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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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Richard Wagner’s On Conducting (Üeber Das Dirigiren) is an enlightening treatise that delves into the art of conducting classical music with style and precision. Drawing upon his extensive experience as both a composer and conductor, Wagner provides aspiring conductors and music enthusiasts with invaluable insights and practical advice.

One of the most notable aspects of this book is how Wagner interweaves discussions of musical theory and philosophy, making it much more than a mere technical manual. He reflects on the essence of music and the conductor's role in bringing it to life, emphasizing the profound connection between composer, performer, and audience. Wagner's passionate prose beautifully captures the intensity and emotional power of classical music.

Throughout the book, Wagner covers a wide range of topics, from basic conducting techniques to more advanced concepts such as interpretation and personal style. He meticulously explains each step, providing clear instructions and examples that enable readers to fully grasp the nuances of conducting. Wagner's emphasis on precise and expressive gesturing, as well as his recommendations for achieving unity among musicians, are particularly enlightening.

What makes this treatise truly remarkable is Wagner's ability to convey his personal experiences and opinions. He shares anecdotes that not only entertain but also shed light on the challenges and rewards of conducting. One cannot help but appreciate his candid reflections on the trials conductors face in interpreting and presenting established works, while also pushing boundaries and creating innovative performances.

Although published in the 19th century, Wagner's ideas continue to resonate with modern conductors and music lovers alike. His emphasis on originality and creativity aligns with contemporary interpretations of classical music, reflecting the timeless nature of his insights. Even readers not versed in music will find themselves inspired by his unwavering dedication to the art form.

On Conducting is not without its flaws, however. As this treatise was originally written in German, the translation occasionally feels a bit clunky and may not fully capture Wagner's eloquence and poetic expression. Additionally, while the technical aspects of conducting are thoroughly addressed, a more comprehensive exploration of the conductor's relationship with the orchestra could have further enriched the text.

Despite these minor shortcomings, On Conducting is an indispensable guide that deserves a place on the bookshelves of conductors, musicians, and music enthusiasts. Wagner's ability to meld technical precision, artistic vision, and personal experience creates a captivating read that serves as a guide, mentor, and a source of inspiration for all seeking to master the art of conducting classical music.

First Page:






"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.]


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... Continue reading book >>

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