List Of Contents | Contents of On Conducting
< < Previous Page    

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."


< < Previous Page    

Other sites: