Paul Heise's credibility is redeemed re Ernest Newman

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Paul Heise's credibility is redeemed re Ernest Newman

Post by alberich00 » Thu Jan 19, 2012 5:11 pm

Dear patient members and visitors to our discussion forum:

I wish to apologize for the current gap in my involvement with this discussion forum: with my brother's passing in November I've had to devote nearly every waking moment to a huge enlargement of duties around the home, including liquidating his personal effects and financial obligations. I can finally see the light and will presumably be able to engage more fully with by spring. In the meantime, I thought visitors and participants in the discussion forum might find compensatory amusement in the following discovery which has somewhat lightened the burdens of my life of late.

Some months ago, certain parties challenged my contention that Ernest Newman had more or less written off Wagner's status as a dramatist (and, by implication, a dramatist whose works are philosophically serious) on the basis that, according to Newman, all that really counts in Wagner's legacy is his music. In response, I declared that though my memory might well be faulty, and I might therefore be guilty of character assassination, nonetheless, once I was able to find Ernest Newman's book "Wagner as Man and Artist" among my hundreds of belongings sitting packed away among heaps of boxes in our basement, I would seek and find the passages which had inspired my nefarious remarks, and quote them here. As I am now in the process of liquidating thousands of items in our basement in preparation for selling our house someday (so I can return to my paradise, Florida, and return to my vaunted life as an ostensible Wagner scholar), lo and behold, I found Newman's book, and stumbled upon the following passage, which is rich in irony, given the terrible crime attributed to me. Not only does this passage wholly redeem my original contention, but what is more, it hilariously exposes Newman as so out of touch with what is central to Wagner's mature artworks considered as dramas of philosophic import, that it's amazing I hadn't recalled Newman's astonishing sin of omission. In order to illustrate just how nonsensical Wagner's claim to genius in philosophical dramaturgy is, Newman has expressly chosen one of the very passages from Wagner's writings which offered me the key to unlock his allegorical logic. What a hoot! But I also don't wish to offend, so I wish to remind you that I have great respect for Newman where he made original contributions to our knowledge of Wagner's art, and I have never doubted Newman's deep conviction of Wagner's significance. He blazed a trail for us all.

Well, here it is (and there's lot's more where this came from): enjoy!

Ernest Newman)

Speaking of Wagner's artistry in practice in his mature works, Newman says:

"I do not propose to discuss the philosophical - or pseudo-philosophical - ideas of any of these works. it is only as a musician that Wagner will live, and to a musician the particular philosophy or philosophies that he preached in the "Ring" and "Tristan" and "Parsifal" are matters of very small concern. Wagner was himself always inclined to over-estimate the importance of his own philosophising, and his vehement garrulity has betrayed both partisans and opponents into taking him too seriously as a thinker. Had he not left us his voluminous prose works and letters ... we should never have suspected the hundredth part of the portentous meanings that he and his disciples have read into his operatic libretti. To those who still see profound metaphysical revelations in the later works it may be well to point out that Wagner saw revelations equally inspired and inspiring in the earlier ones, which no one takes with excessive seriousness to-day on their dramatic side. [Here Newman mocks some portentous claims Wagner made re the significance of Senta and Tannhaeuser. I pick up the thread with his unfortunate mockery of some of Wagner's comments on Lohengrin and Elsa]. " 'Lohengrin sought the woman who should have faith in him; who should not ask who he was and whence he came, but should love him as he was, and because he was what he appeared himself to be. He sought the woman to whom he should not have to explain or justify himself, but who wold love him unconditionally. Therefore he had to conceal his higher nature, for only in the non-revealing of this higher ... essence could he find surety that he was not wondered at forthis alone, or humbly worshipped as something incomprehensible, -- whereas his longing was not for wonder or adoration, but for the only thing that could redeem him from his loneliness and still his yearning - for Love, for being loved, for being understood through Love. The character and the situation of this Lohengrin I now recognise with the clearest conviction as the type of the only really tragic material, of the tragic element of our modern life ... . Elsa is the unconscious, the un-volitional, into which Lohengrin's conscious, volitional being yearns to be redeemed; but that yearning is itself the unconscious, un-volitional in Lohengrin, through which he feels himself akin in being to Elsa. through the capacity of this 'unconscious consciousness' as I myself experienced it in common with Lohengrin, the nature of Woman ... became more and more intimately revealed to me ... that true Womanhood that should bring to me and all the world redemption, after man's egoism, even in its noblest form, had voluntarily broken itself before her. Elsa, the Woman ... made me a full-fledged revolutionary. She was the spirit of the folk, for redemption by whom I too, as artist-man, was yearning.'
This seems all very remote from us now; one wonders how anyone, even Wagner himself, could ever have taken these operatic puppets with such appalling seriousness. The "Ring" stands a little nearer to us; but no longer can we follow Wagner in his philosophising even there. For Wagner, Siegfried was 'the human being in the most natural and gayest fulness of his physical manifestation .... It was Elsa who had taught me to discover this man: for me he was the male-embodied (...) spirit of the eternal and only involuntarily creative force, of the doer of true deeds, of Man in the fulness of his most native strength and his most undoubted love-worthiness.' We can hardly regard Siegfried in that light to-day. [stopping at 5:11 pm: to be continued later]
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