Wagner, Richard Wilhelm
The maintenance and building up of Bayreuth now rested on the shoulders of Cosima, a burden of no small weight; for the press was still hostile and enemies aggressive; but her devotion triumphed, and Frau Cosima has had no small part in making Bayreuth a place of world pilgrimage. The adverse criticisms of Wagner, the bitter, malicious, scandalous things penned against him, are matters of history. They begin with his early work; Rienzi was spoken of as "an opera without music." The Music of the Future has been derided with all possible play of wit, the composer mildly addressed as fool, lunatic, ruffian, swindler and song-murderer. Distorted pictures of his character so long held the public eye that the real Wagner has had scant justice. Always emphasis was laid on these qualities: a colossal egotism that allowed no consciousness, no consideration of others; violence of temper; a cruel tactlessness; unsociability; unpardonable extravagance, and inordinate love of luxury, with an effeminate liking for soft, rich apparel and draperies. Without doubt these qualities made up a large part of his personality, but there should be added to the accusation of luxury-lover the other side of the picture, the fact of his colossal industry, and the fact that he would not pander to the public for the sake of gaining wealth; that in keeping to his ideals he struggled a lifetime with poverty and debt; and to offset somewhat the tales of exhibition of violent temper, the equally true tales of his patience with his wife, his kindness to servants, his love of pets, and his efforts in defense of the helpless lower animals. In extenuation of the unsociability, his absolute need of solitude for the accomplishing of the great mass of work produced, and the exhaustion and nervousness arising from ill-health and long-continued labors. He was a tremendous worker, and inaccessible because such a worker; but that he had capacity for friendship, and could show imself friendly, there is full and free evidence given in his voluminous correspondence; and the witness of not a few friends presents a view of a charming social side uppermost in hours of leisure. He loved Nature with intensity, and was always disturbed and oppressed when townlife deprived him of the soothing and inspiration thereof. And any study of his character would be most incomplete if there were left out mention of his courage rash, perhaps, in its manner of expression, but a courage of inviolable independence, above consideration of question of policy, and by all means his democracy should have attention, a democracy illustrated in practise as well as put forth in theory.
In appearance he was a man slightly below the average height, but of an erectness of carriage that added seemingly to this height His quick movements suggested the nervous temperament and irrepressible energy. " If we look at his face," says Finck, "the two features that first strike us are the noble massive forehead the thinker and the prominent, stubborn chin the reformer." Though unconventional, he was of refined habits and taste. His library was large and varied, made up of books with which he was closely familiar. He was fond of reading aloud, read very well, but could neither sing nor play in a way tc give pleasure. Wagner left ten volumes of prose works. The musical compositions include fourteen operas, the Faust overture, three marches, the Siegfried Idyll, a chorus, a male quartet, a funeral march (written at Dresden when Weber's body was brought there for reburial), five piano-pieces, and a few beautiful songs. One writer speaks of Wag- ner as the composer with the temperament for opera. Frederick Graves, writing in the Westminster Review, says: "Wagner contended that the music drama was the one art, and that poetry, painting and sculpture should be merged with it. Wagner found the opera in a bad state, trashy and shallow; the brilliant but superficial style of the Italian Opera had swamped everything; dramatic and poetic truth had been sacrificed to mere tunefulness. The old opera form scena, aria and recitative disappeared when Wagner took up the pen." In place of the cheap librettos he gave the opera stage poems % He wrote the poems of all of his operas himself. In answer to the assertion that Wagner will never found a school, Finck declares: "All the younger composers belong to the Wagner school in modulation, melody and instrumentation, even if they do not write music dramas with leading motives. Today it is almost impossible to take up an opera or orchestral score without noting the effect of Wagner's 'schooling' in harmony and orchestration." Of the masters from whom he -in turn drew, reference has been made to the influence on his work of Weber and Beethoven, and from Berlioz he received not a few suggestions.