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Wagner on Mendelssohn and Schumann.

No musician was ever more severely criticised than Richard Wagner, and it is equally certain that Wagner spared no opportunity to express his contempt for those who believed in views contrary to his own. Nevertheless, he was not by any means insensible to the greatness of other musicians. Nor was he so deadly in his hatred of "Judaism in Music" that he failed to appreciate the genius of Mendelssohn. Here is something of what he had to say about Mendelssohn's powers as a composer:
 
"Mendelssohn was a landscape painter of the first order, and the 'Hebrides' overture is his masterpiece. Wonderful imagination and delicate feeling are here presented with consummate art. Note the extraordinary beauty of the passage where the oboes rise above the other instruments with a plaintive wail like the winds over the seas. 'Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage' also is beautiful; and I am very fond of the first movement of the Scotch Symphony. No one can blame a composer for using national melodies when he treats them so artistically as Mendelssohn has done in the Scherzo of this symphony. His second themes, his slow movements generally, where the human element comes in, are weaker. As regards the overture to 'A Midsummer Night's Dream,' it must be taken into account that he wrote it at seventeen, and how finished the form is already!"
 
His views of Schumann were not so lenient. It must be taken into consideration that between the dreamy, self-absorbed Schumann and the forceful, passionate Wagner there was a world of difference. Just the difference, in fact, which made it possible for Schumann to hail Wagner as a genius and to cause Wagner to regard Schumann with the rather pitying condescension which a strong man has for a weaker one.
 
"Schumann's peculiar treatment of the pianoforte grates on my ear; there is too much blur; you cannot produce his pieces unless it be mit obligatem Pedal. What a relief to hear a sonata of Beethoven's! In early days I thought more would come of Schumann. His Zeitschrift was brilliant, and his pianoforte works showed great originality. There was much ferment, but also much real power, and many bits are quite unique and perfect. I think highly, too, of many of his songs,, though they are not as great as Schubert's. He took pains with his declamation—no small merit a generation ago. Later on I saw a good deal of him at Dresden; but then already his head was tired, his powers on the wane. He consulted me about his text to 'Genoveva,' which he was arranging from Tieck's and Hebbel's plays, yet he would not take my advice—he seemed to fear some trick."

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