Correspondence of Wagner and Liszt, Volume 1
Francis Hueffer (translator)
Part 5 out of 6
joy to me to grasp your creation through your immediate aid. For
heaven's sake, let nothing distract you from this, and continue
to weld your wings with steadfast courage!
All is perishable, only God's word remains for ever, and God's
word is revealed in the creations of genius.
Yesterday your "Tannhauser" was given apart from the subscription
nights, before an overcrowded house. A new scene had been painted
for the revised conclusion of the piece, and for the first time
we have given the entire finale of the second act (a splendid,
masterly finale!) and the entire prayer of Elizabeth in the third
act without any cut. The effect was extraordinary, and I think
you, would have been pleased with the whole performance. I
celebrated on this occasion a perfect triumph in your cause, for
now that the success has been so decided, I may tell you candidly
that no one here cared for the troublesome study of the finale or
for the execution of the revised close, and that the talking
backwards and forwards about the change lasted several months.
"Why," it was said, "do we want a different "Tannhauser" from the
one we are accustomed to?" Several people who had seen
"Tannhauser" in Dresden declared decidedly that our performance
was much better, and that it would lose by the new close and by
the restoration of the entire finale, etc., etc. To all these
excellent arguments I had but one answer: "For Weymar it is a
duty to give Wagner's works when and as far as it is possible in
accordance with the wishes and intentions of the composer."
And, behold! in spite of all the previous chatter, the decisive
success of yesterday has been wholly in favour of my assertion.
Herr von Zigesar has today written to Tichatschek to ask him to
sing "Lohengrin" here on February 26th, and has offered him a fee
of fifty louis d'or, an unheard-of sum for Weymar. I sent
Tichatschek the part soon after the first performance of
"Lohengrin" here, and hope that he will give us the pleasure of
complying with our request. I wish you could write to him direct
on this matter, or else induce him to come here through Uhlig or
Fischer. With the performance of "Lohengrin" I am in parts still
very much dissatisfied. The chief evil lies, as you say, in the
as yet unborn representative of the chief part. For the
performance of February 26th a new scene is being prepared for
the second act, for the one hitherto used is miserable. The
question of cuts, as you know, arose only in connection with the
second performance; at the third I again produced the entire work
unmutilated. With Heine and Fischer, who attended the last
performance, I had much talk about this glorious drama, to me the
highest and most perfect work of art. If Herr von Hulsen had
invited me to Berlin, I should probably have persuaded him to
give "Lohengrin" first; and I repeat that in Berlin I will lay
any wager on the colossal success of "Lohengrin", provided it is
given faithfully and enthusiastically, to do which would not be
excessively difficult in Berlin with goodwill and true
That Herr von Hulsen hesitates to call me to Berlin does not
surprise me, but as you have honoured me with your confidence, I
am sorry I cannot justify it in a brilliant manner. During his
last visit here the Prince of Prussia spoke to me about my
participation in the study of "Lohengrin" at Berlin. The Prince
has a high opinion of you as a poet and musician, and seems to
take an interest in the success of your works at Berlin. Beyond
this I can unfortunately have no influence in the matter, and
must quietly wait to see how they are going to cook up
"Tannhauser" there. In any case do not trouble yourself about the
future and contemplate the course of events in an objective mood.
When you hear particulars about the "Tannhauser" performances at
Berlin, write to me, for I hear from time to time the most
contradictory rumours of pourparlers.
Have you received the book about "Tannhauser" by X.? The
dedication was quite unexpected to me, because for several months
I have not had the old friendly intercourse with the author. I
shall, however, call on him tomorrow, and am quite willing to
forget many disagreeable things which he has caused me for your
sake. The "Flying Dutchman" will go to Uhlig tomorrow. I was
unable to send it sooner, because the copying here is done with
the most troublesome slowness. It is therefore no fault of mine
that this return has been delayed so long, for I have pushed it
on every day. The two first pianoforte rehearsals of the "Flying
Dutchman" I have already held, and can guarantee a successful
performance on February 16th. After the second on the 20th
"Tannhauser" is to be given, and on the 26th "Lohengrin" will
follow. Let me ask you once more to persuade Tichatschek not to
leave us in the lurch at the latter. I have special hopes for
this performance of "Lohengrin", and should not like to let it be
spoiled on account of our small means. I can assure you, however,
that the interest of the public in "Lohengrin" is in the
ascendant; at every performance the strangers in our theatre
increase in number, and you are very popular at the various
hotels in Weymar, for on the days when one of your operas is
performed it is not easy to find a room.
One other favour. I have recently made a pianoforte arrangement
of the "Tannhauser" march and of the wedding procession (I don't
know how to name the piece) in the second act of "Lohengrin" (E
flat major), and should like to publish these two pieces. Tell me
whether Meser has still the copyright of the melodies of
"Tannhauser", and whether I must ask his permission to publish
this piece, together with the other from "Lohengrin", with
Hartel. As Kistner has already printed the "Evening Star", I do
not anticipate any particular difficulty in letting Hartel
publish the "Tannhauser" march; at the same time, I should like
to be safe from any possible discussion afterwards, and therefore
inquire of you how the matter stands.
Joachim goes on the lst of January to Hanover as concert-master.
A very able violinist, Ferdinand Laub, has been engaged for our
I am glad that my marginal notes to your "Faust" overture have
not displeased you. In my opinion, the work would gain by a few
Hartel will willingly undertake the printing; and if you will
give me particular pleasure, make me a present of the manuscript
when it is no longer wanted for the engraving. This overture has
lain with me so long, and I have taken a great fancy to it. If,
however, you have disposed of it otherwise, do not mind me in the
least, and give me some day another manuscript.
Au revoir then in a few months! I look forward to the moment with
joy. My pen is getting too horribly blunt to write to you. One
single chord brings us nearer to each other than any number of
[score excerpt] Continue to love me, even as I am cordially
devoted to you.
Your pamphlet on the rendering of "Lohengrin" I have read with
much interest, and, let us hope, with some benefit for our
representations. I am glad to see that in several indications of
tempo I had guessed your meaning, and that many of your
intentions had been realized here in advance. H. will soon write
to you about yesterday's performance.
BEST OF FRIENDS,
Have not in your version the overture and the close of the last
finale of the "Flying Dutchman" been rearranged in accordance
with a special score written by me last year? The close of the
overture especially has been entirely changed in the
instrumentation. The score containing this change I sent a year
ago to Uhlig, and he wrote to me that he had sent it to Weimar,
together with a second score containing the changes in the
remainder of the instrumentation. Please ask H. B.; you must have
received two scores. Look also in your score at the theatre. If
in that the close of the overture has been considerably changed,
and if especially at page 43 a new bar has been inserted, then
your score must have been arranged after that second one sent to
you, and the model copy must still be with you, for in the
Dresden score the close of the overture had been only very
slightly changed (a little in the violins). Two things I have to
ask you: if the second score is with you, send it at once to
Dresden, addressed to Choir director W. Fischer; if it does not
exist at Weimar, Uhlig having forgotten to send it to you, and if
therefore in your score at the theatre the close of the overture
has not been changed much (in the instrumentation), and no new
bar inserted at page 43, then let Fischer know at once, so that
he may send you the materials for making this important
alteration. I shall send him the score which is at the theatre
here, and in which I hope the matter has been corrected.
To your most important kind letter recently received I shall soon
send an answer which, I hope, will please you. Today only this
business in great haste.
ZURICH, January 8th, 1853
After many inquiries, thoughts, and searches the affair of the
"Flying Dutchman" scores has turned out to be as follows:--
The score containing the corrected close of the overture and of
the finale of the opera is the same which you left me here as a
present. I never thought of using it for our performance, and
therefore wrote to Uhlig (whose death has affected H. and me
painfully) shortly before his death that he had made a mistake in
demanding back two theatre scores, as one of them we necessarily
required here, while the other had already been returned to him.
Uhlig does not seem to have known that one of the three scores
which were here for some time was my personal property; and I, on
my part, could not admit his justification in describing my copy
as a score belonging to the theatre. The confusion which had
previously happened in connection with the "Dutchman" score, sent
from and returned to Dresden, made me assume that Uhlig had made
a second mistake. Your letter today explains the matter; and I
promise you that by tomorrow evening the theatre score shall be
carefully corrected after my copy, and that my copy, containing
the newly corrected close of the overture, etc., will be sent to
Fischer the day after tomorrow. You need not trouble yourself
about it, and may dispose of this score as you like.
Kindly excuse these delays. Musikdirektor Gotze, who had to make
these alterations in the score, has been much detained from his
work, and only your letter explained the matter to me in the
sense that you wish to dispose of my copy, which is cordially at
your service. Nunc et semper.
Your truly devoted
January 12th, 1853
Your remarks about the rendering of the "Flying Dutchman" have
safely reached me, and I have already communicated them to the
singers. Farewell, and be God's blessing upon you.
MY DEAR LISZT,
The real answer to your last great letter you do not receive
today; I hold it over for a good reason. But I must tell you
something at once. Yesterday I heard from my niece at Berlin that
"Tannhauser" there could not be thought of for the present,
because the "Feensee" and Flotow's "Indra" had first to be given.
