excerpt from 'Musical Reminiscences Past and Present' pp. 31 32 (433 words)

excerpt from 'Musical Reminiscences Past and Present' pp. 31 32 (433 words)

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Musical Reminiscences Past and Present

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On the evening I followed the usual custom of the musical people of Dresden, and went to the Opera-house, a huge temporary wooden building, capable of seating three thousand persons, erected shortly after the lamentable fire at the late splendid Opera-house, which was totally destroyed. The prices of admission varied from 3s. 6d. to 9d., the house being so constructed that everyone could both hear and see well. I had a front stall in the parquette, immediately in front of the stage and orchestra, and I was delighted to find on receiving a pro­gramme that my long wished for opportunity of hearing one of Wagner's most popular operas in Germany was now to be gratified. We were to have the “Meister-singer,” and it was certainly put upon the stage and performed most effectively. The orchestra consisted of about sixty performers, directed by that able musician and composer Dr. Julius Reitz, Mendelssohn’s friend. Whether from the intense heat and the want of proper ventilation in the building, or from the want of repose, variety and relief in the music, I was quite overcome at the end of the first act, and was compelled to return to my hotel—perhaps a wiser, if not a sadder man. Undoubtedly Wagner’s instrumenta­tion is the work of a master, and not for one moment does he apparently allow the performers to indulge in the luxury of a few bars rest. Nearly every instrument in the orchestra seemed to have an obbligato part, and all were playing at one and the same time. It was impossible to catch more than the ghost or fragment of a tune. No sooner did the ear find a snatch of pretty melody when it instantly gave place to another equally brief; every conceivable device seemed to be employed to render every subject peculiar and fragmentary, and yet undoubtedly many of the dramatic situations were powerful and effective. Especially interesting was the opening portion of the opera at the conclusion of the singular and overwrought overture. Here the scene in the church, the groupings, and never ceasing action of two or three score of people on the stage, undoubtedly excite lively interest, and seemed to be highly and fully appreciated by the composer’s numerous admirers, who were present in full force, and some of whom did their best to impress upon my mind the sublime superiority of this and other Wagnerian effusions over the master-pieces of those great musicians whom either my education or my prejudices had taught me to esteem the highest.


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excerpt from 'Musical Reminiscences Past and Present' pp. 31 32 (433 words)


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