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Thread: Famous and not so famous quotes about Wagner

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    Senior Member Don Fatale's Avatar
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    Ludwig II of Bavaria (later to become Mad King Ludwig famous for the Neuschwanstein castle) came to the throne in 1864 at the age of 18. A passionate fan of Wagner, he wasted little time in summoning the composer to Munich.

    The following is from his private diaries.

    4th May 1864

    Two o’clock, rapture, fairest hope fulfilled, the man I have longed for came: Richard Wagner! spoke until quarter to four about the decline of art, About his career, works! Tristan & Isolde, Lohengrin, Tannhauser, Meistersinger, Ring des Nibelungen. Music. Ecstasy! Sublime delight! Sun’s radiant light! To cherish Him and perish, to grasp him, ne’er to unclasp him. to hold him. Joy untold. What wondrous fate this is! O rapture and, oh, bliss!

    (I suspect Wagner would have shared many of these sentiments!)

    Ludwig immediately settled Wagner’s most pressing debts and presented him with a large amount of cash. In their 19 year association Wagner received from the king 562,000 marks, entirely from the civil list.

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    Senior Member Don Fatale's Avatar
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    With Ludwig’s steadfast and passionate backing, an opera house specifically for Wagner’s works is built on a hill near Bayreuth, Bavaria, together with a family home for Wagner. It is to open in 1876 with the premiere of the 4 day tetralogy, Der Ring des Nibelungen.

    Lilli Lehmann, the famous German soprano, wrote extensively in her memoirs about the first Bayreuth festival of 1876, in which she created 3 of the singing roles. She captures much of the giant artistic effort required by so many singers and musicians as they encountered hour after hour of complex music, which they and sometimes nobody had heard before.

    I was present at all the rehearsals, even when I had no part to play, and observed, listened and learned. Even so it was quite bewildering to gain acquaintance with the work by hearing fragments and there were many of the artists who found it incomprehensible - until Wagner went through their parts with them. But as we learned so our enthusiasm grew.


    In one excerpt she relates an incident at a rehearsal where Wagner himself was obliged to act out a scene for a soprano who couldn’t grasp it.


    Sieglinde was to be sung by Frauline Scheffsky from Munich, believed to be a friend of King Ludwig. She was big and powerful and had a big powerful voice. But she lacked poetry and the brains to express what she lacked. In her first scene, where Sieglinde, overcome by her wretched lot, calls Siegmund back to her, she failed totally. HER Sieglinde had no suggestion of great sorrow or inner longing. Wagner was very dissatisfied and acted the scene out for her --- HIS Sieglinde...

    stood transfixed at the broad stone table as Siegmund leaves the hearth to utter ‘I turn my eyes and steps from here'. Something beyond control stirs in her breast, her face is grief-stricken and shows her fear that this man, whom she does not know but feels belongs to her, will abandon her to her misery. She turns her face and body, only slightly, as if to run after him as she cries ‘So tarry here’. - then she adopts her former stance and at the phrase ‘at a house where ill-luck lives’ she is supporting herself with both hands behind her, grasping the table. There she remains, almost crushed by agony, head back, eyes closed, until startled by (her husband) Hunding’s foot-fall. This she follows with eye and ear before going to open the door to him. Wagner, no feminine figure, played all this with an overwhelmingly touching expression. Never since has any Sieglinde, in my experiences, come near to matching him, even remotely.

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    Senior Member SiegendesLicht's Avatar
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    Mark Twain, "At the Shrine of St. Wagner":

    Finally, out of darkness and distance and mystery soft rich notes rose upon the stillness, and from his grave the dead magician began to weave his spells about his disciples and steep their souls in his enchantments. There was something strangely impressive in the fancy which kept intruding itself that the composer was conscious in his grave of what was going on here, and that these divine sounds were the clothing of thoughts which were at this moment passing through his brain, and not recognized and familiar ones which had issued from it at some former time.

