scoring, he might copy parts in the meantime. Look out for one. There is no one here. It is true that it may seem absurd that I am going to keep a secretary, who can scarcely keep myself.
If you can help me, you will be doing God’s work. Am I not worth a few thousand thalers for half a year to some German enthusiast? I will give him full security on the royalties due to me in the autumn.
On Monday I expect Gustav Schmidt, of Frankfort. I have summoned him in order to go through “Lohengrin” with him, and perhaps he will bring his tenor. I am glad to see him so full of zeal.
As to the rest, I shut my ears against all the world. I do not want to know how low I have sunk.
Shall I hear from you soon? If you think of me at all, think of me always as of one hard at work and profoundly melancholy. Farewell, best and dearest friend. The “Kunstler” is splendid. Greet all at home.
ZURICH, MARCH 4TH, 1854.
I am frequently sad on your account; and on my own account I have not much reason to rejoice. My chief object and task is taking a very serious and painful turn. I had no right to expect much else in that direction, and was prepared, but these long entanglements which I have to submit to have caused me much trouble and have jeopardised my pecuniary position, so that at present I am unable to assist a friend. This I feel very much, and prefer to say nothing further about it. You will understand me and not misinterpret my silence. When the time comes, I shall explain my affairs to you by word of mouth; they are not rose-coloured, and another man might have perished, which other men might not have disliked to see.
Today I only want to tell you that on the day of the performance of the opera by the Duke of Gotha I met Herr von Hulsen at dinner. He led the conversation to the performance of your works at Berlin, and told me that he was only waiting till you had sold your rights to Messrs. Bote and Bock in order to produce them. I made bold to say that I had reason to doubt very much whether this would be done, and that even if B. and B. bought the scores of “Tannhauser” and “Lohengrin” I did not think for a moment that you would abandon your previous demand of my being invited to Berlin in order to secure an adequate rendering of your works. Write to me how this matter stands. I do not want to advise you, but I think that the Berlin performance is an important point for you, and that you would gain nothing by altering your previous position–I mean that the performance should not take place except through my medium and according to my directions.
I was told that the Konigsberg troupe intended to perform “Tannhauser” at Berlin this summer. I tell you this because I think that you will not approve of the plan, and will refuse your consent if asked for it.
I am very weary and tired, but spring will give us new strength.
Write soon to your affectionate and truly devoted
GOTHA, APRIL 4TH, 1854.
P.S.–This afternoon I return to Weymar. R. Pohl and his wife are there, and I have asked him to give you an account of the impending performances of “Tannhauser” and “Lohengrin.”
MY DEAR FRANZ,
Heaven knows how anxiously I waited this time for your letter! I reply at once in order to explain the “business” part.
I knew nothing about Messrs. Bote and Bock, but have now come to the conclusion that they must be the purchasers of my operas whom my Berlin agent had in his eye when necessity compelled me last winter to apply to him. I declare that at present I should not sell my operas to Bote and Bock or anybody else, for reasons which I need scarcely tell you. I find it difficult to understand how Herr von Hulsen can be naive enough to think that I should consent to the performance of “Tannhauser” at Berlin by the Konigsberg troupe. I shall write to Konigsberg about it this very day, and I ask you also to write to Hulsen at once and to announce my VETO to him. You may do this in MY NAME, and mention at the same time that I have ONCE FOR ALL placed everything concerning my operas at Berlin in YOUR HANDS, being firmly resolved to treat with Berlin only through you and according to your opinion, but never again personally. You may further say that if Herr von Hulsen intended to give an opera by me, and was waiting till he had no longer to treat with me, but with a third person (Bote and Bock, as he thought), because he had fallen out with me personally, he would now have a splendid opportunity of settling everything without coming in personal contact with me, because he would have to deal with you alone; that, as my plenipotentiary, you were compelled to protest against the performance by the Konigsberg troupe, but that in the same capacity you were prepared to arrange the matter with him in some other way. I think this would be a good opportunity of bringing the Berlin affair to a satisfactory conclusion. There is much need for it, I can assure you. Heaven only knows how I am to pull through; and although I do not wish to torture you any more, I may tell you that in my present position you can do me a great and very valuable service by your intercession in another quarter. Listen! They have performed “Tannhauser” at Augsburg, badly enough, it is true, but it has paved the way for Munich. Dingelstedt has written me an amiable and encouraging letter, and I have sent him the opera which is to be given there in the summer. As regards honorarium, I have entreated him to procure me the best possible terms, as these operas are my only capital, and I must mainly rely upon the great court theatres. I have, however, made no definite demand, having full confidence in him. You know Dingelstedt intimately, and you would oblige me by asking him to get me something substantial, royalties in preference. Before all, I should wish to have some money BEFORE THE END OF THIS MONTH, either as an advance on these royalties or, if that is impossible, as the final purchase money, in which case I think I might ask a hundred louis d’or. (Dresden always used to pay me sixty louis d’or; but as “Tannhauser” has everywhere proved a great draw, I think I might expect the lump sum of a hundred louis d’or from so great a court theatre as Munich.) He is probably on his travels now, but if you address to the care of W. Schmidt, inspector of the Court Theatre, the letter will, I think, be forwarded to him. Do not be angry with me.
It is only a friend like you whom one can ask to be of active help to others while he himself is in such a painful position as you, poor man, seem to be. Although I have a general idea of your situation, I am very desirous to know precisely how your affairs and those of your dear ones really stand. I feel aggrieved because you touch upon them always in a very cursory manner. From all I can make out, I must fear that the Princess has been cut off from her estate permanently and completely, and I must own that such losses are well adapted to upset one’s equanimity. I also understand that you look into the future with a heavy heart, as the fate of a most lovable, youthful being is equally involved. If you had to inform me that you three dear ones were now quite poor and solitary, even then I could not be very sorry- -so stupid am I–especially if I saw that you had kept up your courage. My dearest, dearest, unique Franz, give me the heart, the spirit, the mind of a woman in which I could wholly sink myself, which could quite comprehend me. How little should I then ask of this world. How indifferent would be to me this empty glitter, which, in my despair, I have latterly again been tempted to gather round me as a diversion of my fancy. If I could live with you in beautiful retirement, or, which would be the same thing, if we could live here wholly for each other instead of frittering our beings away with so many insipid and indifferent people, how happy I should be. And “off and on” we should be sure to undertake something to give vent to our energies in the outer world.
