The music history has few characters like Richard Wagner’s – he maximally realized his genious, the novelty and grandiosity of his compositions brought new waves to the musical life. He had never forgotten to emphasize his excellence; his self-centric attitude was exemplary: „I am not like the others. I need brilliance, beauty and light. The world is debted to me what I need.” (As opposed to this behavior his talent was unquestionable.)
While he was writing The Flying Dutchman that was on stage in 1843 he got to know Bakunin the Russian revolutionarist. „Bakunin was empathic with my ideals and my continuous worry about the fate of art.” wrote Wagner. „He was not really interested in my artistic conceptions, and he was not wanted to get into my work about the Nibelung-legend. … He became more likeable to me, when one day after I persuade him to hear my music; I played and sang him the first scenes of The Flying Dutchman. He attested extraordinary attention and told me: It was fantastic! – and he wanted to hear more.”
Whole Dresden loved and thought highly of Wagner. The front of the 1840’s he was working on his opera Tannhäuser and its libretto. Later, at the celebration concert of putting the Festspielhaus’s foundation-stone, the orchestra played his Tannhäuser Overture, too. This piece raised unusual difficulties for the viola players, so Wagner started to explain: “Earlier in the orchestra the viola played Cinderella-role, while the other instruments sparkled. It had to be changed. You, Misters, you have to say thank you for me of making humans from viola players.”
Wagner had no peace since that; after completing Lohengrin he was thinking about the idea of Gesamtkunstwerk, the all-out artistic work, and he got the conclusion: the basis of every huge art has to be the mythology. For the best expression he created a new manner of speech. If you have the proper language and the text you have to do the musical setting. The best examples of his conception appear in the Ring and the Tristan and Isolde, which was on stage at Festspielhaus.
The Ring made interesting effects and reactions. Sir Georg Henschel one day brought Johannes Brahms the score of the Götterdämmerung. “Why did you bring it to me? It interests me and it is overwhelming, but I do not enjoy it every time. The Tristan is completely different, but if I bring this out on the morning, I will be fussy all day.” Later Henschel read him an article from a newspaper of Berlin that a musician dead at a rehearsal in Bayreuth. Brahms’s bare answer was: “The first corpse – there it is.”
At the Viennese premier of the Tristan and Isolde, one of the public’s members was Eduard Hanslick, the dreadful music critic and aesthete of the 19th century. Wagner wanted to make a good impression on him, and asked a friend to find out how Hanslick liked the piece. “There are things I liked, and what I did not.” Wagner’s friend questioned him more, what he did not like. The critic after a little thinking answered: “The music for example.”
Wagner’s impression on music history is not negligible: he had just as many friends as foes. However, he had done everything for his dream about the hegemony of German music. Supposedly after Jesus and Napoleon utmost biographies are about him.