    The entire overture, long as it was, was played to a dark house with the curtain down. It was exquisite; it was delicious. But straightway thereafter, or course, came the singing, and it does seem to me that nothing can make a Wagner opera absolutely perfect and satisfactory to the untutored but to leave out the vocal parts. I wish I could see a Wagner opera done in pantomime once. Then one would have the lovely orchestration unvexed to listen to and bathe his spirit in, and the bewildering beautiful scenery to intoxicate his eyes with, and the dumb acting couldn't mar these pleasures, because there isn't often anything in the Wagner opera that one would call by such a violent name as acting; as a rule all you would see would be a couple of silent people, one of them standing still, the other catching flies. Of course I do not really mean that he would be catching flies; I only mean that the usual operatic gestures which consist in reaching first one hand out into the air and then the other might suggest the sport I speak of if the operator attended strictly to business and uttered no sound.

    This present opera was "Parsifal." Madame Wagner does not permit its representation anywhere but in Bayreuth. The first act of the three occupied two hours, and I enjoyed that in spite of the singing.
    ... yet for us will still remain the holy German art... (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg)
    ***
    God gave all men all earth to love,
    But since our hearts are small,
    Ordained for each one spot should prove
    Beloved over all.
    R. Kipling

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    Senior Member Don Fatale's Avatar
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    (Aware that my audience contained many Joyceians (or whatever they're called), I decided to go a little off-topic to illustrate Wagner's influence on literature.)

    The most influential poem of the last century in any language, T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, contains four quotations from Wagner’s opera (two from Tristan and Isolde and two from Gotterdammerung), as well as secondary connections. In addition, part of the central section of the poem parallels the first scene of the third act of Gotterdammerung, with Thames-daughters substitued for Rhine daughters.

    What may well be the most influential of modern novels, those of James Joyce, are pervaded with Wagnerian reference. When, in Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus cries ‘Nothung’ as he lifts his ashplant to smash a chandelier in a Dublin brothel, we are given not just the cry itself from The Ring but a reminder of the fact that the tree in which Nothung had been embedded by Wotan was an ash, and that Wotan’s spear, the chief power symbol of The Ring, was an ashplant. In the same novel we have the chanting of the blood-brotherhood oath from Gotterdammerung. In Finnegans Wake we have extensive parallels with Tristan, plus a fairly direct reference to Wagner - The ‘wagoner’ and his mudheeldy wheesindonk (Mathide Wesendonk, with whom he was having an affair at the time he composed Tristan.)

    Finnegan’s Wake begins and ends in the Liffey, just as Wagner’s Ring does in the Rhine.

    On all these works the influence of Wagner extends beyond direct quotation, and beyond imagery, to the structure itself, for in them his technique of weaving a seamless frabric out of fragmentary leitmotifs is consciously adapted from music to literature. Most important of all, the use of the interior monologue in the novel originated as an attempt to make words do in fiction what Wagner’s orchestra had done in his operas.

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    Senior Member PetrB's Avatar
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    "The trouble with Wagner is that he talks all the time. No one talks all the time." ~ Clara Schumann

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PetrB View Post
    "The trouble with Wagner is that he talks all the time. No one talks all the time." ~ Clara Schumann
    "It is impossible to communicate with Schumann. The man is hopeless; he doesn't talk at all." --Richard Wagner


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    Senior Member PetrB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KenOC View Post
    "It is impossible to communicate with Schumann. The man is hopeless; he doesn't talk at all." --Richard Wagner
    LOL! The "talk all the time" is of course, an analogy referring to Wagner's aesthetic of an endless stream of music without a break, and likely to his notion, which he very much put into practice, of "endless melody."

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    Senior Member amfortas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PetrB View Post
    LOL! The "talk all the time" is of course, an analogy referring to Wagner's aesthetic of an endless stream of music without a break, and likely to his notion, which he very much put into practice, of "endless melody."
    That and the fact that he talked all the time.
    Alan

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  16. #24
    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PetrB View Post
    LOL! The "talk all the time" is of course, an analogy referring to Wagner's aesthetic of an endless stream of music without a break, and likely to his notion, which he very much put into practice, of "endless melody."
    Analogy? "To hear him talk, he was Shakespeare, and Beethoven, and Plato, rolled into one. And you would have had no difficulty in hearing him talk. He was one of the most exhausting conversationalists that ever lived. An evening with him was an evening spent in listening to a monologue. Sometimes he was brilliant; sometimes he was maddeningly tiresome. But whether he was being brilliant or dull, he had one sole topic of conversation: himself. What he thought and what he did."