But I am talking wildly. Correct me if I deserve it; I shall never be anything but a fantastic good-for-nothing.
Has Eugene sent you my medallion? It is not bad, only a little sickly.
I shall soon have to write again; I have more materials than I can deal with today.
The instrumentation of the “Rhinegold” is going on apace. At present I am with the orchestra down in “Nibelheim.” In May the whole will be ready, but not the clean copy, only single sheets with illegible pencil sketches on them. It will be some time before you can see anything of it. In June I have to begin the “Valkyrie.” When are you coming? You say nothing about it, and yet you talk of “verbal communications.” Schindelmeisser wrote to me yesterday, asking me to come to Darmstadt on the sly on Easter Monday, because “Lohengrin” would be splendid. That I shall leave alone.
Adieu, dearest, dearest Franz. I have so many things to write to you, that I must close for today.
Convey my best regards.
ZURICH, April 9th, 1854.
What do you think, dear friend? Would it be of any use if I sent you a letter to the King of Saxony, which the Grand Duke of Weimar might forward to him through a confidential person (perhaps his ambassador)? I admit that the Prime Minister of Saxony would be more important than the King, but to such a person I cannot possibly apply. Would the Grand Duke do this? Something must be done; I must be able to fly from my ordinary condition at least “off and on,” otherwise–
How are YOU? Do write!
For five days, dearest Richard, I have been in bed suffering from catarrh and intermittent fever, and shall probably have to be very careful till next week.
I wrote to Dingelstedt long ago, and asked him to reply to you direct and make the contents of his letter as weighty as possible. Dingelstedt is a gentleman, and will no doubt behave in such a manner as will satisfy you.
“Lohengrin” and “Tannhauser” were given here last week. On the first occasion the house was illuminated, because the Grand Duchess visited the theatre for the first time since her confinement. Gotze (at present professor at the Leipzig Conservatoire, previously for fifteen or twenty years tenor at our theatre) sang “Lohengrin,” and gave the lyrical portions of the part with much greater effect than had previously been the case. He had studied the part thoroughly at numerous performances, both here and at Leipzig, and therefore sang the music with absolute certainty. “Tannhauser” drew, as usual, a full house; at the “Lohengrin” performance many strangers who had only arrived in the afternoon had to be refused admission.
Pohl’s wife played the harp part very well, and I asked him to write to you about the performance. Pohl is a zealous and warm adherent of yours.
The newspapers announce that you are going to conduct the impending Musical Festival in Canton Valais. Is there any truth in it? What part will Methfessel take in the direction? Let me know about this, as I have been asked several times.
I had got so far in my letter when yours was brought to me.
That is once more a dark, hopeless complaint! To help or to look on calmly–the one is almost as impossible to me as the other.
After the experiences I have had, and of which I told you only the smaller part, I can scarcely believe that the King of Saxony will perform the act of grace desired by us. However, I will try again. Send me your letter to his Majesty. I hope it will be placed before him soon and in the best possible way. Our Grand Duke is for the moment absent, and I shall not be able to see him before next week. Write to me at once, and concoct your letter for Dresden, which you must send to me open.
I have looked out for the copyist you require for your “Nibelungen.” It is difficult to find the proper individual who could undertake such a task. I know several young men who would willingly try, but they are not sufficiently skilful and competent. I have sent a message to one of my former friends at Berlin asking him whether he could place himself at your disposal. With him you would be quite satisfied. In case my inquiry leads to a favourable result, I will let you know. You ask me how I am …
“When need is highest, God is highest.”
Do not be anxious about my indisposition; it will soon be over, and my legs have to carry me a good way further still.
DEAR, DEAR FRANZ,
I can never complain to you again. I go on worrying you with my confidences in a sinful manner, while you keep your own grief to yourself. My troublesome candour knows no bounds; every drop of the fount of my sorrow I pour out before you, and–I must hope that that is the very reason why you are so silent as to your own circumstances. But I begin to feel that the best remedy for our sufferings is sympathy with those of others. My only sorrow today is that you hide your grief from my sympathy. Are you really too proud to let me know, or do you refrain from giving me back the painful impression I made on you with my complaints, because you were unable to assist me? Be it so, dear friend; if you do not feel the want of making a clean breast of it all, be silent! But if you do feel such a want, then esteem me worthy of listening to your grief. Do not think me as weak as I may appear to be. My difficulty lies in the abominable meanness of my situation; but of that I can take a larger view if some strong sympathy induces me to break with my habit of thought. I think I have said enough. If more were needed, even this would have been too much.
Assume henceforth that all is right with me; that I have no other care but that which your troubles give me.
The letter to the King of Saxony I shall leave alone; I should not know how to utter any truth in it that he would comprehend, and to tell lies I do not care; it is the only sin I know. I shall finish my “Nibelungen;” after that there will be time to take a look round the world. For “Lohengrin” I am sorry; it will probably go to the d– in the meanwhile. Well, let it go; I have other things in my bag. Well then, I have once more needlessly troubled you.
Dingelstedt has not replied to me yet; he will have difficulties; it is not the custom to pay decently for dramatic work. Neither do I know how to oust X. from “Tannhauser.” He is said to be a complete ass and a blackguard to boot. Hartinger, the tenor, is very good and full of his task; but it was just he who told me that he did not see how X., even with the best intentions, could execute such music. You of course I cannot expect to venture into this wasp’s nest of Philistines.
The Konigsberg manager has replied to me, saying that he has no idea of producing “Tannhauser” at Berlin. What nonsense Herr H. has been talking to you! Do you care to write to him about it?