(The last thing that Hulsen had said was that "Tannhauser" should
be put in rehearsal after the Queen's birthday, November 13th,
1852.) I have let them know that I look upon this cavalier
treatment as an insult, and consider all previous transactions
finished, demanding at the same time the immediate return of my
score. This has eased my heart, and by Hulsen's fault I have been
released from all previous concessions.
Now, dearest friend, comes the principal thing. I accept your
generous offer, and place all my further relations with Berlin in
your hands. Hulsen may reply to me what he likes; he may offer to
produce "Tannhauser" at once. I am determined to answer that in
my present condition I am unable to take a leading part in so
important a matter as the performance of my operas at Berlin, and
that therefore I refer him once for all, and concerning
everything in connection with the performance of my works at
Berlin, to you, who have unlimited power to do or leave undone in
my name what seems good to you. Let it be settled in this way,
and I ask you to act in the matter quite according to your own
opinion. I should think it most advisable if you had nothing
further to do with Hulsen, who is merely an instrument without a
will of his own. You will, I think, prefer to keep up
communication solely with the Prince and Princess of Prussia. I
was very glad to learn that even the Prince of Prussia understood
at once that your personal direction was inseparable from an
important performance of my operas.
This then is the only basis on which a performance, be it of
"Tannhauser" or of "Lohengrin", will henceforth be possible in
Berlin. Without your direction I should not consent to such a
performance, even if you were to ask me. Our motto therefore must
It is true that the hope of good receipts for next Easter had
made me a little soft towards the Berlin project. Lord knows, I
poor devil, should have liked to have a few thousand francs in my
pocket, so as to divert my thoughts and cure myself of my
terrible melancholy by a journey to Paris or Italy. However, I
must bear this and remain in my old state of resignation and
want. For all that I thus remain in want of, the unspeakable joy
of seeing you at last in the summer will compensate me; believe
me, that will make up for all.
But let us stick to the point. Time will be needed, but perhaps
you will succeed in obtaining through the Prince and Princess for
next winter the invitation and commission to perform my two last
operas in Berlin. You will then probably begin with "Tannhauser".
This would appear to me a more natural order of things: perhaps
in the first half of the season "Tannhauser" and soon afterwards
"Lohengrin". It is true that you cannot count upon my niece, who
will be in Paris next winter. But there is little harm in this,
for Elizabeth is not of the first importance, and as regards
"Lohengrin" I am in a dilemma which it would perhaps be difficult
to solve. Six years ago I intended Elsa for my niece; now she
would have served me better as Ortrud.
Therefore--just as you decide; I am content with everything. From
this day I shall have no further transactions with Berlin.
The Leipzig people also have eaten humble-pie; they have
capitulated to me through Hartel. The performance there will
probably take place soon. Could you occasionally look after it a
At Frankfort they will begin next Saturday. The conductor writes
to me that he hopes for a good success. We shall see.
I have written to Luttichau and asked him not to perform
"Lohengrin" at present, because I have not sufficient confidence
in any of his conductors.
I am sorry to say I cannot write to T. He is very angry with me
on account of my instructions for the rendering of "Tannhauser."
Of course he cannot understand me.
Do arrange that about the close of the overture to the "Flying
Dutchman." In case the one score should have been lost (a rather
serious loss to me), let Fischer know, and he will send the new
close to you; but do not give the overture without this change.
Herewith I send you another alteration; you will see where it
belongs. The effect of the brass and the kettledrums was too
coarse, too material; the spectator should be terror-struck by
the cry of Senta on seeing the Dutchman, not by kettledrum and
brass. God bless you. You will soon have news from me again.
Farewell, and remember kindly your
ZURICH. January 13th, 1853
I cannot thank you for your more than royal present otherwise
than by accepting it with the deepest, most heartfelt joy. You
are best able to feel yourself how I was affected by the receipt
of your splendid presents, how I greeted the three scores with
plentiful tears. The Florentines carried the Madonna of Cimabue
round the city in triumphal procession, amidst the ringing of
bells. I wish it were given to me to arrange a similar festival
for your works. In the meantime the three scores will repose in a
particular niche near me; and when I come to see you, I will tell
First of all, the three works must be performed here in a proper
manner. All the changes in the score of the "Flying Dutchman"
have been carefully copied into the parts, and I shall not forget
the pizzicato you sent last.
[A musical score illustration appears here.]
Tichatschek has accepted Zigesar's offer, but Luttichau cannot
give him leave for the end of February. In consequence we must
wait for another opportunity, and Beck will sing "Lohengrin" and
"Tannhauser." Brendel and some other papers will probably notice
these performances. The "Flying" Dutchman presents no great
difficulties to our well-drilled artists, and I look forward to a
better performance, comparatively speaking, than of either
"Tannhauser" or "Lohengrin." The latter, however, goes much
better than at the four first performances, and upon the whole
one need not be dissatisfied. By the middle of May the newly
engaged tenor, Dr. Lieber, will arrive here, and I shall not fail
to study the three parts properly with him and to sing them to
him. I hear that he has a splendid voice and the best intention
to join in our movement.
Till the end of May I must in any case remain in Weymar, much as
I long to see you again. The wedding festivities for the marriage
of Princess Amalie (daughter of Duke Bernhard, brother of our
Grand Duke) with Prince Henry of the Netherlands (brother of the
reigning King of Holland and of our Hereditary Grand Duchess) are
to take place in May, when probably "Lohengrin" or "Tannhauser"
will be given again, besides a grand orchestral concert in the
hall of the castle.
The honorarium for the "Flying Dutchman" you will receive
immediately after the first performance (about February 20th).
How about Berlin? Has Hulsen replied to your last letter, and to
what effect? In case the whole matter is settled, as you indicate
to me, you may wholly rely and count upon me. Your annoyance at
the delay of the performance of "Tannhauser" is quite
comprehensible; and, in my opinion, you were right in demanding
back the score. Whether they will comply with your demand is a
different question. We must now see how we can achieve our
purpose in the quietest and safest manner. I need not repeat to
you that I desire with all my heart to justify the honour of your
confidence, but I earnestly hope that I shall be able to prove
this practically as soon as possible. Once more I thank you with
all my soul, and remain immutably
Your sincerely devoted
WEYMAR, January 23rd, 1853.
MY DEAREST FRIEND,
Herewith you receive a whole heap of new stuff. You perceive that
my poem is ready, and although not yet set to music, at least set
in type, and printed at my own expense, and in a few copies only,
which I shall present to my friends, so that they may have my
legacy in advance in case I should die during the work. He who
knows my position will again think me very extravagant in the
face of this luxurious edition; let it be so; the world, properly
so called, is so stingy towards me, that I do not care to imitate
it. Therefore, with a kind of anxious pleasure, I have secretly
(in order not to be prevented by prudent counsel) prepared this
edition the particular tendency of which you will find stated in
an introductory notice. Only a few copies have been struck off,
and I send you herewith a parcel of them, asking you to dispose
of them in the following manner. Of the three copies in a de luxe
binding you must accept the first as a present from me. The
second I have destined for the Grand Duchess on her birthday.
Tell her I have heard that she is indisposed and will probably be
unable to appear on her birthday in public. As therefore she will
not hear the "Flying Dutchman" at the theatre, I ask her to cast
a glance at my latest work. Tell her that, if it did not please
her throughout, I still thought I might assure her that woman had
never yet received such a tribute as every one who understood it
must find in my poem. The third copy de luxe forward to the
Princess of Prussia. Fortunately I have been able to get the
type, printing, and binding done in good time, and I assume
therefore that you will be in a position to present the gift on
the 16th. Of the other copies sent herewith, I ask you to keep
two in your own possession to lend them out according to your
discretion, and you will oblige me particularly by thinking soon
of A. Stahr, to whom I wish to be kindly remembered. He was the
first litterateur who ever paid attention to me as a poet. A
third copy please to forward in my name, with cordial greeting,
to Herr von Zigesar. Apart from this I send the following
1. For B., containing two copies: one for himself, the other for
my poor friend Roeckel.
2. For Herr F. M., whose title I have unfortunately forgotten,
and my answer to whom, in return for his kind present, I have
held over till today.
3. For A. F., who has just written to me that she is going to
Weimar for the festival; kindly give the parcel to her as to the
If you further find that you can dispose of some other copies
where they will be well and thankfully received, kindly let me
know soon; for that and similar emergencies I have kept back a
small number of copies.
About the poem itself I cannot, and do not care to, say anything
more to you; when you find leisure to read it sympathetically,
you will say to yourself all that I could tell you. I shall never
again write poetry. But I am looking forward with much delight to
setting all this to music. As to form, it is quite ready in my
mind, and I was never before so determined as to musical
execution as I am now and with regard to this poem. All I want is
sufficient charm of life to get into the indispensable cheerful
mood from which motives spring forth gladly and spontaneously. As
to this I once before made bitter moan to you; I desired
salvation from the killing circumstances in which I am placed at
Zurich; I inquired as to the possibility of being permitted to
make a trip to Germany now and then, so as to witness a
performance of my works, because otherwise I should perish here
for want of encouragement. To your great grief, your answer had
to be in the negative, and you admonished me to have--patience.
