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Title: Modern Musical Drift
Author: Henderson, W. J. (William James)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                        Modern Musical Drift

                        MODERN MUSICAL DRIFT


                           W. J. Henderson

            Author of "The Story of Music," "Preludes and
                        Studies," etc., etc.

                      Longmans, Green, and Co.
                  91 and 93 Fifth Avenue, New York
                          London and Bombay

                         _Copyright, 1904_,
                    BY LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.

                        _All rights reserved_


                    _TO MY FRIEND AND COLLEAGUE,
                           JAMES HUNEKER._

_Dear James_:

  _Beside the ebon Styx
    The brood harmonious wanders slow.
  A backward gaze on earth they fix,
    And ask, "Where doth dear Music go?"_

  _I fancy Palestrina stares,
    And good Scarlatti gasps for breath,
  While Handel, with his figured airs,
    Bemoans poor Music's early death._

  _Old Haydn shakes his long peruke,
    And Mozart wags his pendant cue,
  As both record their soft rebuke:
    "What is it that these moderns do?"_

  _Alone in all that troubled throng
    One moves with calm, unruffled brow;
  For still Sebastian's voice is strong
    To say, "'Twas I who taught them how."_

  _So when the storms discordant brew,
    You smile at me across the house;
  For well you know there's nothing new,
    Not even (pardon!) in your Strauss._

  _Except, perhaps, a fine disguise
    Of leading motives, wood and strings,
  Which make a score look wondrous wise,
    And seem to mean to many things._

  _So weave your fancies; I'll weave mine;
    And let them wander, dark or bright.
  The Lords of Art have graven fine;
    Perchance we both discern aright._

  _W. J. H._

  _August, 1904._


_PARSIFALIA_                                           PAGE

I. A PURE FOOL IN THE NEW WORLD                          1

II. ETHICS AND ÆSTHETICS                                13

III. THE NATIONAL RELIGIOUS DRAMA                       27


  I. A FUTILE GOD AND A POTENT DEVIL                    39

 II. THE WOMAN AND THE SERPENT                          55

III. BACK-WORLDS GODS AND OVER-WOMAN                    69

_ISOLDE'S SERVING-WOMAN_                                85


  I. THE HISTORICAL SURVEY                              98

 II. THE ÆSTHETIC VIEW                                 121

III. WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?                            139

 IV. STRAUSS AND THE SONG WRITERS                      156


  I. ITALIAN OPERA OF TO-DAY                           168


_THE ORATORIO OF TO-DAY_                               195

                       _Modern Musical Drift_


                  I.--A PURE FOOL IN THE NEW WORLD

                                The Holy Grail!--I trust
                          We are green in heaven's eyes.

                                  TENNYSON, _The Holy Grail_.

It was the night before Christmas. The city of Gotham was surfeited
with the vast spectacle of wealth in its annual orgy of expenditure.
Women had careered madly through the savings of a twelvemonth;
and desperate husbands, driven almost to the abyss of insanity,
had plunged blindly into the vortex of buying, and mortgaged the
labor of the next half-year. It was the merry Yule-tide, when every
self-respecting New Yorker feels that it is incumbent upon him to
assume a bank account, if he have it not, and to buy for his neighbor
Christmas gifts more expensive than the neighbor can buy for him.

On the eve of Christmas Day it seemed as if half the city had turned
to its last madness, for Wagner's "Parsifal," torn from the holy
seclusion of Baireuth by the ruthless hand of an American showman
(from Vienna), was produced at the Metropolitan Opera-House for the
first time in the New World. The fiat had gone forth that all prices
of admission were to be doubled at the box office; and it was no
secret that sidewalk venders of tickets were charging five times
the figures nominated in the bond. It had been made known that the
performance would begin at five of the clock in the afternoon, and
that after the first act there would be an intermission of nearly two
hours for rest and refreshment.

Restaurateurs in the neighborhood of the opera-house had sung their
"Laus Deo" and marked up their schedule of charges. Society had been
vainly interrogated by reporters as to how it intended to dress for a
solemn festival, split between afternoon and evening. Trumpeters had
been secured to blow selected motives to warn the faithful to their
seats, and it had been published in very large type that against the
singers engaged in the production had been launched the curse of
Wahnfried. Nothing had been neglected that might add fresh fire to
the flaming fever of extravagance.

At the appointed hour the ceremonial of the intoning of the motives
was performed, and a little later the curtains swung wide to disclose
the sylvan retreat near the Castle of Monsalvat. The deed was
accomplished. The black Alberich of the Yankee ooze had wrested from
its Baireuth bed the Rheingold of the Wagner family, and the gods of
the Wahnfried hearthstone shivered in their Dämmerung.

A vast and strange assemblage sat in bewildered silence at the
performance, and, having heard the martial pæans of much free
advertising, went away thrilled with the belief that it had assisted
at the introduction to America of the "masterpiece" of Wagner. O ye
Norse gods and little fish-maidens! There was a Wagner once--but no

What kind of impression did this drama make upon the unprejudiced
and equipoised mind? What is the real truth about this huge ragoût
of mysticism and orchestration which in the looming shadows of the
Festspielhaus is called "sacred"? The story of "Parsifal" has been
told over and over again. The themes are becomingly catalogued in the
handbooks of Wolzogen, Heinz, and Kufferath. The very boarding-school
girls smirk at one another as they hum "Der Reine Thor," and
rosy-cheeked boys can whistle the Klingsor theme. There is no need to
rehearse here either the story or the music. But let us come at once
to some conclusions drawn from a cool, dispassionate study of a dozen
performances of "Parsifal" beyond the factitious influences created
by the Baireuth exaltation.

"Parsifal" is the child of Wagner's artistic decrepitude. It is a
decrescendo in inspiration, a ritardando in invention. More than any
other drama of Wagner does it rely upon the dazzling of the eye to
dull the keenness of the musical ear. It is a most imposing pageant
set to unimposing music. Wagner fired heaven once with the immolation
of Brünnhilde. It was not to be done again. The light on the Holy
Grail is white and cold.

The entire machinery of the familiar Wagnerian drama is here; but
the scene painter, the stage manager, the mechanician, and the
electrician bravely hold up the hands of the musician. Cast any aged
rags of scenery on the stage; let the lights be as dim and flickering
as the dying fancies of Adrian; let the actors be of the breed of
the subsidized provincial German theatre, and yet the last act of
"Tristan und Isolde" will peal its eloquence into the heart and blast
the soul with the lightnings of genius. Give the first act of "Die
Walküre," most hackneyed of all great acts, the tottering timbers of
battered scenes, a moonlight of such Prussian blue as never was on
sea or land, and still the might and power of its pulsating passion
will conquer.

But strip "Parsifal" of its scenic and mechanic glories, and you
will lay bare the skeleton of a system with only a few shreds of the
flesh left upon it. The poem of "Parsifal" is almost utterly devoid
of those great basic elements which make human life dramatic for men
and women. Nowhere in it do we see, as in Wagner's other works, the
primeval man and woman at gaze upon each other in the naked barbaric
splendor of desire. Instead of the one passion which makes plays, we
are asked to consider the suffering of a man who is as remote from
our common sympathies as his figure is from our eyes when it lies
recumbent in the seat behind the altar of the Grail.

Amfortas is held up as typical of the sufferings of humanity under
the curse of carnal sin. Tannhäuser is more eloquent than a thousand
of him. We see Tannhäuser in the grip of the temptress; of the sin
of Amfortas we hear talk, talk, talk; while the sufferer himself is
carried about upon a litter,--a charnel-house sight,--making his
unending moan to the patient stars.

The hero of the story, young Parsifal, comes before us looking like
young Siegfried and wearing a musical tag of similar style. In
the last act he is bearded and armored, again like Siegfried, and
his theme is exfoliated in an umbrageous harmony of trumpets and
trombones. But what a tenuous echo he is, after all! Siegfried blazes
with all the glory of manhood: he has hot blood in his veins; and he
carves his way through fire and the wrath of a god to the mountain of
his heart's desire.

Parsifal loves no woman. He cannot, for he is the embodiment of
ascetic, or at least monastic, denial. The one emotion which he
submits for our hearts is pity, a most excellent emotion and admitted
to be akin to love. A highly respected sister-in-law of love it may
be; but love is love, and spins the big round world down the grooves
of time.

As an ethical basis of this drama, we are asked to accept a
philosophy of pity, founded on the ethics of Arthur Schopenhauer and
amplified by the adoption of certain of the teachings of Buddha.
Instead of those beautiful doctrines of redemption through the
love and self-sacrifice of woman, so eloquently preached in some
of Wagner's other dramas, we are besought to look upon woman as a
temptress, and renunciation of love as the highway to heaven.

As the exemplar of the claim of pity, we are presented with
the picture of the wounded Amfortas, who is a lay figure of
incomprehensible personality. He is shown in the first act, and the
pity doctrine is further preached in the pother made over the killing
of the swan (such a big, fat, able-bodied swan!). As the master of
evil we behold Klingsor, who comes before us in the first scene of
the second act with more paraphernalia of slate-green walls, blue
smoke, and exclamatory incantations than Faust ever had in his salad
days at the Paris Grand Opera.

Kundry, the only woman in the play, is an ill-made muddle of
inhumanity, who never commands a single instant of sympathy. She
strives by service to atone for her sins, which are committed under
the spell of Klingsor. She has neither love nor passion. Gurnemanz,
the aged knight, is a wearisome talker. He tells the story of his
life or any one else's life to whomsoever will listen. The audience
cannot escape.

With the exception of Klingsor and his "flower-girls"--a charming
euphemism--these puppets are shown to us in the first scene, in which
the necessary explanations are made in long-winded speeches, mostly
by Gurnemanz, seated on a rock and reciting like weary Wotan in Act
II. of "Die Walküre." When this doddering graphophone comes to lead
Parsifal to the castle of the Grail, Wagner sorts over his old plans
and specifications and selects Siegfried's Rhine Journey.

But this time it is a sedate and pious progress finishing with bells
and chorals. Nevertheless, it is one of the fine spots in the work.
When the bells are in tune, it is imposing. The scenery changes in an
ingenious and effective panorama.

Then comes the crown of the act and the noblest scene in the
work,--the unveiling of the Grail and the ceremony of the Last
Supper. This is not the time for a discussion of the propriety of
putting such matters on the stage. Suffice it to say, that here
Wagner has accomplished one of the most triumphant demonstrations of
the effectiveness of his organic union of the arts tributary to the
drama. Music, text, action, scenic form and color, all work together
in an irresistibly potent symphony of symbolism, which no reverent
man can hear and see without emotion. It makes "Parsifal" almost

The second act opens with the exhibition of Klingsor, as already
noted. He is as unreal as the purple light which illumines Kundry
when he summons her from the trapdoor in the stage. She rises like
Mother Erda in "Siegfried," Act III., but, oh, so different! Away
with such cheap and paltry claptrap as this scene! Poor Wagner, he
had to write it to explain himself; and in "Parsifal" he needed a lot
of explanation. Not all the Ellises nor Wolzogens in the world could
blot out the Drury Lane stain of this one scene. Even the exclamatory
"Ha, ha!" of the time-dishonored stage villain is not spared us.

The second scene of the act is the magic garden of flower-maidens,
Venusberg, No. 2. No. 1 is much better, both dramatically and
musically. This one is "Tannhäuser" and water, and very poor water
at that. Yet it is the scene which will please the populace most,
when the flower-girls are pretty and graceful, for their music is
languorous and suggestive of Leo Delibes raised to the seventh power.

But there is nothing human in this whole scene. Kundry, unlike
Venus, does not love the man she tempts. Venus is at the heart a
passionate, despairing woman. Kundry is the deputed and bewitched
instrument of a Wahnfried Cagliostro. Her deed is that of a woman of
the pavement; her extenuation the pitiful and transparent fact that
she plies her trade in a trance and under an irresistible spell. We
see her put in the trance; we see her come out of it. Before and
after it she is a rough and revolting yokel with tangled black locks
and a gunny bag for her garb. In the trance she is transformed by the
power of the magician to a beautiful blonde in a diaphanous décolleté

The symbolism of the whole scene is weak and tottering. The logic of
the enlightenment of Parsifal by the long-drawn kiss with wind and
string accompaniment (see "Siegfried," Act III.) is beyond finite
conception. The symbolism of the waking of a sleeping Valkyr maiden
by the first kiss of love is something that even the most hardened
society woman might understand; but the employment of a courtesan's
salute to enlighten a pure fool by pity is a device which swings
futile between heaven and earth.

The last act is a flat desert of tedium, with oases of musical
verdure. Gurnemanz has more opportunities to lecture on Amfortas,
Good Friday, and similar topics, but even with the aid of Wagner's
own musical illustrations he is uninteresting. The foot-washing
episode is a pitiable and shocking plagiarism from the life of
Christ. The central figure, with its beard, its long hair, and its
light-tinted robe, is so like the Good Shepherd of the paintings that
it suggests an automaton replica. And this is all so inessential. It
is dragged in to give the thing a sacred atmosphere.

The really beautiful places in the first scene of the last act are
the splendid proclamation of the Grail theme after the baptism of
Parsifal--one of the few bursts of power which recall the Wagner of
"Die Walküre"--and the ineffably lovely peacefulness of the Good
Friday music. This indeed is an inspired page in the score; but it
was written twenty-five years before the drama was produced.

The final scene is a weak and diluted repetition of the second scene
of the first act. This time Parsifal unveils the Grail. The music
is necessarily built of the same materials. It does not achieve its
effect. Neither is the pictorial impression as deep. We have seen
it all before. The gorgeous, pealing brass passage at the second
entrance to the Grail hall is the most muscular thing in the whole
act, but it stands by itself. It seems to have no logical place in
the musical scheme.

The score of this drama is mostly a long, faint echo of Wagner's
greatest works. Siegfried vainly strives to animate this Parsifalian
puppet of renunciation with the blood of the Volsung woe. Cloudlike
shreds of "Tristan und Isolde" struggle to float sunset tints across
this pallid sky. All is copying, futile, without inspiration,
without newness,--a hotch-potch of the old marketable materials made
over with much constructive skill, but with commercial thrift and
inartistic insincerity. There is hardly a note of honest æsthetic
conviction in the whole thing. One is inclined to think that Wagner
did not believe in it himself.

These, then, are the conclusions gathered from performances in
a common opera-house of Wagner's religious, symbolical, ethical,
philosophical, and highly gilded summary of his artistic creed. When
this work is played in Baireuth, where churchly airs are assumed
and the people robe their spirits in sackcloth and ashes, the
impression is different. But now that "Parsifal" has come out into
the light of morning and faced the cold glare of the work-day world,
it must be measured by the artistic standards which are applied to
Wagner's other dramas. Weighed in the balance with "Tristan und
Isolde" or any of the "Ring" works, except perhaps "Rheingold," to
which it is artistically not a stranger, it must be found wanting.
Beside "Tannhäuser," which treats the same subject, it is a mass of
glittering artificialities. Wagner was wise in wishing that this
drama should be preserved for home consumption.

                      II.--ETHICS AND ÆSTHETICS

    The cut nails of machine divinity may be driven in, but they
    won't clinch.

                             OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES,
              _The Professor at the Breakfast Table_, Ch. IV.

There was no question that Gotham--wicked, wayward Gotham--was much
stirred up by this production. It was generally accepted as a kind
of religious ceremony, as to which no right-minded gentleman should
deliver himself of critical comment. Yet there were some picturesque
exceptions to the general state. A few ministers of the Gospel sprang
to the pulpit or the interviewer, and descanted in glowing terms on
the outrageous irreligion of the thing, or rather on the sacrilege of
the representation by "painted actors" of incidents in the life of
Christ. Of course these gentlemen had not taken the trouble to study
the work in the original, and some of them showed conclusively that
they were utterly ignorant of it.

But this chanced to be one of those cases in which the pulpit is not
immune. The ignorance of the reverend utterers of sweeping statements
was blithely exposed by some of the men whose business it has been
for many years to study the works of Wagner. Let us, then, in all
justice and humility, with due observance of the Grail adorers on the
one side and the objecting pulpit orators on the other, ask ourselves
how much of real Christianity is disclosed in "Parsifal." How much
more of German mystic philosophy, of mediævalism, of the teachings of
Siddartha, and lastly of pure paganism? What is this work, after all,
but a summary of the blind gropings of the imaginative Wagner after a
philosophy beyond his reach?

Why all this pother about the sacrilege of putting the Holy Grail on
the stage? Was there ever a Holy Grail? Is the green glass chalice
which now reposes peacefully in Genoa a holy vessel? Did the blood of
Christ ever sanctify it? Did Joseph of Arimathea catch the precious
drops in it; and was it really the vessel used at the Last Supper of
Jesus and his apostles?

The ceremony of the Last Supper is unquestionably represented in a
crude manner in Wagner's drama, where it is mixed with a pictorial
representation of the legendary tale that the Christians may make
objection with good ground. The place which the communion occupies in
the ceremonies of the Church is such that to see it made part of a
public theatrical performance, no matter how solemn, or how artistic,
or how honest in its purpose to treat holy things reverentially, must
be repugnant to every Christian mind.

As to this, nothing more need be said. Of the effect of the
representation on an audience there can be no doubt. It is impressive
in the highest degree. The emotions caused by the unveiling scene are
a tribute to the power of theatrical art. But let it be thoroughly
understood that the stage picture and the music are the most
influential elements. Taking that scene as a point of suggestion,
let us ask ourselves how much of real Christianity there is in
"Parsifal." Let us examine the ethics of the drama and probe its

The doctrine of enlightenment by pity, preached so insistently in
this drama, has no relation to Christianity. The religion of Jesus
Christ knows of but one enlightenment, that by faith. It is "he that
believeth," not he that pitieth. The enlightenment of faith enables
the Christian to conceive God. But what do we find in "Parsifal"?
A man has committed a mortal sin, in that he has fallen from that
state of personal chastity in which the servants of the Holy Grail
are required to live. The outward and visible sign of his fall is
an immediate physical (with accompanying spiritual) punishment,
inflicted by the impious hand of the Tempter himself.

Here Wagner follows the story as told by Chrétien des Troyes, and
not the version of Wolfram von Eschenbach. Chrétien made the spear
that with which Longinus pierced the side of the Saviour. Wolfram
made it simply a poisoned lance. Wagner accepted the sacred spear,
because he was always an eager searcher after ethical significance,
even when there was less virtue in it than there is in this one. The
wound of the sacred lance is more than physical; it is a mortal hurt
of the soul. Wagner tells us that for such a wound there can be but
one cure, a touch of the selfsame lance in the hands of one who has
successfully withstood the temptation to which the sufferer fell a

Very well. There is absolutely no authority for such a conclusion.
It is a bit of mediæval religious mysticism, an adaptation of the
fabulous miracles. Wagner, however, has a right to manufacture
miracles for a fabulous story. He has as much right to do it in
the tale of the Holy Grail as he had in the matter of Hagen's
wonder-working beverages in "Götterdämmerung."

But when he tells us that the reason for Parsifal's action is
enlightenment by pity, he goes still farther away from the dogmas
and doctrines of Christianity and moves through the philosophy of
Arthur Schopenhauer toward the religion of the Buddha. It is a grave
error to relegate to a secondary place the influence of Schopenhauer
on Wagner and to credit the poet-composer with a direct entry into
the teachings of the Gautama. We must bear in mind continually that
Wagner got from Schopenhauer two great doctrines, one artistic, and
the other ethical.

Schopenhauer propounded as the basis of his æsthetic system the
theorem that it is the business of art to represent to us the eternal
essence of things by means of prototypes. The conditions of time
and place, cause and tendency, must be cleared away, and the naked
Eternal Idea underneath disclosed. The discernment and revelation of
this Idea are the duty and privilege of art.

Wagner, then, sought to set forth his personages and their actions
as symbolical. They were to be visual embodiments of Eternal Ideas.
Amfortas is the sinner in the agony of his punishment. Parsifal
is the savior, the pure one who can redeem; Klingsor is the evil
one, and Kundry the unwilling slave of his power. If here we find
ourselves involved in some contradictions, let us be patient.
Wagner's logic is that of a poet and a musician. It will not stand
the test of the metaphysician.

But to resume. The ethical doctrine which the composer obtained from
Schopenhauer was more significant in its results. Schopenhauer's
philosophic system need not be set forth here. Suffice it to say that
ethically its only possible outcome was negative. The world is so bad
that the chief end of man should be to get out of it.

To reach the state of mind in which that end is the chief object,
one must rid himself of all desire and yearn to arrive at a complete
negation of the will to live. Recall "Tristan und Isolde." The first
step toward the negation of the will to live is perfect sympathy with
suffering. Then comes asceticism, which leads directly away from life
toward a condition of abstraction.

Here the thought touches the monasticism of the early Church and
avows a kinship with the Buddhistic doctrine. Withdrawal from the
world and safety by absorption into the universal unconsciousness
were the Buddhist's hope of peace. But neither Gautama nor
Schopenhauer had any definite, positive reason for this. Here the
early monk, who was looking out for the salvation of his own precious
soul and letting other people's souls take care of themselves, came
nearer to the ideals of Wagner as set forth in "Parsifal."

No, Schopenhauer did not teach Wagner the doctrine of "enlightenment
by pity," for with Schopenhauer pity was not enlightenment, but the
beginning of a personal abstraction. A man was sorry for others
because they were in the world, the very worst place a man could
inhabit. His sensuous nature made him like the things he found here
(such as flower-maidens, for example); and his duty was to mortify
the flesh, get rid of all his mortal appetites, live in asceticism,
and die as soon as possible. Wagner was fond of grafting his own
ideas on the philosophical systems of bigger men than himself. So
he invented this doctrine of enlightenment. How he worked out his
psychologic plan we shall see presently.

No doubt Wagner had his eye on Buddhism when he wrote "Parsifal."
It is history that he once contemplated a Buddhistic drama, called
"The Victors," in which he was to preach the doctrine of fleshly
renunciation and salvation through the mortification of desire. But
he abandoned the scheme. The story was Eastern, and he did some
delving in Oriental literature.

How the "Four Sublime Verities" of Gautama, the founder of the
Buddhistic religion, must have appealed to him! These were, first,
that pain exists; second, that the cause of pain is desire or
attachment; third, that pain can be ended by Nirvana; and fourth, how
to attain Nirvana.

The way to Nirvana is hard, much harder than the path to the
Christian Heaven, for the man must walk it without aid. There is no
vicarious sacrifice in the religion of Siddartha. You must walk the
wine-press alone, and drink of the dregs of life. All the best of the
Ten Commandments are found in the precepts of this religion. Added to
them are minor commands looking to complete abstraction.

For example, a Bhikshu (an order of monk) is forbidden to look at
or converse with a woman lest emotion should disturb the serene
indifference of his soul. He must not even save his mother if she is
drowning, except with a long stick reached toward her.

"To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock," seems to have been
the chief business of the founder. Thus is he always represented
cross-legged and contemplative, with eyes downcast, "cleaving with
the thunderbolt of science the mountain of ignorance," and perceiving
the illusory nature of all things. So he comes at last to that state
in which he breaks the bonds binding him to existence and enters into
the complete Nirvana.

In this religion pity is pre-eminent, for it is sympathy with
suffering. But it does not confine itself to human beings. Animals
are also to share our sympathies, and here we meet with the
foundation of Wagner's idea in "Parsifal" of the sacredness of the
life of dumb creatures in the realms of the Holy Grail. But now let
us see how Wagner works out his jumble of religious and philosophic

Parsifal is a pure fool. Weigh that, first of all. He knows nothing;
yet when he enters the flower-garden he compliments the women on
their beauty, and fails to understand what they want of him. O wise
young judge! this pure fool, who does not know what is the matter
with Amfortas, and therefore has no desire to aid him, must be
enlightened by pity. So Wagner sets Kundry to work to tell him the
story of his mother's sufferings, and she ends the narration by
printing a long kiss upon his lips. Wagner was fond of long kisses
set to music, and he used one in "Siegfried" as an awakener.

Now what happens? This salacious kiss of an unchaste woman, imprinted
on the lips of a youth who was, according to Wagner's delineation
of him, as innocent as a child of eight or ten, instantly opens
up to him the entire experience of Amfortas, and fills him with
pity and horror! That is, indeed, a miracle. And to make the
thing psychologically more absurd, Wagner shows us this "pure
fool" battling madly with the simultaneous working of these two
emotions. What has become of the enlightenment by pity? Plainly
the enlightenment comes first and the pity afterward! Furthermore,
Parsifal prays to the Redeemer for forgiveness for his failure to
understand the scene in the hall of the Grail. But, as H. E. Krehbiel
pertinently asked in an article in the "New York Tribune," what could
the boy have done when he had not yet got the sacred spear from

What a hold, then, the Buddhistic ideas, toward which Wagner was
led by Schopenhauer, had taken upon him! The religion of the crucial
scene of the drama is not Christian at all. The outward and visible
signs of the scene are purely pagan, but the underlying philosophy
is Buddhistic. It is the final issue of the dreams which this master
visionary had in his mind when he planned "The Victors." The only
remnant of Christian story in this act is the reminiscence of the
drama which Wagner once planned relating to the Saviour.

In his "Jesus of Nazareth" he intended to show Mary of Magdala in
love with the Divine One. Wagner was no fool. Nor was he a madman, as
Nordau has tried to show. But he was first, last, and all the time a
theatrical thinker. His imagination dwelt in the show-house, and all
was grist that came to his mill. If he had thought the meditations of
the Creator good material for a music drama, he would have laid his
artistic hands upon the eternal throne itself.

Thus, he shrank not from grafting spectacular show, Schopenhauerian
ethics, and Buddhistic dogmas on the legend of the Holy Grail. As
a matter of absolute fact, the Christian elements in this drama
are almost wholly spectacular and in the nature of accessories. If
ministers of the Gospel desire to be shocked by "Parsifal,"--and
they have reason to be, if they look for it in the right place,--let
them consider the place which the Holy Grail and the ceremony of the
communion occupy in this play.

They are merely stage devices to heighten the picture of the
suffering of Amfortas, and to impress upon our minds the vital need
of the enlightenment of the pure fool. The processional of the Grail
is spectacle pure and simple. The eating of the Last Supper is
spectacle pure and simple. It has absolutely nothing to do with the
story of the drama.

The unveiling of the Grail is necessary because it shows how Amfortas
is made to suffer agony. But it is no assistance to such Christian
ethics as there are in this muddle. If Amfortas has an incurable
wound, which is merely the outward symbol of conscience, he ought not
to need the sight of the Grail to make him feel worse. The thought of
his unworthiness to be a member of the chaste brotherhood should be

The foot-washing incident is theatricalism of the crassest kind. Can
any one show that it has a direct connection with the development
of the story? The argument in its favor is that it shows Kundry
as a penitent, and establishes her in relations of atonement with
Parsifal. Quite unnecessary, for the significance of the second act
is that Parsifal, having resisted her tempting, is spiritually her
master and also her redeemer. The act of absolution is made possible
by his triumph over the flesh. He could have baptized her and bidden
her trust in the Lord without offering us a portrait of the Saviour
as represented in the seventh chapter of St. Luke:--

    "And behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when
    she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house,
    brought an alabaster box of ointment,

    "And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to
    wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs
    of her head, and kissed his feet and anointed them with the

Wagner brings on the tears after the foot-washing, so that he can
show us how Kundry was released from the curse of laughter. Or was
the curse imposed solely that this theatrical picture might be

The sacred spear has some connection with the story, but the weapon
is not an important feature of Christianity. There is even room for
doubt as to whether there ever was a sacred spear at all. The wound
certainly existed; but who can vouch for the preservation of the
spear as an object of reverence? So let us for the present dismiss
the profound religious basis of Richard Wagner's "Parsifal." Buddha
and Arthur Schopenhauer taught the dramatist more essentials than the
Holy Bible did. The foundations of the drama rest on the philosophy
of negation. The Christianity is merely ornamental, spectacular, and


    I shall lay down a type of theological orthodoxy to which all
    the divine legends in our city must conform.