Do not misunderstand me if now and then I leave something concerning myself unmentioned to you. The cause generally is that I attach no importance to it. The truth about the Valais Musical Festival is as follows. The committee asked me some time ago to conduct that festival, which I flatly declined, declaring, however, my willingness to undertake a symphony by Beethoven (that in A) if they would appoint for the festival proper another conductor who would agree to that arrangement. This they readily accepted, and engaged Methfessel, of Berne, who is quite devoted to me. In their announcements they think it useful to put the matter in such a way as to make it appear that I have undertaken the direction of “the Musical Festival” conjointly with M. Perhaps it was this that surprised you. Altogether not much that is “musical” can be expected from this gathering. People frighten me about the orchestra they are likely to bring together, but there are even greater doubts as to the collection of a decent chorus. As, moreover, they are going to have only ONE rehearsal, you will easily understand why I did not want to have much to do with the affair, and especially had no thought of making propaganda. Latterly, it is true, they have asked me to produce something of my own, and I have given up to them the “Tannhauser” overture, but with the condition that I must see myself whether they can manage it; after the rehearsal I shall be at liberty to withdraw it. The whole thing attracts me only because it gives me an opportunity for an Alpine trip (by the Bernese Oberland to Valais). In the same sense I have sent out invitations right and left, especially to Joachim, who had already promised me his visit for the summer, and whom I have asked to arrange so as to be here about that time; he might in that case do a little in the “festivalling” line in Valais. B. I also invited, but to YOU I had so many other things to write at the time that I forgot about this invitation, and the same might easily have occurred again today. However, how do matters stand? You are sure to come to me, are you not? And will you follow me across the Alps? It is to be at the beginning of July.
If Joachim would like on the same occasion to let me hear something, I could easily get him a regular engagement for the festival.
To Brendel I have been owing a letter some time for his book; I don’t know what to write to him. All that is very well, and those who cannot do anything better should do what these people do, but I have no inclination that way any longer.
By your activity, however, I am delighted. What a lot of things you do! Do not think I am indifferent because I keep silence; no, I am really glad! May you succeed in all you do! About this another time.
The clean copy of my scores I shall, after all, have to make myself. It would be difficult to compile it to my liking, especially as the sketches are frightfully confused, so that no one but myself could make head or tail of them. It will take more time; that is all. Many thanks for your trouble in this matter also. We may perhaps talk about it; and if it tires me too much, I may still make use of your Berlin friend.
God bless you, dear Franz; you must soon let me hear MUCH, ALL!
Have confidence in your devoted
ZURICH, MAY 2ND, 1854.
While I am composing and scoring, I think only of YOU, how this and the other will please you; I am ALWAYS dealing with you.
(FROM HERR VON HULSEN.)
In reference to our conversation when I had the honour of seeing you at Gotha, I beg to ask,–
If I should wish to produce “Tannhauser” at the beginning of next winter, what would be the conditions?
Be kind enough, dear sir, to let me have your answer as soon as possible.
With the greatest esteem,
Your obedient servant,
BERLIN, May 17th, 1854.
I have the honour to return the following answer to your question as to the “conditions” of the performance of Wagner’s operas in Berlin:–
It need not be explained at length that the performances of “Tannhauser” and “Lohengrin” which have so far been given by theatres of the second and third rank, satisfactory and creditable for them though many of them have been, cannot be accepted as a standard for the performances contemplated at Berlin. For the very reason that Wagner attributes special importance to the Berlin stage, he has asked and commissioned me to assist him in this matter as a friend and an artist, and has given me unlimited power to act for him. The conditions are really none other than a dignified and adequate representation, which would guarantee a more than ordinary success for these works. The latter result is not doubtful to me provided that the representation is worthy of the Berlin stage, and I venture to think that you, dear sir, would share this opinion after the final rehearsals. But in order to arrive at rehearsals at all, I consider it necessary that a conclusive and brief conversation should without delay take place between you and me to settle the following points:–
A. The cast.
B. The arrangement of the rehearsals, at some of which I must be present.
If you desire it, I am prepared to come to Berlin at the end of the theatrical season here (June 24th), in order to arrive at an understanding with you about the whole matter, which cannot be difficult.
As to the honorarium claimed by Wagner, I can assure you in advance that he will make no unreasonable demands, and I shall let you know his decision after communicating once more with him. As a minor point, concerning my humble self, I may add that although my personal participation in the performance of a work by Wagner would involve a stay in Berlin of about a month, and the sacrifice of time would therefore be considerable, I should be so delighted at the anticipated success of this matter, that I should not like to mix it up with an estimate of my own expenses.
One other point I must mention: I have heard lately that Wagner makes my direction of his operas an absolute condition for Berlin. Highly flattered as I must be by Wagner’s confidence, I take the liberty, in accordance with my unlimited power, of considering the question of my direction as a QUESTION RESERVEE, which I shall decide later on, ACCORDING TO CIRCUMSTANCES. I hope some means will be found of preserving my responsibility towards Wagner and his works without leading to an intrusion of myself on the Berlin artists. Accept, etc., etc.
Your obedient servant,
WEYMAR, MAY 20TH, 1854.
N.B.–Be good enough to send me your final instructions as to this point, whether you want a lump sum down, or royalties, or both. Write to me at once as to this, and leave it to me to get a PLUS or a MINUS, according to circumstances.
As soon as Hulsen takes another step in the matter, you will hear of it at once, dearest friend. Write to me about the money point, and let me know your other wishes as to the Berlin performance.
In the meantime keep the above two letters TO YOURSELF, as too much has already been said about the Berlin affair.
The arrangement with Dingelstedt has not as yet been settled, but he is coming to Weymar at the end of June. Probably he intends to wait till the Munich Exhibition is over and to produce “Tannhauser” in the autumn. He writes that he is sorry not to be able to comply with all your wishes as to the honorarium. If you have made any special demands, let me know.
I am rather unwell and weary. This letter-writing, bargaining, and transacting are intolerable to me; by way of relaxation, I am writing a longish article about the “Flying Dutchman”; I hope it will amuse you. Brendel will publish it completely before the middle of June; in the meantime it is appearing as a FEUILLETON in the “Weymar Official Gazette.”
Eugene Wittgenstein has sent me your medallion, which has given me great pleasure. It is the most faithful likeness of all your portraits.
In five or six days I shall visit Joachim at Hanover; he was here all last week, and showed me a very remarkable overture. Joachim is making a considerable step in advance as a composer; and if he goes on like this for a few years, he will do something out of the way.