Dear, noble friend, consider that patience is only just
sufficient to preserve bare life, but that the vigour and
fullness which enable one to enrich life and employ it creatively
no man has ever yet drawn from patience, i.e., from absolute
want. Neither can I succeed in this. Listen to me! You are very
reticent as to the point in question. Let me know whether
anything has been done from Weimar in order to obtain for me at
Dresden permission to return to Germany, also what impediments
have been found in the way. If everything has not already been
tried, I should make the following suggestion: The Weimar court
invites me to visit Weimar for a few weeks, and sends me a
passport for four weeks; it then inquires, through its minister
at Dresden, whether they object, and would be likely to demand my
extradition to Saxony. If the answer were satisfactory--somewhat
to this effect: that the prosecution instituted against me four
years ago would be suspended for that short time--I might be with
you very quickly, hear my "Lohengrin", and then return straight
to Switzerland and wait for your visit (I might also read my poem
at court). See what can be done in this. I must hear "Lohengrin";
I will not and cannot write music before.
The German theatres do not cause me much delight; there is a
hitch everywhere, and I confess candidly that I often feel great
repentance at having consented to any performance outside Weimar.
Even two years ago I was conscious of myself, clear, and firm,
while I allowed myself no thought of the further expansion of my
work. Now I am torn to pieces, wavering, uncertain, and exposed
to every breath of wind, because I have to read now one thing,
now another, but never an intelligent judgment about my works in
the newspapers. I am much lowered in my own eyes. How
disgustingly dirty was again this Leipzig affair! The manager
makes sacrifices, enlarges the orchestra, reconstructs the same,
etc.; he hopes soon to recover his outlay, and raises the prices
as for an extraordinary thing; the enthusiastic public--stops
away and leaves the second performance empty. Oh, how different I
am from such canaille! But what a bad, disgusting scandal this
is! I am never to enjoy my life again.
You thought the score would not be returned to me from Berlin at
my demand; this time you were mistaken. The score was returned at
once, and neither from Hulsen nor from any one else have I had a
line about it. Disgusting as such conduct is, showing as it does
how they felt in Berlin towards "Tannhauser", I must yet be glad
at this issue, first because it proves that in such circumstances
the opera, if it had been performed, would have been lost, and
second because now tabula rasa has been made, and everything has
been committed to your faithful care. The Berlin affair has
herewith taken an entirely new form; no obligation exists, and
your hand is henceforth perfectly free, provided that I may place
the matter once for all in your hands, while I have no longer
anything to concede or refuse, and am towards Berlin as one of
the dead. Cassel has asked for the score of "Tannhauser", and
there, I presume, the matter ends; I do not count upon any other
theatre. I can now therefore sum up my gain from this glorious
undertaking; very slender it is, and I must thank God that the R.
family continue to assist me. Otherwise I should (after buying a
few commodities for house and body, of which we were very short)
have reached once more the bare rock of my existence, and this
through the noble sympathy of that splendid Germany.
I have no hopes at all for the further spreading of my operas. To
theatres like those of Munich and others I should have to refuse
them, because the conductors there would have nothing better to
do than to ruin me thoroughly. Once more I have to regret that I
yielded to a sanguine hope.
How long I shall endure this terrible joylessness I cannot tell.
About the middle of last month, I was on the point of succumbing,
and thought that I should soon have to follow my poor Uhlig. I
was persuaded to call in a doctor, and he, a careful,
considerate, and conscientious man, takes much trouble with me.
He visits me nearly every other day, and I cannot but approve of
his treatment. Certain it is that if I do not recover, it will
not be his fault. The isolation of my position is too great; all
my social intercourse has died away; I was fated to survive and
cast from me everything. I stand in a desert, and feed on my own
vitals; I must perish. Some people will be sorry for this one
day, perhaps even the King of Saxony.
What nonsense am I talking! Let us leave it alone; we cannot
alter it; it has always been so.
Much luck to the "Flying Dutchman"! This melancholy hero is never
out of my head. I always hear
[score excerpt] "Ach moch-test Du, blei-cher See-mann sie fin-
[Score excerpt] "Doch kann dem blei-chen Manne Er-lo-sung ein-
sten noch wer-den!"
all is over. For me there is no salvation but death. Would that
it found me in a storm at sea, not on a sick-bed! Yea, in the
fire of Valhall I should like to perish. Consider well my new
poem; it contains the beginning and the end of the world.
I shall have to set it to music, after all, for the Jews of
Frankfort and Leipzig; it will just suit them.
But stop; my epistle is getting wild and wilder; therefore I must
conclude. Adieu, my Franciscus, the first and only one who stands
before me like the heart of a giant! You indefatigable one,
farewell. When they play the ballad tomorrow, think of me. I am
sitting alone on the sofa, staring at the lamp and brooding over
my good fortune in having gained you from this miserable world.
Yes, yes, it is that which supports me.
Farewell, my friend. My affectionate regards to you!
ZURICH, February 11th, 1853.
BEST OF FRIENDS,
H. sent you yesterday a long account of the first performance of
the "Flying Dutchman". The rendering was satisfactory, and the
reception such as I had reason to expect--decidedly warm and
sympathetic. The two Mildes did their very best to give to the
parts of the Dutchman and of Senta their full significance, and
they were completely successful. The overture raged and crashed
superbly, so that, in spite of the usual custom not to applaud on
the fete-day of the Grand Duchess, they clapped their hands and
called "Bravo!" with enthusiasm. Our orchestra is now on a good
footing; and as soon as the five or six new engagements which I
have proposed have been made, it may boast of being one of the
most excellent in Germany.
Enclosed I send you the honorarium for the score of the "Flying
Dutchman", about which Herr von Zigesar has also written to you
yesterday. At the performance of the day before yesterday the
following princely personages, strangers here, were present: the
Duke of Coburg, the Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and his wife,
Prince Charles of Prussia, the Hereditary Prince of Meiningen and
his wife, Princess Charlotte of Prussia, the son of the Prince of
Prussia, heir-presumptive to the throne, the Prince of
Sondershausen; also several ambassadors from Dresden, General
Wrangel, and Prince Pukler-Muskau.
In a few weeks the King of Saxony is expected here.
Write to me soon what titles I am to give to the "Tannhauser"
march and the "Lohengrin" procession (E flat, Act II.), which I
have arranged for H. for drawing-room use. H. has forwarded you
two letters: one from Count Tichkiewitz, who is said to be a
passionate admirer of your genius (he wrote to me soon after the
appearance of my "Lohengrin" article a very enthusiastic letter,
and has now caused the "Tannhauser" overture to be played at
Posen; his family belongs to the higher aristocracy of Poland);
the other letter, from S. in H., I merely wanted to communicate
to you without wishing to influence your decision in this matter.
I made the acquaintance of S. in Weymar in a very casual
manner... and... so on....
I call your special attention to the postscript with regard to
Gotha which H. has added to his letter of yesterday by my desire.
The time has not yet come for explaining the details of this
matter to you, and probably nothing further will come of it. In
any case I ask you, if they should apply to you direct from
Coburg-Gotha, to give me exclusive power to carry on this little
transaction, without troubling you with it.
My most cordial thanks to you, best of friends, for all the
pleasure your "Dutchman" gives me; this summer we will have
another chat about it. Write soon to
WEYMAR, February 18th, 1853.
I have just received the incredible news from the Prague manager
that, after the censorship had authorized the performance of
"Tannhauser", permission was suddenly withdrawn by a higher
personage, in other words that the opera was forbidden. There
must surely be some personal stupidity at work here. I should
like to assist the man; and thinking it over, I hit--as I always
do when there is need--on you. You have influence everywhere,
and, as far as I know, can say a word to some very influential
persons at Vienna. Kindly consider to whom you could apply, so as
to win over some one who would interest himself in the withdrawal
of this absurd prohibition. If it is not too much trouble, I ask
you specially to arrange this also for me. You can do so many
things. Adieu, dearest! Shall I soon hear from you?
February 19th, 1853.
At Riga, in Russia, the performance has been permitted.
You are truly a wonderful man, and your "Nibelungen" poem is
surely the most incredible thing which you have ever done. As
soon as the three performances of the "Flying Dutchman",
"Tannhauser", and "Lohengrin" are over I shall lock myself in for
a few days to read the four poems; as yet I have been unable to
get a free hour for it. Excuse me therefore for not saying more
today than that I rejoice in the joy which the printed copies
have given to you.
The one intended for the Grand Duchess I have presented to her,
and that for the Princess of Prussia I have given to her brother,
the Hereditary Grand Duke. The others also have been forwarded to
their respective owners. If it is possible, send me about three
copies more; I can make good use of them.
Your letter I have not put on the shelf, and hope to be able in
about six weeks to give you a definite and (D.V.) a favourable
answer concerning your return. I am extremely sorry that hitherto
I have had to be so "reticent," but you may be sure that I have
not omitted to do all that appeared to me opportune and was in my
power. Unfortunately I have nothing but very timid hopes; still
they are hopes, and all timidity and lukewarmness must be far
from me in my endeavour to gain you back for yourself. Rely upon
my warmest friendly love in this as in other matters.
