Die Erste Liebe von Hitler – Hitler’s First Love


© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Die Erste Liebe von Hitler



Hitler’s first love was undoubtedly his mother – Klara.
Edmund Hitler would have been Adolf’s second love.
Edmund Hitler (March 24, 1894 – February 2, 1900) was the fourth child of Klara and Alois Hitler, and the youngest brother of Adolf Hitler.
Edmund died of Measles on February 2, 1900 at the age of 5, leaving Adolf and Paula as the only surviving children of the Hitler family.
After the death of Edmund, Adolf’s personality underwent a dramatic change – from being a happy compliant boy to being one who was mood, poorly behaved and ‘difficult’.

Questions have been raised concerning Adolf Hitler’s sexuality ever since he first came to political prominence in the 1920s.
An individual’s sexuality, of course, does not effect the validity of his beliefs or work – and we can look to many historical examples of individuals who exhibited sexual preferences outside the so-called ‘norm’, who have had a major impact in various historical, cultural, political and academic spheres.
However, an understanding of an individual’s sexuality will often give a greater insight into the general behavior, activities and beliefs of that individual.
Examples would be the relationship between Alexander and Hephaestion, Hadrian and Antinuous – or more recently Ludwig II and Wagner etc.

There is much evidence to support the theory that Hitler had distinct homosexual, or homoerotic tendencies.
Many of his friendships and associations suggest this, and in particular, his decidedly ‘homoerotic’ relationship with August Kubizek.

Wappen von Kaiser Franz Josef
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Our story begins in Linz, a provincial city in Österreich.
Große Wappen der Österreichisch-Ungarischen Monarchie
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Österreich was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in Central Europe.
The union was a result of the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, under which the House of Habsburg agreed to share power with the separate Hungarian government, dividing the territory of the former Austrian Empire between them.
The Austrian and the Hungarian lands became independent entities enjoying equal status. Austria-Hungary was a multinational realm and one of the world’s great powers at the time.

Kleines Wappen des Kaisertums Österreich
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Kleines Wappen des Königreiches Ungarn
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

The dual monarchy had existed for 51 years until it dissolved on 31 October 1918 before a military defeat on the Italian front of the First World War.
The realm comprised modern-day Austria (see right – small arms of Austria), Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, and parts of Italy, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, and Ukraine.
The Habsburg monarch ruled as Emperor of Austria over the western and northern half of the country that was the Austrian Empire (Cisleithania or Lands represented in the Imperial Council), and as King of Hungary over the Kingdom of Hungary (see small arms left) (Transleithania or Lands of the Crown of Saint Stephen) which enjoyed a great deal of sovereignty with only a few joint affairs (principally foreign relations and defence).
The division was so marked in fact that there was no common citizenship: a person was either an Austrian or a Hungarian citizen (legally it wasn’t allowed to hold both citizenships at the same time).
The two capitals of the Monarchy were Vienna for Austria and Buda for Hungary, the latter united with neighbouring Pest as Budapest from 1870.
Vienna, however, would serve as the nation’s primary capital.

Austria-Hungary was geographically the second largest country in Europe after the Russian Empire (621,538 square kilometres (239,977 sq mi) in 1905), and the third most populous (after Russia and the German Empire).
As a multinational empire and great power in an era of national awakening, it found its political life dominated by disputes among the eleven principal national groups.
The Monarchy bore the name internationally of “Österreichisch-Ungarische Monarchie” (on decision by Franz Joseph I in 1868).

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Austria–Hungary


Empire of Austria (Cisleithania): 1. Bohemia, 2. Bukovina, 3. Carinthia, 4. Carniola, 5. Dalmatia, 6. Galicia, 7. Küstenland, 8. Lower Austria, 9. Moravia, 10. Salzburg, 11. Silesia, 12. Styria, 13. Tyrol, 14. Upper Austria, 15. Vorarlberg;
Kingdom of Hungary (Transleithania): 16. Hungary proper 17. Croatia-Slavonia;
Austrian-Hungarian Condominium: 18. Bosnia and Herzegovina

Österreich-Ungarn 1910: Cisleithanien: 1. Böhmen, 2. Bukowina, 3. Kärnten, 4. Krain, 5. Dalmatien, 6. Galizien, 7. Küstenland, 8. Österreich unter der Enns, 9. Mähren, 10. Salzburg, 11. Schlesien, 12. Steiermark, 13. Tirol, 14. Österreich ob der Enns, 15. Vorarlberg; Transleithanien: 16. Ungarn, 17. Kroatien und Slawonien; 18. Bosnien und Herzegowina

Linz and Vienna – the two cities that feature prominently in Kubizek’s account – are indicated in gold – other provincial capitals of the empire are indicated in red.



