Richard Wagner: His Life in His Work

Richard Wagner: His Life in His Work

Richard Wagner: His Life in His Work

Richard Wagner: His Life in His Work

Excerpt

For the man and woman of to-day the life and personality of Richard Wagner belong already to the region of myth, while his art continues as heretofore to rule the stage and to compel attempts at analysis. Wagnerian literature hitherto has been a battle-ground of Wagnerians and anti-Wagnerians, a polemic, more or less objective, of contending theories and opinions. Neither panegyric nor deliberately hostile attack tend to a better knowledge of the true nature of a great art. There may be certain deep-seated reasons why it has not been possible to reach some critical standpoint above and beyond absolute acceptance or absolute rejection. Perhaps the stimulating contrast of a new art was needed for a true understanding of Wagner's work with all its greatness and its limitations.

For the existence of this book I have to thank present-day music, the legitimate offspring of Wagnerian art, to which its tendencies are opposed upon matters of the first importance. An attempt to understand this contradiction drew me on to examine the nature of the conflicting phenomena and so to consider the meaning of certain æsthetic terms current in the speech of the day. Among designations for the most part ordinary in their application, I found the concept expressionist art by far the most illuminating. It is one of the most popular in present-day critical terminology and shares thereby the fate of all such--namely, that little attempt is made to reflect upon its meaning, its bases, its qualities and delimitations. This I have endeavoured to do.

The more closely I approached Wagner's work, taking this idea of expressionist art as my base, the more convinced I became that it was not only a most stimulating but indeed the only practicable standpoint whence to reach an understanding of his personality and art. Wagner's works, his character, even his writings, usually regarded as a troublesome side-issue, revealed themselves to me more and more readily, and the unity of Wagner's whole being took an air of . . .

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