The Berlin affair you have arranged in the best possible manner,
and it is probable that, if henceforth you leave it entirely to
me, you will be satisfied with the final result. Whether
"Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin" are given in Berlin a year sooner or
later matters little to you; the chief question is how and in
what manner they are given: and as long as you are not back in
Germany, I believe that in our actual musical circumstances I can
offer you the only perfect security on this point. Moreover,
Berlin is the most important field for your works, and on the
success of those works there your whole position depends in the
most decisive manner. However, the performances at Frankfort,
Breslau, Schwerin, Leipzig, etc., are in themselves very
desirable, because they keep the matter warm and facilitate the
conquest of Berlin. They have also tended to place the artistic
question which has arisen through your means in a clearer light
than was previously possible.
Before all, regain your health, dearest friend. We shall soon
take some walks together, for which you will want good steady
legs. I do not mean to drink tisane with you at Zurich; therefore
you must take care that I do not find you a hospital patient. The
Prague affair can, I hope, be arranged, and I am willingly at
your service. A very reasonable and intelligent man, whom I used
to know very well at Lemberg, Herr von Sacher, is now commandant
of Prague, and I shall apply to him in this matter. Write to me
at once, by return of post, from what quarter and when the
prohibition of the "Tannhauser" performance was issued, and send
me the letter of the Prague manager, so that I may be able to
explain the matter properly. Apart from this, I can knock at
another door in Prague.
But, before all, I must be more accurately informed of the actual
state of things.
WEYMAR, February 20th, 1853
The Princess read your "Ring of the Nibelung" the first day from
beginning to end, and is full of enthusiasm for it.
BEST OF FRIENDS,
Please let me have two words to say whether you have received a
parcel, sent from here on February 11th, and containing several
copies of my new poem, "The Ring of the Nibelung."
I had hoped that it would reach you before the 16th, but your
letter makes no mention of it. I am very anxious about this,
because it has spoiled a great pleasure to me. Therefore one
word, please! If it has not arrived, I must apply for it at the
post-office. All the rest I shall answer later on.
ZURICH, February 28th, 1853.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
I send you today, immediately on receipt of your kind letter, the
epistle from the Prague manager announcing the prohibition of my
"Tannhauser". This is all I know of the matter. It would be an
excellent thing if you could succeed in having this interdict
withdrawn. It annoys me specially on account of the manager, who
in the whole affair has behaved energetically and charmingly. We
should both be very grateful to you.
In order not to forget your question as to the titles, I will
answer it at once, as best I can. Nothing occurs to me but "Two
Pieces from "Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin"."
1. Entrance of the guests at Wartburg.
2. Elsa's bridal progress to the minster.
This, in my opinion, would best indicate the character of the
pieces in accordance with the events represented. I am looking
forward to your pianoforte arrangement of these pieces in the
ingenious manner peculiar to you; and, above all, I am most
agreeably flattered by it. I myself nurse the plan of calling a
good orchestra together here next May in order to give to the
people who would like to hear some of my music a characteristic
selection (not dramatic, but purely lyrical) of pieces from my
operas. I have composed the following programme. By way of
The March of Peace from "Rienzi". After that--
I. "Flying Dutchman".
A. Ballad of Senta.
B. Sailors' song (in C).
A. Entrance of the guests at the Wartburg.
B. Tannhauser's pilgrimage (i.e., introduction to the third act
complete and with programme); then, joining on immediately, the
song of the returning pilgrims (E flat major).
C. Overture. III. "Lohengrin".
A. Instrumental prelude.
B. The whole scene for male chorus commencing with the song of
the watchman on the tower, which enters in D major immediately
after the great prelude in A major, and thus leads from the
heights to the earth. This is followed (after a transition
specially written) by Elsa's bridal progress (with a close,
specially written in E flat).
C. Wedding music (introduction to Act III.); bridal song; then
wedding music in G major repeated. This makes the conclusion.
I undertake the whole thing only to hear something out of
"Lohengrin", and would willingly abandon this substitute if I
could once hear the real "Lohengrin".
Well, you have at least hopes. I sigh on your and my own account
when I hear you say so.
But all this leads me beyond the purpose of these hasty lines.
To Zigesar I hope to write tomorrow; I have to thank him for his
unusually rich gift for the "Dutchman". To my disgrace, I must
confess that it came very conveniently, although it curiously
reminded me of the fact that last year I visited the islands of
the Lago Maggiore at the expense of friend Liszt. Lord knows, I
shall always remain a disreputable fellow. Why do you have
anything to do with me? (In the spectre scene of the third act of
the "Flying Dutchman" you might have made cuts without
I am much obliged to the Princess for her zeal in making
acquaintance with my new poem; if I could only read it to you
both, I should have no fear.
The three copies I shall send you before long.
Farewell for today, you dear, good friend.
ZURICH, March 3d, 1853.
MY DEAREST FRIEND,
As to one thing I must ask you seriously not to misunderstand me.
If your gigantic perseverance of friendship should succeed in
opening my return to Germany, be assured that the only use I
should make of this favour would be to visit Weimar now and then,
take part for a short time in your activity, and witness an
important performance of my operas from time to time. This I
want; it is a necessary of life to me, and it is this which I
miss so cruelly. I should derive no other benefit from it; I
should never permanently settle in Germany, but should retain as
the scene of my life, or rather work, calm, beautiful
Switzerland, endeared to me by nature. How little I am able to
endure the permanent excitement which would be involved in my
frequent public appearances I know full well; after each
explosion, such as I want them now and then, I should require the
most perfect quietude for my productive labour; and this I can
have here without stint. A permanent position I therefore could
never resume in Germany, and it would not fall in with my views
and experiences. On the other hand, temporary outings for the
purposes already indicated are, as I said before, indispensable
to me; they are to me the rain which I require unless my plant is
to wither and to die; I can only live in extremes--great activity
and excitement and--most perfect calm.
I have already contemplated what my position would be, for
example, towards Berlin in case my return were granted, and have,
after mature consideration, come to the conclusion that even then
I should ask you earnestly to undertake the performances of my
Twice I have produced an opera of my own at Berlin, and have been
unfortunate each time; this time I should therefore prefer to
leave the undertaking wholly to you; at the utmost I should enjoy
your doings incognito. In any case you alone would be able to
influence in my favour the circumstances and personal relations
which are indispensable; I should again spoil everything. This
therefore is prudence. Moreover, I cannot express to you how my
heart rejoices at the thought that I might look on from a hidden
corner while you instilled my work into the Berliners; this
satisfaction to my feelings I must live to see!
But enough for today. Of your visit to Zurich I dream every day,
and make earnest preparations for being able to dispense with my
tisane. Don't come too late.
Write to me soon how you like my poem; in the summer I shall read
it to you. If all goes well, there will also be musical sketches,
but before the middle of May I cannot really set to work.
A thousand warm greetings from your
March 4th, 1853.
Bach's "Passion Music" will be performed this evening, which will
account for my extraordinary notepaper.
I have forwarded your letter to the D. of C, and he has replied
in a very friendly and amiable manner. Finally he says to me, "On
verra ce qu'on pourra faire pour lui plus tard," and this point I
shall not fail to discuss with the D. on occasion. You have of
course not the slightest doubt as to my view of this matter;
otherwise, my dearest friend, I should have to think that you had
gone out of your mind. Excuse the word! You could not have
possibly seen the matter in any other light from what you have
done, and for the same reason I had to remain perfectly passive
and neutral. For heaven's sake, keep as well as you can, and do
not be annoyed by the inevitable stupidity and malice which are
opposed to you so frequently from different quarters.
The affair at Prague appears to me somewhat complicated. Laub,
who has taken Joachim's place in our orchestra, wrote to me from
Prague yesterday that the prohibition of "Tannhauser" must be a
theatrical trick of St.'s, the director of police (President
Sacher) having informed him that he knew nothing of that
prohibition. I have asked Laub in consequence to ferret out the
matter carefully and to ask St. to write to you or me plainly and
precisely. Before taking an official step, one must know by whom
and in what manner the prohibition has been issued, and on whom
the withdrawal thereof depends. I mentioned to you President
Sacher as the director of police in Prague because in the
Austrian monarchy similar orders are made by that official. If he
declares that "he knows nothing about it," I know still less
where the difficulty lies and at what door I should have to
knock. On April 4th the "Tannhauser" overture will be played at
Prague, and until then I wait for further information from Laub.
In the meantime I think it advisable that you should write a
friendly letter to St., asking him in what manner Tannhauser has
been prohibited at Prague, and to whom one would have to apply in
order to get rid of this difficulty. It is of course far from my
wish to inspire you with suspicion against St.; but it is
necessary for us to sift the matter thoroughly, and after so many
experiences it may be permitted to anticipate different and even
LEIPZIG, March 25th, 1853.
MY DEAREST FRIEND,
I hear much too little of you. This is not a reproach, but merely
a complaint. That you work for me daily and always, I know; in
return I live almost entirely with you, and from my place of
abode here I am always absent. I live here a perfect dream life;
when I awake, it is with pain. Nothing attracts or holds me, or
rather what attracts and holds me, is in the distance. How can I
avoid being deeply melancholy? It is only the post that keeps me
alive; with the most passionate impatience I expect the postman
every morning about eleven. If he brings nothing or brings
something unsatisfactory, my whole day is a desert of
resignation. Such is my life! Why do I live? Often I make
unheard-of efforts to get something from abroad; lately, for
instance, I had my new poem printed, to give a strong sign of
life. I sent it to all the friends who, I might assume, would
take an interest in me, and in this manner I hoped to have
compelled people to vouchsafe me a sign. What is the result?