                             PLATO, _Republic_ (_Grote's abstract_).

"Parsifal" is the supreme test of the outcome of Wagner's theory
that the modern theatre ought to bear the same relation to the life
of the people as the theatre of the Greeks did. All students of the
master's writings know that he preached this especially in those
years when his system had attained definite and detailed form in
his mind. In the Greek theatre he saw an art influence far-reaching
and mighty,--an influence which dominated because it dramatized the
artistic and religious ideals of a people. That he failed to discern
the identity of religion and art in the symbolical embodiments named
gods by the imaginative Greeks is another story.

Furthermore, he objected strenuously and rightly to any criticism of
his philosophic and artistic system based on the study of his early
works, which were written before his system was fully developed. In
the "Communication to My Friends" he says:--

    "Certain critics who pretend to judge my art doings as a
    connected whole have set about their task with this same
    uncritical heedlessness and lack of feeling. Views on the
    nature of art that I have proclaimed from a standpoint which
    it took me years of evolution step by step to gain, they
    seize on for the standard of their verdict, and point them
    back upon those very compositions from which I started on the
    natural path of evolution that led me to this standpoint.

    "When for instance--not from the standpoint of abstract
    æsthetics, but from that of practical artistic experience--I
    denote the _Christian principle as hostile to or incapable of
    art_, these critics point me out the contradiction in which
    I stand toward my earlier dramatic works, which undoubtedly
    are filled with a certain tincture of this principle so
    inextricably blended with our modern evolution."

Excellent. The italics are not Wagner's. Let us, then, avoid falling
into the error of chaining Wagner to the beautiful Christianity
idealized by dramatic art, which he, unwise youth that he was, poured
into his "Tannhäuser," and confine ourselves to the full-fledged
"Parsifal," in which we are not, as he tells us, to regard the
Christianity as a vital art principle, but as one opposed to true
art. What does the man mean?

One thing is clear. Wagner did endeavor to theatricalize religions
and to parody in his feeble modern manner the theatre of the Greeks.
But if he failed (and who can doubt that he did after studying the
bloodless philosophy of the last product of his genius?), it was
because he was trying to do with calculating forethought what the
Greek did spontaneously, and because his religion supplied him
plentifully and unconsciously with the Schopenhauerian materials of
art; namely, Eternal Ideas represented by means of prototypes.

How came Wagner to fail in his puerile attempt to make a drama
out of a supposed incident in the life of Christ? Misled by the
similarity of his conception of the Saviour of mankind as a pure
human being resisting the seductions of a temptress in the person
of Mary Magdalen to his Tannhäuser battling with carnal passion
typified by Venus, or his Parsifal, remaining innocent through sheer
guilelessness, he set out to thrust into the glare of the footlights
the personality of Jesus. And then he found that the personality
was not merely human, nor the poetic embodiment of an idea, even an
Eternal Idea, but an everlasting miracle and mystery, a divinity
beyond the reach of his trap-doors, purple lights, and tenor tubas.

The story of Christ is tremendously dramatic, but it has eluded
every attempt at theatrical treatment. The thing done at Oberammergau
is not drama, but an old-fashioned mystery play. It is a moving
panorama. Pinero, Belasco, or even Ibsen would shrink from an attempt
to dramatize for the ordinary theatre the story of the Saviour. But
Wagner, blinded by his own ambition to make a show of all things,
to seize upon every suggestion of religion as material for music,
thought for a time that he could turn the Son of Man into a mime.

What a different art work was that of the Greek dramatist! How much
more direct and thornless was the path by which he reached the
theatrical representation of his gods and goddesses and the dramatic
relation of the fables in which they were the actors! With his stylus
in hand he sat at gaze upon a world of personated ideas, of symbols
in action. All was poetic and imaginative. All was the creation of
the human mind speculating upon the operation of unseen forces and
subtle passions. There was no almighty revelation to baffle him. The
infinite did not come and stand before him in an incomprehensible
mortalization of itself. What he had of the world beyond the skies
was the dreaming of his own kind.

What were Zeus and Hermes, Aphrodite and Hera, Artemis and Apollo,
Pallas and Poseidon, but personifications of ideas, those eternal
types which even the nugatory speculation of Schopenhauer postulated
as the materials of true art? When the Greek tragic dramatist was
not utilizing the gods, he employed the people of the mythologic
tales. When Phrynicus, in 511 B. C., wrote a tragedy on the capture
of Miletus, melting an audience to tears with the pathos of a
well-known contemporary event, he was fined a thousand drachmæ for
his ill-chosen subject.

When Wagner delved in the pagan mythology of the Northmen, he fell
upon metal like that of the Greeks. Nearly every personage in the
burg of Wallhal has a companion on Olympus. In the Eddas Wagner found
eternal types created by the human imagination by the same processes
as those of the Greeks. Hence the splendid humanity of his Wotan, his
Brünnhilde, his Fricka.

What had the Greek? The entire Grecian religion grew out of the
worship of the powers of nature. It recognized one power as the head
of all, Zeus, the god of heaven and light. "And God said, Let there
be light, and there was light." The Greek's notion of the beginning
of all things was the same as the Hebrew's. With Zeus abode in the
clear expanse of ether Hera, representing the eternal feminine
element in the divinity. The other gods were partly representatives
of the attributes of Zeus himself,--as Athene, knowledge, sprung
from his head; Apollo, beauty and purity; Hermes, who brings up the
treasures of fruitfulness from the depths of the earth; and Cora, the
child, now lost and now recovered by Hera, typifying the winter and
the summer. Poseidon and Hephæstus represented the elements, water
and fire. But why go farther with this catalogue? It is known to
every school-boy.

Together with these symbols the Greek dramatist had Hercules and
Prometheus, Paris and Orestes, Jason and Medea, and other earth-born
mythologic personages, the Siegfrieds and Gunthers and Sieglindes of
their mythologic world, demigods and heroes all, acting in fables of
wondrous poetic power, built on imaginative developments of ideals.
The Greek world knew these tales. The dramatist of the Æschylean
age was situated as Weber was when he put "Der Freischütz" before
Germany. He utilized the fairy tales of the people, and offering them
in a novel form made them eloquent with a new glory.

Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides were the masters of the Greek
tragedy; and their plays all deal with either mythologic or
legendary stories and personages. The ideas preached in the ethics
of their dramas were those of Greek morality. The gods and goddesses
introduced or referred to were the embodiments of Greek ideals.
Though the populace was not so able a doctrinaire as to know that
there was in truth but one deity, Zeus, of whom all the others were
but aids and expressions, it had the enormous advantage of intimate
acquaintance with the poetic attributes of the galaxy of gods. It was
a public ripe for its religious drama.

Now, when Richard Wagner set out to build up a modern theatre which
should have the same relation to the life of the people as the
theatre of the Greeks had to theirs, he started on the right path.
He took the legendary materials to be found in German literature. He
wrote with unerring judgment when he created his operatic version
of "The Flying Dutchman." The pity of it is that he did not compose
this work when he was at the period of the maturity of his genius.
We should have had something almost as splendid as "Tristan und
Isolde," for while the story is not so suggestive as the old legend
treated by Gottfried von Strassbourg, it is not far behind it. At any
rate, it is purely Teutonic in its character, though in its origin
it is Greek. For, of course, Vanderdecken is but a modern replica of
Ulysses. The Germans knew the story, for Heine had made it theirs.
Wagner wrote wisely and well in this drama.

In "Tannhäuser" again he found his materials in the vast
treasure-house of German literature and legend. Possibly this story
was known to fewer Germans than "The Flying Dutchman," but its
character was sympathetic to them and there was no mistaking the
force of its moral lesson. Yet the religious doctrines of this drama
are not essentially those of the Christian Church; they are those
of religion and morality in general. The idea of salvation through
love of a pure woman is the Goethean doctrine of the eternal womanly
leading us upward. It was not original with Wagner, but it was
beloved by him.

In "Lohengrin" we come nearer to the mystical thoughts of such a work
as "Parsifal," yet here humanity operates in the natural desire of
Elsa to reach into the secrets of her husband's heart and life, and
still more powerfully in the vengeful character of the sexless and
inexorable Ortrud.

In both of these splendid dramas of Wagner's genius we are
confronted at every step with the normal working of human passions,
and love throbs through both of them. In "Parsifal" we have no single
pulse of love. In "Parsifal" salvation is brought by ignorance and
miracle. In "Tannhäuser" it comes triumphantly through suffering,
repentance, and prayer. In "Parsifal" the sufferings of Amfortas are
relieved by the purity of another man. In "Tannhäuser" the misery
of the hero is assuaged by his own repentance and the holy love of
Elizabeth. The religion of "Tannhäuser" is human; that of "Parsifal"
is ceremonial, panoramic, abstract.

"Parsifal" is a dramatization of ceremonials. In the first and
third acts we behold the pageant of religious rites; in the second
the diorama of bacchanalian orgies. Externals are thrust upon us
constantly; the depths are hidden under a veil of scenic pretence
and musical delusion. The bulk of the music of the work is external
and descriptive. Little, indeed, is there of the tonal embodiment of
subjective ideas. Compare the three acts of "Parsifal" with the three
great emotional episodes of "Tristan und Isolde." What a stupendous
development the latter work shows of the tragedy of fatal passion!

In its first act the operation of a magical agency breaks down the
hitherto safe bonds of restraint and plunges two typical human beings
into the very vortex of flaming love. In the second act they rush
together and forget honor. The stroke of retribution falls; fate
deals her deadly blow. In the third act remorse, agony, death, and
the salvation of suffering souls by negation.

There is a drama which preaches no religious doctrine, which has no
dogma save the Buddhistic one of release from suffering by death, yet
which stands in closer relation to the life of the people than all of
Wagner's religious dramas, because it deals with world-thoughts.

When Wagner worked with the purely mythical and legendary tales of
the German people, he built dramas of national character and power.
When he undertook to turn into theatrical pageants the teachings of
Christianity, he failed utterly. The Greek succeeded because his
religion was one of symbols, of deifications of the powers of nature,
with its literature developed from tales of the fabulous doings of
gods and goddesses, tales embodying in imaginative form fundamental
facts of nature.

When Wagner sought his inspiration in the mythology of the North,
which was developed in precisely the same manner as the Greek
mythology, he found material of poetic and suggestive kind. But when,
by dramatizing Christian doctrine and history, he tried to bring
his national theatre into such relation to the life of the people
as the Greek dramatists brought theirs, he failed, for the simple
reason that at this point his entire theory as to the suitability of
mythical and legendary material to the use of the dramatist broke

There is nothing mythological in the teachings of the Christian
religion, nor in the acts of its Founder or apostles. These
things stand apart from mythology and are differentiated from it
absolutely. They are not and could not have been the product of
human imagination, symbolizing human experience and speculation.
The profoundest philosophers of antiquity never hit upon the basic
doctrines of Christianity.

Beautiful as the teachings of Socrates are, they are essentially
human. The Sermon on the Mount sets up a system of ethics never
dreamed of by Aristotle or Plato. Only Buddha ever approached
Christ, and the outcome of the Hindu's entire system was not eternal
salvation and glory, but endless silence and the negation of death.
From this Wagner could not escape, even in his "Parsifal," for
Kundry, in the final scene, dies of what? Of a Buddhistic ethical

Wagner's greatest works are unquestionably those in which the
fundamental myths or legends were symbolical of human passions, of
the worldwide experience of mankind. "Tannhäuser," "Die Walküre,"
"Siegfried," "Götterdämmerung," and "Tristan und Isolde" are Wagner's
masterpieces of serious drama, not the saccharine "Lohengrin," nor
the tinselled ritual, "Parsifal." Are not those, with the matchless
comedy of manners, "Die Meistersinger," enough for one mind to have
created? Why should we believe it incumbent upon us to uphold all
that Wagner did?

We can say of him as Prentice said of Napoleon, "Grand, gloomy, and
peculiar, he sat a sceptred hermit, wrapped in the solitude of his
own originality." Taking him by and large, as the sailors say, he
was the most striking figure in musical history. Why discredit him
by trying to show that "Parsifal," the feeble child of his artistic
senility, was filled with the vigor of his young Volsung or the
radiant power of his immortal song of love insatiate?

                       DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN

                 I.--A FUTILE GOD AND A POTENT DEVIL

                                                The will
                  And high permission of all-ruling Heaven
                  Left him at large to his own dark designs.

                                    MILTON, _Paradise Lost_, Bk. I.

With every year the festival of the four dramas is celebrated in the
metropolis of the New World. Parsifalian orgies are new, and the wine
of the holy cup offers a novel intoxication to restless spirits ever
seeking fresh excitements. But your good, honest, old Wagnerite goes
yearly to gape in awestruck silence at the majesty of the "wildered"
Wotan, and to bask in the sunshine of Siegfried's radiant youth.
Whistle your Last Supper motive, you Monsalvationer, if you will, as
you crunch your lobster salad after the celebration, but we old-time
Wagnerites, who have hunted with the pack since first the "flight"
theme pulsated across the world, we shall trot home murmuring the
slumber motive and lay us down to pleasant dreams with a final sigh
of Fafner's "Lass't mich schlafen."

Perhaps this is a good time to review our impressions of that
wonderful creation of a strange genius, "Der Ring des Nibelungen."
Whatever else may be said of Wagner, it must always be admitted that
he was a genius. Something of the vanity of the child, the naïveté
that always dwells in the organization of the truly original artist,
is to be discerned in his every action, in his every utterance; and
it would be strange if it did not force itself upon our notice in his
works. There it discloses itself most frequently in a ludicrous error
of taking seriously things that can never be other than amusing to
the casual observer, and of missing the point of some of his own best

Wagner has been much praised as a poet. Time was when the present
writer (who must be his own confessor), feeling the power and
beauty of the fundamental stuff in the music dramas, rather than
the adapter's cumbersome and rudely articulated Germanizing of it,
dreamed that Wagner had poetic craftsmanship of no mean order. But
he never fell into the error of regarding him as a brother of the
northern skalds, a bard chanting in full-blooded imagination. Wagner
was a dramatist, of an uncommonly high order, if you will, looking
always to the symbolism of musical investure for his stage pictures,
but just a dramatist and nothing more.

His truest drama, as it is his most finely wrought, is "Tristan und
Isolde," which rests upon the simplest of emotional propositions,
demonstrated in the most convincing of musical illustration. But
"Der Ring des Nibelungen" is his most ponderous conception, his
most elaborate structure, and withal second only to "Tristan und
Isolde" in the majestic heights of musical delineation to which it
triumphantly ascends.

Not a little of its musical glory grows out of its dramatic
difficulties. In its beginning it deals with gods, dwarfs, nixies
of the Rhine, and cumbersome giants, all fabulous, nebulous, in
some instances almost intangible figures, whose only force lies in
their simulation of humanity, and whose mastering weakness consists
in their unreality. Gradually these gods and goddesses fade away
and leave the picture occupied with purely human figures alone. The
last majestic burst of supernal majesty is the final scene of "Die
Walküre." In "Siegfried" a worn and weary wanderer, cherishing a
feeble hope, powerless to turn the flow of events, passes across the
canvas and dwindles out of sight before the dawn of human love.

The rest is pure humanity, except when in the end of
"Götterdämmerung" the imperial godhood of Brünnhilde enthrones itself
upon the wreck of worlds, and sings the death-warrant of the waning
Wotan and his wavering brood.

The futile and disappearing gods! These are the weird and enchanting
unrealities of Wagner's "Nibelungen" scheme. How they potter and
fumble with the machinery of the inevitable! How they falter and
fail in the presence of inscrutable Truth, which overcomes them like
a summer cloud! They parade before us in "Das Rheingold," clad in a
clarion of trumpets and trombones, made glorious with the radiance
of Wagner's blazing sunlight of sonorous chords; but they are none
the less futile. Save one,--Loge, the tempter, Loge, the spirit of
indomitable evil, who sows the seed of destruction in the beginning
and writes the plot of "Götterdämmerung" with a twist of his finger
toward the gleaming gold.

Of all Wagner's philosophic compositions, his psychological
conjurations out of the shadowy depths of his own fancy and the
equally cloudy shallows of Schopenhauer and Feuerbach, Loge is the
most intimately conceived and the most finely wrought. Disappearing,
indeed, he is, but by no means futile. The Mephistopheles of the
rock-ribbed north, the Lucifer of the hills, he unites all the
subtlety of the metropolitan conception of the sophisticated
Goethe with the breadth and spontaneity of the harp-strokes of the
storm-bred bard.

Wagner does not paint Loge so brilliantly in text as he does in
music. This Satanic tempter of the wise ones is an operatic character
raised to the seventh power. His words are unconvincing without his
music, which charges them and him with a boundless significance.
Never once in all his flickering career does he utter a single
sentence of such elemental majesty as that of Boito's Mefistofele:
"Son lo spirito che nega." That looming figure of the archlibrettist
of Tuscany spreads the shadow of contemporaneous sophistication
across the operatic firmament. Standing with his defiant gaze upon
the throne of the many-voiced invisible, he is a lyric reincarnation
of the epic Lucifer of Milton.

Loge is no such mighty spirit. He comes upon the scene whining
excuses for an ill-done errand. He slips, he slides, he wriggles
away. He is the aurora of casuistry, the embodiment of the elusive.
The flickering fire is his outward manifestation. He is mean. He is
a sneak. But he is the intellectual superior of the entire coterie
of futile gods, and he laughs at their infantile incapacity. Poor
old Wotan! He mumbles in his beard that he cannot do mental tricks
as Loge can. A simple-minded old god is he, who would gladly cheat
the lumbering giants out of their guerdon, but does not know how. So
he turns to Loge, who comes waving and caracoling upon the scene--to
what theme? That of the fire! A theme which is as elusive as his
nature, a theme which has neither beginning nor end, which wanders
along in the form of an indefinite decimal of harmony and never for
an instant establishes a definite tonality.

Every movement of Loge, every betrayal of a new thought formed in his
shifty mind, is accompanied by an utterance of this motive in the
orchestra. Not once in "Das Rheingold" does the theme rest itself
upon the firm foundations of a major triad. Chromatic in form, it
is chromatic, chameleon-like in color. It is the real Loge. It is a
musical triumph, because in terms of purely descriptive imitation it
expresses a psychologic study. The music is the shifting, flickering,
changeful, destroying fire; the fire is the soul of Loge and the
first fruit of perdition.

The theme returns in the last scene of "Die Walküre," when Wotan,
the helpless father, has put his best-beloved to sleep. He is to
surround her with a belt of guardian fire. Fire is the soul of
Loge, a lovely protector for unconscious virtue! Again we hear
the fire music, but only for fire. Loge, most subtle of the gods
of the field, has to all appearances been the most futile. He has
disappeared already. But now his fire, at any rate, returns and beams
beneficently from a base of diatonic major harmonies with tinkling of
blissful bells. Did Wagner realize the fathomless depths of his own
sarcasm here? Or is it all a beautiful chance?

In the last scene of "Siegfried" there is an echo of the Loge
theme, but it means almost nothing. The same echo is heard in
"Götterdämmerung," Act I. In Act III. of the same drama, when
Brünnhilde seizes the torch to fire the funeral pyre whose flames
shall set all Walhalla in a blaze, the Loge chromatics, together
with a gleam of the ring theme, flashes up, but it is as futile as
the almost-forgotten Loge. Here was Wagner's opportunity to tell the
truth about his own secret conception of this vast phantasmagoria of
fact and fable. At the very end of "Das Rheingold" the crafty one

      "A feverish fancy
      Doth woo me to wander
  Forth in flickering fire:
      To burn and waste them
      Who bound me erewhile.
      Rather than be
  Thus blindly engulfed,
  Even were they of gods the most godlike."

No Walhalla for the free spirit of flame, but liberty and the
ultimate destruction of these pitiful children of the light. Wagner
might have let the glittering chromatics of the fire theme rise just
once into a peal of majestic power in the end of "Götterdämmerung,"
when Wotan and all his hosts sat helpless amid the blazing of
Walhalla. It is Loge's triumph, is it not? Oh, yes, of course, it is
the stupendous immolation of Brünnhilde, with the unutterable thought
behind it and the regeneration of the earth before it. But Loge would
have seen in it nothing but the victory of the eternal principle of
destruction, which Wagner epitomized even better than he knew in his
musical characterization of the fire-fiend.

What was really in Wagner's mind when he wrote that extraordinarily
beautiful passage of song for Loge in the first scene of "Das

  "Where life ebbeth and floweth
  In flood and earth and air,
      All asked I,
      Ever inquiring,
  Where sinew doth reign,
      And seedlings are rooted,
      What well a man
      Could mightier deem
  Than woman's wonderful worth."

Again, it is not the text, but the marvellous burst of throbbing
melody that tells the thought in Wagner's mind. But does it tell all?
Study well the phrases in the score. Are they sincere, or does Wagner
shadow forth just a suspicion of the dishonesty which lurks in the
utterance? Loge knows that he has yet his trump card, the gold of the
Rhine, to play; and either he believes that will be a winning card,
or he is not the devil, after all.

What, then, becomes of this manifestation of Wagnerian philosophy,
this joyous tempter of wooden gods? At the end of "Das Rheingold"
his personal career ends. Henceforth only his soul hovers about us.
Like the genie who, according to the veracious chronicler of the
"Arabian Nights," had sinned against Solomon, he was shut up in a
box, the old earth itself. He fades out of sight to reappear only in
a materialistic exhibit of steam and red fire. A sad end, indeed, for
such a thoughtful representation of sophistry. "Two special powers,"
says M. Taine, "lead mankind,--impulse and idea." Loge was the
embodiment of idea. Farewell to thee, Idea. Henceforth let impulse
lead us onward to love and death. Yet shall not Idea, subtle, crafty,
remorseless, triumph at last?

The foil to Loge is Wotan, foil and victim. What a sorrowful
spectacle is this unfortunate master of the gods, who takes up Loge
because that craftsman has brains, and yet cannot withstand the
temptations of his own devil! Jupiter did not need a devil to lead
him astray. A neatly turned ankle or a pair of melting eyes sufficed
to lure Zeus from Olympus. The world and the flesh were equal to
his undoing. But here is a primitive god, manufactured out of the
imagination of a wholly unsophisticated people, far removed from the
polish and culture of the Greeks, and he cannot sin in hot blood.
First of all, he must be tempted by a fiend, who lures him with the
promise of unlimited power. Zeus had his power ready-made.

Wotan was right. What was a god to do who was short of power?
Preposterous! He could not afford to allow some one else to get the
gold and make the ring. Alberich already had it. What was to be
done? Get it away from him, and so save the Walhalla dynasty from
being dethroned. Wise Wotan! It never occurred to him that Loge was
planning just that _coup_.

Here is a chief god whose power rests upon contracts, yet who does
not know how to make an advantageous bargain with two stupid giants!
Pity the sorrows of the one-eyed god! He is not omnipotent. He is
surrounded by enemies, and afar off looms the fathomless abyss of the
dusk of the gods, the pall of Ragnarok, the last battle. A fortress
must he have, and heroes culled by the aerial Valkyrs from the slain
of all the world to fight for Walhalla in the final hour.

Self-preservation is the selfish motive of Wotan's sin. He haggles
with Fafner and Fasolt for a haven of refuge, and offers a price he
knows he dare not pay. Without Freia, the goddess of youth, he must
wither. What does all this mean? Simply that Wotan was the subject
of a moral law outside of and above him. Was it strange that the
primitive mind could not conceive a god who was himself the law?

Not at all; for, after all, these children of the ages made deities
of human attributes,--power, knowledge, passion, beauty, swiftness.
They knew all these attributes were subject to the moral law, for the
blackest years of Egypt had not obscured the truth that the wages of
sin is death. In "Das Rheingold" Wotan falls a prey to the moral law
as interpreted to him by the giants. In "Die Walküre" he again makes
a foolish effort to dodge it, and the outraged majesty of Fricka
demands revenge. What a futile god!

The figure of Wotan is heroic only in "Die Walküre." Here we find
the old god at bay. In "Rheingold" he is a feeble plotter; in
"Walküre" he faces the inevitable and fights in the last ditch. In
"Siegfried" he has become a garrulous dotard, maundering about the
earth, impotent and puerile, quibbling in childish conundrums with a
shifty dwarf, pledging a head he would not sacrifice, waiting for the
defiant act of the youthful hero, and enacting the silly mummery of
opposing him with the spear which he knows the boy despises.

"In vain! I cannot hinder thee!" he tragically exclaims, as he
stalks off the stage and into the gallery of properties which Wagner
reserves for destruction in the last scene of all. And this is the
All-Father, the Thunderer of the Norse mythology, the supine creature
of moral laws which his pitiable nature cannot grasp and which he
feebly strives throughout the whole story to escape.

What music has Wagner evolved to body forth the traits and
accessories of this godless deity? The Walhall theme, which
identifies with the god the stone walls of his stronghold; the
spear motive, which speaks in splendid accents of the firmness of
sacred obligations, broken by Wotan in the very first scene of the
tragedy; Wotan's anger; Wotan's distress; Wotan the wanderer; Wotan's
bequest of the inheritance of the world. All these themes depict this
entangled god in the meshes of circumstance. There is not a single
motive setting forth any inherent grandeur of character, any great or
noble thought or passion blazing from his soul.

Walhall was Wotan's chapel of refuge. The spear's holy runes were
outside of his personality and greater than it. His anger was
awakened by the disobedience of a loving daughter who sought to be
what she had always been, the heart's wish of the god. The distress
was the fruit of a realization that the stern grip of the moral law
was strangling the whole coterie of Walhall because of its master's

Wotan the wanderer,--what a desolate succession of changing
tonalities, telling of a god without a local habitation or a name,
a god whose occupation was literally gone! The bequest theme tells
of this doddering deity's resignation of power in favor of youth
and love, two honest agencies much better fitted to carry on the
administration of a world than trickery and subterfuge.

Carlyle in his "French Revolution" harps upon the end that was
contained in the beginning. "Cast forth thy act, thy word," again in
his "Sartor Resartus" he says, "into the ever working universe; it
is a seed grain that cannot die; unnoticed to-day (says one) it will
be found flourishing as a banyan grove (perhaps also as a hemlock
forest) after a thousand years." The Scripture has tersely summarized
the whole matter in the prophetic declaration that the wages of sin
is death.

Wotan's original sin in cheating the giants spreads itself into the
hemlock forest of a mighty tragedy, but for the god himself the
Biblical maxim stands in letters of fire. And here mark the awful
majesty of the Norse myth. Wotan and all his brood fall victims in
the end to the physical manifestation of the evil spirit, Loge.

They are burned in Walhalla. The flickering fire singes out the last
vestiges of this rotten dynasty. The spirit of temptation wreaks
its own vengeance upon the tempted. "Son lo spirito che nega." The
Mephistophelian principle of negation wipes the futile gods off
the firmament. Was there any touch of Schopenhauer or Buddha in
this? Not a whiff. It was pure, stern, primeval morality. It was
unsophisticated man's recognition of the inexorable justice of the
moral law.

How infinitely grander this conception is than the flimsy and
artificial doctrines of the seduction and spear cure in "Parsifal"!
In the consecrational festival play all is manufactured, all is
artificial. The entire external machinery of the thing is a cheap
theatrical pose. In "Der Ring des Nibelungen" the ethics are the
common sense of a people, nay, of whole races, sprung from the mystic
Aryan source and filtered through the anxious thought of a hundred
tribes that speculated under the inspiring stars across the valleys
and plains of all Europe.

How much of all this did Wagner perceive when he was constructing his
extraordinary drama in four plays? His scheme, according to his own
words, contemplated the representation of the gods as writhing in
helplessness under the burden imposed by their own transgression of
the law. This burden could be removed only by the action of a free
agent, a man, whose deeds were all his own. After Titanic preparation
Wagner places this man before us in the person of Siegfried.

