Motto nach Goethe:
“Fliegenschnauz’ und Muckennas’
Mit euren Anverwandten,
Frosch im Laub und Grill’ im Gras,
Ihr seid mir Musikanten!”
* * * * * * * *
With all your kindred, too,
Treefrog and Meadow-grig.
True musicians, you!”
[The lines travestied are taken from “Oberon und Titanias goldene Hochzeit.” Intermezzo, Walpurgisnacht.—Faust I.]
Wagner’s Ueber das Dirigiren was published simultaneously in the “Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik” and the “New-Yorker Musik-zeitung,” 1869. It was immediately issued in book form, Leipzig, 1869, and is now incorporated in the author’s collected writings, Vol. VIII. p. 325-410. ("Gesammelte Schriften und Dichtungen von Richard Wagner,” ten volumes, Leipzig, 1871-1883.) For various reasons, chiefly personal, the book met with much opposition in Germany, but it was extensively read, and has done a great deal of good. It is unique in the literature of music: a treatise on style in the execution of classical music, written by a great practical master of the grand style. Certain asperities which pervade it from beginning to end could not well be omitted in the translation; care has, however, been taken not to exaggerate them. To elucidate some points in the text sundry extracts from other writings of Wagner have been appended. The footnotes, throughout, are the translator’s.
The following pages are intended to form a record of my experience in a department of music which has hitherto been left to professional routine and amateur criticism. I shall appeal to professional executants, both instrumentalists and vocalists, rather than to conductors; since the executants only can tell whether, or not, they have been led by a competent conductor. I do not mean to set up a system, but simply to state certain facts, and record a number of practical observations.
Composers cannot afford to be indifferent to the manner in which their works are presented to the public; and the public, naturally, cannot be expected to decide whether the performance of a piece of music is correct or faulty, since there are no data beyond the actual effect of the performance to judge by.
I shall endeavour to throw some light upon the characteristics of musical performances in Germany—with regard to the concert-room, as well as to the theatre. Those who have experience in such matters are aware that, in most cases, the defective constitution of German orchestras and the faults of their performances are due to the shortcomings of the conductors ("Capellmeister,” “Musikdirectoren,” etc.). The