God bless you, dearest friend, in joy and sorrow!
Write soon to
MAY 20TH, 1854.
In a very few days I shall write to you at length, and at the same time explain to you why this letter is so short. For the present only this, because it must not be delayed: ROYALTIES, nothing else. If these royalties are to be lucrative–I.E., if my operas are to be given FREQUENTLY–the manager must be well and sincerely inclined to the cause. Therefore we will treat him nobly. You have written MOST EXCELLENTLY.
In a few days more from your
MAY 26TH, 1854. 156.
HIGHLY ESTEEMED HERR INTENDANT,
By your courteous letter of May 29th, I must perceive that you are not inclined to agree with Wagner’s artistic views which cause and account for my interference in the performance of his works at Berlin. I sincerely regret that the deplorable circumstances which prevent Wagner from living in Germany are still in existence, and that many things occur thereby which impede the natural progress of the performances of “Tannhauser” and “Lohengrin.” You, sir, are too well versed and experienced in matters of art to ignore how much the success of important dramatic works depends upon the manner of their performance. The masterpieces of Gluck, cited in your letter, surely owe, in spite of their great beauties, their permanent effect largely to the particular interest taken in them by Spontini and to his personal influence at Berlin. In the same manner, the exceptional successes of Spontini’s and Meyerbeer’s own operas were enhanced by the special activity of their composers. It would lead me too far to discuss further facts which have been proved so often, and I confine myself to telling you candidly that if the management intends to do no more than give TANNHAUSER or LOHENGRIN just like any other work, it would be almost more advisable to give any other work and to leave those of Wagner alone.
With Capellmeister Dorn I had several conversations about the whole matter some months ago, and I am convinced that he will not consider Wagner’s condition of my undisguised participation in the performance of his works at Berlin to be an unfair demand. It is of course natural that you, sir, are “not inclined to accept any obligation which would reflect on the dignity and the capability of the institution as well as on the authority of the intendant.” Such an intention is, indeed, very far from my mind. You add, sir, “I expect the confidence of the composer in myself and the Royal Theatre.” This point also has been settled, and is wholly beyond question or discussion; but as Wagner has commissioned me to be his substitute at Berlin and has advised you of his resolution, I must, in the interest of the cause and of my position, decline to be reduced gradually to the part of the fifth whist-player, who, according to the proverb, occupies a very inconvenient position “under the table.” In consequence I am obliged to ask you, sir, either to agree to the arrangement contained in my last letter, and, in your capacity of intendant of the Royal Theatre, to approve of my participation in the rehearsals and performance of Wagner’s works at Berlin, according to his clearly expressed wish, or else to leave the whole matter in its actual STATUS QUO.
With the highest esteem, I am, sir,
Your obedient servant,
WEYMAR, JUNE 3RD, 1854.
P.S.–In his last letter Wagner writes that he leaves the pecuniary conditions with regard to Berlin wholly to my decision, and that “Tannhauser” will satisfy him.
DEAREST FRIEND,–Return Hulsen’s letter to me, as I have not taken a copy, and should not like it to fall into other hands. I hope you will approve of my answer. The enclosed rough draft you may keep.
I was four days at Hanover. What will become of me this summer I cannot determine. As soon as I know, you shall hear.
Have you a copy of the pianoforte score of “Tannhauser” to spare? Roger, who is here, would like to study the part, and has written and asked for a copy, but hitherto in vain. I told him that I would let you know, and that I was convinced you would send me a copy for him if possible. It is said that the edition of Meser in Dresden is sold out, or else I might order one from there. You might in your next letter write a few lines which, or a copy of which, I could show to Roger. He is fairly musical, and might make a good effect in the part of Tannhauser.
When will the Musical Festival in Canton Valais take place, and how long shall you stay there?
Again only a few lines in reply, dear Franz. You of course will not doubt for a moment that I feel sincerely grateful to you for the energy with which you take care of my interest with Hulsen. Let us “save the soul;” then the body also will fare best. I return Hulsen’s letter to you. But I am grieved to give you all this trouble. Let us expect nothing. My opinion is that you should not answer him any more.
About the pianoforte score of “Tannhauser” I am writing to Dresden; they must get one somehow and send it to you for Roger. As you know, I have had Roger in my eye for a long time. If,–as I hope he will through you,–he really learns his task carefully and goes to it with love, I have no doubt that he will be the FIRST Tannhauser to satisfy my intentions entirely. Greet him very kindly.
Your question about the Musical Festival has given me hopes that you might accompany me there. Really, dear Franz, that would be a joy in this sad year. If you could induce the Princess and the Child to make an expedition to Valais by way of the Oberland and the Gemmi, oh, then, then all would be well. Only from the stupid festival itself you must expect nothing. All my compositions I have withdrawn, and shall only produce the A major symphony; there will be many people, but not much music. If you were there, and perhaps J. and B. as well, we might extemporise something purely for our own diversion. May Heaven grant that you may be sufficiently recovered to do a foolish thing and tempt others to it as well.
The festival will be on July 10th, 11th, and 12th. In the first days of the same month we should have to begin our exodus VIA the Oberland. I have been trying for some time to vegetate; the copying of the score of “Rhinegold” will have to wait. I must first of all have a go at the “Valkyrie.”
Farewell, dearest, unique Franz. Give me some hope of seeing you and yours.
ZURICH, JUNE 7TH, 1854.
Herewith, dearest Richard, I send you X.’s babble, together with the sketch of my very simple answer. Probably the cart will stick in the mud for some time, and then the transactions will begin again. Well, I have learned to understand people, although the real kernel of their phrases has not been, and cannot be, clearly expressed. I have seen too much of this to be deceived. The difficulty lies neither with Hulsen nor with other people whose names have been mentioned, but with THOSE whom we will not name, although we know them a little.
My symphonic poems I will bring you as soon as I find it possible to get away from here for a fortnight. I am very glad you take an interest in them.
Let us be PATIENT, and remain in evil days faithful to eternity.
June 8th, 1854.