His death is the vicarious sacrifice for the gods. In order to get
him killed Wagner writes a whole drama, a mighty one indeed, in which
this noble hero is made to commit a crime while under the influence
of enchantment. He is slain for that crime by Hagen, who knows that
he is innocent, and who contrived the whole plot simply to have an
excuse for killing him, in order to get back the Nibelungs' ring.

What evidence is there that Wagner perceived the full significance of
the final triumph of Loge over the erring Wotan? Not one jot. That
the idea occurred to him in its purely external and physical form is
proved by a passage in the final speech of Brünnhilde:

        "Fly home, ye ravens!
        Rede it in Walhalla
  What here on the Rhine ye have heard!
        To Brünnhilde's rock
        Go round about.
        Yet Loge burns there:
  Walhall bid him revisit!
        Draweth near in gloom
        The dusk of the gods.
  Thus, casting my torch,
  I kindle Walhalla's towers."

And that is all. Yet the thought lurks always beneath the surface
of the tragedy. Wotan, the father and master of the futile and
disappearing gods, fell a victim to evil itself, to evil which in the
consuming power of flickering fire was its own executioner.

                   II.--THE WOMAN AND THE SERPENT

                 I will put enmity between thee and the serpent.

                                                 GENESIS  iii. 15

Wagner's gallery of portraits of women has been much praised. Senta,
mooning by her idle spinning-wheel and waiting the time when she
might cast her pure spirit on the stained bosom of the ocean rover
and so save him another seven years' damnation; Elsa, wavering
between faith and doubt and finally rushing to destruction out of
sheer curiosity; the holy Elizabeth, praying for the life of him
who had committed against her the deadliest of all sins, gross
infidelity, the sanctified Elizabeth, sweetest, purest, most adorable
of all Wagner's heroines; the blazing torch of human passion, Isolde,
the primeval, unconventional woman; and Brünnhilde, the wish maid,
the sleeping beauty, the waking avenger and liberator,--all these
have been praised by learned commentators in divers tongues.

Wagner was a student of women. He married two, and there are also
many unpublished letters. He wrote "Tristan und Isolde" on the shores
of Lucerne, where Isolde's real name was Mathilde. In the end he was
dominated by a woman, but it may be doubted whether he ever really
comprehended the "ewig weibliche," of which he made such clever
theatrical use. There is not a very convincing feminine element in
"Das Rheingold." The first disclosure is of three Rhein daughters
sporting in the gauzy depths of their native element and singing in
a language all their own around a nugget of gold of which strange
lies are told. It is said that any person who makes a ring of that
gold will have power and dominion over the world. The truth is that
whosoever possesses that ring is bound to get into trouble, because a
filthy little black dwarf will place a freak's curse upon it.

These three fish-tailed maidens, frisking in the sallow glare
of the shaded spot-light, youthful of aspect, ebullient of
manner, irreproachable in morals, so far as one can judge from
their treatment of the winsome Alberich, outlive the futile and
disappearing gods. They come to the surface in the final scene of
"Götterdämmerung," and wrest back their ring from the hands of Hagen,
whom they incontinently drown in their dotted Swiss habitation. There
must be a deep moral lesson somewhere in this. What is it? Possibly
it signifies that good girls are always triumphant in the end. At any
rate, it accentuates the pitiable feebleness of the mighty ones of

Another feminine figure in the foreword of the trilogy is the
excellent Erda. This portentous poser in green light and veiling
makes two appearances in the course of the tragedy. The first is in
"Rheingold" and the second in "Siegfried." She occupies a position
somewhat similar to that of a Greek chorus. She helps the audience to
a comprehension of what the rather incomprehensible gods are doing.
She always comes to the surface when Wotan is "stumped."

The first time she comes when he is about to commit an act of
folly. She tells him to get rid of the ring which he had employed
so much strategy to procure. He promptly obeys her, although he has
never seen her before, and was pretty thoroughly astonished by her
unexpected appearance. The second time she discloses herself when
Wotan is sorely in need of more sound advice. We now learn that
Wotan, who in "Rheingold" had declared that he intended to know
more of the lady, has not wasted his time in idle prating. The nine
Valkyrs are the living proofs of this. Erda is plainly not at all
pleased to meet her old friend again. She gives him another dark and
dismal warning, and leaves him to chew the cud of his own cheerful

Freia, the charming young woman for whom the giants wrangle, is a
mere figure in "Rheingold." She might as well be a piece of stage
property. She counts for nothing else. She has no more dramatic
significance than the lumps of gold which the dwarfs lug upon
their straining shoulders. She belongs to the same category as the
delectable Donner and Froh, who stand about in odd corners and try
desperately to look as if they were Vulcan and Apollo, whereas they
are neither.

One feminine character stands alone in "Rheingold." The virtuous
Fricka, type of that species of amiable wife who regards all mortal
desire as utterly depraved and who would joy to wrap herself in a
spotless mantle of _noli me tangere_ and let her husband worship her
on bended knees outside the portals of her holy temple,--she is the
woman with a mission in this splendid tragedy of futile gods and
fumbling mortals.

But Fricka is right, after all. If Wotan had listened to her
advice, he would have come out of all his difficulties much better.
The fount of misfortune, as far as Fricka is concerned, was her
failure to brush the dust off her own garments in the day of the
first temptation. Loge knew where to touch the quick of her woman's
weakness. "Will the gold make pretty ornaments for women?" she asked;
and Loge, who, being the spirit of evil, well knew the root, declared
that there was nothing which it could do better than that. And so
Fricka stood actionless while Wotan went down to Niebelheim to rape
the gold from Alberich.

Short-sighted Fricka! Mean-spirited Fricka! True woman Fricka!
When she has tacitly consented to the theft of the gold, what does
she? Seeing her poor old one-eyed husband struggling to escape the
consequences of his guilt by creating a race of free agents to make
the atonement for him, she pounces upon him with a stern demand that
Siegmund shall die for violating her standards of virtue. But who
ever expected to find a consistent logic in the mind of fair woman,
even a resident of high Olympus?

Having turned upon the hand that sought to benefit her, what does
she? She joins the procession of the futile and disappearing gods.
Fricka mounts her ram-hauled chariot and slides away into the past,
only to reappear in the chaste and general conflagration of the last
great scene. She has served her purpose. She has made the drama of
"Siegfried" imperatively necessary.

Siegmund being slain in answer to her inexorable demand, Brünnhilde
must be punished for trying to carry out Wotan's original plot. Of
course that is well enough. If Brünnhilde had had her way, there
never would have been any drama of "Siegfried" and consequently
no "Götterdämmerung." But without Siegfried things cannot go on.
Sieglinde must hie her to the dark forest in the east, there to sob
out her sweet but shadowed young life, and leave to the whining Mime
the nursery task of rearing the youthful Volsung.

So much for the eternal feminine in the celestial circle of the
trilogy. Poor little Gutrune! She's worth the whole lot of them. She
at least was a gentle, soulful, loving woman, who was not troubling
her spirit with a desire for gold, but who was possessed of an
honest ambition to be the wife of the most important gentleman of
the district. Social position was not what she sought, for she had
that already. She was a Gibichung, which was the same in the Rhine
valley as being a Biddle in Philadelphia. No; what she yearned for
was distinction. She would have been a lady of the White House, if
possible, had she lived in our time. Anyhow, she was a woman with
whom one can sympathize, for she really liked Siegfried.

Last but not least of the "Rheingold" coterie are the giants. Fafner
is an admirable character. He knows just what he wishes and he goes
straight to the point. First of all, he wishes to possess himself of
Freia because she would serve two purposes; namely, to keep house
and cook for him and at the same time to preserve his youth. But the
lumbering Fasolt, that overgrown blond basso, must go and fall in
love with the simpering little soprano leggiere. How came Wagner not
to remember the law of operatic tradition?

It is only another instance of his lack of the sense of humor. Fafner
very properly disposes of Fasolt and goes off with the gold. And here
follows one of the genuinely poetic touches of the tragedy. This
scaly miser who has the hoard, the tarnhelm, and the ring, and who
simply snuggles them up in a cave without reaping a single benefit
from their possession, is put out of the drama by Siegfried, the
embodiment of careless youth, hot blood, and human passion. Possibly
Wagner thought of this, and possibly he did not; but at any rate we
may do so, and thus intensify our poetic mood.

What effect has the disappearance of the futile gods upon the
dramatic development of the story? Wotan is the hero of "Rheingold"
and "Walküre." These two sections of the drama are concerned with the
adventures of a god in search of a method of government. The hero of
"Siegfried" and "Götterdämmerung" is Siegfried, a mortal in search
of a _raison d'être_. The former plays bad politics and learns too
late that in statecraft as in business honesty is the best policy.
The latter follows the inspirations of youth and nature, and comes to
grief because he is the Parsifal of the north, a "guileless fool."

Musically "Rheingold" is a vorspiel. It introduces a few fundamental
themes, rings the harmonic changes on them, and makes way for the
real first movement, "Die Walküre." Of this work the music is the
salvation, for its second act is dramatically so feeble, so ill-made,
and so prosy that it would drive people out of the theatre were it
not for its melodic richness. Fricka's lecture of Wotan, one of
the vital scenes of the whole trilogy, is dramatically a bore; but
musically it is strong and interesting, and it approaches its end
with one of the most imposing phrases conceived by the wizard of
Bayreuth, the phrase with which Fricka intones the words:--

  "Deiner ew'gen Gattin
  Heilige Ehre
  Schirme heut' ihr Schild."

"The holy honor of thy eternal spouse as a shield this day protects
her." That is Wagner's one proclamation of the majesty of Fricka
and the chastity of the law which she represented. It is the finest
musical thought in the whole second act of "Die Walküre," for, after
all, the much-vaunted "Todesverkündigung" is a situation rather
than a theme. The brass melody of it is not genuinely imposing,
especially when the impersonator of Brünnhilde does not know how to
appear mysterious and foreboding. The fight in the clouds is one of
Wagner's impracticable conceptions. When it is perfectly executed, it
is unconvincing; when it is not, it is quite incomprehensible, and
sometimes it is even comic.

Musically "Die Walküre" consists of the first and last acts, and the
first really begins with the duet between Siegmund and Sieglinde. All
that goes before is preparation, interesting by reason of its musical
narrative, but much too prolix, as all Wagner's explanations are.
Siegmund's narrative is three times as long as is necessary to afford
a reason for the hatred of Hunding. It would have been more subtle
and more dramatic, anyhow, to let Hunding's thirst for vengeance
rest entirely upon his discovery of the interest of his wife and the
visitor for each other.

But let that pass. The duet of Siegmund and Sieglinde is generally
accepted as one of Wagner's great achievements in sustained melody.
The love-song is babbled now by musical babes. It is very pretty, and
it has a manly ring, which we may all admire. But the third act of
"Die Walküre" dwells from beginning to end in the sunlit regions of

The feebleness of Wotan here loses itself in a sea of infinite
pathos. The power of the magic hand of Wagner in the creation of
dramatic atmosphere is seen in the tumultuous storming of the Valkyrs
through the inky air. "How now, ye secret black and midnight hags;
what is't ye do?" The salutation of Macbeth to the witches pales
before the lightnings of the winged steeds. Into the midst of this
festival of the furies plunges the ill-assorted pair, Brünnhilde and

Thundering upon their traces comes Wotan, the irate god, whose
well-meant efforts to escape the complications wrought by his own
misdeeds have been thwarted by the erring wish maiden. Hearken to the
old scold berating his frightened daughters: "Out with ye, hussies.
Your sister has been disobedient. Speak to her, and I'll whip ye,

Slinking away into the waning storm, they leave the father and
the foolishly loving daughter together. The mighty seething of the
musical sea subsides, leaving a deep underrunning swell of feeling.
The billowing rush of the Valkyr theme gives way to the plaintive
flow of the motive of Brünnhilde's pleading, one of the most
poignantly expressive melodies ever conceived by Wagner. How it wells
upward in the tender voices of the wood wind!

The stricken Valkyr grovels at the feet of the perplexed Wotan. What
will he do with her? The two engage in a long and unnecessary wordy
wrangle over the deed of the goddess. Wagner must talk, talk, talk.
He is a German dramatist. His music alone saves him from perdition.
Prate as he may of the organic union of the arts, the magic of melody
and harmony is his wand of transformation.

With that he lifts the tiresome rehearsal of the incidents of
"Rheingold" by Wotan to eloquence. With that he changes the
hair-splitting of Tristan and Isolde to the most passionate of love
duets. With that he makes almost a miracle of Siegfried's condensed
narrative in the last act of "Götterdämmerung." The theory is a
perfect one; Wagner's practice is wholly faulty. His music saves him.
He is sometimes no better than an old-fashioned opera librettist, and
writes long pages of bald text simply in order to clothe them with
musical glory.

Brünnhilde complains: "Why are you angry at me, father?" He answers,
"You know well enough what you've done." "You told me to do it,"
says she. "But afterward I told you not to do it," says he. "But you
really didn't mean that. You wished me to protect Siegmund," declares
Brünnhilde. "You made the other order because you were afraid of
Fricka." And then Brünnhilde takes forty lines to tell Wotan what she
did, which both he and we already know. Wotan takes just forty lines
more to tell Brünnhilde that while he has been struggling with his
problems she has had nothing to do but enjoy herself (how many mortal
fathers talk thus to their daughters)! and that now he has no further
use for her light soul.

Thus they bandy words till finally we come to Hecuba. Wotan tells
her that she is to be put to sleep and that the man who awakens
her shall have her. She begs for the protection of the magic fire,
and this far-seeing god stares amazed and enraptured at the birth
of a new idea. Glorious! He will commit this precious jewel of his
soul to the guardianship of his arch enemy, Loge, the fire spirit,
the treacherous, the shifty, the ultimate destroyer, not only of
Brünnhilde, but of Walhalla and its futile brood.

Oh, Wagner, how much more prescient were the skalds than thou! But
who thinks of all this while the performance is in progress? No one.
The triumphant music swells to the very bursting point of emotional
rhapsody. The entrance of the farewell of Wotan is one of the
sublimest conceptions of the master craftsman in tone.

But there is a moment, a great, overmastering, torrential moment, in
this scene, which is equalled only once or twice elsewhere in the
trilogy. It is the moment when Brünnhilde and Wotan stand and gaze
one upon the other, like the transformed Tristan and Isolde, and
the plaintive, pitiful motive of the Valkyr's pleading rises into
a tremendous, pealing burst of passionate yearning, which sets the
whole orchestra reeling and rocking with the poignancy of its melody
and wrings the tears from the eyes of the listener.

That is the climax of "Die Walküre." It is the victory of the
child's love over the futile and disappearing All-Father. It is the
last utterance of the majesty of Walhalla. Thenceforward godhood
disappears not only from Brünnhilde, but from all Walhalla. The human
hero is now to come, to see, and to command.

And as the curtain slowly shuts the pathetic figures from our sight,
Loge--flickering, fluttering Loge--satisfied for once that he is
master of the situation, sings out the comedy in the major mode. The
spiritual tonality of Loge for once is fixed and inexorable. The
sleep of Brünnhilde is the prologue to her immolation, and the fire
at her bedside is the precursor of the fire of her funeral pyre which
shall engulf the futile gods. "Rest, perturbed spirit." Rest in the
victorious publication of thy conquest in fundamental harmonies. A
primeval element art thou not, but a physical investiture of the
shifting soul. Thou art the master of this hour--yea, even of the
unconscious Brünnhilde and the equally unconscious Wagner. He builded
better than he knew. The seed of the serpent hath bruised the heel of
the woman.


  And those same torches, flaring by her bed,
  Lighted her downward path among the dead.


  (_Translated by_ JANE MINOT SEDGWICK.)

The drama of "Siegfried" opens with a reintroduction of one of
Wagner's most subtle studies. Mime in "Rheingold" plays almost no
part at all. There the local interest of Niebelheim is centred
in that peevish parody of Napoleonic ambition, Alberich, whose
curse is launched upon the entire succeeding series of incidents.
In "Siegfried" Alberich is shown to us a helpless watcher on the
outskirts of events, the complement of the wondering Wotan.

Both of the principal workers on the beginning of the web have been
forced to let the threads slip from their feeble hands. Siegfried,
the young, hot-blooded embodiment of humanity, and Mime, the last
receptacle of underground craft and cunning, struggle for the
supremacy. Alberich is absurd.

The battle of the dwarfs in the first scene of the second act is
one of Wagner's pieces of grotesquery. Did he see the ridiculous
aspect of it? One can hardly believe so. He seems to take it very
seriously, but it refuses to be serious. Mime, however, is a genuine
creation. Search opera from its inception to the disclosure of this
extraordinary work and you will not find another such product of the
imagination. Mime is the perfect type of a low cunning mind plotting
to use a noble and generous nature for its own ends and then to
consign that nature to destruction.

A ward politician or a Wall Street operator Mime might have been in
a more advanced state of society. It was his misfortune and not his
fault that he was born a cave-dweller. Wagner falls into ludicrous
difficulties in his endeavors to disclose the inner workings of
this nature. In the first act he has recourse to the old-fashioned
operatic duet, in which two persons standing at opposite sides of the
stage bellow antagonistic sentiments at the top of their lungs, yet
do not hear each other.

The factitious veritism of the music drama crumbles into absurdity
in the presence of this illogical scene. Wagner as frankly asks us
to accept the unreal conventions of the stage as ever did Donizetti
or Meyerbeer. And this, too, in the midst of his most elaborate and
pretentious creation. But here again music, heavenly maid, saves
the situation. The splendor of the climax of the forging episode
dazzles judgment. One cannot analyze the dramatic verities when his
heart is thumping under his ribs with the trip-hammer rhythm of this
tremendous composition.

In the second act, when Mime is endeavoring to induce Siegfried to
take the potion, we are asked to understand that the bird has warned
Siegfried, and that the hero is enabled to discern behind Mime's
utterances the real meanings which he strives to conceal. Wagner's
conception was dramatically impracticable, and so he makes Mime utter
his secret thoughts aloud, so that we, as well as Siegfried, may know

It is a cumbersome and feeble device. Here again, however, the music
comes to the dramatist's aid. The exquisitely artistic contrast
between the craft and malice of Mime and the ingenuousness of the
youthful hero is expressed perfectly by the opposing natures of their
musical measures, and a final touch of most eloquent suggestion is
supplied by the half-whispered instrumental repetition of the bird
phrase. This is dramatic music of the most potent.

The keynote of Mime is sounded in the orchestra in the beginning of
Act I. with the motive of reflection,--that hollow, sinister duet
of two bassoons, so devilish, so serpentine in the mockery of its
descending thirds. Whoever before heard the lascivious harmony of the
third made to chant a psalm of mischief? Deep reflection, far-sighted
wickedness, lies in those few sinister, sepulchral notes, and as the
curtain rises and shows us the shaggy little elf bent hopeless over
his forging and searching his evil mind for some solution of the
problem of the lost hoard, we fall with him into a frame of mind fit
for treasons.

And Loge? Is the embodiment of craft absent? Not he. Loge deserts not
his kind. In the flickering flame of the forge he lurks in waiting.
He will weld the sword "Nothung," which was shivered on Wotan's
spear, and this time it will shatter that spear and break the power
of the futile and disappearing gods. Loge will answer the call of
Siegfried and rise in his might. Joyously will he blaze to melt the
splinters, for this forging is but another act in the drama of his
triumph. How can the dotard Wotan sit by the hearthstone playing at
riddles with Mime and not feel the breath of Loge on his neck?

What a new and unheard of thing is the vocal style of Mime! The
creation of this weird recitation is one of Wagner's most notable
achievements. The sharp, cackling treble staccato, which sinks ever
and anon into an indescribable gurgle of subterranean low tones and
again rises to a shrill and infantile falsetto,--this is something
that no old-time musician, who appealed to the outward ear alone,
could ever have conceived. Its importance in the expression of
grotesque and grim humor cannot be overestimated. It is neither
speech nor song. It is not recitative. It is not declamation. It is
simply the snarling, the barking, the whining of malice, cowardice,
and sneaking treachery. It is the very thing itself that Wagner
sought. It was a triumph of genius.

Has it ever occurred to you, gentle reader, that up to the last act
of "Siegfried" this same music of Mime supplies the only psychologic
element in the play so far as the musical part is concerned? Mime is
the one scheming, introspective character in the work. Every musical
thought in the score which is connected with him reveals an inner
life. The rest is nearly all scenic or external music.

Siegfried's entrance is bodied forth in a gust of forest freshness
sweeping into the noisome air of the cavern. The famous wanderlied of
the youth is not introspective. It breathes not the yearning of the
hero for a free life, but the spirit of the unbounded world itself.
It is a song of the receding horizon.

The bandying of conundrums between Wotan and Mime leaves all
the psychology to the dwarf. The rest is commemorative. It is a
repetition of old themes to recall Siegmund and Sieglinde, the
Giants and their unrequited labor, Walhall and its vanishing
limelight glories. Take again the opening scene of Act II. How
much introspection is there in Wotan's interesting interview with
the unseen Fafner? Atmospheric, indeed, this music is, but not
psychologic. It has a very suspicious resemblance to the famous scene
before the tomb of Ninus in "Semiramide." But it is conducted more
decorously, and instead of "Oh, horror!" we hear the more comforting
"Lass't mich schlafen."

In the scene which follows we are presented with the picture of the
young hero reclining under a linden tree and reflecting on his unique
position in the primeval world. He hears the murmur of the wind among
the branches of the trees and watches the shadows play at hide and
seek. The music is purely descriptive and scenic. A bird carols among
the foliage. It is a strain of unaffected melody, and surely none
would affront a cheerful birdling by charging it with psychologic

The young man, seeking for some channel of cheerful communication
with his own antecedents, tries to fashion a pipe on which to imitate
the bird's lay. In vain. So, forth with the familiar waldhorn and
therewith wind a challenging blast. How did Siegfried learn his own
musical theme? There is a psychologic tangle here, but it was in
the thinking of Wagner, not in that of the hero. Siegfried had no
business to know that there was an orchestra and that he had a theme.
But let that pass.

Behold Fafner, clad in the shapeless form of a thing that never
was, lumbering out of the cavern and wagging his sapient head and
bannered tail with the aid of all too visible wires. Oh, Siegfried
and Fafner, Fafner and Siegfried, which of ye is the more comic? Was
it not cruel to place a "treasure of the world," a "smiling hero,"
in such a position, to make him do combat amid hissing steam and the
shock of thunderous battle music with a most disillusioning dragon of
papier-maché? Again hear the external music, the sword and the vigor
of the young man.

After the fight the bird sings once more, this time in a soprano
voice and with text. Mime enters and psychology reappears. After
Mime's death, more external music, till the bird tells of the
enchanted Princess asleep on the mountain top, and then there is
a burst of hot blood, a rush of musical energy which has in it
something more than mere external description. Nevertheless, in all
music there is nothing else which so clearly demonstrates the ease
with which the purely pictorial in the tone art may be confounded
with the introspective as this second act of "Siegfried," for here
the mood of nature and the mood of the chief actor, whose soul is to
be laid bare, are one.

With the opening of Act III. we have the scene between Wotan and
Erda. Here, again, the character of the music is chiefly descriptive.
The storm is contrasted with the vague tonalities and muted voicing
of Erda's music. After the spear of Wotan is shattered by the
rewelded "Nothung," Loge fills the mountains with his radiance and
his shimmering music. The last of the futile and disappearing gods
has passed from the scene of action. The human drama which is to
lead to the dusk of the high ones has begun. Loge's labor is almost

With the change from the pealing music to which Siegfried ascends
the mountain to the long-drawn strains of the strings which lead
him to the couch of his desire, we enter upon a scene of soul
revelation. What a marvellous inspiration of genius is the awakening
of Brünnhilde! She went to sleep a weeping, supplicating goddess,
deprived of her divinity. She wakes to the majestic chords which
announce her assumption of a grander divinity, the might and majesty
of perfect womanhood. The duo between her and Siegfried is all
psychologic, not subtle, for the blazing of passion is not subtle,
but none the less the delineation of an inward state.

Of all the dramas of the tetralogy "Siegfried" is that in which pure
beauty is most plentiful. Here is a problem for musical philosophers.
Is Strauss not a maker, but a product? Is the embodiment of subtle
psychologic problems in tone hostile to unaffected beauty? Must the
lyric drama follow the march of symphonic music into the screaming
regions of the Strauss soul analysis? "Siegfried" is quite devoid
of the elements of tragedy. The death of Fafner is not tragic; on
the contrary, it is comic. There is even a touch of bathos in the
dying speech of the transmogrified Bottom of the Wagnerian drama. The
conundrum scene is childish. The bird belongs to the world of the
infantile fairy tale. But the spirit of buoyant youth is in the work.
Its music is nearly all external, and unaffectedly beautiful.

"Siegfried," revelling in purely descriptive music, devoid of mental
sickness contracted from much study of Schopenhauer or Nietzsche,
breathes the spirit of a free world's youth.

Little is left to be said, or much, for "Götterdämmerung" must be
treated as a separate drama or dismissed shortly in the light of
what has already been written. In this drama we come to the drawing
together of the threads, the stretto of the dream fugue. Behold
Brünnhilde, who has given all her wisdom to Siegfried and hence has
none left for herself, sending him out in quest of further reputation
as a mighty hero. There is something pathetic in this and also
pitiably modern. Must husbands have had outings in the elemental days
even as now? Was the epic man inconstant of soul? Ah Brünnhilde! A
wise woman would go with him. It is not good for man to be alone.

Siegfried arrives at the domicile of the desirable Gibichung family
and accepts an unknown drink from a pretty girl he never saw before.
His rusticity beams from his guileless countenance, and to Hagen, the
experienced one, he is as the ripe pear on the low-hanging bough.
Pitiable weakling Siegfried! Call ye this a hero of all the world?
Pitiable Gunther, you do well to swear blood brotherhood with him.
You are a well-mated pair. Pitiable Gutrune! Siegfried was not for
you, though your drink did make him forget that he remembered and
dream that he forgot.

In the hands of Hagen, the only really clever person in the drama,
these three are as clay in the hands of the potter. Hagen could not
command success, because Loge was more powerful than he, and the
ultimate ruin of the gods would have been deferred had Hagen gained
possession of the accursed ring; but he deserved success, and that,
as Sempronius was long ago informed, was something worthy of respect.

Two elements of this final drama remain confronting us. They are
the most tremendous of all Wagner's heroines, the completed woman,
Brünnhilde, and the most potent of all psychologic music outside of
"Tristan und Isolde." When Siegfried, in the end of the drama bearing
his name, hurls the flood of human love at the reduced Valkyr, he
awakens in her that which lifts her above principalities and kingdoms.

          "Indeed I love thee. Come,
  Yield thyself up--my hopes and thine are one:
  Accomplish thou my manhood and thyself;
  Lay thy sweet hands in mine and trust to me."

Almost might Tennyson have substituted his words for those of Wagner,
and truly they are more graceful. In "Götterdämmerung" we find
Brünnhilde with her womanhood completed. Filled full to the lips
and eyes with love, she is risen to a majesty which as the laughing
Valkyr she never knew. Compared with her Olympian splendor, the
fumbling weakness of her sire becomes indeed pitiable. With what
heroine is she to be compared? Set her for a moment over against
Isolde, who also died upon her true love's body.

The philosophy of negation which saturates "Tristan und Isolde" is
a deadly foe to your piping enthusiasm. The draining of the cup of
death, averted by the temporizing policy of the silly Brangäne, would
never have assumed the tragic proportions of Brünnhilde's terrible
oath upon the spear. The wounded love of Isolde dwindles to petulance
when brought to the side of the outraged majesty of the chaste and
glorious Valkyr wife.