Franz Muller in Weimar and Karl Ritter have written to me; no one
else has thought it worth while even to acknowledge receipt.
If it had not been for a few enthusiastic women at Weimar, I
should have heard nothing of the third opera week. Even the most
unheard-of efforts which you make on my behalf become an empty
breath of air to me. I am condemned to perish amidst leather and
Would it not be possible to leave all this and begin an entirely
new life? How absurd it is on your part to worry yourself in
order to help me! Alas! no, you cannot help me in this manner,
only my "fame," and that is something entirely different from me.
Nothing on paper can be of any use to me, and yet my whole
intercourse with the world is entirely through paper. What can
help me? My nights are mostly sleepless; weary and miserable, I
rise from my bed to see a day before me which will bring me not
one joy. Intercourse with people who torture me, and from whom I
withdraw to torture myself! I feel disgust at whatever I
undertake. This cannot go on; I cannot bear life much longer.
I ask you with the greatest urgency and decision to induce the
Weimar court to take a definite step, in order to ascertain once
for all whether I have sure and immediate expectations of having
the return to Germany opened to me. I must know this soon and for
certain. Be perfectly open with me. Tell me whether the Weimar
court will take this step; and if it takes it, and takes it soon,
let me know the result. I am not inclined to make the slightest
concession for the sake of this wish; I can assure you that I
shall take no part whatever in politics, and any one who is not
absolutely silly must see that I am not a demagogue with whom one
must deal by police measures. (If they wish it, they may place me
under police supervision as much as they like.) But they must not
expect of me the disgrace of making a confession of repentance of
any kind. If on such conditions a temporary return could be
granted to me, I do not deny that it would be a lift to me. If,
however, it is not possible, and if a definite negative answer is
given, let me know at once and without any prevarication; then I
shall know where I am. Then I shall begin a different life. Then
I shall get money how and where I can; I shall borrow and steal,
if necessary, in order to travel. The beautiful parts of Italy
are closed to me unless I am amnestied. So I shall go to Spain,
to Andalusia, and make friends, and try once more to live as well
as I can. I should like to fare round the world. If I can get no
money, or if the journey does not help me to a new breath of
life, there is an end of it, and I shall then seek death by my
own hand rather than live on in this manner.
I must forge myself artificial wings, because everything round me
is artificial, and nature everywhere is torn and broken.
Therefore hear and grant my prayer. Let me know soon, and know
for certain, whether I may come back to Germany or not. I must
take my decision accordingly.
After this language of despair, I cannot find the tone which I
should have to assume in writing to you about other matters which
I might wish to communicate to you. Most of these would be
effusions of thanks, as you know. Good Lord, that also drives me
wild: that I always have to write this to you. My impatience to
see you grows into a most violent passion; I can scarcely wait
for the day of your arrival. "Write" to me definitely about what
date you will be here. Let it not be too late. Can you come in
May? On May 22nd I shall be forty. Then I shall have myself
rebaptised; would you not like to be my godfather? I wish we two
could start straight from here to go into the wide world. I wish
you, too, would leave these German Philistines and Jews. Have you
anything else around you? Add the Jesuits, and then you have all.
"Philistines, Jews, and Jesuits," that is it; no human beings.
They write, write, and write; and when they have "written" a
great deal, they think they have done something wonderful. Stupid
fools! do you think our heart can beat for you? What do these
wretched people know about it? Leave them alone, give them a kick
with your foot, and come with me into the wide world, were it
only to perish bravely, to die with a light heart in some abyss.
Let me soon have news of you; and, before all, let me know when
you are coming. Farewell, farewell, longingly waited for by
ZURICH, March 30th, 1853
Your letters are sad; your life is still sadder. You want to go
into the wide world to live, to enjoy, to luxuriate. I should be
only too glad if you could, but do you not feel that the sting
and the wound you have in your own heart will leave you nowhere
and can never be cured? Your greatness is your misery; both are
inseparably connected, and must pain and torture you until you
kneel down and let both be merged in faith!
"Lass zu dem Glauben Dich neu bekehren, es gibt ein Gluck;" this
is the only thing that is true and eternal. I cannot preach to
you, nor explain it to you; but I will pray to God that He may
powerfully illumine your heart through His faith and His love.
You may scoff at this feeling as bitterly as you like. I cannot
fail to see and desire in it the only salvation. Through Christ
alone, through resigned suffering in God, salvation and rescue
come to us.
I had already indicated to you that I did not expect an answer
from Dresden before my departure from here. If you accuse me of
negligence and lukewarmness, you are unjust to me, but I can
forgive you. If, in accordance with your desire, I made your
affair dependent on an immediate "Yes" or "No," I should greatly
compromise it. Our court here is very favourably inclined towards
you, and you may feel sure that every possible step is being
taken to open your return to Germany. A few days ago I spoke
about it to our Hereditary Grand Duke, who positively assured me
that he would actively intercede for you. This you must not
mention anywhere; but it would be well if you were to write a
letter to the Hereditary Grand Duke, telling him that you have
been informed through me of his magnanimous disposition and
asking him not to forget you altogether. Do not write too
diplomatically, but give vent to the feelings of your heart, and
send me the letter, which I will hand him at once. In spite of
all, I hope to find you in a good mental and physical condition
when I visit you at the end of May. By then you must turn out
your whole hospital, and I promise you to leave mine en route to
take it up again on my way back. As the wedding festivities of
Princess Amalie and Prince Henry of the Netherlands will not take
place till after the middle of May, I shall not be with you
before the first days of June. Seven or eight weeks must
therefore still elapse.
The "Tannhauser" overture was received with enthusiasm and
encored at Prague, as Laub told me, who was present at the
As regards the performance of "Tannhauser," the real state is
very nearly what I wrote to you. The tenor St., brother of the
manager, will shortly leave Prague, and there will then be no
singer for the principal part. I also hear that there is no
Elizabeth, and until you give me further information in the
matter I am not inclined to put down the non-performance of
Tannhauser to a fictitious order of the police while such real
theatrical impediments are in the way. Has St. replied to you?
From Laub I hear that the supposed difficulties have been
discussed in high circles (Count Nostitz, Princess Taxis, etc.)
in a manner not favourable to St, I should, however, not like to
accuse St. till we have sufficient proof of his bad conduct. If
you write to him in the sense indicated in my letter to you from
Leipzig, we shall soon get to the bottom of the matter. Kittl is
at present at Frankfort-On-Main, where his "operatic wants" are
being supplied by "Die Franzosen bei Nizza." The work is to be
given on April 11th. Probably he will stay here for a day on his
way back, and through him I mean to get more accurate information
as to the Prague complications.
Kossak's critique of "Indra" has amused me. If you have not read
it, I shall send it to you.
Brendel has grand schemes, which he will probably communicate to
you. He is coming here for the next performance of Raff's opera
"King Alfred," in order to talk to me about the new paper which
he would like to bring out in the course of the summer. The
enterprise is in itself good enough, but I have still my doubts
as to the means at disposal. What do you mean by Raff's
confidential letter against the "Tannhauser" notice in the
Do not be offended, dearest friend, because I have not yet
written to you about the "Ring of the Nibelung" at greater
length. It is not my business to criticize and expound so
extraordinary a work, for which later on I am resolved to do
everything in my power in order to gain a proper place for it. I
have always entreated you not to abandon the work, and am
delighted by the perfection of your poetic workmanship. Almost
every day the Princess greets me with the words--
"Nicht Gut, nicht Geld,--noch gottliche Pracht; Nicht Haus, nicht
Hof,--noch herrischer Prunk; Nicht truber Vertrage trugender
Bund, Noch heuchelnder Sitte hartes Gesetz: Selig in Lust und
Leid, lasst--die Liebe nur sein!"
Counsellor Scholl will shortly read the four dramas at the
Altenburg to a small circle which I shall invite for the purpose;
and when I come to Zurich, you must be good enough to go through
the whole with me, so that we may exchange heart and soul on the
S. wrote me a longish letter, in which he plainly says that the
poem is a total mistake, etc. I have not sent you this letter,
because I think it useless, and shall never be of his opinion. By
word of mouth I shall let you know about various opinions which
in the meantime I listen to without comment or discussion.
Your truly devoted
WEYMAR, April 8th, 1853
Herewith, dearest, best of friends, I send you the answer of the
Prague manager, containing particulars as to the prohibition of
"Tannhauser." If you have time and care to do so, co-operate in
this affair also, in accordance with the love you bear me.
I long for a letter from you, and am curious to hear from
yourself what truth there is in your rumoured breach with Weimar.