    --Deems Taylor, "The Monster" https://sites.google.com/site/kenocstuff/the-monster
    Last edited by KenOC; Jul-14-2014 at 03:57.


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    Senior Member Don Fatale's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SiegendesLicht View Post
    Mark Twain, "At the Shrine of St. Wagner":
    Unfortunately, I had to cut a lot of Mark Twain's entertaining articles from the talk, because his excerpts tended to be lengthy pieces. I did of course correct the familiar mistake of attributing "Apparently it's better than it sounds" to him rather than his quoting of Edgar Nye. Far from being dismissive of Wagner, Twain was clearly quite the fan.

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    Senior Member SiegendesLicht's Avatar
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    C.S. Lewis on his first encounter with Wagnerian art:

    "It was as if the Arctic itself, all but the deep layers of secular ice, should change not in a week nor in an hour, but instantly, into a landscape of grass and primroses and orchards in bloom, deafened with bird songs and astir with running water. I can lay my hand on the very moment; there is hardly any fact I know so well, though I cannot date it. Someone must have left in the schoolroom a literary periodical: The Bookman, perhaps, or the Times Literary Supplement. My eye fell upon a headline and a picture, carelessly, expecting nothing. A moment later, as the poet says, 'The sky had turned round.'
    "What I had read was the words Siegfried and the Twilight of the Gods. What I had seen was one of Arthur Rackham's illustrations to that volume. I had never heard of Wagner, nor of Sigfried. How did I know, at once and beyond question, that this was no Celtic, or silvan, or terrestrial twilight? But so it was. Pure 'Northernness' had engulfed me: a vision of huge, clear spaces hanging above the Atlantic in the endless twilight of Northern summer, remoteness, severity ... and almost at the same moment I knew that I had met this before, long, long ago (it hardly seems longer now) in Tegner's Drapa, that Sigfried (whatever it might be) belonged to the same world as Balder and the sunward-sailing cranes. And with that plunge back into my own past there arose at once, almost like a heartbreak, the memory of Joy itself, the knowledge that I had once had what I had now lacked for years, that I was returning at last from exile and desert lands to my own country; and the distance of the Twilight of the Gods and the distance of my own past Joy, both unattainable, flowed together into a single, unendurable sense of desire and loss, which suddenly became one with the loss of the whole experience, which, as I now stared round that dusty schoolroom like a man recovering from unconsciousness, had already vanished, had eluded me at the very moment when I could first say It is. And at once I knew (with fatal knowledge) that to 'have it again' was the supreme and only important object of desire.
    " ... All this time I had still not heard a note of Wagner's music, though the very shape of the printed letters of his name had become to me a magical symbol. ... But I had this in common with Wagner, that I was thinking not of concert pieces but of heroic drama. To a boy already crazed with 'the Northernness,' ... the Ride came like a thunderbolt. From that moment Wagnerian records ... became the chief drain on my pocket money.... 'Music' was one thing, 'Wagnerian music' quite another, and there was no common measure between them; it was not a new pleasure but a new kind of pleasure, if indeed 'pleasure' is the right word, rather than trouble, ecstasy, astonishment, 'a conflict of sensations without name.'"
    ... yet for us will still remain the holy German art... (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg)
    ***
    God gave all men all earth to love,
    But since our hearts are small,
    Ordained for each one spot should prove
    Beloved over all.
    R. Kipling

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    Senior Member Couac Addict's Avatar
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    Cosima, tut meinen arsch schauen groß in diesem kleid?
    This space for rent.

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    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    Talking

    Quote Originally Posted by amfortas View Post
    That and the fact that he talked all the time.
    Yes, indeed ... Gemini!

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    'I really loathe Wagner – everything he stands for – and I don’t even like his music very much........It’s like if you have a palate that you’ve developed over the years to distinguish between the best Burgundy and Côtes-du-Rhône – then you’re suddenly given this appalling Spätlese that’s actually got a fair dose of paraffin in it as well, and sheep drench – I think your palate would be ruined. That’s my fear.’ (Sir John Elliot Gardiner)

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    “I can see Richard Wagner standing at the gates of heaven. "You have to let me in," he says. "I wrote Parsifal. It has to do with the Grail, Christ, suffering, pity and healing. Right?" And they answer, "Well, we read it and it makes no sense." SLAM.”
    ― Philip K. Dick, VALIS

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