Look upon the two in the last scenes of their respective tragedies.
Isolde lays her down to die of a broken heart beside her dead lover,
hymning in rapt ecstatic phrase, seeing in the vision of her own
dissolution the new light streaming from his eyes and his heart
beating in his chilled breast. It is sweet, so sweet. It is more
honeyed than the dirge of Shelley for Adonais, or the exquisitely
musical "Archete, Sikelikai, to pentheon archete, Moisai," of
Moschus over the ashes of Bion. It is love's threnody in the realms
of eternal moonlight, where the cypress shadows of a pessimistic
philosophy shelter the lemur of blank negation.

Brünnhilde, too, beholds the sunny light streaming from her hero's
dead eyes, but how her apostrophe to him rings with brave and hopeful
praise! There is no sweating sickness of the soul here, but the
proclamation of a grand personality. And then through prayer this
supreme woman passes to prophecy:

  "Ye gods who guard
  Our gazes for ever,
  Turn not away
  From my waxing distress."

And but a moment later that sublime passage:

    "All things, all things
      All I wot now:
    All at once is made clear!
      Even thy ravens
    I hear rustling:
  To tell the longed-for tidings
  Let them return to their home.
  Rest thee! Rest thee, oh god!"

And again:

      "Fly home, ye ravens!
      Rede it in Walhalla
  What here on the Rhine ye have heard!
      To Brünnhilde's rock
      Go round about,
      Yet Loge burns there:
  Walhalla bid him revisit!
      Draweth near in gloom
      The Dusk of the Gods.
      Thus, casting my torch,
      I kindle Walhall's towers."

Ah, Isolde! How every man that has a heart can echo that marvellous
phrase with which Wagner makes Tristan breathe forth his first
and last sigh of love insatiable! Queen of the tawny locks and
stately tread, thou art first shown to us as a woman of the old
barbaric grandeur, hurling the full tide of thy passions against the
inexorable advancing prow of Fate. The gates of honor thrown down,
thou art but a woman loved and loving; and, mourning over thy lost
chastity, art ready to sink into fathomless night with Tristan. After
all, thou comest to the pale estate of chill despair and so diest,
hymning a last sad canticle of love.

Isolde is beautiful, winsome, desirable. Men love her, but she
does not dominate. Brünnhilde grows from a laughing light-elf to be
a stricken woman, and thence is raised by the might of love to the
majestic height of abstract womanhood divine. Isolde is a diminuendo;
Brünnhilde a crescendo. In her last estate she stands disclosed in
overmastering splendor, and mortal man in the honesty of his secret
heart knows that, in the presence of such womanhood as this, he is
utterly unworthy. And so we come to the end. Brünnhilde has joined
hands with Loge and the "Rheingold" prophecy of Erda is fulfilled.
The spirit of evil has become the renovator of the earth and all
things are purified by fire. And the music! What majestic development
of the Erda theme is this we hear in the Dusk of the Gods motive?
There, indeed, is a psychological development, equalled only by the
extraordinary mystic effects of the combination in Act I. of the
themes of forgetfulness and the tarnhelm, by the wonderful recitative
of the transformed Siegfried posing as Gunther, and by that highest
of all songs without words, the funeral march.

The retirement of the futile and disappearing gods forces the
purely human element to the front. The tragedy steadily waxes in
power as the feeble ones of Walhalla grow fainter and the humans take
the threads in their hands, till finally the one great, majestic
creation of the whole trilogy is seen to be Brünnhilde, the eternal
womanhood personified, the light of the world and the glory of


              The daughter of debate,
  That discord aye doth sowe.

  _Verses by Queen Elizabeth in_ PERCY'S  _Reliques_.

It is an inquiring age. We investigate the domestic habits of
the poet or the sandpiper with equal zest. We analyze dress and
intellectual states with the keenest delight. Upon all things we
speculate, ponder, ring the changes of scrutinizing comment. Thus
it chanced upon a day that certain learned Thebans, sitting in the
solemn conclave of educational chop-houses, fell upon disputatious
views of the profound character of Brangäne in Wagner's "Tristan und
Isolde," and there were diverse theories.

Strange it seems to the calm and unprejudiced observer that there
should be difference of opinion as to the character of Brangäne. To
be sure, the weary mind of the hardened critic never hopes to receive
highly intelligent views on such questions from casual or even
habitual opera-goers.

When this writer presumed to object to the richness of Edyth
Walker's costume as Brangäne, he was told that the woman was of
noble birth and that she was not Isolde's maid, but her companion.
Also he was told that Miss Walker's costume was approved in Vienna,
which concerned him not a jot, seeing that the authority for the
interpretation of Brangäne does not rest in Vienna, but in the poem
of Wagner.

Louise Homer's conception of Brangäne was deplored by some of the
learned Thebans in that it was not heroic. Where are Brangäne's
heroics in the drama? Marie Brema, who soared through the New World
with a contralto voice and a soprano ambition, always acted Brangäne
as if she were a sister of Isolde. She conceived the pleading of the
tirewoman in the spirit of the third act of "Die Walküre." But there
was no Wotan to kiss the godhood or the scales from her eyes.

Marianne Brandt of blessed memory smote the harp with no uncertain
hand. She knew the meaning of Brangäne in those now far-off days when
Lili Lehmann was Isolde, Albert Niemann Tristan, Robinson Kurvenal,
and Fischer King Mark. "And there were giants in those days." But it
is not a question of personal authority. It is a question of direct
examination of the poem, of the significance of the drama.

In these days no one studies a Wagnerian play solely at first hand.
Is Kundry to be explained? Then search the Scriptures. Read all the
old poems, delve among the legends, turn up the sods of centuries.
Is Parsifal to be analyzed? Plunge into the Oriental forests and
emerge with your Aryan expulsion and return formula; co-ordinate your
poetic axes; parallel column your Siegfried, your Ulysses, and your
guileless fool. Heaven be thanked, Brangäne is not a mighty heroine
of antique fable. She is but a parhelion which dwells near the sun.
We may dispose of her with little effort.

Brangäne is not heroic. There is not a line in Wagner's text to
justify such a conception of the character. Wagner's Brangäne is
a maid, a serving-woman. She is simple-minded, even innocent. In
some respects she is foolish. Her one dominating note is devotion
to her mistress. She is doglike in nature. She is Isolde's feminine
Kurvenal. But she lacks in every essential the emotional and
intellectual initiative of Tristan's esquire. She is passive. She
is necessarily thus. From the point of view of dramatic character
construction she must be so in order to afford an effective foil to
Isolde, with whom she is continually placed in contrast. In more
subtle but none the less influential opposition does she stand to
Kurvenal, the embodiment of active, working devotion to the master.
Brangäne does nothing but what she is bid, and does that wrong.

Her simple-minded innocence leads her to become what the dramatist
needs to complete his scheme, an unconscious agent of fate. Acting
wholly under the influence of devotion to her mistress, and
without sufficient wisdom to foresee the terrible consequences of
her deed, she administers to the lovers the potion which drowns
their self-control and plunges them into the sea of passion. She
does this on the unthinking impulse of the moment, solely because
she is frightened out of such wits as she has by her mistress's
determination to share with Tristan the drink of death.

Is that a heroic act? Would not a heroic nature have grasped the
significance of the moment, and, foreseeing the approaching shame,
have acquiesced in Isolde's decision? Nay, more; filled with such
devotion as that of Brangäne, raised to a divine ecstasy by innate
heroism, she would have swallowed her share of the poison and laid
her down at her lady's feet to die, as Kurvenal did at Tristan's.

But there is not a single element of the heroic in Brangäne. She is,
if anything, a coward, or at least a temporizer. The makeshift of the
moment is what appears most desirable to her. Her naïve mind, which
was so astonished to learn that the Tantris she helped to nurse was
the Tristan she had just addressed, could project itself into the
future no further than the next quarter of an hour. If that chanced
to be a bad one, no matter. Those which were to follow were all blank
for the good Brangäne.

So must it be, for in all versions of the story except that
mysterious one which Scribe unearthed for use in Auber's "Le
Philtre," and which reappears in the first act of Donizetti's
"L'Elisir d'Amore," the potion is taken by the two lovers
unwittingly. It is administered by mistake. Wagner has accentuated
his meaning as to the character of Brangäne by modifying this feature
of the legend. His Brangäne does not give the love potion by mere
mistake, but in order to save her lady's life. To enact her as a
heroic personage makes her exchange of the potions inexplicable. Yet
Wagner did not wholly abandon the notion of a mistake, for Brangäne's
error in preferring Isolde's dishonor to her death is surely a
mistake of the direst kind.

In the poem of Gottfried von Strassbourg--here let us fall into
the widening trail of the historic exploration party--Brangäne does
not give the potion at all. Neither is she a maid. She is a lady of
high position at the court of Isolde's mother and in the confidence
of the Queen. This Queen is a magician and gives the love potion to
Brangäne to administer to Isolde and King Mark as soon as they are
wed. On the voyage, Tristan, desiring wine, calls for it, and a maid
attending the Princess brings to him the phial containing the potion.
It looks like wine, and neither Tristan nor the maid suspects that
it is anything else. Isolde, too, knows naught of it. Then, says

  "To Tristan first she passed the same:
  He gave it to the royal dame.
  Thereof she drank reluctantly,
  Gave it to him, and then drank he;
  That wine it was they both believed.
  Then came Brangäne, who perceived
  And recognized at once the glass;
  She well saw what had come to pass.
  Thereon she felt such dire dismay
  That all her strength was giving way,
  And she appeared as are the dead;
  Her heart was filled with mortal dread.
  She seized the baleful glass she knew,
  And bore it hence away and threw
  It in the wildly raging sea.
  'Oh, woe!' she spoke, 'Oh, woe is me,
  That in this world I e'er was born,
  I wretched one! Now I am shorn
  Of troth and honor which were mine.
  Have pity on me, Lord divine;
  Oh, that I came unto this shore
  And death took me not hence before--
  That with Isold my lot was e'er
  This fatal enterprise to share!
  Oh, woe, Isold! Woe, Tristan, too!
  This draught is death to both of you.'"

This Brangäne afterward explains to these two sudden lovers what
has happened to them, and reiterates that the draught will be their
death. Tristan declares that he will die happy possessing Isolde's
love. But it is unnecessary to pursue the original legend further.
Enough has been given to show that the Brangäne of Gottfried is not
the Brangäne of Wagner.

Again we meet with one of those effective modifications of the old
stories which Wagner made in his dramas. The splendid figure of the
Queen mother's confidante bewailing her momentary unwatchfulness and
her loss of honor, ready for the sake of that betrayal of confidence
to give up her now wretched life, is a vastly different creature from
the Brangäne of Wagner, who administers the potion as the shortest
way out of an impending trouble.

Again, remember that this deed is one of pure unthinking devotion
to the mistress. The fatal drink is the visible embodiment of fate.
Appearing as it does in inanimate form, it needs an agent to convey
it to the four lips of the lovers. That agent is found in the
foolish, doting maid. Is it not a purely Wagnerian touch?

Even Swinburne, poet of far higher fancy than Wagner, did not think
of such a plan. He improves on the old legend by making Isolde
herself administer the potion in error:--

  "Iseult sought and would not wake Brangwain,
  Who slept as one half dead with fear and pain,
  Being tender natured; so with hushed light feet
  Went Iseult round her, with soft looks and sweet
  Pitying her pain; so sweet a spirited thing
  She was, and daughter of a kindly king.
  And spying what strange bright secret charge was kept
  Fair in that maid's white bosom while she slept,
  She sought and drew the gold cup forth and smiled,
  Marvelling, with such light wonder as a child
  That hears of glad, sad life in magic lands;
  And bear it back to Tristram with pure hands
  Holding the love draught that should be for flame
  To burn out of them fear and faith and shame."

Iseult speaks merrily of the wile of Brangwain in concealing this,
the best wine of the feast. Then they drink, and the world is made
anew. Here again the agency for the supply of the potion is error.
Wagner could not have built his tragedy on such mighty lines if he
had left that thought out. His Tristan and Isolde were standing
on the brink of a volcanic crater; something was needed to impel
them into it. That something was found in the foolish love of the
simple-minded Brangäne.

The first act of Wagner's tragedy tells all that is to be told of
the serving-woman. She stands disclosed at the very outset as a
sublimated comprimaria. She is the titanic Alice to this mighty
Lucia, marching to her marriage with one man when she loves another.
To this Alice this Lucia tells how she learned to love in days now
buried in the sweet and unforgotten past. The comprimaria of the old
Italian opera walked about with the prima donna and gave her cues.
This new comprimaria follows the same lines, but in how different a
manner! Wagner was indeed the regenerator of the lyric drama. Verdi
knew it. His Emilia would have been an old-fashioned comprimaria had
he written "Otello" in his "Traviata" days.

First, this maid, alarmed at Isolde's passionate prayer that the
ship and all in it may be destroyed ere they reach Mark's land,
asks what has caused her mistress to be so downcast throughout the
voyage. Then she is amazed to learn that Tantris is Tristan, and that
her mistress does not wish to be led by him to the couch of Mark.
She even offers some cheap, prosaic, and senseless worldly counsel.
"If Tristan is under any obligation to you, how can he discharge it
better than by making you Mark's queen? Even if he himself did the
wooing for his uncle, why should you object? He's a gentleman of rank
and reputation." This innocent maid does not even catch the tragic
meaning of Isolde's

          Den hehrsten Mann
  Stets mir nah' zu sehen--
  Wie konnt' ich die Qual bestehen?"

"Unloved by the lordliest man, yet always near him, how could I bear
that anguish?" This "heroic" Brangäne applies this speech to King
Mark and reminds Isolde of the casket of enchanted drinks provided
by her mother. When Isolde proclaims that the drink of death is
that which she will use, the situation is entirely beyond the
comprehension of the maid. She cries: "The drink, for whom? Tristan?
Oh, horror!"

The score is significantly barren of explicit stage directions about
the substitution of the potion of love for that of death. But there
is no question as to what ought to be done. Wagner on more than one
occasion fell into the error of leaving too much to the imagination
of the public. It is absolutely essential to the understanding of
"Tristan und Isolde" by an audience that Brangäne should with the
greatest possible clearness exhibit the exchange of the drinks. She
should show convincingly, by facial expression and gesture, the
sudden formation of the idea of the substitution, and she should
be particular to force the act of exchange upon the attention of
the audience. Otherwise the subsequent actions of the two lovers
are inexplicable to many, for the common experience of the theatre
teaches that the points of a drama must be not merely indicated, but
driven home; and the whole tragedy of "Tristan und Isolde" rests upon
the love potion.

The potion once swallowed, Brangäne, who, "confused and shuddering,"
has been leaning over the ship's rail, turns and bursts out with a
cry: "Woe, woe! Unpreventable endless trouble instead of brief death!"

This wise and heroic Brangäne, seeing the bride of Mark in the arms
of Tristan, and knowing that they are the victims of her temporizing
policy, bewails what she has done and suddenly discovers that death
would have been better. The English translations do not bring this
passage out clearly, yet it is of vital importance in explaining the
character of Isolde's maid.

In the second act Brangäne is shown to us the victim of her own
ceaseless terrors. Day and night she cowers under the shadow of
the impending axe. Her mind being stimulated by her fears for her
mistress and her own remorse, she plays the spy and tracks the
traitor Melot to his lair.

But all in vain. The barriers are burned away. The blood of Isolde
is become as lava in her veins. She knows naught in all the world
but the mad delirium of passion. Isolde will extinguish the torch.
Brangäne pleads, and cries: "Oh that I had not once been faithless
and false to my mistress's will! If I had only remained dumb and
blind, _thy_ work had been death! Now, as it is, thy shame, thy most
shameful trouble, _my_ work,--thus must I, blameworthy, know it."

Not very heroic that! Brangäne wishes she had kept out of the whole
affair. Then the death of Tristan and Isolde would have been the
latter's act. Now this poor maid feels that her policy of temporizing
has caused all the trouble and brought her beloved mistress into a
shameful position. That is practically all of Brangäne.

One little speech in the third act shows that she is still
reproaching herself for her weakness. She has gone to the King and
atoned for her "blind guilt," as she calls it, by explaining to him
the cause of the loss of honor by Tristan and Isolde.

In the entire text of Wagner there is nothing to indicate that he
intended Brangäne to be regarded as anything but a simple-minded
serving-woman, deeply attached to her mistress, acting in the matter
of the potions on a blind and instantaneous impulse to save her
mistress from death and murder. She is naïve in thought, superficial
in reasoning, straightforward in emotion, and altogether transparent
as crystal. Kurvenal's devotion to Tristan is essentially a masculine
devotion, ready to face death, deploring dishonor, but not forsaking
even in the face of shame. Kurvenal serves with heart and life.
Brangäne serves with heart and subterfuge.

A vast amount of ill-informed feminine twitter is accepted as
learned comment on such characters as Brangäne. All that is necessary
to a full understanding of this or any other Wagnerian personage is
a careful examination of the text and music. The text should always
be the original German, for the libretto translators have played
havoc with it. Brangäne's most significant wail, "Unpreventable
endless trouble instead of quick death," is usually translated in a
misleading manner.

                           RICHARD STRAUSS

                      I. THE HISTORICAL SURVEY

            Theorbos, violins, French horns, guitars,
            Leave in my wounded ears inflicted scars.

                                    CHARLES LAMB  to _Clara N._

For some seasons the orchestral compositions of Richard Strauss have
been the exciting features of the leading orchestral concerts. They
have fairly set the musical _cognoscenti_ by the ears. The strenuous
German artist is yet a young man, and what he may achieve in an
uncertain future is a fruitful subject for critical speculation.
What he has already done is to stir up the musical world as it has
not been stirred since Richard Wagner proclaimed his regenerative
theories of the musical drama. Strauss has turned the technic of
orchestral composition topsy-turvy, and has made orchestras sing new
songs. He has in certain ways discredited Beethoven and the prophets,
and has shrunk the orchestral wonders of Berlioz and Wagner to the
dimensions of a Sunday afternoon band concert. He has caused the
critical heathen to rage and the long-haired people to imagine vain
things. In fine, the simple question now frankly discussed in the
sacred circles of the inner brotherhood is just this: "Is Richard
Strauss a heaven-born genius, or is he merely crazy?"

Usually when musical composers have ventured out of the beaten
path, just found by the critics after much thorny wandering through
the jungle of error, the cry has been that they were going astray.
The poor critics have never been able to understand how any genius
could depart from the beaten path without being lost in the woods,
as they themselves generally are. In nine cases out of ten the
composer who does so depart is lost, and hence the critic's calling
is not altogether one of sorrow. The prophet who has ninety per
cent of "I told you so" in his retrospective views is not wholly a
subject for commiseration. But there is that tenth man, who is always
an explorer, and who always sets to cutting new paths through the
forest. The critic says, "You're going to get lost," and he replies,
"I may lose you, but not myself." After a time he comes out of the
forest into a new and beautiful land, and the critic, limping slowly
and painfully after him, murmurs, "You were right: it is good for us
to be here."

And so the music critics, who long ago reduced their comments on
Beethoven and Weber and Schubert and Schumann to an exact science,
and who have made it possible for any old reader to predict precisely
what will be said on the morning after a purely classical concert,
have fallen over the music of Strauss into a confusion like unto
that of the army of Pharaoh suddenly overtaken by the waters of
the Red Sea. It was about twelve years ago that this music began
to echo through the concert-rooms of America. Strauss had begun to
write early in life, but his first works were imitative of the older
masters. The real Richard Strauss began to reveal himself in 1887,
when he produced "Macbeth," the first of his series of symphonic
poems. The others are Don Juan (1888), Death and Apotheosis (1889),
Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks (1895), Thus Spake Zarathustra
(1896), Don Quixote (1897), and A Hero's Life (1898). The "Symphonia
Domestica," which is really a tone poem, was produced at Carnegie
Hall, New York, March 21, 1904.

What has Strauss done in these works to "so get the start of the
majestic world"? He has asked us to listen to orchestral compositions
made with wide deviations from the established outlines, with a
new melodic idiom, with a harmony which frequently affects the ear
precisely as lemon juice affects the palate, with instrumental
combinations of overpowering sonority and harshness, and, above all,
with attempts at a detailed definiteness of expression which demand
the closest application of the hearer's powers of analysis.

He has excited curiosity of the liveliest kind among those who hold
that there is a real difference "'twixt tweedledum and tweedledee."
To those who accept music, as they accept soup, as one of the
conventional details of a polite existence, all this pother about
Strauss must seem unnecessary, yet since it has come, they naturally
desire to know what it is all about. They must, then, begin by
recognizing the fact that the modern orchestra has developed from
a collection of ill-assorted and misunderstood instruments into a
single instrument, the most eloquent at the disposal of the composer.
It is majestic in power, royal in dignity, brilliant in gayety,
convulsing in sport, inspiring in appeal, melting in supplication.
Its variety of tonal shades is exhaustless. Its scale ranges from the
profoundest bass to the acutest treble. Its dynamic power modulates
from the faintest whisper of a pianissimo to the thunderous crash of
a fortissimo. It sings, it laughs, it weeps, it woos, it storms, it
hymns, it meditates,--all at the command of the composer who knows
how to utilize its powers.

Yet it is still an imperfectly understood instrument. Remember always
that music is the youngest of our modern arts. Remember, too, that
although we can trace its beginnings back to the fourth century of
the Christian era, we find that twelve hundred years were occupied
with the development of a single form of music,--vocal polyphony,
the form in which the mighty masterpieces of the Roman Church down
to the day of Lasso and Palestrina were composed. The masters of
this vocal polyphony were engaged in studying how they could compose
for the liturgy of the church music in which several voice-parts,
each singing a melody, could sound simultaneously and yet produce
agreeable harmonies. The discovery of the principles underlying this
method was made slowly, yet it was essential that this discovery
should be made. Without it musical art could not advance, for the
laws of counterpoint and harmony are the first principles of musical

Toward the close of the sixteenth century a change came over
the spirit of music. The mass of the Roman Church had become
so complicated and ornate in its style of composition that the
congregations did not know what words of the liturgy were sung. The
revival of Greek learning in Italy brought with it the study of the
Greek Testament in the original, and this study revealed the defects
of the Vulgate used by the church. A blow at Latin was a blow at
the authority of the church, and the questionings aroused by the
revelations of the Greek Testament touched the mass, and made the
people desirous of hearing the text and knowing what it was about.
Such a demand called for a simplification of musical style. This
demand was strengthened by the invention of printing. The people
began to get books and to read, and that led them to think and
inquire. Furthermore the chaste beauty of Greek art had become known,
and its influence promoted the simplification of musical style in the
church. The broad and dignified hymns employed by the great reformer,
Martin Luther, were another powerful argument in favor of simpler
music in the sanctuary. The church was not blind to the signs of the
time, and its composers made some efforts toward clarifying their

The revival of Greek learning led also to an attempt to resuscitate
the dead Greek drama, or rather to reconstruct the Italian play
on its lines. The fact that the Greeks had chanted rather than
declaimed their dramatic texts suggested to the little band of
Italian enthusiasts led by Galilei, Peri, and Caccini, an attempt
to reproduce this musical delivery. Their efforts resulted in the
invention of dramatic recitative and the birth of opera. With the
advent of this form of vocal art the supremacy of church polyphony
was overthrown. It did not cease to exist, but it lost its dominion
over the musical world, and it almost stopped developing. To this day
the works of Palestrina composed in the second half of the sixteenth
century remain the model and the despair of church composers. Handel
and Bach, introducing more modern harmonies and employing the
resources of the orchestra, which Palestrina and his predecessors
never used, carried vocal polyphony a little further, but their
advance was external rather than fundamental.

It was at this stage of musical progress that the orchestra made its
appearance,--a feeble, tottering, purposeless instrumental infant.
Collections of instruments had of course existed. Millionaires of
the Middle Ages drowned the inanities of their dinner conversation
with banquet music, just as the moderns do. But their assemblies of
instruments were merely fortuitous. Any instruments which chanced to
be in the house, and for which there were players, were utilized.
There was no music specially written for these orchestras. We may
suppose that they played the popular tunes of the day. When the opera
came into existence, some sort of orchestra had to be extemporized.
Here again in the beginning any instruments easily accessible seem
to have been taken up. It was not till Claudio Monteverde began
his experiments in instrumental combinations in his operas in the
early part of the seventeenth century that anything like method in
instrumentation was discernible.

Monteverde began the exploration of the resources of each instrument
in characteristic expression. He endeavored to measure the powers
of the viol, the trumpet, the organ, and certain combinations of
instruments as illustrators of dramatic action. He invented some
of the now familiar tricks of orchestration, such as the tremolo
and the pizzicato. Furthermore he created an instrumental figure to
imitate the galloping of horses and another to depict the struggle
of a combat, and thus was really the artistic progenitor of Richard
Strauss, with his battle dins and his pirouetting maids. Succeeding
composers were not slow to follow the suggestions offered by the work
of Monteverde. The opera became a field for instrumental experiment,
and the orchestra, as employed by the operatic composers, was
continually in advance of the symphonic orchestra in the variety and
extent of its combinations and in the utilization of the special
powers of each individual instrument. This continued to be the case
up to the time of Liszt, Berlioz, and Wagner, when the technics
of conventional orchestration were so thoroughly established that
the demands of the new romantic school of composers affected the
orchestra simultaneously in opera and symphonic composition.

That the operatic orchestra should have taken the lead was perfectly
natural. When vocal polyphony was deposed from its supremacy,
instrumental music was in its infancy. Only the organ had achieved
anything approaching independence, and that was because all the
leading composers had been writing for the church and knew the church
instrument. For practice at home they used the clavichord, one of the
forerunners of the piano, and they began presently to compose special
music for it, but in the style of their organ music. Gradually they
fell into the way of writing for small groups of instruments, and
after a time the orchestra found its way from the opera house to the
church, and the orchestrally accompanied mass came into existence.
But meanwhile the composers who wrote for the clavier, with the aid
of those who wrote for the solo violin, were fashioning a form, and
after a time the sonata began to assume a definite shape. Now it was
borne in upon composers that their auditors would not arrive at the
opera in time to hear the overture, for operatic publics were much
the same then as they are now; and the poor composers had recourse to
writing their overtures so that they could be played independently
and having them performed at concerts. As these overtures were
written in a form founded upon the principles of the sonata form,
nothing was more natural than that gradually composers should be led
to the composition of complete sonatas for orchestra, and a sonata
for orchestra is a symphony.

In the middle of the eighteenth century, then, after Sebastian
Bach had carried the piano solo through the splendors of his "Well
Tempered Clavichord," and the piano sonata had attained something
like defined shape, we see Stammitz, Gossec, and, at length, Haydn
producing thin, tentative weakly orchestrated sonatas for orchestra,
and the real development of independent orchestral composition began.
This was nearly a century and a half after the birth of the orchestra
as an adjunct to the opera, and the same length of time after the
beginning of independent composition for the clavichord. In other
words, although the modern art of music may fairly be said to have
begun at least as early as the beginning of the twelfth century,
when the fundamental principles of counterpoint were enunciated by
the French masters, the most splendid and powerful of all musical
instruments, the orchestra, is to-day in its infancy. For if the
masters of vocal polyphony took some twelve centuries to elaborate
their science, it is fair to presume that, even though the general
laws of music are now firmly established, the technics of the
orchestra and of orchestral composition, which are a little over a
hundred years old, are yet by no means fully understood.

The method of composition employed by the early masters of
orchestral music was elaborate, yet not recondite. It was a system
of architecture in tones, and its achievements were distinctly
satisfying to the æsthetic discernment and to the appetite of
the human mind for a logical arrangement of ideas. Four parts or
movements were allotted to a symphonic work. Contrast of time,
rhythm, key, and harmonic color was sought. Each movement differed
from that next to it. Variety in unity was the ultimate object.
But each movement had to have a well-defined shape within itself.
Two melodic ideas, complementary to each other in key, rhythmic
nature, and sentiment, were invented. They were held up for the
inspection of the hearer at the beginning of the movement Then the
composer embarked upon what was called the "working out." He took the
essential features of his two melodies and juggled them through the
tricks of musical metamorphosis. He dressed them in new harmonies;
he made them writhe in the embraces of counterpoint; he expanded
them into new melodies; he sang them with the different voices of
the instrumental body. In the end he repeated them in their original
shape, and brought his movement to a close. The entire purpose was
the treatment of themes. The only aim was to make symmetrical,
intelligible, interesting music.