Here you have the “babble” back again, the possession of which I do not envy you. Let us put this disgusting nonsense on one side; on hearing the jargon, devoid of honesty or character, which these stupid souls call “prudence,” one feels as if a hundred thousand fools were gathered together. Our fortune lies at bottom in the fact that we do not yield to such people, and our perseverance in this is sufficient gain. To “get” something by it is of course more than we can expect. Thus in this instance I am quite satisfied to know that we shall not do what X. wants; this is alone sufficient to put me in a good temper; what happens otherwise is a matter of indifference to us. Berlin to us has been the occasion of celebrating a feast of friendship. What else have we to do with or to care about Berlin?
A thousand thanks for all you are doing and the way in which you do it.
As regards “success” in X.’s practical sense, I shall probably never have it. It would indeed be a kind of satire on my situation and my being. On the other hand, I should at any moment be prepared to die gladly and with a smile on my face if only a really fine opportunity would offer itself. What more can one desire? As regards my personal future, I sincerely wish for nothing more than a beautiful death, for life is somehow out of joint. I often feel sorry that things around me do not seem to tend in that direction. Every one seems to care chiefly for a “long life,” however narrow, thin, and poor it may be. This is sad.
Of all this we will talk when you come, for that you will come is certain, Lord be thanked. Bring your symphonic poems with you; that will strengthen my thread of life a little.
Do not look out for a copyist. Madame Wesendonck has given me a gold pen of indestructible power, which has once more turned me into a caligraphic pedant. The scores will be my most perfect masterpiece of caligraphy. One cannot fly from his destiny. Meyerbeer years ago admired nothing so much in my scores as the neat writing. This act of admiration has been my curse; I must write neat scores as long as I live in this world.
You will not be allowed to see the “Rhinegold” till it has been completed in this worthy fashion, and that can only be done in certain idle hours of the long winter evenings. At present I have no time for it. I must begin the composition of the “Valkyrie,” which I feel joyfully in every limb.
Greet the Princess and the Child with the full power of greeting. For today I must be satisfied with this request; I can write no more, not even with my gold pen. I might say a good deal more if I were not taken with a fit of weeping, as once on the railway. I have just been called out; an eagle was flying over our house. A good omen!
“Long live the eagle;” he flew splendidly. The swallows were very anxious.
Farewell in the sign of the eagle.
Let me tell you that tears prevent me from reading on.
Oh, you are unique of your kind!
It has struck me like a thunderbolt. Heavens, what have you written to me there?
You alone know it!
A thousand thanks, dearest Franz. You have helped me out of a terrible difficulty after I had exhausted all other resources. By the autumn, I think, my affairs will be in better order.
When are you coming? I am going to Canton Valais in a few days, but intend to be back soon. I have no money for roaming about, and while I am enjoying my work nothing else attracts me.
The “Valkyrie” has been begun, and now I shall go at it in good style.
How curious these contrasts are–I mean, between the first love scene of the “Valkyrie” and that of the “Rhinegold.”
Brendel must have surprised you. (Bosh!) God bless you.
You are just the person whom I wanted to be in Leipzig at this moment, and I look upon your passage through that town as a hint of fate that there may be help for me AFTER ALL. In my great trouble I wrote to Brendel some time ago, asking him whether he could get me amongst my Leipzig “admirers” 1,000 thalers on a bill at four or five months’ date. Answer: “No, but perhaps A. might manage it through one person or another.” As A. had recently paid me a visit, I wrote to him also. Answer: “No.” In the course of the next three months I expect this year’s receipts from my operas, and to all appearance they will be good and help me once for all out of this last difficulty. The very least I may expect is this sum of 1,000 thalers. I may therefore, with a good conscience, give a bill payable after three months (end of October) to any one who will lend it to me. Hartel must do it. If he should prefer to advance me 1,000 thalers on account of my receipts, it will suit me equally well. He can control those receipts, and I will give orders that all payments of honorarium are to be made to X. till the money has been returned. Whichever way he likes will suit me, only let me get out of this miserable condition, which makes me feel like a galley-slave.
A. wrote to me about certain possibilities of Germany being opened to me for the special purpose of a short journey. I do not believe it, and at this moment do not care much about it; I certainly will not take the least trouble in the matter. Concerning the Berlin affair, be assured that I am only too glad to leave it entirely in your hands. I should be a nice fool if I withdrew it from them as long as you are not tired of it yourself. X. will take good care not to apply to me. All this is idle gossip.
From the Musical Festival at Sitten I ran away. It appeared to me like a great village fair, and I did not care to take part in the music-making. I simply bolted. No “musical festivals” of any kind for me! I feel quite jealous because you have gone to Rotterdam. I hope you will find time for Zurich as well. Come if you can in the latter half of August, for then I think the Wesendoncks will be back.
Good Lord, my head is a waste. Yesterday early I left the lake of Geneva. Last night I spent in the stage-coach from Berne to Lucerne. At present I am afloat on the lake of Lucerne, from the shore of which I shall fetch my wife, who is going through a cure of curds and whey. After that I return to Zurich, which I DARE do only in the hope that your attack on the Hartels has succeeded. No one can help me here; I exhausted everything to secure my existence from last winter till now. If all goes well, I shall continue the composition of the “Valkyrie” after August 1st. Work, THIS work, is the ONLY thing that makes life bearable. With the copying of the “Rhinegold” I go on in the intervals; in the late autumn you will, I hope, have the score.
Pardon me for this confused stuff in reply to your beautiful, cheerful letter from the Rhine. Perhaps I shall write in a better spirit soon. I am on the point of landing at Brunnen, where you are still remembered as “double Peps.” How cheerful you were at that time.
On board the “Stadt Zurich,” on the lake of Lucerne, en vue de Brunnen.
Remember JULY 31ST.
DEAR, GREAT MAN,
A thousand thanks for the autograph, which will give much joy. This Fraulein Soest is a good, excellent girl, who was sent by her parents to England, and was there taken with home-sickness for the “Weymar school,” “the music of the future,” and the “Wagnerian opera.” She managed to escape, and is now settled at Erfurt, where she gives pianoforte lessons, and from where she comes to Weymar to hear your poems.