Kaiser Franz Josef

During the period covered by Kubizek’s account, the ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was Franz Joseph I (see right).
Franz Joseph I (Hungarian: I. Ferenc József, 18 August 1830 – 21 November 1916) was Emperor of Austria, King of Bohemia, King of Croatia, Apostolic King of Hungary, King of Galicia and Lodomeria and Grand Duke of Cracow from 1848 until his death in 1916.
In the December of 1848, Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria abdicated the throne as part of Ministerpräsident Felix zu Schwarzenberg’s plan to end the Revolutions of 1848 in Austria, which allowed Ferdinand’s nephew Franz Joseph to ascend to the throne.
Largely considered to be a reactionary, Franz Joseph spent his early reign resisting constitutionalism in his domains.
The Austrian Empire was forced to cede most of its claim to Lombardy–Venetia to the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia following the conclusion of the Second Italian War of Independence in 1859, and the Third Italian War of Independence in 1866.

Austro-Prussian War
Crown Prince Rudolf

Although Franz Joseph ceded no territory to the Kingdom of Prussia after the Austrian defeat in the Austro-Prussian War (see left), the Peace of Prague (23 August 1866) settled the German question in favor of Prussia, which prevented the unification of Germany under the House of Habsburg (Großdeutsche Lösung).
Franz Joseph was troubled by nationalism during his entire reign.
He concluded the Ausgleich of 1867, which granted greater autonomy to Hungary, hence transforming the Austrian Empire into the Austro-Hungarian Empire under his Dual Monarchy.
His domains were then ruled peacefully for the next 45 years, although Franz Joseph’s personal life became increasingly tragic after the suicide of his son, the Crown Prince Rudolf in 1889 (see right), and the assassination of his wife, the Empress Elisabeth in 1898.
Franz Joseph died on 21 November 1916, after ruling his domains for almost 68 years.

He was succeeded by his grandnephew Karl.

This was the political situation in which Adolf hitler and August Kubizek grew up.
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Stadtwappen Linz


Linz Opera House

Kubizek, then sixteen, first met Adolf Hitler, fifteen, late in 1904.
While at the Linz Opera one evening Adolf Hitler met August Kubizek who was to become, many would say, his best, and probably only friend.

Practicing frugality, Kubizek and Hitler often used to arrive early at the Landestheater to get a good standing place.
They began competing with one another for one of the two columns which supported the Royal box.
The wooden columns offered the luxury of something to lean against during the sometimes lengthy performances.
In time they recognized one another and became acquainted.

August Kubizek

August Kubizek (Gustav or Gustl) was nine months older than Adolf Hitler (Adi) and was a mild-mannered and sensitive youth, with a look of intelligence.

He was the son of a small businessman, and lived above his father’s upholstery shop in the family quarters on Klamm Strasse, not far from where Adolf Hitler lived.
He was determined to be a renowned musician.
At the time he could already play the piano, violin, trumpet and trombone and was studying music theory.
He also played the viola for the local Music Society and the Symphony Orchestra.

When he wasn’t pursuing his dream he worked in his father’s shop refinishing furniture.

Young Adolf Hitler

Kubizek noted that “Adolf,” because of his recent sickness, was a pale and skinny youth.

But what captured his main attention was Adolf’s glistening eyes and curious hairdo which was combed straight down over his forehead.
Kubizek found that Adolf, like rebellious teenagers in every generation, wore his curious hairdo because no one else did. Kubizek, an only child, was one of those protected teenagers who have an adoration of the rebellious and “admiration” was his strongest point in cultivating a friendship.
As Kubizek would write: “It was this very fact, that he was out of the ordinary, that attracted me even more.”
As their friendship matured, Hitler never addressed Kubizek by August but called him ‘Gustl‘ or ‘Gustav’, which, interestingly, had been the name of Hitler’s oldest deceased brother.
Kubizek, however, in reality played the part of an idolizing younger brother, and also a romantic partner.
Hitler was extremely independent, however, and it often happened that they did not meet for days, even when they were on the best of terms.
Although “Gustl” found Adolf high-strung, he also found him reserved.
Hitler was formal and aloof in his dealings with others and was insistent on “good manners and correct behavior.”
Unusual for a teenager, Hitler seldom became overly friendly and there were few teenagers his age that he liked.
He had nothing but disdain for ‘young people‘ who wasted their time in shallow talk and mundane pursuits.
He considered most teenagers superficial for he was, as Kubizek said, much more mature than most people of his age.

Linz Countryside

Walking was the only exercise that appealed to Hitler and he and Kubizek often took long walks around the town or hiked into the nearby woods.