In evolving this form the composers fell, as I have said, into a
conventional use of their orchestra. They had three choirs, one of
wooden wind instruments, one of brass, and one of strings played
with bows. They allotted fixed functions to each choir and to the
members of each, and there they stopped. Occasionally a hint from
the operatic treatment of the instruments enlightened them and they
made a slight advance, but nevertheless, when Beethoven came to
write his symphonies, in which he attempted to make orchestral music
attain something more than mere musical beauty, he found himself
hampered by the conventionalities of symphonic orchestration, as
well as by those of the symphonic form. It was the limitation of the
form, indeed, which restrained the instrumentation. The form itself
had first reached definiteness with Haydn, who died when Beethoven
was thirty-nine. Only in his later years did Haydn learn the use of
clarinets, the most important members of the wood wind choir.

Beethoven, striving to make the symphony a vehicle for emotional
expression, was compelled to busy himself with changes in the form,
and he gave no special study to instrumental effects. He used such
new ones as readily suggested themselves to him, but they were
nothing more than elaborations of the old conventions. However, the
seed sown by Beethoven speedily bloomed in the growth of the new
romantic school. The principal tenet of this school was that music
must express emotions, and that the form must develop entirely
from the emotional purpose and plan of the work. Two distinguished
explorers of this new style devoted their highest efforts to the
production of orchestral composition.

Liszt endeavored to tell stories in music by erasing the dividing
line between movements and writing his work all in one piece. He
retained the two contrasting themes of the old symphonists, but
he asked his hearers to affix a meaning to each of them. Then he
proceeded to handle them in much the same way as the symphonists
did, working them out, and varying them with much skill, though
always with a view to suggesting the development of the incidents
of his story. To such a purpose the resources of orchestral color
lent mighty aid, and Liszt was not slow to perceive this. He began
to draw away from the conventions of the symphonists, and to seek
for new and striking instrumental combinations. Nevertheless in his
compositions for orchestra Liszt was the debtor of two men much more
remarkable than himself, namely, Wagner and Berlioz. From the former
he got the idea of the use of themes with definite meanings attached
to them. From the latter he obtained the suggestion of the employment
of the orchestra to tell stories and much information as to its
technics. Berlioz, however, continued the use of separate movements,
and his attempts to use definitely representative themes were few and
uncertain. He preceded Wagner, nevertheless, in the revelation of the
resources of the orchestra, and he antedated Liszt in the use of the
orchestra for romantic composition.

Later imitators of Berlioz and Liszt failed to perceive anything
except the vast color schemes of their orchestration. Borrowing a few
of the conventional figures of the older writers, such as Haydn's sea
waves and Beethoven's thunder-storms, they asked us to see things
through a kaleidoscope of instrumental color. They forgot that we
could not understand them when they made no logical appeal to our

Richard Strauss, standing upon the vantage ground made for him by
Berlioz, Liszt, and Wagner, has evidently tried to carry the direct
expression of the orchestra to a higher plane by utilizing the best
elements of their work. He has sought to make the orchestra tell
stories, but he has not made the error of supposing that he could
ignore the fundamental principles of musical form which constituted
the ground plan of the old symphony. He has utilized themes with
definite meanings attached to them, as Wagner did, without confining
himself to two, as the older writers did, and as Liszt did in most of
his works. He has returned in his later compositions to the fashion
of clearly separated movements, while he has made them pass before
the hearer without pauses between any two of them. He has developed
his themes according to the principles laid down by the symphonic
masters, and has striven to enforce their meaning with all the
effects of orchestral color. And withal he has endeavored to compose
only music with a purpose, never music for its own sake. In short,
Strauss has shown that the principles of musical form which the
earlier writers painfully evolved out of their attempts to produce
nothing beyond musical beauty, not only can be, but must be, utilized
by the composer who cares nothing whatever about musical beauty, and
who aims only at making music a means of expression.

This I believe to be Strauss's greatest and most significant
achievement. It is the legacy which he will leave to his successors,
and which will influence the progress of musical development.
His handling of the orchestra itself is a natural outgrowth of
the researches of Berlioz and Wagner. The former left little to
be learned about the capacity of each individual instrument; the
latter developed to an extraordinary degree the employment of many
voice-parts and the use of striking combinations. The early writers,
for example, used violins always in two parts, whereas Wagner
divided them sometimes into as many as fifteen. Flutes, oboes, and
clarinets were used by the classic masters in pairs; Wagner began to
employ them by threes. Strauss uses three or four of each. He makes
his orchestra sing in many parts, and he keeps the various voices
weaving and interweaving in marvellously learned counterpoint. When
he wants a great climax of sound, he gets one that is overwhelming.
Furthermore, he habitually introduces solo voices among the mass of
tone. He individualizes his instruments, and in some compositions
fairly casts them for definite dramatic impersonations. Musicians
will understand me when I add that he has asked every orchestral
player to be a virtuoso. He writes formidably difficult passages
for horns, for trombones, for oboes. He makes no concessions to the
technical difficulties of the instruments, as the older writers did.
He treats the instruments, as Wagner treated human voices, simply as
means of expression. The players must master the difficulties.

The critical quarrel with Strauss is based upon three grounds:
first, that he endeavors to make music tell a complete story; second,
that he seeks materials which are unsuited to musical embodiment;
and, third, that he writes ugly music. Composers have yielded to
the temptations of their fancies since the earliest days. Away back
in the fifteenth century, Jannequin tried to describe The Cries of
Paris in four-part vocal polyphony. Later composers fashioned piano
pieces which were supposed to tell whole histories. Ambros, the
distinguished German historian of music, felt it incumbent on him to
write a book to show where the communicative power of music ended
and the aid of text must be called in. Wagner declared that music
unassisted could go no further than Beethoven's symphonies, and that
the last movement of the Ninth Symphony was a confession of that fact.

It was long ago conceded that music could depict the broader
emotions. It has generally been denied that it could go into details
or explain to the hearer the causes of the feelings which it
expressed. Yet by the judicious use of titles and the establishment
of a connection between a composition and some well-known drama or
poem, the imagination of the hearer is stimulated to conceive the
meaning of many details otherwise incomprehensible. Strauss goes
the furthest in the elaboration of detail. He uses numerous themes,
each a guiding motive in the Wagnerian sense, and he asks us to
follow them through a myriad of musical workings out, all having
direct significance in telling a story. The stories are not without
unpleasant incidents and the music is rasping in its ugliness at
times. But this is not for us to judge. What is said of the music of
Strauss now was said twenty-five years ago of Wagner's. But a few
years, and the acidulated croakings of the singer of Munich may be
as sweet upon our ears as now are the endless melodic weavings of
"Tristan und Isolde."

Of the ideas which lie behind the music of Strauss less can be
said in opposition now than could be said five years ago. Then we
knew Strauss as the writer of "Don Juan," an attempt to put into
music the sensuality of a libertine, his final satiety, his utter
coldness of heart; of "Death and Apotheosis," a weird endeavor
to portray with an orchestra the horrors of dissolution, the
gasps, the struggles, the death-rattle, the _tremor mortis_; "Till
Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks," a study in musical depiction of
wandering vulgarity, of jocular obscenity, a vast and coruscating
jumble of instrumental cackles about things unfit to be mentioned.
We felt that the nineteenth century was closing with something like
midsummer madness in art. With Ibsens, Maeterlincks, and Strausses
plucking like soulless ghouls upon the snapping heart-strings of
humanity, treating the heart as a monochord for the scientific
measurement of intervals of pain, and finally poking with their
skeleton fingers in the ashes of the tomb to see if they could not
find a single smouldering ember of human agony, we had attained a
rare state of morbidity in art. We felt that when Art had turned for
her inspiration to the asylum, the brothel, and the pesthouse, it
was time for a new renaissance. Strauss was our musical Maeterlinck,
our tonal Ibsen. Vague, indefinable fancies, grotesque and monstrous
mysticisms, gaunt shapes and shapeless horrors, seemed to be his
substitutes for clean, strong, pure ideals; and when he set to music
Friedrich Nietzsche's "Thus Spake Zarathustra," the philosophy of
the solution of "world riddles," we thought he had utterly gone mad.
For in this work we found the highest skill in the development and
polyphonic treatment of leading motives devoted to an attempt to make
music lecture on metaphysics, when all the time it was perfectly
obvious that without reading Nietzsche's book no one could have any
notion of the composer's intent. The mastery of orchestration and of
the technics of composition shown in this work convinced thoughtful
critics that Strauss was not to be sniffed out of consideration. Here
was a force to be reckoned with in musical progress, even though it
was mistakenly wielded.

With the introduction of "A Hero's Life," Strauss seemed suddenly
to have entered upon cleaner vision. To this day I am lost in wonder
at the vast and appalling ugliness of some parts of the composition,
but I know that custom will make dear to us musical idioms which now
excite our antipathy. That is an old story. Artusi of Bologna said
that Monteverde had lost sight of the true purpose of music,--to
give pleasure. A similar accusation was once brought against the
mellifluous and tactful Rossini. It was shouted through Europe
against Wagner. We may use it against Strauss, but if we do, we must
chance the ridicule of the hereafter. "A Hero's Life," despite its
frequent attempts to make music speak more definitely than music can,
is based on broad moods which are suitable for musical exposition.
Wild, chaotic, discordant as many of the passages of this remarkable
work certainly seem to us now, there is no denying the extraordinary
mastership shown in its thematic development. The Wagnerian method
of modifying themes in rhythm and harmony so as to alter their
dramatic significance is combined successfully with the methods of
the classicists in working out. Modern polyphony, the polyphony of
hazardous cross paths in acrid harmony, of the Impinging contrapuntal
curves, is handled with consummate ease. It is orchestral technic
of the highest kind, but it all aims at making music which shall
describe the minutest feelings, the finest shades of thought, and the
most varied actions of personages whom the hearer must see with his
mind's eye.

It aims at a wider and more detailed expression than the repulsive
"Don Juan" and the vulgar "Till Eulenspiegel," but it is clean and
wholesome in tone, and most of its material is safe from the charge
of unfitness for publication. It is not impossible to conceive of
Strauss after producing this work as looking back over his entire
orchestral product and addressing us in the words of the inscrutable
McIntosh Jellaludin: "Some of it must go; the public are fools
and prudish fools. I was their servant once. But do your mangling
gently--very gently. It is a great work, and I have paid for it in
seven years' damnation."

It is too soon for us to say that Strauss will influence the
future. He may leave us nothing but certain purely mechanical
improvements in orchestral technics. Even these will have their
value. Yet all recent attempts at progress in music have been in the
direction of more definite expression, and Strauss may be only a
stepping-stone in an advance toward that blissful epoch whose hearers
will display as much imagination as its composers, that transcendent
condition in which genius understands genius. As in that faculty-free
heaven celebrated in undergraduate song, no musical critics will be
there. Every man will be his own critic. The millennium will have

                       II.--THE ÆSTHETIC VIEW

           Denique sit quidvis, simplex duntaxat et unum.

                                       HORACE, _Ars Poetica_.

Mr. Strauss has been acclaimed as an explorer, a pathfinder in the
wilderness of new art. But after all he is simply a product, or
perhaps it would be more exact to say a result; for the trend of
musical art in the past century was toward representation.

But the attempts of the early composers were in the line of
descriptive music, which is a species of mimetics. The transfer of
peculiar sounds and characteristic sound-motions, as in the cases of
whistling wind and undulating forest billows, to the musical canvas,
is a simple and natural process. It pleases the most superficial mind
by the translation of one art into terms of another. To "paint" in
sounds, as the musicians term it, is a pretty and poetic fancy. It is
like the poet's use of tone-speech to imitate qualities or motions.
It is the onomatopoetic in music. Sometimes it is the paronymous.

We are all cultivated savages. The primeval hordes of Europe had
their rude rhythms and their inarticulate cries, which were as
music to their ears. Significance was attached to these sounds
wholly because of their external resemblance to something lying in a
different plane of human experience. We have refined and extended the
scale and have attuned our ears and our spirits to higher tones. We
hear triads in stones, scales in running brooks, and chords of the
diminished seventh in everything.

How long was it before the musicians ceased to content themselves
with their tone pictures of ocean waves and murmuring streams?
Surely, it was not long after Monteverde found the rhythmic and
instrumental equivalents for the galloping of horses and the crashing
together of gallant and knightly combatants that the dream of joy or
woe, uttered in songs without words, entered the minds of composers.
Monteverde's lament of Arianna showed that the plaint of a sorrowing
heart might be most musical, most melancholy. Doubtless, as the
indolent Venetian gondolier hummed the melody and forgot the words
through the shining avenues of the island city, the thought came
dimly to him, as it did clearly to the musician, that the tune was
sad and saddening, even without the text.

But not till the time of Beethoven was a direct and explicit effort
made to paint soul pictures in wordless music. Beethoven was indeed
the regenerator of instrumental art, in that he demonstrated with
splendid and convincing power in his later symphonies that the
classic sonata form could sing the weal and woe of humanity with
eloquence as noble as that of the opera aria aided by the explanatory
comment of its own verses.

Beethoven, however, contented himself with broad outlines. He sang
passion, joy, grief, resolution, courage, force; but never did he
essay to impart to his music the virtue of an explanation. The fifth
symphony explains itself and it asks no aid from without. It does not
lean back against a wall of text for its support.

The seventh symphony has been subjected to various processes of
explanation, but it reads most clearly in its own light as a series
of mood pictures. The ninth symphony goes further, and here Beethoven
frankly confessed that in order to make his purpose clear he needed
text. The construction of the last movement brings to the hearer in
its opening measures a solution of the meaning of the three preceding
movements. It is the Wagnerian device of prophesying with themes in
the early part of a work, and furnishing the key when at length the
theme is associated with text later in the composition. There is no
utterly new thing under the _cantus firmus_.

Beethoven's psychographics are general and not specific. He does not
seek to chase the emotion to its source and to speculate upon its
nature and origin. He is content to represent it in tone, to decorate
it, if you will, with instrumental color, but there he stops. Shall
we say that therefore Beethoven's psychometry was saner and more
artistic than that of Strauss and his few brothers in art?

It is a question similar to that which arises in literature anent
the comparative merits of Shakespeare and Ibsen. But here is a
substantial difference. Shakespeare was unquestionably a mighty poet,
and Ibsen is a prose dramatist pure and simple. Shakespeare was an
idealist and Ibsen is the arch realist of the age. It is not just
criticism to compare these two. You may compare Clyde Fitch with
Sheridan or Augustus Thomas with Robertson, if you will, but it is
no more honest to compare Ibsen with Shakespeare than it would be to
compare him with Æschylus.

But when you come to music, you come to a different issue. Absolute
music is an entity. It is a very special branch of an art which has
varieties. The lied, for example, is an art form by itself; so is
the oratorio, and so again is the music drama of Wagner. It were
foolish to try to compare the symphonies of Beethoven with the songs
of Schubert and thence to decide which was the greater composer.
The development of the symphonic branch of musical art is that in
which Beethoven was most specially concerned, and it is to his
successors in that field that we must look to study the outcome of
his innovations.

When we trace the advance of symphonic art from Beethoven to
Strauss, we find a steady and irresistible movement away from the
representation of broad, fundamental soul states, from a strictly
scientific method of musical psychostatics down to a condition in
which the orchestra is transformed into a psychoscope, and the
symphony is become a treatise on mental diseases and methods of
conversing with the dead. Composers seem bent on pinning down to
their artistic dissecting-tables the very essence of the soul itself.

The simple imitative method of the pristine descriptions in tone
has become neurotic mimicry, and the melodic and harmonic idioms
hint that the modern ear is suffering from acute myringomycrosis, a
cheerful affliction caused by the growth of fungi on the ear drum.
Fungi are plentiful in damp and noisome places, and these seem to be
the artistic haunts of the imaginations of the Ibscene realists in

This so-called "romantic" music of to-day owes a considerable debt
to the Abbé Liszt, whose undertakings in the domain of art are
overestimated by his adulators and undervalued by his detractors.
But there is no practical denial of the fact that Liszt fashioned a
system and set up a manner in his symphonic poem. Richard Strauss
might have been possible without Liszt, but as matters stand we are
bound to acknowledge the debt of the composer of "Don Juan" to the
composer of "Tasso."

Yet how far beyond Liszt has the psychologic composition of to-day
advanced? Liszt did undertake to make his music tell stories, and
that is a thing which, with all deference to Liszt, music cannot do
and never has done. You have to read Byron's "Mazeppa" to understand
Liszt's, just as you have to read Bürger's "Lenore" if you wish to
understand so naïve a story-teller as Raff's "Lenore" symphony. How
much more necessary is it to read Maeterlinck's "Death of Tintagiles"
in order to understand Charles Martin Loeffler? Not a bit.

But Liszt never dreamed of analyzing soul states and those
mysterious conflicts of soul and body which form the materials of
psychomachy. He never sought to trace the origin of life nor the
seat of the vital spark. The abbé was something of a mystic, too,
but he knew he was not a genius. A very able dissimulator, a pious
Mephistopheles, a Machiavellian master of musical arts, and the
father of Cosima Wagner, he exploited his external impositions with
consummate skill; and when he sat down to compose, he swore fealty to
the highest ideals with all the sincerity of Iago swearing vengeance
at the side of the kneeling Othello.

He sent forth into the easy world his purple and yellow masterpieces,
and the world called them royal. A little drawing and a great deal
of color was what he offered, and the public saw in his splotches of
sound Turneresque mystery and mastery. The dear public still loves
these works, and will probably continue to do so for many years.
And in one respect the public is right. Liszt never tried to be
too definite. He left something to the imagination, and when the
public has not any imagination, it imagines that it has, and that
it is discerning things in Liszt's works which Liszt himself never

Camille Saint-Saëns of France is, in his boulevardian way, a
follower of Liszt. He also has written symphonic poems and he has
been wise enough not to go to the uttermost limits of detailed
expression. His Hercules is a gentleman and his Omphale dwelt not far
from the Rue de Berlin. Hercules went to see her in a Paris cab--you
can hear the cocher swear. Omphale dressed him in a Paquin gown and
dealt him exquisite love-taps with his rosewood opera cane.

Dainty Hercules of the Boulevard des Italiens and seductive Omphale
of the Rue de Berlin! Ye are the Watteau pictures of a would-be
pastoral, the mincing marionettes of a cigarette smoker's dream.
Between such gentle figures as you and the chortling barbarians of
the Strauss phantasy there is the vast and impassable gulf of fetid
inspiration which separates Alexander Pope from Rabelais. Though
he paint Phaeton swinging wide the chariot of the sun through the
affrighted heavens and plunging headlong into Eridanus, or Death
strumming the "zig et zig et zag sur son violon," Saint-Saëns is
always a gentleman, the Mendelssohn of romantic orchestration.

But the symphonic poem is not confined to Liszt and Saint-Saëns. It
has spread itself through all Europe and has inoculated the symphony.
Poor Rubinstein! When he wrote his "Ocean" symphony, he held himself
within the limits of the art of composition as formulated by
Beethoven in his fifth and seventh symphonies. He painted broad mood
pictures. He imitated motions as frankly as Haydn. He was elementary,
even at times elemental. At any rate, he was sane. He respected
the boundaries that lie, as Ambros has shown us, between music and
poetry, and did not call upon the tone art to write treatises and
handbooks. He strove to induce music to sing the might and majesty of
the ocean, but he did not ask it to find the latitude and longitude.

Other masters have struggled to make the symphony more definite in
its tale-telling, but till to-day it has succeeded in keeping its
place as the epitome of general emotional states. Tschaïkowsky--most
vigorous, if not most subtle, of all recent masters, bursting with
savage passions, flaming with wild northern fancies--wrote into the
symphony the representation of all human sufferings, the yearnings
and grim revel, the madness and despair of Russia. But he clung to
the deep-laid emotional scheme.

In his overtures he has gone not a whit further than Beethoven did
in the "Leonore" No. 3. Tschaïkowsky's "Hamlet," his "Romeo and
Juliet," are mood pictures, perfectly comprehensible to all who know
the dramas. They class with such works as Goldmark's "Sakuntala" and
"Prometheus." Of these latter how clear and convincing is the second
with its voices of sea nymphs, its solitude of the ocean, its mad
effort of the man, and its lightning blast of Jove.

True, you must know Æschylus, and therein lies the weakness of all
this kind of music, its temptation and its danger. If we may go so
far, how are we to be estopped from prying further into the mysteries
of musical depiction?

How this field has tempted the Frenchmen, and how little they have
found in it! After all, Saint-Saëns is not so bad. Think of the
intricate platitudes, the prolix prosiness and lofty emptiness of
Bruneau's "Penthesilée" and "La Belle aux Bois Dormant" (poèmes
symphoniques au sérieux, mes amis), while Godard, Joncières,
Paladilhe, and others have dipped respectfully into the romantic
_potage_ and barely soiled their fingers. But all have striven to
paint in tones, and have at any rate gone as far as sketching in

Possibly the time will come when music will be a universal language.
Certain cadences will be accepted in China, in Sussex, or in New
Jersey, as signifying such and such emotions or ideas, and certain
resolutions of suspensions will have a meaning current in St.
Petersburg, Vienna, and Cincinnati. But that time has not yet come,
and the programme note is still an essential accessory either before
or after the offence of the intimate symphonic poem.

The composers, while acknowledging this, continue to go forward
along the path which they have chosen. Music is daily moving away
from the broad mood pictures of Beethoven toward some form in which
every phrase shall have its part and place in the exposition of soul
secrets. The Frenchmen have made but little success, as we have seen,
for they have treated their composition, not as literary music, but
as literature itself.

If the work of Richard Strauss has any permanent significance at
all, it is that the æsthetic basis of the Liszt and Tschaïkowsky
compositions, the Goldmark overtures and the polished tone poems
of the Frenchmen is false, and that every attempt to rear upon it
a lasting art form must be futile. Here need be no discussion of
the stupendous achievements of Strauss's orchestration, nor the
astounding hideousness of his harmonic plan.

Who was it said recently that the good Mr. Loeffler of Boston
thought music in a scale of his own? The Loeffler scale--C, D, E,
F sharp, G sharp, A sharp, C. How sharper than a serpent's tooth!
Strauss thinks in a harmony of his own. A harmony? A cacophony. The
clash of jarring discord is as honey on the palate of his ear. The
tonic triad is not a stranger to him, but its devilish consonance of
the major third is to his mind, as it was to the pious fancies of the
mediæval fathers, the spirit of tonal evil, the seductive embodiment
of sensual sweetness.

Listen to his eternal feminine. When she plays the virtuous Kundry
to his Hero of the "Heldenleben" or the Venus to his nomadic
"Eulenspiegel" Tannhäuser, she sings in the wickedly purring major
mode. But when heroic virtue slaughters ink-stained critics or scales
the battlements of jarring worlds and plants the standard of manhood
on a minaret of the universe, then titanic visions are expressed
in crashing collisions of minor seconds or in strangled sixths
and desiccated elevenths. Trumpets bleat through their noses, and
clarinets chuckle in staccato treble; trombones rattle in raucous
gurgles, and bassoons snort in hoarse expirations.

But all this is superficial. This is the manner, not the matter
of the Strauss music. How far can this master magician, this royal
juggler with resolutions and suspensions, this acrobat of the flying
chord, go with his endeavor to make music say for him the things
that the entire decadent literature of modern Europe has striven to
put down in plain words? If Strauss means anything, he means that
Beethoven and Schumann were but the avant couriers of a vast march
of progress into the bowels of delineation, the vitals of psychic

Liszt and Tschaïkowsky and Goldmark postulated a false theory of
orchestral art because they clearly defined limitations. They
promulgated by their practice the doctrine that only the broader
moods of story could be represented in music. Strauss preaches that
when Beethoven depicted in his fifth symphony the struggle of a soul
and for the finer illustration of his thought united the scherzo with
the finale, he opened the gateway to indefinite progress, and swung
wide a banner with the old device, "Facilis descensus Averno."

Suppose, however, that this paragraph in the artistic treatise of
Strauss contains a germinal truth, does it of necessity follow that
to advance along the opened path is to finish in the corruption and
rank odor of the morgue? What has so got the start of the majestic
art of music as to lead it to the grave? First of all, decadent
poetry and fiction. When music began to strive to make itself a
representative art, it confronted itself with a choice of objects.
Primarily it had human life and experience as found in the composer's
own soul, and this was the noblest source of all. "Look into thine
own heart and write," is excellent advice for a composer. Then it had
literature, the conservation of the experience and observation of
man from the literary point of view. With these two sources it had
to rest content, for neither sculpture nor painting offered anything
other than the composition of life translated into other terms. The
musician would better paint the Laocoön from his own conception than
from the conception of the sculptor. He would but make music and
water of Raphael's Madonna if he studied her instead of the Mary of
the Holy Writ.

How long did it take the musician to discover that the Virgin was
not such inspiring musical material as Mary Magdalen? Just as long
as it took him to learn that he could not make a great composition
out of a steady flow of sweetness, that he must have a warring of
elements in his work, and that there must be some melodic principle
striving for victory and at the end emerging from temporary tonal
chaos in a pæan of triumph. The temptation of St. Anthony was better
matter for the composer than the meditations of St. Augustine, and
the fast of Christ in the wilderness was less alluring than the
legend of Herodias and John the Baptist.

In other words, the modern musician has found his finest inspirations
in that struggle of good with evil in the human soul which has
inspired the works of the greatest modern dramatists. The only
question that remained to be solved after this was, How far would the
musician go? The dramatist and the poet ran morbid; the musician,
seeking his inspiration in the records of human souls made in the
terms of literature, followed the man of the pen into the slough of

The morbid studies of such dramatists as Ibsen and Maeterlinck are
the real key to the music of such a composer as Strauss. Yet let
us not deny that the musician is less drastic in his methods than
the literary men. Strauss has indeed written his "Don Juan" and his
"Death and Apotheosis," but he has placed upon their pages some
passages of marvellous beauty. It is a beauty of orchestral idiom,
of instrumental development, rather than of melodic exfoliation.
Strauss, when all is said and done, is not master of melodic
invention, but he speaks a language which is all his own, and he
rises at times to a power of sonorous utterance which has not been
equalled in these modern days except by Wagner.

In his "Heldenleben" he has written more clearly than in some of
his earlier works, but when all is said, his chief concern seems to
be the dissection of souls for the purpose of exposing the lurking
spot of disease. He gives us psychonosology--the study of mental
diseases--rather than psychostatics--the study of the permanent
conditions of the soul--which Beethoven gave us.

Whether this be right or wrong, true or false art, is not for the
present to decide. Certainly such music is not for the masses. It
is not for those who persist in listening to tunes as tunes only
and condemning as no music that music which aims at some sort of

To condemn such music is to throw over the later works of Beethoven,
the choicest products of Chopin and Schumann, and many another
creation with which even the mere tune-lover would be loath to
part. But when the broad principles of all art are applied to the
soul searchings of Richard Strauss, questionings will arise. Is
it art? Certainly not, by the law of Schopenhauer, which guided
Wagner,--eternal ideas represented by means of prototypes.

This will hardly apply to Strauss's "Don Juan" or his "Till
Eulenspiegel." Beauty has thus far been the acknowledged end of all
art. Are these things beautiful? Is their æsthetic basis lofty and
wholesome? Surely not. Yet old Horace was indisputably right. Life is
short, and art is long. How many viewless ages yet shall run before
the process be complete? Who are we, to make final conclusions and
splutter our puny "Quod erat demonstrandum"? Let us wait.

