(Born at Leipsic, May 22, 1813;
died at Venice, February 13, 1883)
IT IS NOT EASY for anyone who did not live through the period of the Wagnerian excitement to understand the fierceness of the controversy. The younger generation reads at its ease accounts of protests against compositions by Strauss, Reger, Schönberg; how this or that piece was hissed by some in a concert hall and applauded by others; it reads and is amused, but it regards the discussion as academic. The Wagner question, like the Beecher trial, like the Ibsen controversy in Norway, divided households.
The world has moved since 1876. Much water has flowed under the bridge. Wagner is still one of the most commanding figures in the temple, but it is no longer an act of irreverence to discuss him as Verdi, Gluck, Richard Strauss are discussed. It is now generally agreed that this towering genius was after all a mortal; that he was often verbose, that he could be dull in his musical speech, as other geniuses were before him.
The great public today cares nothing about Wagner's philosophy, or the "metaphysics" of his Ring. Wotan, Mime, Siegfried, and the rest of them, heroic or shabby characters, are as Radames, Salome, Mélisande, Edgardo, Leonora, Manrico in the tower; they are persons in a drama who sing, and do not speak the dialogue. We have the heartiest admiration for the great scenes in the Ring, and yet find Wotan long-winded and tiresome in his reminiscences and