They had their favorite trails and their favorite swimming hole – and at that time swimming – always in the nude – was an all male activity.
On these excursions, a walking stick was the only requirement and Adolf would wear a colored shirt and (in place of the normal necktie) “a silk cord with two tassels hanging down.”
Kubizek was particularly amazed by Adolf’s refined speech which made him very persuasive, even with grown-ups.
Kubizek was always astonished at how, when they were alone, Hitler could rant on about a particular subject and get himself worked up; yet, when dealing with others he kept calm and had an air of reasonableness.
Hitler was normally polite to people, was not vain, and could be very sensitive if he felt someone was unhappy or sick.
Kubizek also wrote that Adolf helped him through difficult times and always have time for people he liked.
Hitler was well-liked and respected by almost everyone he met.
Kubizek was also awed by the seriousness and wide range of knowledge Hitler showed for one as young as he was.
While most teenage boys interests are mainly confined to sports, comradeship and embellished stories or beliefs concerning the opposite sex, Hitler’s interests were boundless. 

Wright Bothers

He was interested in agriculture, city planning, mythology, history, politics, and world events, including air travel.

The Wright bothers had flown their heavier-than-air plane at Kitty Hawk a few years before and Hitler was very impressed.
He was interested in everything, Kubizek noted, and wasn’t indifferent about anything.
Kubizek would come to write a book about his experiences with the young Hitler.
If the portents in retrospect and the occasional melodramatic moments are overlooked, he describes Hitler as a fairly normal teenager with an inquiring mind.
Since many historians like to portray the young Hitler as unbalanced, ignorant, lazy, and stupid, a few have attempted to discredit Kubizek anytime he portrays the young Hitler in a decent light.

Paula Hitler

Paula Hitler, however (who was about the only acquaintance who never tried to capitalize on her brother’s name), stated that as a teenager Adolf had opinions about everything and constantly read.

She also stated that he often used to give persuasive lectures on themes concerning history and politics to her and her mother.
Paula, equal to her mother, was a quiet, docile and honest woman.
She took a back seat to her brother when still a child and remained there all her life.
She kept house for him during the “good” years and later learned applied art and led an obscure life in Vienna.
She never married and spent the last years of her life living in the area of Berchtesgaden – her brother’s last home. She died on June 1, 1960 almost unnoticed or un-mourned.

Paula Hitler (Paula Wolf)[1] (21 January 1896 in Hafeld, Austria[2] – 1 June 1960 in Berchtesgaden) was the younger sister of Adolf Hitle,r and the last child of Alois Hitler and his third wife, Klara Pölzl. Paula was the only full sibling of Adolf Hitler to survive into adulthood.
Paula was six years old when her father Alois, a retired customs official, died, and eleven when she lost her mother Klara, after which the Austrian government provided a small pension to Paula and Adolf, however, the amount was relatively meager and Adolf, who was by then old enough to support himself, agreed to sign his share over to her. Paula later moved to Vienna where she worked as a secretary. She had no contact with her brother during the period comprising his difficult years as a painter in Vienna and later Munich, military service during World War I and early political activities back in Munich. She was delighted to meet him again in Vienna during the early 1930s. By her own account, after losing a job with a Viennese insurance company in 1930 when her employers found out who she was, Paula received financial support from her brother (which continued until 1945), lived under the assumed family name ‘Wolf’ at Hitler’s request (this was a childhood nickname of his which he had also used during the 1920s for security purposes) and worked sporadically. She later claimed to have seen her brother about once a year during the 1930s and early 1940s. She worked as a secretary in a military hospital for much of World War II.

As Kubizek further described Hitler:
There was an incredible earnestness in him, a thoroughness, a. true passionate interest in everything that happened and, most important, an unfailing devotion to the beauty, majesty and grandeur of art.”
Because of their common knowledge in theater, painting, architecture, writing, poetry, and especially music and opera, they became close friends, and Hitler confided in Kubizek.
Hitler told Kubizek his dream of becoming a painter; “my beautiful dream of the future,” as he referred to it.
When Kubizek saw Hitler’s room for the first time, it reminded him of an “architect’s office.” Although Hitler painted landscapes and many other subjects, most of his works tended to be architectural structures.

Linz Landesmuseum

One of his hobbies was drawing or painting the finer buildings of Linz and making changes in their design.