For the fleeting present we must hang pendulous between two positive
extremes. Strauss is a symphonic poet or a symphonic poetaster. He is
a dreamer of grandly grotesque visions, a Cervantes, a Rabelais, if
you will, or a mere opium-eater without the genius of a De Quincey.
Something of the mystic phantasy of De Quincey certainly lurks in
the brain of him who wrote "Tod und Verklärung," and out of the
contrapuntal abyss of "Zarathustra" emerges at the last something
like the stupendous finale of the "Dream-Fugue":--

    "Then was completed the passion of the mighty fugue. The
    golden tubes of the organ, which had as yet but muttered
    at intervals,--gleaming among clouds and surges of
    incense,--threw up, as from fountains unfathomable, columns
    of heart-shattering music. Choir and anti-choir were filling
    fast with unknown voices. Thou also, dying trumpeter, with
    thy love that was victorious and thy anguish that was finishing,
    didst enter the tumult; trumpet and echo--farewell love and
    farewell anguish--rang through the dreadful sanctus."

Or is it all, this music of Strauss, a monstrous joke, and does
the man laugh in his sleeve at the troubled world? Is he not only
a musical Rabelais, but also that malodorous jest of a Rabelaisian
brain, Gargantua himself?

    "One of his governesses told me that at the very sound of
    pints and flagons he would fall into an ecstasy, as if he
    were tasting the joys of Paradise; and upon consideration
    of this his divine complexion they would every morning, to
    cheer him, play with a knife upon the glasses, or the bottles
    with their stoppers, and on the pint pots with their lids;
    at the sound whereof he became gay, would leap for joy,
    and rock himself in the cradle, lolling with his head and
    monochordizing with his fingers."

Till Eulenspiegel, Gargantua of Germany, noisome, nasty, rollicking
Till, with the whirligig scale of a yellow clarinet in his brain
and the beer-house rhythm of a pint pot in his heart, a joke upon a
joke,--was he, and not the posing _Held_ of the "Heldenleben," the
real Strauss?

                    III.--WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

            We transfretate the Sequane at the dilucul and crepuscul;
            we deambulate by the compites and quadrives of the urb; we
            despumate the Latin verbocination; and like verysimilary
            amorabons, we captat the benevolence of the omnijugal,
            omniform and omnigenal feminine sex.

                             RABELAIS, _Pantagruel_, bk. ii. ch. vi.

It matters little from what point we view the tendency of
musical art as it is disclosed to our vision through its most
potent manifestations. We are driven inward upon the central and
all-important question, How far can music go in the direction of
depicting things which lie outside itself? Is it to convert itself
into a language, or shall it sink into a kind of rapt mysticism
which shall be accepted in a vague way as a species of philosophic

Walter Pater in his essay on Coleridge says: "The true illustration
of the speculative temper is not the Hindoo mystic, lost to sense,
understanding, individuality, but one such as Goethe, to whom every
moment of life brought its contribution of experimental individual
knowledge; by whom no touch of the world of form, color, and passion
was disregarded."

Herein lies a deep, pregnant suggestion. Pater knew little enough
of the inner nature of music, but he was able to make some sensible
deductions from his comprehension of art in the broader sense, and in
another place in the volume just quoted ("Appreciations") he suggests
the possibility that music might be the ideal of all art, "precisely
because in music it is impossible to distinguish the form from the
substance or matter, the subject from the expression."

Against such a summary of the nature of music the whole practice of
composition to-day cries out. And at the same time it finds itself
unsatisfied by such a standard of speculative thought as that set
up by Mr. Pater. Music would perhaps profit highly by a faithful
adherence to that law of continual regard to the suggestions of the
"world of form, color, and passion." But the rapt vacancy of the
Hindoo mystic woos and wins the favor of composers, for outwardly it
has a philosophic appearance, and to philosophize in music seems now
to be the highest desire of its masters.

It is useless to attempt to blind one's self to facts. The march
of music from pure beauty of form and development of melodic ideas
toward the representation of ideas not musical in themselves has
been going on, as we have seen, from the very beginning. But at the
outset there was no endeavor to translate mental processes into
musical terms. As far back as the middle of the fifteenth century the
story of Susanna was told in unaccompanied choral music of purely
contrapuntal pattern. But there was no subtlety in such music.
The text set forth the narrative; the music was a mere framework.
Jannequin wrote his "Cries of Paris" in a similar style, but his
musical effects consisted of a few primitive imitations of externals.

Kuhnau's descriptive sonatas contain nothing confusing. They are
cheerfully frank in their endeavor to paint externals. They do not
probe either heart or brain. Not till the association of music with
the drama in the opera of the Italians of 1600, do we find the tone
art deliberately set to work to embody the inner life of man, and
then feelings alone were set forth.

The effort to embody feelings in vocal music was intelligible and
natural. Song borrowed its inflections from speech, and speech
took them from inarticulate cries. Peri's notion of using a smooth
movement and a narrow range of intervals for unimpassioned song was
taken from the instinctive practice of speech. We speak in two or
three notes, and slowly and regularly when we are perfectly calm.
When we become excited, our voices move through more intervals and
the tempo is accelerated. In agitation the speech is in broken,
spasmodic phrases; the voice rises and falls irregularly. In sadness
the minor mode comes involuntarily into our tones, and in weeping we
slide portamento through the chromatic scale.

When Gluck revived the method of Peri and worked it out elaborately,
he struck the deathblow to classicism, but his conservation of the
musical principle is to be found in his continued employment of
the purely musical forms. It was not for Gluck, a sculpturesque
composer, a worshipper of melodic line and curve, to enter into the
new paradise of operatic tone-speech. He pruned the old tree of many
useless limbs; he swept from it a mass of noisome fungi; but he
sat peacefully under its shade and knew not that its trunk pointed
slantwise away from the zenith.

Gluck faced the parting of the ways, but saw it not. With the young,
ingenuous, unsophisticated, and absolutely musical symphony of
Haydn staring him in the eyes, he failed to discover that its basic
principles were not available for the construction of an art form
embodying his dramatic ideals. The cyclic form of the plain song was
predominant in the thought of Gluck, and it misled him from his own
chosen path.

Weber failed to become a writer of speculative music for the same
reason. He utilized the Volkslied form in his operas, and thus kept
music in her throne of rule over text. Yet the effort of these two
men toward an intelligible expression of feeling in music was bound
to affect the composers of purely instrumental works.

There is no question in any mind that music can express feeling, or,
at any rate, arouse it. From the earliest time there has been music
for the feast and music for the funeral. Joy and sorrow have spoken
their hearts in the accents of song. Practice in the employment of
the elements of musical expression was bound to make the utterance
clearer, and when the rule of the ecclesiastic scales had been broken
and the modern major and minor modes had come into their own, it was
but another step to the complete inheritance of the chromatic world
which Cyprian di Rore strove to open up as far back as 1544.

It was when Wagner threw over the entire apparatus of the cyclic
form and the _lied_ and utilized to the utmost the resources of
chromatic modulation, that music in the drama entered completely into
the office of emotional expression. A new form was developed: that in
which a set of melodic fragments, each with a definite significance,
was woven into an instrumental ocean upon which the voice-parts
floated like enchanted shallops. Wagner fairly fulfilled the Pater
conception of the truly speculative artist, one "by whom no touch of
the world of form, color, and passion was disregarded." Gluck treated
poetry as a jewel, for which he as an artist was to provide the most
chaste, beautiful, and appropriate setting. Wagner viewed poetry and
music as two precious metals which he was to melt in the crucible of
his genius into a new and more glorious product.

We stand to-day, in so far as opera is concerned, upon the ground
cleared for us by Wagner. The Italians are striving to follow
his lead, though they are instinctively and almost ineffectively
endeavoring to preserve in their works that outward shape of vocal
melody which is a clearly drawn national characteristic. Since
Verdi's "Falstaff" nothing has been written which is of high import,
for the calm contemplation of criticism cannot be deceived by the
superficial cleverness of "Tosca," "La Bohème," and "Pagliacci," or
the Mascagni turgidities. These works sparkle with the jewels of
talent, but they never glow with the sunlight of genius. One act of
Verdi's "Otello" or Boito's "Mefistofele" pales their reflected fires
to the sickly yellow of a farthing rushlight.

But these writers are striving to advance beyond Wagner in the
subtlety of the inner processes which they put into music. In all
the Wagnerian drama there is no such purely modern product as the
Scarpia of Puccini or the Osaka of Mascagni. Loge is elemental. He is
a superhuman poetic creation, as well suited to the investiture of
music as Milton's Lucifer. But setting Scarpia and Osaka to music is
much like composing Joseph Chamberlain or Thomas Collier Platt.

The reaction of all this refinement of the means of expression in
the musical drama upon instrumental music has led the song without
words into a new country. The primitive descriptions of Kuhnau
and Bach now make us smile. We have hunted the central secret to
its lair. We have asked music to sing not only those broad moods
of joy and sadness, peace and rage, which the imitation of the
inflections of the voice in speech made possible for her in the very
infancy of inarticulate song, but we have demanded that she chase
the intellectual concept to its source and embody reasonings and
conclusions as if she were the handmaid of the inductive method.

So far have we gone that we can no longer blame those primitive
thinkers who seek to fasten a story upon every composition. We find
even so calm a commentator as Sir George Grove regretting that
Beethoven did not prefix a descriptive title to the fifth symphony in
order that we might discover his expressional purpose.

We have reached a situation which reduces music to a secondary
position. She is no longer a proud and independent art, in which,
as Mr. Pater notes, the substance and the form are one. The classic
forms in which purely musical beauty was contained, in which the
attempts at expression were confined to broad mood painting and
the methods were always those of thematic development, are used by
comparatively few composers. The title "symphony" is placed upon
works which have few of the characteristics of the Beethoven model.

True, these works do not, because they cannot, abandon the
fundamental principles of musical form. Even the tone poems of
Richard Strauss are built in accordance with these inexorable
laws. Architecture cannot do away with walls and roofs and floors,
nor the consideration of weight-sustaining power. But its outward
presentations may and do travel far away from the manner of the

Music no longer exists for herself. She seeks material always from
without. Who writes now an "overture, scherzo, and finale"? Even
Schumann, one of the pioneers of the modern romantic movement, did
that; but our overfed imaginations require stimulation in the shape
of titles. It must be an overture to an East Indian poem, which none
of us ever read, or a symphonic fantasia on a Buddhistic doctrine,
or a theme and variations setting forth the thoughts and actions
of an allegorical character who was in himself a satire upon a
generalization. In order that we may know what the composer is trying
to tell us in the inarticulate language of the song without words,
we must have a long and perplexing explanation by a learned pundit
who constructs programme notes with the aid of a public library and a
few Delphic hints from the composer himself. Then we must sit in the
concert room gravely contemplating these notes while the orchestra is
playing the music, and seriously endeavoring to delude ourselves into
the belief that we can perform two mental processes at once,--namely,
reading and grasping the fulness of the programme explanation at the
same time that we listen to and analyze the composition.

It seems about time for us to return to our Ambros and study his
admirable book on the "Boundaries of Music and Poetry." Here is his
just and convincing conclusion: "But in its ideal feature, music
keeps within its natural boundaries so long as it does not undertake
to go beyond its expressional capacity,--that is, so long as the
poetical thought of the composer becomes intelligible from the moods
called forth by his work and the train of ideas stimulated thereby,
that is, from the composition itself; and so long as nothing foreign,
not organically connected with the music itself, must be dragged in
in order to assist comprehension."

How many of our ultra-refined orchestral studies in logic will stand
examination in the searching light of that proclamation? Yet Ambros
comes to that conclusion at the end of a volume written in answer
to Hanslick's "The Beautiful in Music," of which the fundamental
doctrine is that music has not expressional power at all. Ambros set
out to show that it had, but that there was a point beyond which it
could not go.

That point he found set clearly in view in the symphonic works of
Berlioz. He recounts the process of development of that master's
"Romeo et Juliette" symphony. He compares it with Mendelssohn's
"Meerestille und Glückliche Fahrt" overture, and notes that the title
of the latter is an exact reproduction of Goethe's language. But
"there is in the matter the great difference that this tonal work,
even utterly apart from Goethe's poem, is in and through itself
explicable and intelligible, and bears in itself its æsthetic centre
of gravity and the conditions of its existence, whereas in the
case of 'Romeo and Juliet' the centre of gravity lies outside, the
music,--that is to say, in the Shakespearian drama."

Mendelssohn, when he conceived his "Fingal's Cave" overture,
embodied in a sentence the impeccable theory of correctly conceived
programme music. He wrote to his sister that he could not describe
such a thing, but he could play it. Having absorbed the mood of
that landscape, he, being a musician, could reproduce it only in
tones. Berlioz, on the other hand, sought not only to picture in his
music the personalities and passions of the lovers, but he sought
to reproduce in the form of a scherzo the poetic description of an
imaginary conception, Queen Mab, put into the mouth of a character
created by Shakespeare! It was a long way round, was it not?

How great a difference is there between that process and Mr.
Strauss's attempt to convey to us in music the conversation of
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza or the anger of the knight at seeing
the false Dulcinea? The centre of gravity is outside the music.
So it is in "Ein Heldenleben," Strauss's strongest composition,
and in his other tone poems. Tschaïkowsky, on the other hand, was
content to write "Pathetique"--even more than was needed--over his
sixth symphony, and let it stand with that. His "Romeo and Juliet"
overture fantasia is dependent upon itself alone for its artistic
justification. The centre of æsthetic gravity is in the work.

Let us, however, give Mr. Strauss the benefit of his own utterances.
In 1897, in speaking of "Also sprach Zarathustra" he said: "I did
not intend to write philosophical music, nor to portray Nietzsche's
great work musically. I meant to convey musically an idea of the
development of the human race from its origin through the various
phases of development (religious as well as scientific) up to
Nietzsche's idea of the Uebermensch, the Beyond-Man of Goethe."

As a London critic remarked at the time, "even this is a tall
order." Of course Mr. Strauss's word must be accepted. But before
the present writer lies an elaborate pamphlet of some forty pages
by Frederick Roesch and Eberhard Koenig, entitled "Ein Heldenleben,
Tondichtung für Grosses Orchester, von Richard Strauss." It
reproduces sixty-eight themes from the tone poem and has a long and
laborious explanation of the composer's purpose and meaning. There
are similar programme notes for other works by this composer. Persons
who admit the iniquity of such explanations stoutly maintain that Mr.
Strauss does not approve of them. The one before us was published
by F. E. C. Leuckart, of Leipsic. On the last page are advertised
several compositions by Strauss published by the same person.

Furthermore, previous to the production of the "Symphonia Domestica"
in New York last March, Mr. Strauss had steadfastly denied that
there was any programme for the work. "It represents simply a day
in my family life," he said. These statements were repeated in the
official programme note of the concert, written by my colleague, H.
E. Krehbiel, of the New York _Tribune_. The day after the concert
the New York _Times_ published a detailed programme of the symphony,
furnished to the writer, Richard Aldrich, by Dr. Strauss, and that
programme was more elaborate and materialistic than any imagined by
uninformed gropers after the composer's meaning.

Howsoever these things be, the ultimate question remains: Will the
compositions of Mr. Strauss and his kind stand the test of Ambros?
Is their æsthetic centre of gravity within themselves? That is a
true test of all art works. The test of a Corot landscape is not
its perfect portraiture of a place, but its complete and satisfying
existence as a painting; and that, be it noted, is wholly a matter of
artistic feeling in the work itself. The test of a poem is not its
power to convey to the reader a mental photograph of the scene or
action or thought which inspired the work, but to touch the reader's
emotions, to stimulate his imagination by and through itself alone.
Neither the observer of the landscape nor the reader of the poem is
asked to look outside of the work itself for an explanation of its
mood. The picture and the poem fully explain themselves. They lay
before the mind both cause and effect.

This music cannot do. Long ago it was called the language of
emotion, and the embodiment of feeling is its highest province. Even
in the opera, with the assistance of text and action, music should
not strive to go further than this. Its office is to voice the
emotions which lie behind action and speech, to raise to the tenth
power those simpler and more limited inflections and tones of the
voice which are used in the spoken drama. In the great instrumental
song without words it is again moods and emotions that music must
proclaim. Mr. Strauss may tell us that in "Also sprach Zarathustra"
he did not attempt to do the things which makers of programme
explanations accused him of doing, but merely to put before us, in
music, the simple process of the religious and scientific development
of the human race up to the conception of the Beyond-Man.

How easy it all is, to be sure, and how stupidly devoid of
imagination we must all be who fail to read it clearly in the music!
If we fail to find it, it is our fault. Lichtenberg, a witty German,
said, "If a monkey look into a mirror, no Apostle will look out."

We may save ourselves much time and intellectual labor if we listen
carefully to "Also sprach Zarathustra." Dr. Draper packed a history
of the intellectual development of Europe into two substantial
volumes which a thoughtful man may read in a winter; yet he may hear
not only the intellectual, but also the religious development of the
entire human race in Mr. Strauss's tone poem in about thirty minutes.
A benefactor of mankind indeed is this philanthropist, who has not
sought to write philosophical music. He has invented for us a kind of
sugar-coated knowledge tablet. Abolish dry books and listen to the
tone poems of Richard Strauss, and you will have the wisdom of the
ages poured into your ears by trumpets and trombones.

And yet how refreshing to the spirit it is to hear after a Strauss
tone preachment some such work of pure feeling as Schumann's Spring
symphony! Here is no fugued fuddle of the fulminations of science.
Here is no heart-wrung cry of a philosopher from the mountain top,
come down to set whole the disjointed times and wailing because the
populace thinks him a goatherd. Here is no dissector of sated souls,
no juggler with death rattles, no miser of a hope-drained race.

Here is one who served and suffered for the sake of love's infinite
joy, who has trod the valley of the shadow and come to the sunlit
plateau of his heart's desire, and who, as he lifts his brow to the
radiance of the new day, strikes his lyre and bursts into a pæan of
rapture. His music glows and throbs with feeling, for it is feeling
grown too great for the inflection of common speech and so hymned
to us by the myriad-voiced orchestra in one beautiful anthem of the
budding of eternal spring in the heart of a man. That is programme
music which needs no explanatory notes.

  "Backward, turn backward, O Time, in thy flight!
  Make me a child again just for to-night."

How often shall we who are treading the downward slopes of life
croon that old couplet and yearn for the cradle songs of Schubert
and Beethoven? How often, too, we wonder, will a weary world turn
back with weary brain from the sordid task of transfretating "the
Sequane at the dilucul and crepuscul" with Strauss and his tribe to
the poets of the dawn who smote the great primeval chords of human
feeling? This we may not now answer, for orchestral music is yet in
her infancy and it is possible that the period of to-day is but the
disturbance of a transition.


            He hath songs, for man or woman, of all sizes.

                             _A Winter's Tale_, Act IV. Sc. 3.

In the domain of the song new developments have come forward with
startling rapidity in recent years. Every student of musical history
is familiar with the growth of what is called the art song. The folk
song was a simple form, in which a good, round tune, once made,
served for every stanza. The early composers of songs were content to
adhere to this form, which had its musical claim for supremacy, just
as the Italian opera had.

But after a time the imperious demand of text for appropriate
embodiment compelled a departure from the old manner. Mozart set
a pretty fashion when he composed "Das Veilchen" and altered
the germinal thematic idea, by a process similar to symphonic
development, to meet the varying sentiment of the verse. But not much
was accomplished till the birth of the so-called romantic movement.
This was really nothing more than the victory of a principle, which
had for centuries been striving for dominion, and it led the world
to enthusiastic adoration of the songs of Schubert and the operas of

Then began the reign of what the Germans call the "durchcomponirtes
lied," literally the "through-composed song." This is the song in
which the music faithfully follows the text and changes in melodic
externals and in harmonic plan to express sentiment. Schubert's
"Erl-König" is a perfect specimen of this kind of song. Of course the
writing of songs in the old strophical form did not cease. Why should
it? There were still plenty of texts which lent themselves readily to
that kind of setting, and if popularity be sought, there is nothing
like a fixed melodic idea.

Gradually, however, those composers who seek always to dwell in
a rarefied atmosphere, who are nothing if not "utter," and who
ceaselessly endeavor to make poor Music a mere handmaid of all the
other arts, have driven the "durchcomponirtes lied" to the verge
of incoherence. The musical idea has become almost intangible, and
all that seems to be left is a vague dispensation of tonalities and
recitativo. For some sanity in this method of writing we have to
thank the arch speculator of Munich, Richard Strauss. Whatever may
be the ultimate outcome of the dispute over his orchestral riddles,
there need be no hesitation in pronouncing him a master of the modern
manner of song writing.

Mr. Strauss's songs belong of a surety to the domain of the
ultra-romantic. There is little of the old-fashioned German lied
in them. It might be possible to trace their descent from the
folksong of Germany, and occasionally one appears in the genuine
"volksthümlisches lied"[1] style. But many generations of artistic
development separate these songs from their progenitors. The strophic
form has quite disappeared in most of them. They are in the widest
sense composed through. The germinal thematic idea is but a root from
which the song grows. It barely sets a style and a direction for the
whole. But it must not be supposed that these songs are in any sense

[1] The volksthümlisches lied is a variety of song written by
artistic composers on a plan suggested by the folk song. It is the
folk song placed under cultivation.

They have an individual symmetry of form. It is a variety of the
form of the romantic school, which is built entirely upon the
emotional plan underlying the music. The musical scheme, therefore,
consists of a proposition which is worked out by a method of
transition, so that new material springs from the original thematic
germ, and we arrive at novel and striking conclusions.

Of melodic shape in the old sense some of these songs have almost
nothing. But they are none the less luxuriously melodious. Their
melodic nature differs from that of a Schubert song as the melodic
nature of a Wagner drama does from that of a Weber opera. This does
not mean that they are better songs than Schubert's. There are no
other songs as fine as those of the fecund Franz Peter. But music is
making progress, and the methods of song writing will probably change
as fast as those of operatic and orchestral composition. Art is ever
disinclined to stand still.

The harmonic basis of the Strauss songs is the principal cause of
their melodic luxuriance. Strauss harmonizes wholly for what the
Germans call the "stimmung." We have no word which exactly reproduces
the meaning of this one; but let us call it the voicing of the
mood. Strauss's harmony is designed to make an atmosphere in which
his melody floats. At the same time this atmosphere is to envelop
the hearer and saturate him with the feeling of the song. The high
organism of this plan of attack upon the listener stamps it as the
refined product of modern, thoroughly sophisticated art.

It is very trying on the singer. Some of Dr. Strauss's voice-parts,
planned, not as the ultimate object in view, but wholly as a part of
a general scheme, are cruelly difficult. In range alone they make
searching demands upon the vocal resources. In the department of
mental conception of tone--the highest field of vocal technic--they
are as evasive as some of the tonal illusions of Wagner. But they
are not unsingable. On the contrary, once let the singer thoroughly
permeate himself with the harmonic atmosphere, and thus attune
himself to the "stimmung" of the song, and his troubles reduce
themselves to the common problems of production and coloring of tone,
which have nothing more to do with the nature of Dr. Strauss's songs
than with those of all other artistic composers.

It is essential to the success of songs of this kind that the
declamation be arranged with much skill, otherwise that pregnant
significance which is to come of a perfect marriage of sound and
sense will be missing. In this department of his technical labor Dr.
Strauss shows much ingenuity in most of his songs. Sometimes the
text is dramatized in a manner quite masterly. In the entire range
of song literature one would search far to find anything more subtle
or potent than the opening of "Hoffen und wieder verzagen." This is
a piece of dramatic declamation written in the modern recitative
idiom and as distant as possible from the pure lied style; but it is
intensely dramatic.

Accompaniments this composer writes with skill. They are sufficiently
independent without at any time dominating the song, while in their
employment of details they assist greatly in creating the mood. The
result of the combination of the best traits found in these songs
is a striking power of exposition, a convincing formation of the
"stimmung." When upon a well-established mood Strauss builds climaxes
such as those of "Wie solten wir geheim sie halten," "Heimliche
Aufforderung," and "Caecile," the effect is moving. When he desires
to offer a touch of that humor which lies close to tears, he can do
it, as witness that little masterpiece "Ach weh mir unglückhaftem

Yet with all the beauties of the Strauss songs there are some
weaknesses that must not be denied. A cycle of these songs will
not maintain its charm from beginning to end as will Schumann's
"Dichterliebe," or Schubert's "Müllerlider." The earlier song
masters, to be, sure, had the advantage of a more fertile soil. They
had fresh fields and pastures new. And they belonged to a school of
composers whose very first claim to distinction was their fecundity
of melodic invention.

The Strauss songs are not primarily melodic. Neither are any of
the high art songs of our time. All our song masters are marching
steadily out into the vague and mystic land of moonlight moods and
shifting shadows of tonalities. The strict song form irks them. They
cease not to twist their phrases so that these may not coincide
with the lines of the stanza. They are stung with the virus of the
Wagnerian method. They make melody in fragments.

Now it is no easy matter to write one vague, semi-mystic, intangibly
harmonized mood picture after another, eschewing clearly marked
melodic and rhythmic outlines, and at the same time to avoid
monotony. Dr. Strauss's songs, let us confess it, often seem
monotonous when half a dozen of them are sung in a row. It requires
a nice skill in selection to escape this. It can be escaped, for the
composer has been prolific and he has written some good things in the
pure lied style, which may be alternated with the others. But the
presence of this element of monotony is worth considering, because it
is a manifestation of a difficulty into which the present manner of
song writing is leading composers. Perhaps all the good tunes have
been written!

Melodic invention is a vital element in the making of songs. There
must be a thematic subject. No matter how far into the realm of
detailed declamation the composer may elect to go, he may not wholly
neglect the musical figure. If he does, he writes not song, but
recitative. The fundamental difference between lyric declamation
and pure recitative lies in the presence of the musical figure in
the former, and the musical figure is the root of melody. It is the
motive, the rhythmic and melodic germ.

If now we turn from the songs of Richard Strauss to those of the
much-lauded Hugo Wolf, we shall find that there is a difference in
this very matter. Wolf's melodic ideas are singularly vague and
deficient in directness of character. They do not come clean out upon
the ear as the proclamation of a master's embodiment of a poetic
thought; neither do they set a character or fix a mood. They easily
lose themselves in the speculative convolutions of that philosophic
declamation which is the peculiar fruit of contemporaneous
cultivation in the field of song. Intervallic difficulties abound in
these Wolf songs, and the harmonic basis is so strained at times that
the ear is outraged by the withholding of the normal resolutions of
the chords.

But these things are part and parcel of the musical affectation of
the time. Possibly twenty years hence these wrestings of musical
nature will have become sweetened by the uses of adversity, and the
ears of the very children will accept them as freely as they now do
the lush harmonies of "Träume" and "Im Treibhaus."

Wolf's artistic endeavor in song writing is clearly the same as that
of Richard Strauss, but the achievement is far different. To throw
songs by the two composers into close juxtaposition as is frequently
done in recitals is to inflict a needlessly cruel punishment on
Wolf. To interject into the programme one of the uncommon songs of
Schubert, such as "Dem Unendlichen," is still more cruel, for this
serves to show that the melodious Franz Peter could pen philosophic
apostrophe and oratoric declamation with the best of the moderns, and
yet remain more musical than any of them.

Strauss, be it said to his credit, never omits the proposition of
some sort of a musical theme. But his method is not that of the
elder lyric school. He is a romanticist of the ultra-modern type,
and carves out his musical forms over the pattern of his text with
infinite labor. He lays down a theme which sets a character and
indicates a point of aim; and then he develops, as I have already
noted, by the method of transition, so that new material springs from
the old in our very sight as the eastern conjurer's flowers grow from
the bare earth.