Ten and a hundred thousand thanks for many other things besides. Liszt was delighted to hear that his articles in the Weymar paper had pleased you. It is a fine thing of you to have understood them so well. They are to go on for some time, and the “Flying Dutchman” will conclude this series. It is truly a wreath of mourning which he binds there; your dark, noble hero lives, and will live. Sleep and solitude are not death; and his vital strength is such, that for a long time to come he will make the round of Europe at certain intervals. Beethoven’s “Fidelio” is only just becoming acclimatised in London.
I am quite happy that the symphonic poems interest you. When he is ABLE to visit you, he will bring the scores with him. At the present moment they are, I believe, being partly copied out and partly revised for engraving, etc., etc. But you, dear, great genius, will be the first to read them. They have been for the greater part performed here. The music is most beautiful, very noble, very elevated.
Your letters give us the same joy which a poor man used only to kicks and coarse copper coin would feel at receiving an alms of gold. Give us that alms frequently, because you are none the poorer for it. Allow Liszt to manage Hulsen, and leave Berlin to him wholly and entirely. It may go slowly, but it will go WELL and, before all, DECENTLY. How good, how prudent, how delicate and patient, HE is–that I know. Another man would during these six years have sunk and been drowned eighteen times in the storms which have our poor little barque for a plaything. He alone keeps us still on the surface.
Liszt has written to Berlin to find some one who will copy your “Rhinegold,” the beautiful “Rhinegold,” for which our ears are sighing. He whom he thought would answer your purpose is not free for the present. What is needed to make you begin the “Valkyrie?” And oh! that wonderful scene between Wotan and Brynhild–the divine Brynhild, who saves Sieglinde! Write at great length; it will do good to our three hearts, which are united and inseparable. The whole atmosphere of the Altenburg is gently illumed when a letter from you has arrived.
Heaven grant that we may say, “Au revoir! soon,” and that we soon may see your “Rhinegold,” were it but a sketch. If you only knew how Liszt sings your poems! We adored “Lohengrin” long before Beck had studied it, and still listen and weep when he sings it. Do finish your “Valkyrie” as soon as possible. What a work!
Write to us soon. You say that H. does not know what the matter is. Who does when the matter is something beautiful and grand? When a sculptor wants to make a beautiful statue, he takes granite or marble and wearies his strength in cutting it, but granite and marble are less hard than the heart of man. The sculptor, unless he dies, finishes his statue; when a noble thing has to be done, men are less pliable than granite and marble.
Liszt is indefatigable. He is wholly devoted to your courage and hope. I cannot tell you sufficiently how your dear letter has rejoiced me.
X.’s strong box resists a siege even more obstinately than does Silistria; storming it will do no good, and I have consequently nothing satisfactory to tell you. Returning here, I find a letter from Hulsen, definitely declining the performance of “Tannhauser” at Berlin, and winding up with the following flourish: “It is obvious that, after two vain attempts to produce this work at the Royal Theatre, the management will not undertake a third as long as I have the honour of being at the head of it. I am sorry for this.”
From another source I hear, however, that the matter is not to remain in this negative stage, and that in the very highest quarters there is a wish to call me to Berlin. The event must show; for the present I have only written a few lines in reply to Hulsen.
What is all this story about the Musical Festival? Why did you bolt? Let me know when you happen to be in the mood.
After the Rotterdam festival I stayed a few days at Brussels to meet my two daughters.
As soon as my large arrears of correspondence are disposed of, I shall settle down to my “Faust,” which is to be ready by the new year. The other things (symphonic poems) will also be in print by that time.
I still feel very much fatigued after my hurried journey, and my personal regret at not being able to serve you makes me curtail these lines still further. Ah! good heavens! what can I say to you while
La vergogna dura
and while there is no means of removing that vergogna?
July 28th, 1854.
Did you really think for a moment that I had conceived the idea of giving concerts in order to make propaganda for myself, or to make music, or what not? Did you not see at once that this plan was purely the result of despair at my miserable pecuniary situation, and that the only question that required an answer was whether or not I could make money by it, money in return for an unheard-of sacrifice, an act of self-abnegation, which probably I should not have been able to go through with after all? How badly I must have expressed myself! Excuse me for having given rise to such a misunderstanding, and be thanked all the more for the trouble you took nevertheless.
My dear, worthy friend, how proud and happy was I not three years ago, before I had done anything out of keeping with the full consciousness of my antagonistic position towards our artistic publicity. When at that time you, with your friendly anxiety, were intent upon getting “public recognition” for me and a wider field for my works, I used to smile and guard myself against every temptation. But the demon took hold of me; in my terribly bare life, my inclination began to grow again towards some of the amenities of existence; I yielded to temptation, surrendered my scores, was surprised at their success, and–hoped. I now curse this hope. I feel humiliated before myself, because I seek in vain release from this grief of self-reproach.
Hulsen has told X. that the whole thing in connection with me was DONE. Fortunately I was able to comfort X. with the thought that HE had not done it; but Hulsen is right: the thing is “done for.” What finally could enlighten me better as to the truth and genuineness of my successes than the fact that in the very places where they had been gained, and with every conceivable trouble, the loan of–I must speak plainly–1,000 thalers could not be raised amongst my “admirers?” This very trivial matter speaks volumes to me.
Pray, dearest Franz, do not talk to me of my fame, my honours, my position, or whatever the name may be. I am positively certain that all my “successes” are based on BAD, very BAD, performances of my works, that they therefore rest on misunderstandings, and that my public reputation is not worth an empty nutshell. Let us give up all diplomatic contrivances, this dealing with means which we despise for ends which, closely considered, can never be achieved, least of all by those means. Let us leave alone this COTERIE, this connection with idiots who in a body have no notion of what we really aim at. I ask you, What satisfaction, what pleasure, can we derive from the assistance of all these silly people, whatever their names may be? I sometimes cannot understand your ironical enjoyment of life, which gets over your disgust at these people by making fun of them. Away with all this stuff, this “glory,” this nonsense! We live at a time when glory can bring neither joy nor honour.
