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dared to hope. The recollection of this flattering testimony has
frequently cheered and encouraged me. At Vienna I was bold enough
to insist upon a proper performance. The orchestra actually
STUDIED the too-well-known overture anew. Discreetly led by R.
Lewi, the Cornists entirely changed the tone of the soft
woodnotes in the introduction, which they had been accustomed to
play as a pompous show piece. The magic perfume of the melody for
the horns was now shed over the PIANISSIMO indicated in the score
for the strings. Once only (also as indicated) the power of their
tone rose to a mezzoforte and was then gradually lost again
without the customary SFORZANDO, in the delicately inflected

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

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

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

[music score example]

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

[music score example]

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

[music score example]

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

[music score example]

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

[music score example]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Figure: musical example]

is carried on forte, until with "sempre piu forte," it becomes
still more violent. This did not suit Reissiger; accordingly, at

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