I live in the expectation of your visit; surely you have not
Adieu. A thousand greetings from your
ZURICH, April 11th, 1853
How ever could you think that I should "scoff" at any of your
magnanimous effusions? The forms in which we endeavour to gain
comfort in our miserable circumstances depend wholly upon our
nature, our wants, the character of our culture and of our more
or less artistic sensations. Who could be heartless enough to
believe that to him alone the true form has been revealed? Only
he could think so who has never fashioned for himself such a form
of his hope and faith, but into whose dull mind it has been
instilled from outside as some one else's formula, who therefore
does not possess sufficient inner power to preserve his own empty
existence by dint of vital instinct, and who thus again
communicates the formula received from others as a formula for
others. He who himself longs and hopes and believes will surely
rejoice in the hope and faith of others; all contention about the
true form is mere empty self-assertion. Dear friend, I also have
a strong faith, on account of which I have been bitterly scoffed
at by our politicians and sages of the law. I have faith in the
future of the human race, and that faith I draw simply from my
inner necessity. I have succeeded in observing the phenomena of
nature and of history with love and without prejudice, and the
only evil I have discovered in their true essence is
lovelessness. But this lovelessness also I explain to myself as
an error, an error which must lead us from the state of natural
unconsciousness to the knowledge of the solely beautiful
necessity of love. To gain that knowledge is the task of history;
and the scene on which that knowledge will be practically shown
is none other than our earth, than nature, in which there are all
the germs tending to this blissful knowledge. The state of
lovelessness is the state of suffering for the human race; the
fullness of this suffering surrounds us now, and tortures your
friend with a thousand burning wounds; but, behold, in it we
recognize the glorious necessity of love: we call to each other
and greet each other with the power of love, which would be
impossible without this painful recognition. In this manner we
gain a power of which man in his natural state has no idea, and
this power, expanded to the power of all humanity, will in the
future create on this earth a state of things from which no one
will long to fly to a hereafter henceforth become unnecessary;
for all will be happy, will live and love. Who longs to fly from
this life while he loves?
Well, well, we suffer now. We now should despair and go mad
without faith in a hereafter; I also believe in a hereafter, and
have just shown you this hereafter. If it lies beyond my life, it
does not lie beyond that which I can feel, think, conceive, and
comprehend; for I believe in mankind, and require nothing
I now ask you, Who at the bottom of his heart shares my faith
more than do you, who believe in me, who know and demonstrate
love as no one else has proved and practiced it yet? You realize
your faith in every moment of your life; I know deeply and inly
what you believe; how then could I scoff at the form from which
such a miracle springs? I should not be as much of an artist as I
am if I did not joyfully understand you.
Let us bravely fight and struggle; then all whims will disappear.
That I must remain so far from my battlefield is what makes me
complain so often.
Well, my highest hope will be fulfilled:
I shall see you again.
This implies everything that can give joy to me; and I am sure
that at your arrival, and through means of it, you will find me
so elated that you will take my present and past complaints for
pure hypocrisy. My nerves, it is true, suffer a great deal, and
for a very natural reason. But I am now in hopes of strengthening
them thoroughly; for that I shall want a little "life:" the
medical cure alone will not be sufficient. That "life" you will
bring to me, and I promise you that you will find me hale and
I am almost glad that you are not coming to my musical
performances here, which will take place May 18th, 20th, and
22nd; we shall afterwards be more by ourselves, belong to each
other more. Oh, how I rejoice in the thought!
You will find everything comfortable with me; the devil of luxury
has taken hold of me, and I have arranged my house as pleasantly
as possible. When the real thing is wanting, one does what one
can to help one's self. Well, come; you will find me half mad;
you, you, you, and no one else!
What further shall I say in reply? I find I have taken to
chatting on the main thing.
S.'s judgment of my poem satisfies my vanity--I mean, because it
proves my judgment. In spite of all, I took S. from the beginning
for a confirmed litterateur whom you for a moment had carried
away with you, but only for a moment. A litterateur cannot
understand me; only a complete man or a true artist can. Leave it
alone; it will be all right. When once I have cast everything
aside to dive up to the ears into the fount of music, it will
sound so well that people shall hear what they cannot see. We
must have a long talk about my further practical plans as to the
All scribbled things are absolutely distasteful to me, and it is
the greatest effort to me to read the musical paper. I wish that
all this had no reference to me; let the people do for their own
sakes what they think they ought not to omit; what was necessary
for me you have done. Dearest, dearest friend, do not think that
I meant to reproach you when recently again I wrote with furious
impatience about my return to Germany. I do this quite at random;
I call out when I am in pain, but I accuse no one, certainly you
least of all. You are unfortunate in being so near to my heart;
for that reason you hear everything that I sigh and complain of
violently and painfully. Be not angry, and forgive me cordially.
I will write to the Hereditary Grand Duke, because it gives me
Enough for today; my fingers are becoming cramped. But how many,
many things I shall have to say to you. I keep everything for
that occasion, and have really not written to you once about your
performance of my operas, of which quite recently again I heard
such wonders. All that will come by word of mouth, if only I do
not go mad!
Farewell. Greet the Princess. A thousand kisses from
April 13th, 1853
Bravo, Schoneck! Long live Kroll's theatre! Those people have
rational ideas, and work bravely. The fact that you are friendly
with Schoneck, and can count upon his goodwill and musical
intelligence, gives a favourable turn to the performance of
"Tannhauser" at Kroll's theatre, and I, for my part, do not
advise you against it, the less so as you seem to like it. Your
citing Mirabeau as marchand de draps is quite applicable to
"Tannhauser" at Kroll's theatre; and if Schoneck manages to fill
the parts moderately well, the thing will, no doubt, hugely amuse
Simultaneously with this I write, by your desire, to Schoneck to
compliment him on the impending performances. I have advised him
to go to work prudently, as the whole matter is in his hands. We
may anticipate a very good result, which will cordially please
I shall write to Prague tomorrow, to President Sacher; this
matter will probably drag on for some time.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
In the most frightful turmoil of business, I must send you a few
words of enthusiasm. I have been writing an explanatory programme
for my musical performance here, and was led on that occasion to
look once more through your pamphlet on my opera. How can I
describe my feelings? When has an artist, a friend, ever done for
another what you have done for me? Truly, when I should be
inclined to despair of the whole world, one single glance at you
raises me again high and higher, fills me with faith and hope; I
cannot conceive what I should have done without you these last
four years. Oh, and how much you have made of me; it has been
indescribably beautiful for me to observe you during that space
of time. The idea and the word "gratitude" cannot contain my
You say that you do not yet expect to get your leave of absence!
Do not frighten me, and tell me by return that you are coming,
and coming soon.
I have engaged Damm. It was a mad undertaking to find an
orchestra of seventy men when there were only fourteen competent
musicians in the place. I have plundered all Switzerland, and all
the neighbouring states as far as Nassau. It was necessary to
raise the guarantee fund to 7,000 francs in order to cover
expenses, and all this that I might hear the orchestral prelude
I expect you for certain in the first days of June. If only the
joy of seeing you again does not drive me mad! Adieu. Come to
ZURICH, May 9th, 1853
Your splendid programme for the musical performances at Zurich,
May 18th, 20th, and 22nd, has made me quite sad, dearest friend.
Why can I not be present to make some returns to you for all I
owe you? But what is the good of questioning, brooding, and
sorrowing? I cannot get away from here before the end of June.
Tomorrow (the 20th) we have a grand court concert (the programme
is of no interest to you), and ten days afterwards the
performance of "Moses" by Marx, which I have to conduct. On June
15th takes place the jubilee of the Grand Duke, for which his
Majesty the King of Saxony will probably come here, and the 20th
is the birthday of the Hereditary Grand Duke. On the 26th or 28th
I accompany my mother, who is still half lame, to Paris; and by
the middle of July at the latest I shall be with you in Zurich.
Till then I must have patience, and need not give you any further
I talked some time ago with the Princess of Prussia about you.
The performance of "Tannhauser" at Kroll's is variously commented
upon. I am still of opinion that the personal influence and
ability of Schoneck are in this matter decisive. Since my last
letter to Schoneck I have heard nothing from him, but I believe I
told you of an offer that was made to me to take the Leipzig
opera to Berlin and to conduct "Tannhauser" at the Konigsstadt
Theatre. I have naturally declined this offer.
I hope Schoneck will keep his word and bear the responsibility of
an adequate performance of "Tannhauser" honourably, thus
justifying your confidence. When you hear further particulars,
ask him to communicate them to me, as I have been questioned on
various sides about this matter, and have warmly defended
Schoneck's undertaking against the wavering portion of your
friends and the public.
Alwine Fromann was here for some days. I have learnt to love her
through you. Your "Nibelungen" has been read excellently on four
evenings at the Altenburg by Counsellor Sauppe, director of the
Grammar School, who formerly lived for some years at Zurich. The
whole subject of the "Nibelungen" I shall work out with you in
conversation; in the meantime only this: that I am wholly in
favour of it, and ask you urgently to take the musical part
seriously in hand.
I hear from Prague that "Tannhauser" is being prepared there for
next autumn. If this is confirmed, the other step which I
contemplated will become useless. In any case I shall wait a
little while to gain better ground for the matter.
"Lohengrin" will be given at Wiesbaden, and at Schwerin the
"Dutchman" is heaving in sight. Have you finished the "Faust"
overture? Damm has probably told you that we have given it here
several times fairly well. Apropos of Damm, tell him that he can
stop as long as he likes. I envy the fellow his good time with
This afternoon Louis Kohler, from Konigsberg, will arrive here to
hear your "Lohengrin." Alas! alas! "Indra," by Flotow, absorbs
all the delicate attentions of our artistic direction; and this
wretched medley will be given the day after tomorrow as festival
opera. Did you formerly have intercourse with Kohler? I only know
him through some very amiable notices of a few of my pianoforte
works. His last letter is a kind of dithyramb about "Lohengrin,"
which naturally predisposes me favourably towards the man.
