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On Conducting (Üeber Das Dirigiren) : a Treatise on Style in the Execution of Classical Music,   By: (1813-1883)

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

POEM FRONTISPIECE TRANSLATOR'S NOTE ON CONDUCTING APPENDIX A APPENDIX B APPENDIX C APPENDIX D

POEM FRONTISPIECE

(1869).

MOTTO NACH GOETHE:

"Fliegenschnauz' und Muckennas' Mit euren Anverwandten, Frosch im Laub und Grill' im Gras, Ihr seid mir Musikanten!"

"Flysnout and Midgenose, With all your kindred, too, Treefrog and Meadow grig. True musicians, YOU!"

(After GOETHE).

[The lines travestied are taken from "Oberon und Titanias goldene Hochzeit." Intermezzo, Walpurgisnacht. Faust I.]

TRANSLATOR'S NOTE.

Wagner's Ueber das Dirigiren was published simultaneously in the "Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik" and the "New Yorker Musik zeitung," 1869. It was immediately issued in book form, Leipzig, 1869, and is now incorporated in the author's collected writings, Vol. VIII. p. 325 410. ("Gesammelte Schriften und Dichtungen von Richard Wagner," ten volumes, Leipzig, 1871 1883.) For various reasons, chiefly personal, the book met with much opposition in Germany, but it was extensively read, and has done a great deal of good. It is unique in the literature of music: a treatise on style in the execution of classical music, written by a great practical master of the grand style. Certain asperities which pervade it from beginning to end could not well be omitted in the translation; care has, however, been taken not to exaggerate them. To elucidate some points in the text sundry extracts from other writings of Wagner have been appended. The footnotes, throughout, are the translator's.

ON CONDUCTING

The following pages are intended to form a record of my experience in a department of music which has hitherto been left to professional routine and amateur criticism. I shall appeal to professional executants, both instrumentalists and vocalists, rather than to conductors; since the executants only can tell whether, or not, they have been led by a competent conductor. I do not mean to set up a system, but simply to state certain facts, and record a number of practical observations.

Composers cannot afford to be indifferent to the manner in which their works are presented to the public; and the public, naturally, cannot be expected to decide whether the performance of a piece of music is correct or faulty, since there are no data beyond the actual effect of the performance to judge by.

I shall endeavour to throw some light upon the characteristics of musical performances in Germany with regard to the concert room, as well as to the theatre. Those who have experience in such matters are aware that, in most cases, the defective constitution of German orchestras and the faults of their performances are due to the shortcomings of the conductors ("Capellmeister," "Musikdirectoren," etc.). The demands upon the orchestras have increased greatly of late, their task has become more difficult and more complicated; yet the directors of our art institutions, display increasing negligence in their choice of conductors. In the days when Mozart's scores afforded the highest tasks that could be set before an orchestra, the typical German Capellmeister was a formidable personage, who knew how to make himself respected at his post sure of his business, strict, despotic, and by no means polite. Friedrich Schneider, of Dessau, was the last representative I have met with of this now extinct species. Guhr, of Frankfort, also may be reckoned as belonging to it. The attitude of these men towards modern music was certainly "old fashioned"; but, in their own way, they produced good solid work: as I found not more than eight years ago [Footnote: Circa, 1861... Continue reading book >>




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