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Famous Quotes
Richard Wagner
(1813-1883)


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Whatever my passions demand of me, I become for the time being -- musician, poet, director, author, lecturer or anything else.
-- Wagner, letter to Liszt

For me Wagner is impossible... he talks without ever stopping. One can't just talk all the time.
-- Robert Schumann, quoted in: H Gall, Johannes Brahms (1961)

His is the art of translating, by subtle gradations, all that is excessive, immense, ambitious in spiritual and natural mankind. On listening to this ardent and despotic music one feels at times as though one discovered again, painted in the depths of a gathering darkness torn asunder by dreams, the dizzy imaginations induced by opium.
-- Charles Baudelaire (1821-67), French poet and critic, in: Richard Wagner et Tannhäuser à Paris (1861)

If one has not heard Wagner at Bayreuth, one has heard nothing! Take lots of handkerchiefs because you will cry a great deal! Also take a sedative because you will be exalted to the point of delirium!
-- Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924), letter, 1884

Wagner's art recognises only superlatives, and a superlative has no future. It is an end, and not a beginning.
-- Edward Hanslick (1825-1904), in: Pleasants, ed., Hanslick's Music Criticism (1950)

Is Wagner a human being at all? Is he not rather a disease? He contaminates everything he touches -- he has made music sick. I postulate this viewpoint: Wagner's art is diseased.
-- Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Der Fall Wagner (1866)

Of all the bête, clumsy, blundering, boggling, babboon-bloodied stuff that I ever saw on a human stage, that last night beat -- as far as the story and acting went -- all the affected, sapless, soulless, beginningness, endless, topless, bottomless, topsiturviest, scrabble-pipiest-tongs, and boniest doggerel of sounds I ever endured the deadliest of, that eternity of nothing was the deadliest -- as far as the sound went.
-- John Ruskin, letter, 1882, referring to a performance of Die Meistersinger,

Wagner has lovely moments but awful quarters of an hour.
-- Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868), in a letter to Emile Naumann, 1867

I have been told that Wagner's music is better than it sounds.
-- Mark Twain, Autobiography (1924)

Not until the turn of the century did the outlines of the new world discovered in Tristan begin to take shape. Music reacted to it as a human body to an injected serum, which it at first strives to exclude as a poison, and only afterwards learns to accept as necessary and even wholesome.
-- Paul Hindemith (1895-1963), The Craft of Musical Compostions (1837)

It would kill a cat and turn rocks into scrambled eggs.
-- Richard Strauss, German composer (1864-1949), writing of Wagner's opera Siegfried in an 1879 letter to Ludwig Thuille

I love Wagner, but the music that I prefer is that of a cat hung by its tail outside a window and trying to stick to the panes of glass with its claws.
-- Charles Baudelaire (1821-67)

That kind of opera that starts at six o'clock and after it has been going three hours you look at your watch and it says 6.20.
-- David Randolph on Wagner's opera Parzifal (Parsifal)

Wagner was a monster. He was anti-Semitic on Mondays and vegetarian on Tuesdays. On Wednesday he was in favour of annexing Newfoundland, Thursday he wanted to sink Venice, and Friday he wanted to blow up the pope.
-- Tony Palmer

One can't judge Wagner's opera Lohengrin after a first hearing, and I certainly don't intend hearing it a second time.
-- Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868)

The prelude to Tristan und Isolde reminds us of one of the old Italian paintings of a martyr whose intestines are slowly unwound from his body on to a reel.
Eduard Hanslick, German Bohemian music critic, on Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde, June 1868

I like Wagner's music better than anybody's. It is so loud that one can talk the whole time without people hearing what one says.
-- Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray


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