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I decided to start this thread upon seeing the recent Beethoven 9th thread being derailed into another "Wagner would have fared better if he wrote symphonies instead of operas" debate.

Tchaikovsky (in The Third and Fourth Symphony Concerts of the Russian Musical Society. The Italian Opera - Tchaikovsky Research) "speaks admiringly of Wagner's technical mastery, but asks whether his "tremendous symphonic talent" was not perhaps out of place in the operatic genre; concludes that Wagner had been led astray from his true vocation as a symphonist by "preconceived theories" and "misguided ambition"; praises enthusiastically the Faust overture".

Letter 1171 to Nadezhda von Meck, 5/17 May 1879, from Brailov:
This is how I spent the day yesterday. After writing letters to you and my brother Anatoly I sat down to study the score of Lohengrin, which I had brought with me. I know that you are not overly fond of Wagner, and I myself am far from being a fanatic Wagnerian. Wagnerism as a principle appeals to me very little, and Wagner's personality awakens feelings of aversion within me, but I cannot fail to do justice to his tremendous musical gift. This gift nowhere manifested itself so brightly as in Lohengrin. This opera will always be the crown in Wagner's oeuvre. For it was after Lohengrin that the decline of his talent started — a talent that was ruined by this man's satanic pride. He lost his sense of measure and started to overreach himself, so that everything which is written after Lohengrin can serve as a model of music that is unintelligible, impossible, and has no future. I am actually interested in Lohengrin now from the point of view of orchestration. In view of the task which lies ahead of me [completing the orchestration of The Maid of Orleans], I wanted to study thoroughly the score of Lohengrin in order to find out if I needed to adopt one or two of his orchestral techniques. His mastery is exceptional, but, for reasons that would require technical explanations, I nevertheless do not intend to borrow anything from him. All I should like to point out to you is that Wagner's orchestra is far too symphonic, far too plump and heavy-going for vocal music, and the older I get, the more I become convinced that these two genres, i.e. symphony and opera, are in all respects diametrically opposed. And so, my acquaintance with Lohengrin will not force me to change my manner, but it was at any rate an interesting and, in the negative sense, useful acquaintance. (Richard Wagner - Tchaikovsky Research)
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