Farewell, you unique man! and may we soon be together.
Let me soon have news of your performances at Zurich, and do not
forget to send Brendel a notice of them for his paper. About
Brendel, who recently visited me here, I have several things to
Please God, I may have good news to bring you from Dresden; it is
that which keeps me here till the end of June.
I feel beaten down and weary. Damm has probably written to you
about my musical performances. Everything went off right well,
and Zurich was astonished that such a thing could have happened.
The Philistines almost carry me on their hands; and if I cared
for external success, the effect of my performances would more
than satisfy me. But, as you know, my chief object was to hear
something from "Lohengrin," and especially the orchestral
prelude, which interested me uncommonly. The impression was most
powerful, and I had to make every effort not to break down. So
much is certain: I fully share your predilection for "Lohengrin";
it is the best thing I have done so far. On the public also it
had the same effect. In spite of the "Tannhauser" overture,
preceding them, the pieces from "Lohengrin" made such an
impression, that they were unanimously declared to be the best
thing. For the "Bridal Procession" I had specially written a very
effective new close, which I must communicate to you; following
upon the "Bridal Song," I repeated the G major prelude (wedding
music), after a short transition, and gave a new conclusion to
this also. These pieces have had a tremendous popular success;
everybody was delighted. It was a real feast for the world around
me. All the women are in my favour.
I might have repeated the concerts six times, and they would have
been full on every occasion, but I stuck to three performances,
because I had enough of it, and was afraid of getting tired.
Besides this, I could not have retained the orchestra any longer;
many had to go home, especially eight musicians from Wiesbaden,
the best of the orchestra there, who had given me great pleasure
by coming. I had almost nothing but concert-masters and musical
directors--twenty most excellent violins, eight tenors, eight
splendid violin-cellos, and five double-basses. All had brought
their best instruments; and in the acoustical orchestra,
constructed according to my indication, the tone of the
instruments was most bright and beautiful. It is true that the
whole cost 9,000 francs.
What do you think of our citizens raising all that money? I
believe that in time I shall be able to do unheard-of things
here, but for the present it has cost me unheard-of trouble.
During the week preceding the performances, I read in my way,
which you will hear later on, my three operatic poems before a
very large audience in public and gratis, and was delighted by
the powerful impression they produced on my hearers. In the
intervals I studied my choruses with amateurs, and these tame,
four-part people at last sang as if they had swallowed the devil.
Well, I am a little lame and weary in consequence. It is hard
that you will have to leave me in my loneliness for the whole
month of June.
Why have your festivities been suddenly postponed? Not till the
middle of July? Just now you would have been of infinite benefit
to me; I am very lonely.
For the present I must try to pick up a little by a wandering
life; perhaps I shall go for a few weeks to Brunnen, on the lake
of Lucerne, and try to settle down to work. I shall make
excursions from there to the Bernese Oberland and thus pass the
time till your much-desired arrival. How long shall you be able
to stay? In the second half of July I am to go to St. Moritz, in
the Grisons, to go through a cure there from which they promise
great benefit for my health. Will you follow me to that
beautiful, wild solitude? That would be splendid! By the end of
August, when you have to leave me again, I shall go to Italy, as
far as it is accessible to me. (I wish it could be to Naples! The
King of Saxony might manage that!) The means I must get somehow,
if I were to steal them.
In other respects "business" with me is flat. You have probably
heard that the manager of the Berlin court opera has procured an
order which prevents the smaller theatres of Berlin, and
especially Kroll's theatre, from performing such operas as
"Tannhauser." From this we see how powerfully even a threat acts
upon these people; they are of course ashamed of themselves, and
do not wish to incur open disgrace. I have authorized Schoneck to
announce "Tannhauser" as a "Singspiel," but he himself is
doubtful whether the thing can be managed. He loses in this
manner a fine opportunity of making himself favourably known and
of raising himself above his hole-and-corner circumstances. I
lose a nice income for this summer, for the undertaking would
have brought me in a few thousand francs. But God's, or rather
Herr von Hulsen's, will be done. It is quite plain that in our
excellent states the "other thing" has nowadays the upper hand;
the Princess of Prussia may wish and desire what she likes, she
will not be able to conquer that, nor Herr von Hulsen either.
Good Lord, I know the thing.
However, I was peculiarly pleased that you from the first looked
upon this Berlin experiment just as I did, and that we quite
understood each other. I can quite imagine how the Philistine
must have shaken his head. It was equally clear that you were
unable to accept the proposal for the Konigsstadt Theatre with
the Leipzig troupe, and I am only annoyed at their impudence in
offering you such a thing. It implies indeed a gross insult, for
which one must pardon our dull-headed theatrical mob. "Lord,
forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Dearest friend, have you not yet had enough of Weimar? I must own
that I frequently grieve to see how you waste your strength
there. Was there any truth in the recent rumour of your leaving
Weimar? Have they given in?
But all this is idle talk. My brain is a wilderness, and I thirst
for a long, long sleep, to awake only when my arms are around
you. Write to me very precisely, also whether you are inclined,
after a little stay at Zurich, to go with me to the solitude of
the Grisons; St. Moritz might, after all, do you good, dearest
friend; we shall there be five thousand feet high, and enjoy the
most nerve-strengthening air, together with the mineral water,
which is said to be of beneficial effect on the digestive organs.
Think this over, consult your health and your circumstances, and
let me know very soon what I may hope for.
Farewell, best and dearest of friends. Have my eternal thanks for
your divine friendship, and be assured of my steadfast and
ZURICH, May 30th, 1853
I have just received the enclosed letter, programme, and
newspaper from Prague. If you will write a few lines to Apt, you
will please him very much. Also be kind enough to send a copy of
your "Nibelungen" to Louis Kohler in Konigsberg (care of Pfitzer
and Heimann, music-publishers). He deserves this attention from
you, and I promised it him during his stay here, when he
cordially joined your banner. From Leipzig, after the performance
of "Tannhauser," he wrote me a letter which I could sign myself,
and you are sure to find in Kohler a very zealous, able, and
honest champion of your cause in the press.
A little book by him on the melody of speech will shortly appear.
As a composer for the pianoforte he has done some excellent
things. Several years ago an opera of his composition was
produced at Brunswick. Kohler is about thirty-two years old, and
Marx was here recently. We have become friends, and shall
probably approach each other still more closely. His oratorio
"Moses" was given fairly well under my direction.
A little court concert was given the day before yesterday in
honour of their Majesties the King and Queen of Saxony. Further
details I shall tell you when I see you. Unfortunately I must
doubt that the steps taken so far will lead to the desired
result, but there is yet another hope before my departure, for
which I must wait. The Hereditary Grand Duke will soon go to
Dresden, and has promised me his intercession in this matter.
In ten or twelve days I shall give you an exact plan of my
journey. It is very possible and almost probable that Joachim and
Robert Franz will accompany me to Zurich. It is quite understood
that I go with you wherever you like, but I shall not be able to
stay with you longer than ten days altogether. Whether it will be
at the beginning or the middle of July I cannot say for certain,
because this journey depends on another much longer one.
Damm has told us wonderful things of your three performances. The
poetic indications which I read in the programme, especially
those of the introduction to "Lohengrin" and the overture of the
"Flying Dutchman," interested me very much. Before long I may
send you a little article about the "Flying Dutchman"; and if you
approve of it, it shall be published.
I have been much depressed these last few days by many and
various things. These are the days of thunderstorms. With all my
heart and soul I shall rejoice on seeing you again. Let us be
faithful to one another, though the world go to ruin.
June 8th, 1853
I have nothing to write to you, dearest, except that I await you
longingly. You might come before the middle of July, seeing that
you will not be able to give me more than ten days in all. This
of course determines me not to expect that you should go to the
watering-place in the Grisons with me for a few days only. It
would have been different if you could have stayed with me there
for some length of time. I suppose you will not be here this
month, and I may, without fear of missing you, go next week to
Interlaken in the Oberland to visit part of the R. family. At the
beginning of July I shall be back again, and expect you daily.
That Franz and Joachim intend to come too is famous. Franz had
already half promised me. I shall be delighted to make their
acquaintance. Prague and Konigsberg (Kohler) will be attended to.
I read today in the "Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik" the article by
T. in Posen, in which there is a stupid thing, viz., an
exaggeration, where he says that I consider "Schoneck one of my
most gifted disciples." Schoneck as a musician is quite
insignificant, and as a man without particular culture; he is
simply a theatrical conductor--at least as far as I know him. I
was struck, however, by his uncommon and specific talent as a
conductor, as well as by his nervous, restless, and very active
temperament, combined with a strong turn for enthusiasm. He once
saw me study Beethoven's music with an orchestra, and conduct it,
and devoured what could be acquired with genuine astonishment,
making it his own with so much cleverness that later on at
Freiburg he produced the music to "Egmont," which he had heard me
do, with very great success, as competent witnesses have assured
me. It was the same afterwards with the "Flying Dutchman," which
he grasped completely as a conductor. But beyond his specific
gift as a conductor, I do not think that I have influenced him
particularly, and should certainly not like him to be considered
my representative, although I may count upon his devotion. If the
Berlin plan at Kroll's is, after all, realized--and there is
again strong opposition to it now-I must think of having my
intentions more specially represented, and have young Ritter in
view for that purpose. As to this also we must have a talk.
