Wagner, Richard Wilhelm

The three years following his departure from Paris form as distressing a period as mark the stressful life of Richard Wagner. At Vienna, hearing for the first time a performance of Lohengrin, the idea came that Vienna was the right place to present Tristan. The opera was offered and accepted; over fifty rehearsals were gone through with, and then the performance abandoned. Though at this time his operas were being performed everywhere in Germany, his proceeds therefrom were miserably inadequate. Jn order to pay his way he had to resort to concert-giving, in spite of his dislike to a work appearing other than as a whole. He gave concerts in Vienna, Prague, various cities in Germany and in Russia, meeting with special success at Moscow and St. Petersburg. But the German and Vienna papers kept up their insults and did their utmost to influence the attitude of the public. That he had the heart to proceed with new creations at this time is significant of that heroism in his art to which reference has been made. He took up residence in Penzing, near Vienna, and, though the revilers of the Penzing period concerned themselves principally with tales of his silk and velvets, he does not appear to have been so affected by luxury as to lapse into indolence; for here work was continued on The Meistersinger, the poem having been completed in Paris and some of the music written at Biebrich-am-Rhine. These days are marked also by the publication of the Nibelung poems, which came put with a preface wherein was given in full detail the plan for an ideal presentation of the work, a Nibelung Festival. But such a plan involved a patron of princely fortune and princely aim. Was he to be found? The answer was to come ere long. It was at Stuttgart, whither he had fled from creditors, that " The Prince " appears on the scene, young King Ludwig II. of Bavaria. The King, a boy of eighteen, had just ascended the throne. Hearing Lohengrin two years before, he had watched the composer's career with the greatest interest. The appeal in the preface of the Nibelung poems fell on ears eager for such a message, and the King hastily sent his private secretary to search for Wagner and convey to him this word from the King at Munich : " Come here and finish your work." Meeting the King, Wagner met a most ardent disciple and one whose power gave promise of the realization of longunrealized dreams. He became a naturalized subject of Bavaria and settled in Munich, protected and uplifted by the sympathy and encouragement of his Royal patron, whose feeling for him proved something more than a passing romantic attachment. In honor of his new friend Wagner composed the Huldigungsmarsch, and at the request of the King wrote the essay on State and Religion. A house was placed at his disposal; he was granted a pension, and formally commissioned to finish his Nibelungen. To aid in projected performances of his works he sent for Hans von Billow, his long-time disciple, and presently the von Bülows arrived, Hans relinquishing a remunerative career as pianist to devote himself to Wagner's interests. And now was renewed congenial companionship with Cosima von Bülow, who, acting as his secretary, became a member of his household, June 10, 1865, von Bülow conducting, the first performance of Tristan was given. Added to the triumph of the moment was the prospect that Wagner's plan for a new music school was to be followed, and that under his direction a special theatre for the presentation of the Nibelungen was to be built. But not in Munich were the dreams to become a reality. The great plans were frustrated by enemies jealous of the King's "favorite," and Wagner found himself again banished, though the King assured him the banishment from Munich was only for a season.

Again he sought refuge in Switzerland, and at Triebschen, just out of Lucerne, established his home. Amid the beautiful surroundings there, a pension from the King allowing freedom from petty worries, he accomplished much. Here he finished The Meistersinger, performed at Munich June, 1868; continued work on Der Ring des Nibelungen; published a series of articles entitled Deutsches Kunst und Deutsches Politik, and his remarkable treatise on Beethoven. To the quiet retreat at Triebschen King Ludwig came again and again. Here Wagner had for assistant young Hans Richter, destined to become the best interpreter of his works. And at Triebschen Cosima von Billow rejoined him and entered his home not to leave it again. In the fall of 1869 von Billow obtained a divorce, and on the twenty-fifth of August, 1870, in the Protestant Church of Lucerne, Cosima and Wagner were married, Wagner at his second marriage being fifty-seven years old. Cosima was the daughter of Liszt and the French Countess d'Agoult. She had married von Bulow in her early youth and the marriage had not proved happy. Her devotion to Wagner is a matter of history. Von Billow's attitude also is a matter of history; his continuance of faith in the artist if not in the man. Liszt is thought to have been estranged for a while because of the marriage, but ere long reconciliation was effected. Wagner named the son born  to   him and Cosima Siegfried, and in his honor and in commemoration of Cosima's birthday, he wrote the beautiful Siegfried Idyll.