Listen to me: “Tannhauser” and “Lohengrin” I have thrown to the winds; I do not want to know any more of them. When I gave them over to theatrical jobbery, I cast them out, I condemned them to the task of begging for me, of getting me money, NOTHING BUT MONEY. Even for that purpose I should not like to employ them if I were not compelled to do so. After the insight which I have gained this summer, I should willingly submit to the penance of selling all my goods and chattels, and go, naked as I am, into the wide world, where–I swear it to you–no illusion should tempt me any more. But my wife could not bear such a violent step again; I know it would kill her. Well then, FOR HER SAKE I am resolved to go on. “Tannhauser” and “Lohengrin” must go to the Jews. But I am unable to wait and see how much more they might bring me in in certain patiently looked-for contingencies than now, when I am compelled to get rid of them at any price, and the sooner the better. Tell me, dearest friend, how do matters stand at Berlin? Did you merely rely upon making our condition plausible to Herr von Hulsen, or had you prepared other means of securing your honourable invitation to Berlin? I am almost inclined to believe the latter, and to hope in consequence that you will soon be able to announce our triumph. The want of Berlin for my operas involves the delay of the rest of the business, and I assure you that the spreading of my operas is entirely a matter of BUSINESS to me. This is the only real point; all the rest is, and remains, fictitious. Let us not attempt to look upon the matter in any serious light except as regards money. I should despise myself if I paid any attention to anything beyond this. For me the song of the “world” was sung to an end long ago.
And do you know what has confirmed me in this sentiment, inspiring me with new pride? It is YOUR WORK ABOUT THE “FLYING DUTCHMAN.” In this series of articles I have once more clearly recognized myself, and have come to the conclusion that we have nothing in common with this world. WHO DID EVER UNDERSTAND ME? You, and no one else. Who understands YOU? I, and no one else. Be sure of it. You, for the first and only time, have disclosed to me the joy of being wholly understood. My being has passed into yours; not a fibre, not the gentlest tremor of my heart, remains that you have not felt with me. But I also see that THIS ALONE means being really understood, while all else is misunderstanding and barren error. What do I want more after having experienced this? What do you want of me after having experienced this with me? Let the tear of a beloved woman mingle with this joy, and what else can we desire? Do not let us desecrate our own selves. Let us look upon the world through the medium of contempt alone. It is worth nothing else; to found any hope on it would be deceiving our own hearts; it is BAD, BAD, THOROUGHLY BAD: only the heart of a FRIEND, the tears of a woman, can dispel its curse. We do not respect the world. Its honour, its glory, or by whatever name its shams may be called, are nothing to us. It belongs to Alberich, to no one else. Let it perish! I have said enough; you now know my sentiment, which is not a momentary emotion, but as firm and solid as adamant. That sentiment alone gives me strength to drag on the burden of life. But I must henceforth cling to it inexorably. I have a deadly hatred of all APPEARANCE, of all hope, for it is self-deception. But I will work; you shall have my scores; they will belong to us, to no one else. That is enough. You have the “Rhinegold,” have you not? I have got to the second act of the “Valkyrie”: Wotan and Fricka. I shall succeed, you will see.
Are you going to write to my wife?
My cordial remembrances!
(What the other people write I cannot bear to read any longer. I only read your “Dutchman” article; that is the reward, the pride, of my life.)
Zurich, September 16th, 1854
Do you know how I can manage to arrange some concerts at Brussels and perhaps two Dutch towns, such as I gave last year at Zurich, and do you think that by such an undertaking I might make 10,000 francs in cash? Can you make arrangements so that my offer may be readily met, and that my programme may be translated into French and Dutch? If you can answer these questions satisfactorily, kindly take the matter in hand as soon as possible. I must earn money at once. No theatre has asked for my operas; nothing is stirring; I seem to be quite forgotten. If I could bring back money from Belgium and Holland, I might probably resume my work. For the present all music has been laid aside.
Your medallion is very beautiful. Many thanks. I care for nothing else, and for good reasons.
Always your faithful
My wife is going to Germany, in the first instance on a visit to her parents. At present she is with Alwine Frommann, Berlin (10, Linden). In a week’s time at the latest she will be in Leipzig (at A.’s, Windmuhlengasse). From there she will return via Frankfort. If she could hear one of my operas–“Lohengrin” of course in preference–at Weimar, she would like to stop a day there. If you can manage this, kindly write to her at Berlin or Leipzig, or, in case you can let me know BY RETURN, write to ME at Zurich, so that I can advise her in time.
From H. you will have in a few days the score of “Rhinegold”, which I sent to him in separate pieces for the purpose of having a copy made at Dresden. But as I have recently finished a clean copy myself, I cannot bear the thought that the work should not yet be in YOUR HANDS. I did not want to let you have the fragments, for I consider it an important and significant event to place the WHOLE in your hands. Keep it for a month, to have a look at it occasionally; after that I shall ask you to return it for a time, so as to get the complete copy done.
My best love to Daniel, the foolish boy.
I write nothing else, either about myself or about your article. If I once began about these two things, I should not know where to stop. It is a great pity that I did not see you this year. Altogether I feel so boundlessly miserable that I begin to despise myself for bearing this misery. Enough. Farewell.
The worker in plaster-of-Paris has not yet returned your medallion; the margin was a little damaged. Why do you keep the “Indian fairy tale” to yourself? I have plenty of prosaic things around me, and could find a place for it.
My best remembrances to the Princess.
ZURICH, September 29th, 1854.
I begin to find out more and more that you are in reality a great philosopher, while I appear to myself a hare-brained fellow. Apart from slowly progressing with my music, I have of late occupied myself exclusively with a man who has come like a gift from heaven, although only a literary one, into my solitude. This is Arthur Schopenhauer, the greatest philosopher since Kant, whose thoughts, as he himself expresses it, he has thought out to the end. The German professors ignored him very prudently for forty years; but recently, to the disgrace of Germany, he has been discovered by an English critic. All the Hegels, etc., are charlatans by the side of him. His chief idea, the final negation of the desire of life, is terribly serious, but it shows the only salvation possible. To me of course that thought was not new, and it can indeed be conceived by no one in whom it did not pre- exist, but this philosopher was the first to place it clearly before me. If I think of the storm of my heart, the terrible tenacity with which, against my desire, it used to cling to the hope of life, and if even now I feel this hurricane within me, I have at least found a quietus which in wakeful nights helps me to sleep. This is the genuine, ardent longing for death, for absolute unconsciousness, total non-existence; freedom from all dreams is our only final salvation.
