Cosima Wagner in Villa Wahnfried, Bayreuth - 24 December, 1878

from Thirty Years of Musical Life in London, 1870-1900, pages 411-3:

Early in December, 1878, Wagner made up his mind that his wife should be
serenaded on her birthday at Christmas with the strains of the “Vorspiel"
to “Parsifal," of which work he had then completed the first act. The only
question was how to obtain an orchestra. After some reflection, Wagner
determined to procure the services of the celebrated Meiningen performers, but
of course without their conductor, then no other than Dr. Hans von Biilow, Frau
Cosima Wagner’s first husband. The project was kept a profound secret, and
young Anton Seidl was forthwith despatched to Meiningen to arrange matters with
the band. He arrived there early in the morning, and went direct to the hotel
at which von Bulow was staying. The worthy doctor was practising, and, being
unacquainted with Seidl, sent out word that he could not see him until eleven
o'clock. Accordingly, at that hour he presented himself at the great pianist's
apartment and was duly ushered into his presence. At the first mention of
Wagner's name von Bulow drew himself up and inquired in an icy tone what it was
that Herr Wagner wanted. Seidl explained the object of his mission.
The “ambassador" quickly found the leader of the band, and, the Duke of Meiningen's permission being readily granted, it was arranged that the men should be at Bayreuth by a certain evening. They assembled in good time at the Sonne Hotel, where Wagner met them and conducted a rehearsal of the “Vorspiel” Early next morning, while Frau Cosima was still asleep, the heavier instruments were conveyed to Wahnfried, and the players quietly stationed themselves at their desks in the vestibule and upon the staircase. When all was ready, Wagner gave the signal, and his much-honored wife awoke from her slumbers to hear for the first time the mystic phrases of the prelude to “Parsifal”.
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cite as

Hermann Klein, Thirty Years of Musical Life in London, 1870-1900 (New York City, 1903), p. 411-3. accessed: 17 May, 2022

location of experience: Villa Wahnfried, Bayreuth


Cosima Wagner
Wagner Festival director

Listening to

hide composers
Parsifal Prelude
written by Richard Wagner
performed by Duke of Meiningen's musicians

Experience Information

Date/Time 24 December, 1878
Medium live
Listening Environment in the company of others, in private, indoors

Originally submitted by sp327 on Mon, 03 Aug 2015 09:40:28 +0100
Approved on Sun, 24 Apr 2016 16:00:01 +0100