Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
James A. Deaville
The music criticism that Richard Wagner wrote in 1840 and 1841 represents the composer's most active involvement with music journalism. While attempting to establish himself as a composer of operas for the Parisian stage, he addressed issues of direct consequence to own artistic development and created lively portraits of a milieu that he ultimately judged to be incompatible with his ideals. He left Paris in poverty and failure, but the articles that he contributed to four different periodicals attest to the importance of his Parisian experiences as both a composer and an author. Wagner addressed issues of musical consequence with a variety of means, writing colorful narratives for the readers of La Gazette musicale in Paris, descriptions of cultural events for the fashion-conscious readers of Europa in Stuttgart, serious musical essays for the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik in Leipzig, and feuilletons for the Dresden Abendzeitung.
For much of the success of his varied literary efforts, Wagner was indebted to influential predecessors, primarily E. T. A. Hoffmann and Heinrich Heine. By adopting the stylistic features of the German novella, Wagner permanently embraced Hoffmann's musical aesthetics. In a similar emulation of Heine's critical writing, Wagner rejected Heine's musical attitudes, although he found Heine's methods useful.
A systematic analysis of Wagner's Parisian criticism evaluates the longevity and importance of these influences and the worth of Wagner's writing for his development as a composer and musical author. Despite Wagner's attempts to emphasize or discount influences in the editing of his collected writings, examination of the Parisian writings reveals that the experiences of the 1840s significantly affected his musical aesthetics.
In addition to being indispensable to an evaluation of Wagner's developing opinions of Italian operatic style, the role of virtuosity in performance, and the meaning of emotion in music, the Parisian writings also provide insight into the issues, personalities, and institutions that were of consequence to the critical press of the cultural capital of the 1830s and 1840s. Wagner's youthful critical writing provides a penetrating analysis of its author and its time.
Bertagnolli, Paul A., "Richard Wagner's Parisian Writings: A Developing Critical Perspective" (1990). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 6012.
McMaster University Library