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Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde"; an essay on the Wagnerian drama   By: (1851-)

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Tiffany Vergon, Charles Aldarondo, Cam Venezuela, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.

WAGNER'S "TRISTAN UND ISOLDE"

AN ESSAY ON THE WAGNERIAN DRAMA

BY GEORGE AINSLIE HIGHT

Passing the visions, passing the night, Passing, unloosing the hold of my comrade's hands, Passing the song of the hermit bird and the tallying song of my soul, Victorious song, death's outlet song, yet varying, ever altering song, As low and wailing, yet clear the notes, rising and falling, flooding the night, Sadly sinking and fainting, as warning and warning, and yet again bursting with joy, Covering the earth and filling the spread of the heaven, As that powerful psalm in the night I heard from recesses.

Walt Whitman.

PREFACE

The following pages contain little if anything that is new, or that would be likely to interest those who are already at home in Wagner's work. They are intended for those who are beginning the study of Wagner. In spite of many books, I know of no Wagner literature in English to which a beginner can turn who wishes to know what Wagner was aiming at, in what respect his works differ from those of the operatic composers who preceded him. Some sort of Introduction appears to me a necessary preliminary to the study of Wagner, not because his works are artificial or unnatural, but because our minds have become perverted by the highly artificial products of the Italian and French opera, so that a work of Wagner at first appears to us very much as Paradise Lost or a tragedy of Sophokles would appear to a person who had never read anything but light French novels. He must entirely change the attitude of his mind, and the change, although it be a return to nature and truth, is not easy to make.

Those who wish fully to understand Wagner's aims must read his own published works. I have not attempted to give his views in a condensed form, being convinced that any such attempt could only end in failure. Whenever it has been made, the result has been a caricature; you cannot separate a man's work from his personality. All that I could do was to endeavour to lay some of the problems involved, as I conceive them, before the reader in my own words.

SAMER, PAS DE CALAIS, May , 1912.

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I. ON WAGNER CRITICISM

II. WAGNER AS MAN

III. WAGNER'S THEORETICAL WRITINGS

IV. THE ROOTS OF GERMAN MUSIC

V. THE WAGNERIAN DRAMA AND ITS ANTECEDENTS

VI. THE EARLIER VERSIONS OF THE TRISTAN MYTH

VII. WAGNER'S CONCEPTION OF THE TRISTAN MYTHOS

VIII. ON CERTAIN OBJECTIONS TO THE WAGNERIAN DRAMA

IX. MUSIC AS AN ART OF EXPRESSION

X. SOME REMARKS ON THE MUSICAL DICTION OF "TRISTAN UND ISOLDE"

XI. OBSERVATIONS ON THE TEXT AND MUSIC

XII. OBSERVATIONS ON THE TEXT AND MUSIC CONTINUED

XIII. OBSERVATIONS ON THE TEXT AND MUSIC CONTINUED

XIV. CONCLUSION

APPENDIX

[Greek: Theohus d' ephame eleountas aemas sugchoreutas te kahi choraegohus aemin dedo¯ke'nai to'n te Ap'ollo¯a kahi Mousas kahi dhae kahi tri'ton ephamen, ei' memnaemetha, Dionuson.]

CHAPTER I

ON WAGNER CRITICISM

A new work on Wagner requires some justification. It might be urged that, since the Meister has been dead for some decades and the violence of party feeling may be assumed to have somewhat abated, we are now in a position to form a sober estimate of his work, to review his aims, and judge of his measure of success.

Such, however, is not my purpose in the following pages. I conceive that the endeavour to estimate an artist's work involves a misconception of the nature of art. We can estimate products of utility, things expressible in figures, the weight of evidence, a Bill for Parliament, a tradesman's profits. But a work of art is written for our pleasure, and all that we can attempt is to understand it. True, we must judge in a certain sense, we must weigh and estimate before we can arrive at understanding; but it is one thing to meditate in the privacy of one's own mind, quite another to publish these constructive processes as an end in themselves, to set up critical "laws" and expect that poets are going to conform to them... Continue reading book >>




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