However, the success of "Tannhauser" at Posen, under Schoneck's
direction, is again a striking incident. Within six days they
gave it four times, with the largest receipts. Only think what
trouble I had at the time with this opera at Dresden.
But enough. That you, like me, do not seem to be in good spirits,
grieves me very much, but I become more and more convinced that
people like us must always be uncomfortable, except in the
moments, hours, and days of productive excitement; but then we
enjoy and luxuriate during that time more than any other man. So
it is! Soon we shall talk! I am almost afraid of this joy! You
will write, will you not?
Adieu, dearest friend.
ZURICH, June 14th, 1853
BEST OF FRIENDS,
Today week--Thursday, June 28th--I start from here. At Carlsruhe
I shall have to stop till July 1st, in order to look at the
localities, and to make some preparations for the impending
Musical Festival there. On July 2nd I shall therefore hope to be
with you at Zurich. My time will be very short, but it will be an
unspeakable pleasure to live with you for a few days.
I enclose a few disappointing lines concerning your affair, which
have been sent to me by an unknown hand. I hope to be able to
tell you better news when I see you. I shall go straight from the
mail office to you at Zeltweg, to ask you about the hotel where I
shall stop. Probably Joachim and Franz will come with me. If it
is not too much trouble, notify my arrival at Winterthur to
Kirchner and Eschmann, whose personal acquaintance I should like
I have just received from Hartel your portrait, which seems to me
more like than the previous one. If there is a decent sculptor at
Zurich, you must oblige me by giving him a few sittings, for him
to model a large medallion in relief of you. I cannot bear
lithographed portraits; to me they have always a somewhat
bourgeois appearance, while sculpture represents a man in a very
In ten days, dearest friend, we shall wholly possess each other.
If you like to write to me, address Poste restante, Carlsruhe,
where I shall be till July 1st.
June 23rd, 1853
If I venture to trouble you with a few lines, my motive, I hope,
will gain me your kind forgiveness. In today's number of the
"Freimuthige Sachsen-Zeitung" the old Steckbrief (order of
arrest) (v. 49) against Capellmeister Richard Wagner has been
copied, with the remark "that it is said that he intends to
return to Germany, and therefore the police are requested to keep
a watchful eye on him, and, in case he is found in Germany, to
arrest him and deliver him here."
Although I know Capellmeister R. Wagner from of old, I do not
know how to communicate this news to him, because it is said that
most of the letters sent to refugees in Switzerland are either
opened or never delivered; and I am not acquainted with any other
A consultation which I had with some of Richard Wagner's friends
led us to determine, as the only means, upon asking Court-
Capellmeister Dr. Liszt, one of the most faithful and best-known
friends of the great composer, "to acquaint Capellmeister R.
Wagner with the above by some sure ways and means."
Asking you once more to pardon me for the trouble I give you, I
remain, with the greatest esteem and veneration,
I have just returned from a trip, and find your letter. Thank
God, I have not much to write in answer beyond expressing my joy
that you are coming so soon. Saturday, July 2nd, in the morning,
or at the latest in the evening, I shall await you at the mail
office. You might stay with me, but I am afraid you would not be
comfortable, especially if you come with Joachim and Franz. All
this we shall settle at once at the office. There is a good
hotel, Hotel Baur. I shall let Kirchner and Eschmann know. Good
Lord, how glad I am. Not another word by letter!
Could you let me know by telegram exactly when you are coming?
We have beautiful weather.
You see, dear friend, that I am approaching; and unless official
impediments delay me one day, I start the day after tomorrow-
Friday, July 1st--by the afternoon train for Basle, and arrive at
Zurich by the mail-coach on Saturday, early in the morning. At
the latest, I shall be there on Sunday at the same hour. Joachim
I expect here; Franz, I am sorry to say, will not be able to come
till later on.
CARLSRUHE, June 29th
FRANKFORT, Tuesday, July 12th, 1853, 6 p.m.
The Musical Festival at Carlsruhe will take place on September
20th, and I write you these few lines in haste to ask you to send
me the altered passage in the score of "Lohengrin" at Weymar.
If not inconvenient to you, I should be glad if you could lend me
for six weeks your Zurich parts of the overture to "Tannhauser"
and the pieces from "Lohengrin" for use at the Carlsruhe
festival; send them straight to Devrient. As the Hartels have not
printed the parts, it will not injure their interests; and we
shall at least be sure that the parts are correctly copied, as
you have already used them at Zurich. From Weymar I shall bring
the parts of the "Tannhauser" overture with me. At the two
concerts of the Carlsruhe festival the orchestras and artists of
the Darmstadt, Mannheim, and Carlsruhe theatres will co-operate.
As the performances take place at the theatre, the trebling of
the parts will be quite sufficient, for the house does not hold
more than fourteen or fifteen hundred people, and an orchestra of
a hundred and ninety and a chorus of something like a hundred and
sixty will consequently have a good effect. As soon as the
programme is settled I shall send it to you; for the present I
tell you only that the "Tannhauser" overture will make the
commencement of the first concert and the "Lohengrin" pieces the
close of the second. In addition to this, there will be two
pieces by Berlioz, the finale of Mendelssohn's "Loreley," the
Ninth Symphony, etc. Frau Heim will, I hope, on this occasion be
the reporter for Zurich, and I shall do my best to put her in a
good temper. Johanna sings this evening at a concert in the
theatre for the benefit of a local actress. "Tannhauser" will not
be given tomorrow. After the concert I shall see Schmidt, and
shall inquire as to particulars. . . . In case J. is still here
tomorrow, I shall pay my most humble respects to her. She
appeared first as Romeo, and yesterday sang Fides for the benefit
of the Pension Fund. With E. Devrient I spent a few hours
yesterday at Badenweiler. He is going to visit you at Zurich, but
can make no certain plans for the present, as he expects the
Prince Regent at Badenweiler. His daughter suffers a great deal,
and his wife also appeared to me in very weak health. Frau
Meyerbeer also I met at Badenweiler. With Schindelmeisser I shall
communicate by telegraph early tomorrow morning; and in case
"Lohengrin" is given on Thursday, I shall run over to see it, and
return home to Weymar on Friday.
Through your hat I nearly got into difficulties with the police
at Carlsruhe, because its species and colour are considered
specially suspicious, being accounted red, although grey. I was
accidentally advised of this; nevertheless I have got on well so
far, and shall always maintain that the hat is well-conditioned
and loyal, because you have given it to me.
Apropos, neither of the two persons to whom I have hitherto
talked about it was inclined to believe in your wholly
unpolitical position and mode of feeling. It will certainly take
some time before a more correct opinion of your circumstances and
your whole individuality is arrived at.
My best compliments to your wife, and many thanks for the
kindness and love she showed me during my stay at Zurich.
Do not forget either my most "well-conditioned" homages to Frau
Kumner and her sister. To our Grutly brother and his wife say all
the friendly and true things which I feel for them, and to
Baumgartner give a good "shake-hand" (translated into musical
Swiss) in my name. The days at the Zeltweg remain bright, sunny
days for me. God grant that we may soon be able to repeat them.
DOPPEL PEPS, alias "Double Extract de Peps," or "Double Stout
Peps con doppio movimento sempre crescendo al fffff," which
latter we shall live to witness at the performance of the
Once more I ask you if possible to grant the "Tannhauser" and
"Lohengrin" parts to the Carlsruhe festival, and kindly to write
a few words to that effect to Devrient. I am off to the concert.
Johanna sings three songs by Schubert ("Wanderer," "Trockne
Blumen," and "Ungeduld"), and I sing
[Figure: a musical score]
Pardon me if I have put the bars in the wrong places, and whistle
it better for yourself. Address Weymar.
DEAR, DEAR FRANZ,
Here I am in the capital of the Grisons; all is grey, grey. I
must take rose-coloured paper to get out of this grey, just as a
certain tinge of red glimmers through your grey hat. You see I am
compelled to take to bad jokes, and may therefore guess at my
mood. Solitude, solitude, nothing but horrible grey solitude,
since you went away! Wednesday evening my Zurich people tried to
dispel this grey solitude with their torches; it was very pretty
and solemn, and nothing like it had happened to me in my life
before. They had built an orchestra in front of my house in the
Zeltweg, and at first I thought they were erecting a scaffold for
me. They played and sang, we exchanged speeches, and I was
cheered by an innumerable multitude. I almost wish you had heard
the speech of the evening; it was very naive and sincere; I was
celebrated as a perfect saviour. The next morning I left in
company with St. George; since then rain has fallen incessantly.
Last night we found the only mail-coach from Coire to St. Moritz
full, and had to make up our minds to stop here for another two
nights and one day. Before leaving Zurich I fetched your
Frankfort letter from the post-office; alas! it was the last joy
which I took with me from deserted Zurich. Be cordially thanked
for it, you dear, departed joy!
Today I inaugurate your new writing-case with a first "written"
communication to you. Let me talk of business; all else has
become too terrible for my pen and ink since I possessed you
wholly, heard your noble voice, pressed your divine hand.
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