CHAPTER 11 Artist, Politician, Farmer (Class of 1813, II)
The invisible orchestra! The idea is not mine, but Wagner's; and it is excellent. It is impossible today to tolerate horrible tailcoats and white ties against Egyptian, Assyrian, and Druid costumes; to set the orchestra, part of an imaginary world, so to speak, in the middle of the floor, right in the crowd as it claps or hisses. Add to all this the objectionableness of having harps, double basses, and the windmill arms of the conductor himself jutting into the air.1
Endless chatter about … how I don't know how to write for singers; how the few bearable things are all in the second and fourth acts (nothing in the third); and how on top of all that I am an imitator of Wagner!!! A fine outcome after thirty-five years to wind up as an imitator!!!2
Our young Italian composers are not good patriots. If the Germans, proceeding from Bach, have come to Wagner, they do so as good Germans, and all is well. But when we, the descendants of Palestrina, imitate Wagner, we are committing a musical crime and are doing a useless, nay, harmful thing.3
You do well to honor your Maestro. He is one of the greatest geniuses. He has made people happy and presented them with treasures of immeasurable and immortal worth. You will understand that I, as an Italian, do not yet understand everything. That is due to our ignorance of German legend, the strangeness of Wagner's subject matter, its prevailing mysticism and the pagan world with its gods and Norns, its giants and dwarves. But I'm still young. I never cease exploring Wagner's sublime world of ideas. I owe him an enormous amount—hours of most wonderful exaltation. The work that always arouses my greatest admiration is Tristan! Before that gigantic work I stand in wonder and terror. I consider the second act, in its wealth of musical invention, its tenderness and sensuality of musical expression and its inspired orchestration, to be one of the finest creations that has ever issued from a human mind.4
These remarks about Wagner, by turns admiring and impatient, generous and resentful, were made at various points during the latter part of his career by Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901), Wagner's exact if longer-lived contemporary and the preeminent late nineteenth-century representative of what was by then the oldest and most distinguished living tradition in European music, that of Italian opera.
- Citation (MLA):
- Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 11 Artist, Politician, Farmer (Class of 1813, II)." The Oxford History of Western Music. Oxford University Press. New York, USA. n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2015. <http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume3/actrade-9780195384833-chapter-011.xml>.
- Citation (APA):
- Taruskin, R. (n.d.). Chapter 11 Artist, Politician, Farmer (Class of 1813, II). In Oxford University Press, Music in the Nineteenth Century. New York, USA. Retrieved 31 Jan. 2015, from http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume3/actrade-9780195384833-chapter-011.xml
- Citation (Chicago):
- Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 11 Artist, Politician, Farmer (Class of 1813, II)." In Music in the Nineteenth Century, Oxford University Press. (New York, USA, n.d.). Retrieved 31 Jan. 2015, from http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume3/actrade-9780195384833-chapter-011.xml