Wolf works on similar lines. He is not a conscious imitator, but his
method is the Strauss method, the method of Schubert's "Delphine"
buried under the twentieth-century manner. But Wolf lacks both the
directness of Schubert and the ingenuity of Strauss. His work in
many places rings false. It smells too often of the midnight forge
and the hammer of the driven quill. Schubert's song bursts from him
full grown, like Minerva from the head of Jove. Strauss's songs show
reflection and aspiration and loving care in their finish. Wolf's
echo with the sound of the workshop. They are by no means journeyman
work, but they are hewn out with hard labor and they do not give
forth the fragrance of utter spontaneity.

Questions will naturally arise as to the power of these songs to
stand comparison with the lyrics of the later Frenchmen. Reynaldo
Hahn, for example, also toys with the rarefied method, and paints
delicate impressionistic tone pictures. These are not ordinary songs,
but they will not bear the chilling spaces of the concert room. They
are for the salon, for the intimate communication of one at the piano
to another sitting beside it.

With a cigarette, a glass of Madeira (very mellow), lights half down,
as stage directions say, and a woman with whom you are not too much
in love singing to you in the point-lace wilderness, the songs of
Reynaldo Hahn will make of you an Omar Khayyam transformed into what
Mr. Kipling calls "a demnition product." If the woman is beautiful,
the Madeira soothing, and the cigarette mild, you will be ready to
swear that Hahn is the Schubert of the Boulevards. But if some one
sings Hahn to you as No. 4 on an afternoon programme in a rectangular
recital hall, you will vote the dainty French writer the essence of

Another of these very precious gentlemen who has come into notice
is Alexandre Georges. Did you ever chance to hear his "Chansons de
Miarka," settings of texts of Jean Richepin's "Miarka, the Bear's
Foundling"? They are worth a hearing. The poems--consider such
titles as "Nuages," "La Poussière," "La Pluie," "La Parole"--are
mood pictures and invite musical treatment. The composer has done
well with them. He has done nothing new, to be sure, but he has made
himself comfortable in the well-kept museum of the obvious. He has
trotted in old-fashioned rhythm with the Romany, and he has rained a
glittering torrent of sixteenth notes along the upper steppes of the

But what can we ask? A Frenchman must not be disrespectful of the
vogue. These songs have atmosphere, and if it is painted in familiar
and safe tints, who shall blame a man for assuring himself of correct
methods? The declamation is generally clear and fluent, and the moods
of the poems are reproduced in the music with propriety and elegance.

But this is wandering. The point to be made--not a very important
one, perhaps--is that all these moderns, with Strauss, their best
man, in the lead, are experimenting. They are testing the power of
lyric composition to do without the poetic basis of metre. Without
metre they are compelled to develop their melodies by a new process,
and they seem likely to fall into the error of losing definite
musical figuration altogether. They declaim and recite. Their
accompaniments are miniature symphonic descriptions. Yet it has all
been done before. The two Schubert songs already named, and "Die
Allmacht" ought to show these gentlemen how to do what they seem to
be trying so hard to do without quite accomplishing their ends.

                            AUX ITALIENS

                     I.--ITALIAN OPERA OF TO-DAY

            What do ye singing? What is this ye sing?

                                SWINBURNE, _Atalanta in Calydon_.

Several factors have united in causing a new interest in the opera
of Italy. In so far as New York is concerned the singing together of
two such admirable exponents of the art of bel canto as Mme. Marcella
Sembrich and Enrico Caruso has restored to life some of the older
works, while a recent visit of Mascagni and the frequent performances
of Puccini's "La Bohème" and "Tosca" have directed serious attention
to the tendency of the younger art. The struggles of the youthful
school to maintain its national characteristics in the face of its
own yearnings after the flesh-pots of Wagnerism have afforded an
absorbing spectacle for observers of musical progress.

The leader and master of all these young eagles was, of course, the
incomparable Verdi, the most characteristic composer of opera Italy
ever brought forth. But although he showed them all precisely how
to mingle the fruits of the new fields opened by Wagner with those
of the old Italian soil, they have not always wisely accepted his
instruction. They have sought for independence in manner, and in some
instances with disheartening results. But perhaps a cursory review of
some of their achievements may not be in vain.

Doubtless the casual observer will be struck first by the
instrumentation of these modern Italians. Puccini's scores certainly
offer abundant food for study, and his clever adjustment of the
leading motive scheme to the instrumental background of a thoroughly
Italian vocal melody, as in "Tosca," is an accomplishment not to be
passed by with a smile. If we compare the scores of such works as
those of Puccini and Mascagni with the works of the Donizetti period,
we note with astonishment the immense strides made in the use of the

But we must not be deceived. The Donizettian period was one of
reaction. The Gluck-Piccini battle had not long since been fought out
in Paris, and the principles of dramatic verity in opera had once
more been vindicated, but at the cost of a great public weariness.
The classic polish and repose of Gluck's music were intellectually
satisfying, but his scores lacked the vital heat to keep warm the
blood of the artistically indolent. To this day the best works of
Gluck invite our admiration, but seldom awaken our feelings. The
idle, pleasure-seeking public of Europe soon turned again to its
strumming ditties. It threw itself at the feet of Rossini, and within
forty years after the establishment of Gluck's superiority in Paris
the whole Continent was beating time to "Di tanti palpiti."

Once more the Voice was the deity of the operatic stage, and woe
betide the composer who so wrote for his orchestra as to interfere
with its supremacy. Rossini, who had artistic aspirations in spite of
all his insincerity and intellectual laziness, made many improvements
in operatic writing. It was he who first omitted from an opera all
use of the old-fashioned dry recitative and used throughout that
which has the support of the orchestra. He enriched the manner of
writing for horns and clarinets, and he introduced instrumental
effects which later composers have adopted with good effect. But,
nevertheless, "William Tell" was a failure, and Rossini sulked in his
tent for thirty years, while Bellini and Donizetti turned out their
nursery operas, in which the orchestra has been likened to a "big

The advance in orchestral writing in opera after this time is often
erroneously attributed wholly to Wagner, but undoubtedly it is the
king of all musical charlatans, Meyerbeer, who should have the lion's
share of the honor. When Wagner was a young, struggling, and utterly
unknown composer, seeking for an opening in Paris, he threw himself
at the feet of Meyerbeer, who was the idol of both the French and the
Prussian capitals. Meyerbeer's operas were already known throughout
Europe, and to their cheap and tawdry orchestral effects the later
composers no doubt owed the suggestion that with the orchestra much
might be said that could not be given to the voices. Subsequently the
leaven of Wagnerism permeated European musical art, but the despised
Meyerbeer undoubtedly pointed out to many writers the path which led
back toward the true source of Italian operatic composition.

For in the beginning of opera, Monteverde experimented with
orchestral effects, chiefly descriptive, to be sure, but indicating
what might be done. Lully afterward developed some ideas as to
dramatic expression in the instrumental score, and these were
further expanded by Gluck. The progress along this path was checked
temporarily by the reaction in favor of cheap tunes for the display
of voices. Verdi took up the development of the orchestral part of
Italian opera where Rossini left off, and in his early works wrote
in a style that bears more than a family resemblance to that of
"William Tell." But Verdi was a man of broad vision, an assimilator
of universal ideas, and he was not slow to recognize the drift of
operatic art. He discerned the rising importance of the orchestral
score and realized the full value of the instrumental adjunct. In
"Aïda" he utilized to their utmost capacity its resources in coloring
and in "Otello" he placed in the orchestra some of the most important
and significant passages of his music,--passages which went further
than anything in the setting of the text itself toward the complete
explication of the emotions working in the drama. In "Falstaff" he
used the orchestra as a commentator on the humor of every situation,
and even succeeded in making it aid in the interpretation of
Falstaff's ridiculous philosophy.

One has only to hearken for a minute to Mascagni's use of the basses
in "Cavalleria Rusticana" to recognize the source of his knowledge.
"Otello," with its wonderful bass recitative in the murder scene, was
produced in 1887; "Cavalleria Rusticana" was brought out in 1890.
Mascagni's dramatic treatment of the orchestral part of the lyric
drama is no mere imitation, however; it is a part of the general
movement in Italian opera which began with Verdi's "Aïda" and which
may without difficulty be traced back through Boito's "Mefistofele"
(of which the first version was produced in 1868) to Rossini's
"William Tell." The advance was akin to that made in all species of
music. The first experiments were in the direction of description by
means of imitative figuration. These are what we find in "Tell." The
allotment to the orchestra of the emotional background of the drama
was bound to come later, in the natural order of things. Mascagni
stands in the direct line of progress in this matter, and his
contribution to the general results is, though small, nevertheless
worthy of remark.

How much he and Leoncavallo and Puccini owe to Ponchielli would be
hard to determine. The composer of "La Gioconda" was somewhat ahead
of his time, and his work was not fairly understood when it was new.
But in one feature of operatic composition suggested by this work all
the later composers seem inclined to go too far. They are striving
to follow Verdi in his earnest attempt to set every phrase of the
text of "Otello" to music perfectly adapted to the expression of its
meaning. But Verdi avoided the fatal error into which these young
Italians are falling. He never went so far as to obliterate from his
scores all trace of melodic character.

If one were to take a dozen or twenty pages of "Tosca," "Pagliacci,"
"Iris," and "Zanetto," shuffle them together and then play them,
it would be almost impossible for any ordinary lover of music to
distinguish the writing of one composer from that of another.
"Zanetto" sounds as much like Puccini as like Mascagni, and the
composer of "Iris" might have written almost any page of "La Bohème."
This work, however, bears the same relation to Puccini's other works
as "Cavalleria Rusticana" does to the other operas of Mascagni. It is
well supplied with clearly formed melodies. That is the real reason
of the wide popularity of "Cavalleria Rusticana." Rarely sinking
below the level of passionate expression demanded by the intense
tragedy of the story, it is always purely lyric, and its melodies
stamp themselves upon the memory.

The other works for the most part seem to wander along in endless
stretches of melodious phrases, which have no closely organized
relation to each other. They sound well, for these Italians have the
trick of writing well for the singer. But they are open confessions
of a fear of becoming tuneful in the old Italian style of Donizetti
and Rossini. These young men seem to be constantly on the verge of
writing in the aria form and of avoiding it only by thrusting in some
unnatural modulation or some unexpected cadence. They seem to be
striving for an endless melody, like Wagner's, which is not congenial
to them. They forget that when the emotional conditions of the scene
pointed to melodious music Wagner was frankly melodic, and that he
wrote as lyrically as Schubert himself, though naturally constructing
his melodies on a larger frame. Think of the joyous carol of the
Rhine maidens in the water-woven vision of the first scene of the
great trilogy; of the hard-wrung tribute of the crafty Loge to
"Weibes Wonne und Werth"; of the love song of Siegmund, the duet
between him and Sieglinde, the heart-rending farewell of the stricken
god in the last scene; of Siegfried's Titanic cradle song to his
infant sword; of the nightingale twitter of the forest bird, of the
throbbing love duet of the third act of "Siegfried"; of the ebullient
duet in the first scene of "Götterdämmerung"; of the chorus of
Gunther's men, of the narrative of Siegfried, and of the stupendous
threnody of Brünnhilde's immolation. Wagner was not afraid to write
songs when he needed them in his art.

It is a grave mistake to sell the Italian birthright of vocal melody
for a mess of orchestral pottage. And it is altogether unnecessary.
These young Italians must let alone their attempts to set reason
to music. Their latest librettos contain too much philosophizing
and not enough passion. Zanetto is altogether too sophisticated to
be typical. Sylvia thinks too much. Osaka in "Iris" is altogether
too much a man of the world. Iris is a human doll. Kyoto is an
accomplished speculator in human folly. These are not figures to be
animated with great music. They forbid its presence. These young
Italians must get back to a realization of the fundamental truth
that music is the speech of emotion. Love, hate, fear, elation,
depression, grief,--these are for music to interpret. But you cannot
discuss Christianity and positivism in lyrics, nor make intelligent
comment in six-eight time on the causes of poverty. The limitations
of music are far smaller even than those of lyric poetry, yet its
field is as large as that of the true drama, for it is that of all
human emotion.

Do they need a model? Well, there is one of whom they seemingly know
not. Away back in the years before even Rossini assailed flaccid
Paris with the strenuous peal of "William Tell," a German boy of
seventeen wrote in 1814 a song called "Gretchen am Spinnrade," and
the following year he cast upon the waters that marvellous condensed
drama "Der Erl-König." In the five minutes of that one song by Franz
Peter Schubert lies the history of a human soul. It is an epitome
of emotion, and the piano does quite as much as the voice--but
not more--in the expression. If the young Italians would like to
learn something more than they already know about the way to build
condensed opera, let them study the songs of Schubert. There they
will find a solution of the problem of how to combine perfect vocal
melody with a dramatic accompaniment without sacrificing one iota of
dramatic verity.

An additional question of high import is whether these young
firebrands are not setting the torch to the roots of nationality in
their art. It is useless for theoreticians to argue that there is
no nationality in music. There is nationality in all art, and the
"Virgin" painted by Rubens is a Flemish woman just as surely as she
is Italian when limned by Michael Angelo. There never was a German
who could have conceived the lilt of "Funiculi, funicula," nor an
Italian who could have composed "Schwesterlein." No Russian could
have penned the dainty "Pierre et sa Mie," nor could a Frenchman
have imagined "Ay Ouchnem." Only an Englishman could have written
"Rule Britannia," of which Wagner said that the first four measures
contained the whole character of the English people.

Nationality shows itself most conspicuously in song. Instrumental
music is at best an artificial species. Its forms, its methods, are
handed from one nation to another, and the Harvard graduate builds
his symphony upon the Viennese model of Papa Haydn. But the musical
idioms of a people cannot be kept out of their songs. The folk song
was ignored successfully for a thousand years, but in certain happy
days of the Middle Ages it wooed and won the fugue, and modern
music, strong with the strength of musical science, beautiful with
the beauty of spontaneous emotional utterance, was the fruit of this
union. But for all time the idiom of the folk song colored the vocal
art. The musical idioms imposed themselves on the scientific basis,
and when a German or a Frenchman or an Italian composed a song, he
composed it with a counterpoint common through all Europe, but with
the melodic idiom of the songs of his own people.

The Italians of to-day have not wholly forgotten the essentials
of their native melody. Indeed, their composing betrays a deep
self-consciousness. They see the character of their own music and
try to escape it, and it is of this very act that complaint is here
made. But the fundamentals of Italian melody are not entirely lost.
The pages of Puccini's "Manon," "La Bohème," and "Tosca" are not
completely devoid of song which is indisputably Italian. No one would
ever mistake it for French or German. But it is no longer the melody
of Donizetti and Bellini. That is well. The Italian masters of the
beginning of this century wrote tunes for their own sake without
thought of their dramatic expressiveness, and Donizetti did not
hesitate to stop the entire action of his "Lucia" at one of the most
critical points in order that the famous sextet might be sung.

The modern Italians do not fall into that sort of error. They are
striving with all their power to compose dramatically. They are
striving, too, to preserve Italian music, and for this all honor
should be shown them. More than that, they have shown plainly the
path along which Italian music should advance. They have demonstrated
beyond question that the aria, which was the central sun of the old
Neapolitan system of opera, is wholly unessential. They have shown
that the dialogue of the lyric drama can be carried on in a musical
speech which is melodious, but not dominated by musical patterns.
They have illustrated to the full the possibilities of a flexible and
eloquent recitative. They have carried to a high degree of excellence
the art of fitting the musical accent to the word, and the contour of
the phrase to the natural inflection of the speech. This they have
done, too, in the full knowledge that their art in this detail is
quite lost upon the general public and appeals only to a few studious
critics of their music.

They have abolished from the Italian stage the foolish repetitions
of lines of the text as syllables on which to hang cadenzas. They
have wiped out the empty colorature song, designed solely for the
amazement of groundlings and for the glorification of the prima
donna. They have almost terminated the career of the prima donna
herself, and substituted for her, if not the singing actress of
Wagner, at least an acting songstress. They have placed Italian opera
beside French in its honest search after theatric directness. Italian
opera is no longer music and nothing else: it is what its early
fathers intended it should be, _drama per musica_.

The movement of the young Italians toward dramatic verity, as already
noted, did not originate in a weak surrender to the conquest of
Europe by Wagner. The "Gioconda" of Ponchielli, produced in 1876,
shows not a single trace of Wagnerian influence; and yet to that work
as much as to any other are the young Italians indebted. They have
travelled the path on which Ponchielli was moving, but they have gone
much farther than he did. Ponchielli utilized the orchestral forces
with high skill, and his dramatic recitative was far ahead of that
found in Verdi's earlier works. For a second-rate master he attained
extraordinary influence over his successors. Alas! that suggests that
they are even less than second-rate, and it is quite possible that
the near future will decide that they were less than third-rate. But
we of the present must take them as they appear to us, and endeavor
to learn from their works whither operatic music is tending.

Boito's "Mefistofele," which is as old as 1868, gave these young
Italians much to think of, so much indeed that one can trace a good
deal more than a family resemblance between the introduction of
Mascagni's "Iris" and the prologue in heaven in the Boito work. But
the young men have striven again to make advances. That they have
endeavored to introduce into their music an Italianized Wagnerism is
the fault for which they must be most severely blamed, for in doing
this they have wandered away from true nationalism and have betrayed
their birthright.

It is not possible in a brief essay to point out the details of the
methods of these young men. It may be said, however, that what they
have apparently striven to do is to rear a distorted vocal structure,
composed of the elements of the older Italian singing style, upon
a foundation of acrid, restless, changeful, distressful harmonies.
It may perhaps be injudicious to find fault with them for this, for
no thoughtful observer of musical progress can fail to see that
toward something new and strange in harmonic sequences all music is
advancing. One needs only to think of the French operas of Bruneau
and Charpentier, the piano music of the young Russians, the vast
orchestral tone-riddles of Richard Strauss. If the use of strictly
technical terms may be allowed, the harmony of to-day is no longer
diatonic; it is not even chromatic; it is the harmony of the minor
second. In other words, it is the harmony in which the sharpest
of all dissonances, that of two tones only a semitone apart, is
prevalent. In the presence of this style of harmony the chord of the
diminished seventh becomes as gentle as the tonic triad, for music is
filled with what the eloquent and witty James Huneker once happily
called "diseased chords of the twenty-sixth."

This style of harmony is not natural to Italian music. The genius
of Italian song is utterly opposed to it. The proclivities of the
Italian people are inimical to it. It is not adapted to the methods
and traditions of the Italian lyric drama, and it has not been found
necessary by the writers of the greatest masterpieces of Italian
opera. Verdi and Boito were able to construct their notable works
without it. Mascagni, on the other hand, has forced his music into
this uncongenial way. His "Iris" teems with harsh and discordant
harmonies, and in order to set the melodic voice-parts on this uneasy
basis he has been compelled to twist the melodic curves of Italian
song into unseemly angles.

Now these are facts. Just what they are to signify in the progress
of musical art only a very confident person would venture to predict.
Where is Italian opera? That question we may answer. Whither is it
going? To that we can only hazard a reply. We may, too, be wholly
wrong in supposing that it is an evil day for art when Italian opera
sacrifices anything of its intense nationality for the sake of
rivalling the drastic music-drama of Richard Wagner. Critics are not
prophets. They can only study the conditions of art in their own day,
and try to reconcile them with those standards which the experience
of time has shown to be the highest. As Mr. Webster once intimated,
the only way to judge of the future is by the past. That method
points to the conclusion that nothing good will come of the effort to
dethrone the national genius. On the other hand, this effort looks
amazingly like a confession of weakness.

It looks as if the young Italians were not of fruitful inventiveness
in the production of thematic ideas. All the good tunes have not
been written yet. John Stuart Mill confessed that for a time he was
troubled with a fear that because there were only seven tones in the
scale all the possible melodic ideas were nearly exhausted. But it
has been noted that in spite of the immense drain made on the scale
by Bach and Mozart and Weber and Beethoven and Schubert and Schumann
there were still tunes enough to make a Dvorak, a Tschaïkowsky, a
Brahms, and a Wagner.


            But how may he find Arcady
            Who hath nor youth nor melody?

                               H. C. BUNNER, _The Way to Arcady_.

In these tumultuous times of Strauss and Wagner, with the furies
of intellectual realism pursuing us and the sirens of seductive
emotionalism panting before us, the persistence with which
Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" clings to the lyric stage impels us
toward the complacent conclusion that this work is become the classic
of the musically unprogressive. This seems a hazardous statement,
yet it may be shown without undue effort to enjoy a substantial and
definite basis. The names of Racine and Molière, of Gluck and Lully,
rise before the memory when the term "classic" is employed, but one
should also not forget that there are thousands of well-intentioned
persons to whom that is classic which is just far enough above the
level of their ordinary thought to command respect. To the whistler
of operetta jingles all music not to be whistled is classic.
Stendahl said, in making a distinction too often made arbitrarily:
"Romanticism is the art of presenting to people the literary works
which, in the actual state of their habits and beliefs, are capable
of giving them the greatest possible pleasure; classicism, on the
contrary, of presenting them with that which gave the greatest
possible pleasure to their grandfathers."

If this demarcation of Stendahl's be correct, then "Lucia" is
twice blessed in that it is both classic and romantic. For there
is no doubt that it gave much pleasure to our grandfathers, nor
is there any room for suspicion that it is not congenial to a
"popular" audience in the actual state of its habits and beliefs.
No doubt, indeed, there is a sort of gentle romanticism in "Lucia."
The personages are of the class of lords and ladies, and there is
something quite imposing in the strut of their boots and the waving
of their feathers. One must even be impressed by the sight of the
noble Scotch maiden wandering in the forest in a long-trained gown
accompanied by a companion who wears low neck and short sleeves. We
realize that we are in fashionable company, and we prepare for the
worst. When Edgardo marches upon the scene just as Lucia has signed
the futile contract, our expectations are realized, and we gaze upon
the revelation of the secrets of high life with an interest almost
as direct and eloquent as that of the chorus itself. The madness of
Lucy, accompanied by the winsome and ingenuous accents of the flute,
touches us deeply, and when Edgardo, wandering among the tombs of
his sainted fathers, learns that Lucy has ceased to live, and stabs
himself, breathing out his life in that sweet melody (with chorus),
"A te vengo," we are dissolved in tears.

This is romanticism in truth, and unless he be of those who preserve
in middle age the intellectual grasp of childhood, one cannot find in
this work any qualities of the classic beyond its familiarity to our
grandfathers, except in the meaning of the dictum of Sainte-Beuve,
"Les ouvrages anciens ne sont pas classiques parce qu'ils sont vieux,
mais parce qu'ils sont energiques, frais, dispos." Now this last word
is open to misconstruction. It may mean "cheerful" and it may mean
"disposed" or "orderly." In the case of "Lucia" either meaning will
answer, for it is the "energique" rather than the "dispos" that makes
us trouble in the application of the definition of Sainte-Beuve.
There are fuss and fury in the strenuous utterances of the tenor in
the scene of the tearing of the contract, but these can hardly be
called energy in the meaning in which the French author was using the
word. Youthful and cheerful, innocent and ingenuous,--these, indeed,
are adjectives which may well be applied to the masterpiece of the
composer of "Il Castello di Kenilworth" and other operas. For those
who are living in the past of musical art "Lucia" is a classic, and
it is also a living romance. It gave joy to their grandfathers, and
it sends through their own nerves mild thrills, not discomforting,
and not impeded by intellectual problems in tone.

When one comes beyond the "Lucia" period in operatic art, he may
fairly enroll himself in the ranks of those whom Walter Pater calls
"spiritual adventurers,"--those who are ready to put out on unknown
seas of art experience and who are notable for their active mistrust
of the teachings of their grandfathers. Some of these are fools, but
this fact only serves to remind one of a wise saying of that very
wise man, Robert Louis Stevenson: "Shelley was a young fool, and so
are these cock-sparrow revolutionaries. But it is better to be a fool
than to be dead. It is better to emit a scream in the shape of a
theory than to be entirely insensible to the jars and incongruities
of life and take everything as it comes in a forlorn stupidity."

It is seldom that men take things as they come in music in this
"forlorn stupidity," for they set themselves stubbornly against
the new. Yet the attitude of those who sit in amiable comfort at
performances of "Lucia" and who go away saying, "Now that's the kind
of music I like," with a tremendous accent on the "I,"--an accent
which is plainly the thank-offering of the Pharisee,--they are surely
insensible to the jars, if not to the incongruities, of the modern
musical world. And the spiritual adventurers will presently say to
them: "We are at the parting of our ways. Linger you, if you will, in
the valley with your Donizetti and his three-four ditties and his big
guitar. We are for the mountain with Wagner and Tschaïkowsky and the

But perchance it may occur to you to question whether they are not
happier in their serene movelessness than those who are continually
scaling heights. There is even some doubt about this, for they
experience occasional twinges of discomfort when they hear of
persons enjoying exclusive satisfaction in such works as "Falstaff"
or "Otello" or "Die Meistersinger," which are to them poppy and
mandragora. But there is something more pitiable than this in their
sad state. That is their inability to enjoy the classics of the
musically progressive.

The man or woman who is not subservient to a factitious taste
in music, who has not habituated the intellectual palate to the
enjoyment of Wagner alone, or of Rossini alone,--he it is whose soul
is enriched by a wider range of impressions. For him no flower of
music blooms in vain. For him there is some very special loveliness
in the operas written before the flood-gates of modern romanticism
were opened. For him there is still edification in the stately
measures of Gluck's "Orfeo," and there is a fountain of inexhaustible
pleasure in the immortal "Don Giovanni" of Mozart. To him the latter,
in particular, is a perennial "Fons Bandusiae, splendidior vitro."
Ability to penetrate to the heart of these works is an evidence of
musical aristocracy. They are not for the common herd. The children
of melodic and harmonic darkness are not enlightened by them. They
shine for the few, the chosen few, who march with Music herself as
their leader. To hear "Lucia" after one of these is like drinking
iced water after eating ice-cream. The Donizettian masterpiece
becomes suddenly lukewarm.

It has been said that in art there is no such thing as standing
still. But the appreciation of art is surely a different matter.
Music, the youngest of the arts, is in the very press of her first
forward march. She is in the possession of the priceless gift of
unwearied strength. Her technical resources have not as yet been
fully explored. She has mines of mere matter which have not yet been
opened up. Her future is big with promise. But whatever that future
may be, it will be the direct product of her past. She will never be
able to cut the chains that bind her to Bach any more than poetry can
break the bonds which tie her to David, the son of Jesse. Some of us
are prone to forget this, and to think that we are of the army of
progress when we neglect Bach and Beethoven and the prophets for the
preachers of our own era. But there would have been no Brahms without
a Haydn, and there would have been no Wagner without a Mozart.

It requires an æsthetic immobility unfortunately none too rare to
stand still and enjoy "Lucia di Lammermoor" and "La Sonnambula" in
a period when the whole spirit and outward form of musical art are
tending directly away from them. The fact that so many persons can
do it is but an evidence of what we know to our regret; namely, that
most men and women refuse to take these things seriously. They hold
that the opera is only a form of amusement and that it is absurd to
fall into disputes about it. Art is a pretty word to them; but if its
meaning includes a command that they are to regard their "amusements"
with grave eyes and to exercise the faculties of their minds upon
them, away with it to the realms of outer darkness!

This is not an attitude which history encourages. Men have always
been stern in the defence of their playthings, and they have always
taken their pleasures very seriously. The whole Trojan war was about
a man's passing fancy for a woman. More bitter wars than that have
been waged for the sake of acquiring wealth and power, and to what
end? That the possessors might buy playthings therewith. Grown-up
children have their toys, but they wear graver aspects than the dolls
and Noah's Arks of childhood. Sometimes the dolls become soldiers and
the arks battleships in the nursery of a German Emperor. And so the
world suddenly realizes that the pursuit of amusements is a large
game, while his Majesty, perchance, practises a little music now and
then, that some day he may fiddle while Rome burns.