In this I have discovered a curious coincidence with your thoughts; and although you express them differently, being religious, I know that you mean exactly the same thing. How profound you are! In your article about the “Dutchman” you have struck me with the force of lightning. While I read Schopenhauer I was with you, only you did not know it. In this manner I ripen more and more. I only play with art to pass the time. In what manner I try to amuse myself you will see from the enclosed sheet.
For the sake of that most beautiful of my life-dreams “Young Siegfried,” I shall have to finish the “Nibelungen” pieces after all; the “Valkyrie” has taken so much out of me that I must indulge in this pleasure; I have got as far as the second half of the last act. The whole will not be finished till 1856; and in 1858, the tenth year of my Hegira, the performance may take place, if at all. As I have never in life felt the real bliss of love, I must erect a monument to the most beautiful of all my dreams, in which, from beginning to end, that love shall be thoroughly satiated. I have in my head “Tristan and Isolde,” the simplest but most full-blooded musical conception; with the “black flag” which floats at the end of it I shall cover myself to die.
When you have had enough of “Rhinegold,” send it to Chorusmaster Fischer at Dresden, instructing him in my name to give it to the copyist Wolfel, so that he may finish the copy which he has begun. Your cheering words about the “Rhinegold” were splendid, and it has really turned out well. I hope there will be enough counterpoint in it to please Raff. My anxiety as to this troubles me very much.
Is M. ill? How can I do anything to help her? She should come in the summer to Seelisberg, on the lake of Lucerne. It is the dearest discovery I have made in Switzerland; up there all is so joyful, so beautiful, that I long to return–to die there.
There we must meet next summer; I mean to write “Young Siegfried” there, and you must assist me. Perhaps I shall assist you too. How full my heart is when I think of it! Many thanks to the Princess; at her desire, I send the enclosed autograph. Nothing about business! What do we care about such miserable things? When shall I see your symphonic poems, your “Faust?”
Farewell, my Franz.
Brynhild sleeps; I am, alas! still awake.
Today I was asked, on the part of the Philharmonic Society of London, whether I should be inclined to conduct its concerts this year. I asked in return, (1) Have they got a second conductor for the commonplace things? and (2) Will the orchestra have as many rehearsals as I may consider necessary? If they satisfy me as to all this, shall I accept then? If I could make a little money without disgrace, I should be pleased enough. Write to me at once what you think of this.
How are you otherwise? 170
First of all, dearest friend, my best wishes for the new year 1855! May it turn out luckier for us than its predecessors have been.
I have permitted myself a little indiscretion in Brendel’s paper, and have written for the specimen number of the journal (which is going to have a new publisher), as well as for the first number of the new year, a few columns about your “Rhinegold.” I hope you will not be angry with me. My intention was good, and it will do no harm to draw a little public attention to the matter. The score I shall one of these days send to Fischer at Dresden, according to your instructions.
The offer of the Philharmonic Society is very acceptable, and your friends will be pleased with it. You do not say whether it is the Old Philharmonic Society or the New Philharmonic Society which has invited you. The latter Berlioz conducted for one or two seasons, in conjunction with Dr. Wylde, a protege of one of the chief shareholders of that Society, whose name I forget. In both Societies you will find a numerous orchestra and ample materials. You will know how to bring life into them and to do something extraordinary. If I can possibly get away from here, I shall perhaps visit you in London during the season. In the meantime let me know something more about this Philharmonic business, which will probably turn out to your satisfaction. I recommend you, by your leave, some caution, and the tedious but useful method of waiting.
I have heard nothing from Berlin, and shall write to Alwine Frommann before long. Our theatre will not be able to perform your works for several months to come. Frau von Milde is in interesting circumstances, and cannot appear before the middle of April, and our public would tolerate no other Elizabeth, Elsa, or Senta. Besides this, our first tenor has lost his voice, and will be replaced next month by C., who sang “Tannhauser” here in November on trial.
I expect Berlioz about the middle of February. Do you know the score of his “Damnation de Faust?”
My “Faust” symphony is finished. There are three movements: “Faust,” “Gretchen,” and “Mephistopheles.” I shall bring it to you at Zurich next summer.
Remember me to your wife, and continue to love
January 1st, 1855.
The Princess sends her thanks and congratulations.
I am able today to send you particulars about London. Mr. Anderson, treasurer of the Philharmonic Society and conductor of the Queen’s band, came specially to Zurich to arrange the matter with me. I did not like the idea much, for it is not my vocation to go to London and conduct Philharmonic concerts, not even for the purpose of producing some of my compositions, as is their wish. I have written nothing for concerts. On the other hand, I felt distinctly that it was necessary for me to turn my back once for all upon every hope and every desire of taking an active part in our own artistic life, and for that reason I accepted the hand held out to me.
London is the only place in the world where I can make it possible to produce “Lohengrin” myself while the kings and princes of Germany have something else to do than grant me my amnesty. It would please me very much if I could induce the English people next year to get up a splendid German opera with my works, patronised by the court. I admit that my best introduction for that purpose will be my appointment as conductor of the Philharmonic (THE OLD), and so I consented at last to the sale of myself, although I fetched a very low price: 200 pounds for four months. I shall be in London at the beginning of March to conduct eight concerts, the first of which takes place March 12th, and the last June 25th. At the beginning of July I shall be at Seelisberg. It would be splendid if you could visit me in London; in any case I must produce something of yours there. Consider this.
Do not forget Joachim; when I am once in London, I can easily arrange the matter.
It is splendid that you have finished “Faust,” and you may imagine that I am most anxious to see it; on the other hand, it is a pity that you will not show it me sooner. At the same time, I shall be glad to go through it WITH YOU at the piano, and to make its acquaintance in that way, seeing that my attendance at a good performance under your direction is for the present out of the question. The vivid idea which you know how to convey cannot