Some of us are content to remain awake to the fact that, as Taine
says, "At bottom there is nothing truly sweet and beautiful in life
but our dreams," and to feel that this lovely art of music is a
chief among these dreams. Those of us who are of this mind naturally
enough plume ourselves on our relationship to the kings who have
made wars for playthings. But we have a secret satisfaction in the
assurance that when the kings are forgotten and the boundaries of
their kingdoms blotted from the maps of the world, the art of music
will still be in the possession of the hearts of men. And then we
wonder if the musically unprogressive will still be clinging to their
jingling classic, "Lucia di Lammermoor"?

It is not a question to be answered lightly, for in these days the
number of the lovers of "Lucia" is not to be estimated by the size
of the audiences in the great opera-houses. There the fashion of the
hour rules, and the mellow thunders of Wagner are enjoyed even with
the lights turned down and the gowns in the gloom of a very precious
manifestation of musical progress. It is in the unfashionable
theatres that we must look for the evidences of the continued
popularity of the masterpiece of the incontinent Donizetti. For the
audiences of these houses are distinguished by a noble independence
of thought. They like what they like, and they do not care who
disapproves of it. And they adore "Lucia" even unto this day. But
they do not love Mozart on the one hand, nor Wagner and the senescent
Verdi on the other. And for that reason they are at a standstill.
They are the inglorious army of the musically unprogressive.

Out of this conclusion may come an inference as false as it is
unattractive. If the lovers of "Lucia" are unprogressive, is, then,
a great singer who still sings this part their leader? One may be
tempted for a moment to utilize an apt jest and say with one of Mr.
Gilbert's most delightful personages, "Bless you, it all depends."
If the great artist is great only by reason of the manner in which
she sings Lucia, then she is a star of the unprogressive. But if she
chance to be Marcella Sembrich and to sing Mozart as beautifully
as she sings Donizetti and with the added understanding which is
essential to the interpretation of the classic of the progressive,
then she is a leader of progress, although she still finds a field
for the exercise of her talents in the world of the complacent.

And if the artist be a tenor and be called Caruso, then he may sing
Edgardo and die of an aromatic melody in the moonlight amid general

                       THE ORATORIO OF TO-DAY

            Praise the Lord with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery
            and an instrument of ten strings. Sing unto Him a new song:
            play skilfully with a loud noise.

                                                _Psalms_ xxxiii. 2, 3.

England, where, as Mr. Gilbert was good enough to tell us in
"Iolanthe," every child is born either a Liberal or a Conservative,
leans both ways within the comfortable domain of oratorio. Chorus
answers unto chorus and fugues pursue the even tenor (or bass, as
the case may be) of their way, as they did in the brave days of old,
when the Saxon sputtered in the Haymarket and threatened to pitch
recalcitrant prima donnas out of windows. The festival of the three
choirs preserves for the edification of a prosaic and stiffnecked
generation the majestic sonorities of Handel and the subtle
intimacies of the introspective Bach.

The prancing of Elgar into this peaceful world with his pocket full
of leading motives, with a dramatization of the very throne of the
Invisible, and a suggestion of the Mary Magdalen of Wagner, neither
astonishes nor stirs the critics. The harsh yell of the shofar
disturbs them no more than the profound rumble of the contrabassoon.
And since Mendelssohn left his "Elijah" ceaselessly clamoring for the
costumes, the action, and the footlights of the stage, no Englishman
is to be set staring by the projection of a sacred drama upon his
field of vision.

After all, it was only in the day of Handel that the Bishop of London
decided for us that oratorios should no more be acted. How do we know
that, if things continue to go forward along the present lines, we
shall not have a later bishop determining that the oratorio ought
to be acted and thereby excluded from the hallowed precincts of
famous cathedral towns? Then the censorious throng which has looked
askance upon the New World performances of "Parsifal" would find that
panorama of a young pilgrim's progress as innocuous as one of the
"Four Serious Songs" of Brahms.

To those who watch with some solicitude the march of musical
progress, it looks as if we were in the midst of a transition in
the world of oratorio. A very peaceful transition, indeed, it is;
for we are no longer to be excited by a comparison of Handel with
other masters. We care not a pinch of snuff whether Coleridge-Taylor
be a genius or not. We go once a year to hear "The Messiah," and
occasionally we remember with a sort of mild surprise that Handel
also wrote "Israel in Egypt." When Mr. Elgar comes along with his
revolutionary notions, compounded of Carissimi, Handel, Mendelssohn,
and Wagner, we view them with a placidity which would be amusing were
it not so stupid. The times have changed, indeed, since Gray wrote to
Swift, on Feb. 23, 1723:--

    "As for the reigning amusement of the town, it is entirely
    music; real fiddles, bass viols and hautboys; not poetical
    harps, lyres and reeds. There's nobody allowed to say 'I
    sing' but an eunuch or an Italian woman. Everybody is grown
    now as great a judge of music as they were in your time of
    poetry, and folks that could not distinguish one tune from
    another now daily dispute about the different styles of
    Handel, Bononcini and Attilio. People have forgot Homer and
    Virgil and Cæsar; or at least, they have lost their ranks.
    For in London and Westminster, in all polite conversations,
    Senesino is daily voted to be the greatest man that ever

True, this pother was all anent opera, which even to this day
evokes a considerable gush of invalid comment about glorified tenors
and sopranos. At least the men of the opera to-day are actually
masculine, but there is an echo of the Handelian period in the
adoration of tenors. But that, as the pleasant Mr. Kipling was wont
to say in his pleasantest tales, is another story. It was but a
flight of years till London town cackled as busily about Handel's
oratorios as it had about his operas. A private letter from London,
printed in Faulkner's Journal (Dublin) of March 12, 1743, said:--

    "Our friend, Mr. Handel, is very well, and things have taken
    quite a different turn here from what they did some time
    past; for the publick will no longer be imposed on by Italian
    singers and wrong-headed undertakers of bad operas, but
    find out the merit of Mr. Handel's compositions and English
    performances. The new oratorio (called Samson) which he
    composed since he left Ireland, has been performed four times
    to more crowded audiences than ever were seen; more people
    being turned away for want of room each night than hath been
    at the Italian opera."

Nevertheless, even in those days there was little enough distinction
between the styles of the opera and the oratorio, and not many
years before Handel's day there had been none at all. Both opera
and oratorio sprang from the same soil and were nurtured by the
same fount, the drama of Greece. Cavaliere's "Anima e Corpo" was
a delectable theatrical performance, prepared under the direction
of a very good man, St. Philip Neri, with the laudable aim of
drawing young persons away from the vulgar secular shows of Rome in
the dawn of the seventeenth century. Like "Die Zauberflöte" this
oratorio ended with a chorus, "to be sung, accompanied sedately and
reverentially by the dance." How deep was the reverence and how
reposeful the sedateness may be gathered from the fact that the
ballet was "enlivened with capers or _entrechats_."

A religious drama it was, this early oratorio, and it battled its way
into popularity by the mighty power of music. Its arch-enemy was the
old mystery and miracle play, which made of every religious story
something more lively than even an oratorio with a ballet enriched
with capers. To combat the attractiveness of the popular religious
play the oratorio had to cling to the stage, the costume, and the
footlights, and it would have been little stranger to read in the
time of Carissimi (1582-1672) than it was, in the century before his
birth, the famous Coventry bill of expenses, which contains these

  Paid for a pair of gloves for God                       2d.
  Paid for four pairs of angels' wings                2s. 8d.
  Paid for mending of hell head                           6d.
  Paid for a pound of hemp to mend the angels' heads      4d.

But Carissimi, and still more directly after him Stradella,
advanced the oratorio toward a style in which acting was to become
incongruous. Stradella had the Handelian feeling for mass effects.
He perceived the true use of the great chorus, and he piled up
majestic climaxes with a skill marvellous for his time. He died four
years before Handel was born, but he had already carved out that
definiteness of structure which is so salient a feature of Handel's
works. The drift away from the dramatic character had already begun.
Indeed, Dr. Parry in his admirable "Evolution of the Art of Music"
expresses doubt that even the works of Carissimi can have been
intended for action. Still, we must not forget that whether oratorio
should or should not be acted remained an unsettled question till the
decision of the good Dr. Gibson, Bishop of London, in Handel's day.

However, a comprehensive view of the works of Handel and Bach shows
that the oratorio had in their time been clearly differentiated in
style and purpose from the opera. Bach's employment of the tenor
narrator places his Passions on a ground far removed from the
pictorial presentation of the stage. We know, too, that Bach wrote
for church performance. Handel's oratorios designed for the concert
platform were quite as far away as Bach's from the manner of the
theatre, though they departed in a different direction.

Dear old Papa Haydn, who wept with emotion when he heard the
Hallelujah chorus and exclaimed, "He is the master of us all," was
even less dramatic than either Handel or Bach, for although they
used no dramatic forms, they had their mighty outbursts of emotional
expression; while their declamation, as well as their massive
climaxes, often rises far above the trumpery effects of the opera of
their period.

But Haydn was a most gentle spirit. He was too full of the fluid
of humility and too much given to amiable reflection to approach
dramatic effects. His music in both the "Creation" and "The Seasons"
is descriptive, commentary, and speculative. It is delightful and it
is exceedingly mild. It dwells comfortably in a peaceful atmosphere
very remote from that of the nervous theatricalism of Carissimi or
the impulsive eloquence of Stradella. It is just as far, too, from
the poignant intensity of the psychic personification found in Bach's
music. Bach's Christ is the living Son of God, but always in the
heavens. It is a Christ of the inmost soul, not of the imaginative
eye. It is a Christ of the heart, and has no pictorial form.

But Haydn sets a world before us, and lets us hear the rushing
of the waters and the sighing of the winds. It was reserved for a
thoroughly cultivated master to unify in his work the elements found
in all these predecessors. Mendelssohn, without letting go of the
Protestant chorale, which was so potent in the Bach Passion, or
the massed chorus which Handel learned from Stradella how to use,
or the orchestral description of Haydn, or the flexible recitative
of Carissimi, succeeded in producing a new form of purely dramatic
oratorio. His "Elijah" flashed forth as a religious opera. It might
be put on the stage and acted. It stands almost perfectly adapted
to such use, and would certainly prove far more influential in the
theatre than "Anima e Corpo" did even in its own day. Mendelssohn was
not a mighty genius, but he was a most clever adapter.

Since his day oratorio has wavered between the Italian dramatic form
of the earliest period and a modernization of the Bach form. English
composers have over and over again written for their festivals on the
lines of Handel or Mendelssohn, seemingly without a clear discernment
of the inner characteristics which differentiated the two.
Continental composers have made all sorts of experiments. Gounod even
tried in his "Redemption" to show how the melodic style of "Faust"
could be superimposed on the ground plan of Bach. It is needless to
say that the scheme met with a cheering failure. Oil and water would
not mix.

Edgar Tinel, whose "St. Franciscus" was produced in Brussels in 1888,
was the first to make a deliberate attempt to return to the earliest
dramatic form of the Italians. He certainly did not contemplate a
stage performance, but he wrote in the fashion of the lyric drama
of his time. He used the whole apparatus of the German opera except
the leading motive. But Tinel failed in one important particular. He
was unable to use the means of the opera without making it produce
the speech of the theatre. His oratorio smells of the stage. It is a
religious drama only because its story is in a measure religious. The
music and much of the thought are, to say the least, secular. It may
not be going too far to say that sometimes they are profane.

Now, what has Edward Elgar accomplished, and what does the character
of his work indicate as the present tendency of oratorio? In his
musical method he has striven to demonstrate that Bach and Wagner
were of one blood. And, indeed, who that has heard the twining
polyphony of five themes near the end of the "Meistersinger" prelude
ever doubted that both of these masters sprang from the loins of
Palestrina, the son of the house of Ockeghem? Elgar has preserved for
the necessity of oratorio the narrator, though he has diversified his
recitation by dividing it among the voices.

This preservation of the narrator is the one characteristic of the
contemporaneous oratorio form which proclaims to the world that the
mandate of the Bishop of London is still in force. Nothing else in
the score would disclose this fact. Everything is constructed on
dramatic lines; everything is conceived in the mood of Mendelssohn's
"Elijah." The tremendous picture of the entrance of the soul of
Gerontius into the shrine of the Invisible and the descriptive speech
of Mary Magdalen on her tower, accompanied by the sounds of the orgy,
demand most eloquently the accompaniment of pictorial scenes. And
these are but two examples taken at random from scores prolific in
similar instances.

The distribution of the narrative among several voices is the method
of Handel, but in the treatment of the choruses Elgar has learned
still more from that master. Here we have lessons accepted from both
Bach and the Saxon, and in the dawn of the twentieth century we find
a product of the skill of Stradella in handling huge masses of tone.

In the employment of one set of choruses representative of actors
in the story and another of purely commentary nature, Elgar has
followed Bach's method in "The Passion." He has honored aged custom
in allotting the words of Jesus to a bass voice. The treatment of the
post-ascension speeches of the Saviour as choral, or many-voiced, is
as old as Heinrich Schütz.

Furthermore, Mr. Elgar has preserved the ecclesiastic character in
his music by adhering to the use of the polyphonic devices which
were created by church composers and which have sternly resisted the
efforts of the ablest masters, even of Verdi, to lend themselves
to the restless utterance of the music drama. Elgar's polyphony is
by no means stencilled in form; his fugues are not fugues of the
North German pattern. He handles single and double counterpoint with
consummate ease and with the assured freedom of one who dares to
depart from the beaten path without fear of disaster.

Added to this is the employment of a harmonic style which belongs
entirely to the present day. Mr. Elgar's polyphony is built on a
harmonic basis which almost completely ignores the ecclesiastic
tonalities of the earlier church writers and utilizes the diatonic
and chromatic scheme of the present, the method of Wagner's "Tristan
und Isolde." It is as far from Handel as it is from Mendelssohn.
Its source is without question the inexhaustible fount of musical
learning, the music of Sebastian Bach, but it is Bach studied by the
lamp of Brahms and recited with the tongue of Wagner.

Brahms was himself a filter of Bach, and this might seem to indicate
that the Sebastianism of Elgar was exceeding thin. But the English
writer, while considering the work of the composer of the "German
Requiem," has accepted suggestions from it only as to manner. For the
original matter he has gone back to the real master of all masters.
In his recitatives he again has shown a profound understanding of the
psychologic nature of Bach's declamation. Upon it, as a foundation,
he has reared a style of his own, very flexible, full of variety and
as changeful in its harmonic undercurrents as a sunset sky.

To these derivations from the art of Bach and others Elgar has
added much of the material of to-day's music. In the first place, he
has permitted the diatonic major mode to occupy its own proud place
as the chief medium for the expression of the optimistic emotions.
Bach seldom tarried loner in major keys. He was lingering under
the influence of the ecclesiastic modes. Elgar has emancipated his
oratorio music from the domination of these modes, but he has not,
like Handel and Mendelssohn--the one governed by the Omphalic distaff
of Italian opera and the other writing in an age when the minor was
always relative--neglected their significance entirely.

Secondly, he has utilized the whole splendor of the modern orchestra
and has extended it in every direction which seemed to him necessary.
He has employed gongs, both great and small; cymbals ancient and
modern, bells with and without keyboard mechanism, tambourine and
triangle. Of course, he has written elaborately for the organ; he
would not be a loyal son of the royal house of Bach if he had not.

Thirdly, he has gone over, horse, foot, and baggage, to the
Wagnerian camp and armed himself from head to foot with leading
motives. In "The Apostles" there are ninety-two of them--just two
more than Hans von Wolzogen found in the whole of "Der Ring des
Nibelungen." The result is that there is almost no free composition
in the score; it is all woven out of the motives. The web thus woven
is sometimes thick, sometimes thin. Motives steal upon us singly or
crowd before us four at a time, writhing in a counterpoint, sometimes
forming most beautiful orchestral cloud shapes and again smearing
garish shades and monstrous outlines across the musical firmament.
Elgar never shrinks from outlandish combinations. He is as daring as
Strauss. He makes fearful ugliness when he wishes to do so. But he
does everything with a delineative purpose. He is the Wagnerite of

To Wagner's ingenious scheme of interweaving and developing leading
motives Elgar has joined the ground plan of polyphonic choral writing
which was the secret of the influence of Bach and Handel, but Elgar
has a palette with a thousand tone tints which they never knew. He
has all the delicate inner tracery of modern harmonization to throw
additional lights and shades upon his colors.

In a word, Elgar has brought together in his oratorios all
the expressional power of modern musical romanticism, whether
found in the descriptive tone pictures of the instrumentalists,
the declamation of the dramatists, or the orchestration of the
contemporaneous opera. What is the result? We have now oratorio quite
as dramatic as Tinel's, but saved from mere theatricalism by the
artistic discretion of the composer.

But the thing itself is anomalous. As we have noted, the narrator
becomes an imperative necessity, because oratorio now demands scenic
representation, and that is forbidden. How much more imposing would
"The Apostles" be if we would frankly go back to the way of Cavaliere
and put it on the stage! Why enact "Parsifal" and not this? Which is
the truer tale, the more convincing art? This "Apostles" reads like
that question-begging version of "Parsifal" as a narrative poem in
which all the stage directions are turned into descriptive verse.
Set those descriptions to music and have them recited by singers in
evening dress and you have your "Parsifal" in correct oratorio form.

Are we afraid of it? Or is it simply that certain good people
to whom the theatre is a place accursed must have their dramatic
excitements in some other form? Let us, if you will, go to a dimly
lighted concert hall and sit with our heads bent over our scores
while ladies and gentlemen, gloved and in evening dress, narrate
and chant to us a tremendous drama, helped out by all the resources
of modern delineative music, and we try to see the action with our
mind's eye. Thus shall we salve our consciences and perform the
tragedy of the Passion within the four walls of our skulls. This may
perchance insure to us that salvation which might be endangered were
we fearlessly to countenance an actual presentation of the drama on
the stage.

The oratorio of to-day tends steadily toward the completion of a
cycle. It started from the primitive religious play of Cavaliere, and
through the development of the method of choral composition reached a
point at which all conception of action disappeared. From that point
it has been slowly and surely moving around to the restoration of the
dramatic element, till now it stands once more at the very threshold
of the theatre. In its present form it is an absurdity. Even the
singers find it almost impossible to sing the oratorios of the new
sort without putting at least facial expression into their work,
and every one of them looks solemnly conscious of the foolishness
of evening dress. Mr. Elgar's interpretation makes Judas Iscariot
altogether too realistic for a white waistcoat, and his Mary Magdalen
in a Princess gown with kid-gloved arms is a portrait which would
make Henner gasp and Ruskin stare.


The chapters of this volume, except three, appeared originally as
articles in the NEW YORK SUN in the course of the two years during
which I have had the honor to serve that paper. The first half of the
chapter on "Strauss and the Song Writers" and the chapter entitled
"The Classic of the Unprogressive" were first printed in the NEW
YORK TIMES, of which it was my privilege to be musical editor for
some years. The first of the four articles on Richard Strauss was
previously published in the ATLANTIC MONTHLY. My thanks are due to
the proprietors and editors of the journals named for permission to
incorporate the essays in this book.

                                                        W. J. H.

                         THE STORY OF MUSIC.

                         BY W. J. HENDERSON.

               _12mo, Ornamental Cloth Cover, $1.00._

"Mr. Henderson tells in a clear, comprehensive, and logical way the
story of the growth of modern music. The work is pre-fixed by a
newly-prepared chronological table, which will be found invaluable
by musical students, and which contains many dates and notes of
important events that are not further mentioned in the text.... Few
contemporary writers on music have a more agreeable style, and few,
even among the renowned and profound Germans, a firmer grasp of the
subject. The book, moreover, will be valuable to the student for
its references, which form a guide to the best literature of music
in all languages. The story of the development of religious music,
a subject that is too often made forbidding and uninteresting to
the general reader, is here related so simply as to interest and
instruct any reader, whether or not he has a thorough knowledge of
harmonics and an intimate acquaintance with the estimable dominant
and the deplorable consecutive fifths. The chapter on instruments and
instrumental forms is valuable for exactly the same reasons."--NEW

"It is a pleasure to open a new book and discover on its first page
that the clearness and simple beauty of its typography has a harmony
in the clearness, directness, and restful finish of the writer's
style.... Mr. Henderson has accomplished, with rare judgment and
skill, the task of telling the story of the growth of the art of
music without encumbering his pages with excess of biographical
material. He has aimed at a connected recital, and, for its sake,
has treated of creative epochs and epoch-making works, rather than
groups of composers segregated by the accidents of time and space....
Admirable for its succinctness, clearness, and gracefulness of
statement."--NEW YORK TRIBUNE.

"The work is both statistical and narrative, and its special design
is to give a detailed and comprehensive history of the various steps
in the development of music as an art. There is a very valuable
chronological table, which presents important dates that could not
otherwise be well introduced into the book. The choice style in which
this book is written lends its added charms to a work most important
on the literary as well as on the artistic side of music."--BOSTON

                      LONGMANS, GREEN, & CO.,
                    91-93 Fifth Avenue, New York.

                        PRELUDES AND STUDIES

                    _MUSICAL THEMES OF THE DAY._

                         BY W. J. HENDERSON,

                   Author of "The Story of Music."

               _12mo, Cloth, Extra, Gilt Top, $1.00._

"The questions which he handles are all living. Even the purely
histories lectures which he has grouped together under the general
head of "The Evolution of Piano Music," are informed with freshness
and contemporaneous interest by the manner which he has chosen for
their treatment.... The concluding chapter of the book is an essay
designed to win appreciation for Schumann, ... and is the gem of the
book both in thought and expression."--NEW YORK TRIBUNE.

"Leaving Wagner, of whom the book treats in a most interesting way,
the evolution of piano music is taken up and treated in such a way
as to convince one that the writer is a master of his subject. Mr.
Henderson dwells on the performances of some living players, their
methods, manner, etc., and closes his work with a number on Schumann
and the programme symphony."--DETROIT SUNDAY NEWS.

"The book is written by one who knows his subject thoroughly and is
made interesting to the general public as well as to those who are
learned in music.--BOSTON POST.

"All lovers and students of music will find much to
appreciate.... Mr. Henderson writes charmingly of his various
subjects--sympathetically critically, and keenly. He shows a sincere
love for his themes, and study of them; yet he is never pedantic, a
virtue to be appreciated in a writer of essays upon any department of

"Mr. Henderson's clear style is well known to readers of the musical
criticism of the New York Times, and his catholicity of sentiment,
and freedom from prejudice, ... though this volume will be especially
valuable to the student of music, it will be helpful to the amateur,
and can be read with satisfaction by one ignorant of music, which,
altogether, is surely high praise."--PROVIDENCE SUNDAY JOURNAL.

"It is a volume of extremely suggestive musical studies.... They are
all full of appreciative comment, and show considerable dear insight
into the origin and nature of musical works. The author has a style
which is adapted to exposition. The book is an attractive one for the
lover of music."--PUBLIC OPINION.

"Mr. Henderson studies carefully and intelligently the evolution
of piano music and Schumann's relation to the development of the
programme symphony. This is a suggestive, original, and well-equipped
group of essays upon themes which interest musicians."--LITERARY WORLD.

                      LONGMANS, GREEN, & CO.,
                    91-93 Fifth Avenue, New York.


                           AS I KNEW HIM.

                        BY FERDINAND PRAEGER.

           _Crown 8vo, 858 Pages, Cloth, Gilt Top, $1.50._

"The late Ferdinand Praeger will live in the history of musical
biography as the author of the best book that has been written on
Wagner the man.... In this agreeable volume we get what may be
conceived to be the true Wagner, as seen by the eye of a friend who
was too fair to be a partisan. Certainly we know of no portrait
of the great musician so graphic and so enjoyable. The book is as
attractive as a good novel. What more can one say to recommend it
to the general reader? For 'Wagner as I Knew Him' is by no means
fitted only for the musical amateur. There is nothing professional
or technical about it. It is a volume which can be understood
and appreciated even by those who know little or nothing of

"The two chapters on Wagner's life in London are of especial
interest as showing the true character of the man; for, while in
London, Wagner spent much of his time with Praeger, who became a
sort of Boswell and host for the time, and minutely noted all his
peculiarities.... It is no depreciation of Praeger's efforts to say
that the most valuable pages in his book are those which contain
the numerous letters to him by Wagner, here printed for the first
time."--NATION, N. Y.

"A lively and thoroughly readable book, rich with personal
reminiscence and self-confessions of the modern Master of

"A lively delineation of the master as he appeared in daily life,
in friendly intercourse and correspondence, in domestic life, as
composer and conductor, as student and master, as revolutionist and
exile; it depicts him in his down settings and in his uprisings, in
his external appearance and in his inward thoughts and feelings. It
is full of interest from beginning to end, and of entertainment as
well. Of the latter quality, indeed, there are some most amusing

"Really it is a biography, though it is not exactly in that form or
aimed at so ambitious a purpose, but it covers the whole of Wagner's
active life. We cannot speak too highly of it.... It is a remarkably
faithful story, presenting the composer's character and experiences
in vivid colors, and not failing to give the weak as well as the
strong side."--HERALD, BOSTON.

"A really valuable addition to the number of books about music and
musicians."--CRITIC, N. Y.

"It is easy to see that Mr. Praeger knew his subject well and was
fully competent to write about it."--CHICAGO TRIBUNE.

"The story of Wagner's life and labors is retold in this volume with
that added charm which comes from the pen of a writer personally
engaged in the action described. The account of Wagner's visit to
London, when he was Dr. Praeger's guest, is full of interest and
brings the man before the reader more picturesquely than any other
part of the book.... On the whole this volume is a valuable addition
to the already large library of Wagner literature."--N. Y. TIMES.

                      LONGMANS, GREEN, & CO.,
                  91 and 93 Fifth Avenue, New York.

                           CHRISTIAN THAL.

                    THE STORY OF A MUSICAL LIFE.

              By M. E. FRANCIS (Mrs. FRANCIS BLUNDELL),


                          Crown 8vo, $1.50

" ... This year has seen several attempts to produce a real 'musical
novel.' That of Mrs. Francis is one of the best, it is a pretty story
and one which will give no little inspiration among students in the
reading.... In 'Christian Thal' the characters are such as we all
know and can well understand.... It is, although a musical novel,
very human."--MUSICAL LIFE, NEW YORK.

" ... We have seldom read anything more charming than are parts,
at least, of this picture of artistic, semi-Bohemian life in
Germany; she has caught the very spirit of it, she makes one
feel it all--the frank good-comradeship, the bubbling enthusiasm
for art, the childlike disregard for conventionalities. And the
characters are delightfully drawn, too, with delicate yet incisive

" ... The temperament that goes with great artistic genius is well
displayed in the hero. As a story we are glad to say that the
interest steadily heightens to the end, and that the book contains
pathos, sentiment, humor, and the other characteristics demanded by a
readable work in fiction...."--THE ÉTUDE.

" ... It is nevertheless one of the most readable of Mrs. Francis
Blundell's (M. E. Francis') novels. It centers in musical circles,
in the love affair of a young musical genius, 'Christian Thal' of
foreign origin, and a young English girl whom he meets at a German
health resort.... This is a very good companion for one's resting

"An interesting novel in which love, music, and human weakness,
and the waywardness of woman are strangely and cleverly blended.
Each chapter is headlined with a bar of music and the entire
story is keyed to respond to the musical theme. Dramatic and

" ... There is a fascination about the tale which will hold the

" ... The book is as much saturated with the art musical as was that
delightful book 'Trilby' with the art pictorial Even the chapter
headings are excerpts from some well-remembered and well-beloved
master. It is a symphony in words with love for its theme,
beautifully ornamented with the harmony of emotion and has a finale
radiant with peace, goodness, and wedded love."--ARMY AND NAVY


       *       *       *       *       *

                         TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES

Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.

A number of words in this book have both hyphenated and
non-hyphenated variants. For those words, the variant more frequently
used was retained.

Obvious punctuation errors were fixed.

Other printing errors, which were not detected during the revision of
the printing process of the original book, have been corrected.

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