His favorite buildings were of the Italian Renaissance style and his favorite building was the Landesmuseum which he considered “one of the peak achievements in German architecture.”
The richly ornamented gate and the hundred meter long sculptured panel above the main floor never ceased to impress him.
Kubizek and Hitler would take long walks around the city and Hitler would often stop to look over one building or another.
There he stood,” Kubizek would later write, “this pallid, skinny youth, with the first dark brown showing on his upper lip, in his shabby pepper-and-salt suit, threadbare at the elbows and collar, with his eyes glued to some architectural detail, analyzing the style, criticizing or praising the work, disapproving of the material–all this with such thoughtfulness and such expert knowledge as though he were the builder and would have to pay for every shortcoming out of his own pocket.”
According to Kubizek, some art lovers in Linz founded a society to promote the construction of a new theater.
Hitler joined the society and “took part in a competition for ideas.”
Hitler also made detailed drawings of the city’s layout, showing how it could be improved and beautified.
Adolf, Kubizek wrote, “could never walk the streets without being provoked by what he saw.
On more than one occasion Hitler noted that this or that building “shouldn’t be here“, because it distracted from a view or did not “fit into its surroundings.”
Kubizek would later write that Adolf’s ideas were not “sheer fantasy, but a well-disciplined, almost systematic process.”
Hitler always had a secluded spot outside of town where he could be alone.

Schloß Wildberg – Linz

One spot was a bench along a winding trail (Turmleitenweg), and another, when he really wanted to be alone, was a large, overhanging rock perched high above the Danube near by.   Here he could think and cultivate his plans and ideas, including one, way ahead of its time, to turn Wildberg Castle (north of Linz) into an “open-air museum.”

This “island where the centuries had stood still,” (Adolf’s very words according to Kubizek) was to have a permanent population of men, women and children in medieval costumes demonstrating their crafts and trades.
Hitler thought the castle would serve as a place of study for all those who wanted to learn about life as it was lived in the Middle Ages.
And, it could pay for itself by charging admission to tourists.
Hitler also nurtured ideas of becoming a poet, writer or playwright.
Kubizek was enormously impressed by some of Hitler’s poems.
There was one, a sonnet, that Hitler attempted to extend into a play.
That Hitler “devoted himself to writing, poetry, drawing, painting and to going to the theater,” had Kubizek’s complete admiration.
Another thing that impressed Kubizek was Hitler’s complete self-assurance that one day he would become famous.
In time they came to dream about their success and how they would either build their own villa or renovate a large flat where struggling “lofty minded” artists with talent could come and find shelter.
Hitler made numerous sketches of the proposed villa.
On the other hand, if they opted for the flat, they proposed to rent the entire second floor of a huge building adjoining the Nibelungen Bridge which crossed the Danube between Linz and the suburb of Urfahr.
They bought a lottery ticket and dreamed about how they would spend it furnishing their new abode if they won.
Their plan was to find a refined and distinguished older woman to serve as host, and two other “females” to serve as cook and housemaid.
The women were to be of impeccable character since, at this point of their lives, they had high ideals concerning women.
As was usual for most sixteen and seventeen year olds of their day, both Hitler and Kubizek kept their distance from young women.
Flirtations” were out of the question and even a conversation with a young girl, outside the necessary everyday dealings, was rare.

‘Sacred Virgin’ – Ludwig Fahrenkrog

To further complicate their situation, Kubizek noted that Hitler, like himself, was very shy around young women and found it difficult to communicate with them.

They were caught between that unrelenting biological urge to reproduce, and the fear of the unknown.
Rather then admit their fears they consoled themselves, as Kubizek noted, in waiting for that “sacred” virgin that would lead to marriage and children.
Kubizek also noted that Hitler was a night person.
If he wanted to think or something was bothering him, he would take lengthy night walks to the outskirts of the city and now and then climb the nearby hills on the west side of town.
If he wasn’t thinking he would paint or read late into the night.
He seldom rose early except when absolutely necessary.
Hitler was aware that early risers see themselves as superior to late risers, but he never tried to hide his sleeping habits.
Mark Twain

(Since he was known to be aware of Mark Twain’s writings, it’s possible that he knew about Twain’s comment that he never went to bed as long as he had someone to talk to, and he never got up early unless it was “damn important.”)

Kubizek noted that anytime Adolf was up early in the morning, something had to be “very special.”
If Adolf slept too late, however, Klara would send the younger Paula to wake him with the words, “go and give him a kiss.”
Adolf, who hated to be kissed or hugged, would jump out of bed the moment his sister got near him.
As their friendship continued, Kubizek would find that Hitler would sometimes become impatient or angry when someone disagreed with him.
Kubizek took great care not to clash with Adolf and always yielded except on musical matters. 
Kubizek would acknowledge that there were times he thought his friendship with Adolf was over, but they would meet by chance, usually at a concert, and patch up their differences.
Eduard Bloch

Around this time the Hitler family began seeing a new doctor named Eduard Bloch.

He described “Adolf” as a “well mannered,” “neat,” “obedient boy” who would “bow…courteously” whenever they met.
He found Adolf to be “neither robust nor sickly” but “‘frail looking'” with “large, melancholy and thoughtful….gray-blue eyes….inherited from his mother.” 
Dr. Bloch, like Kubizek, also described Adolf as a “quiet,” and a “well-bred boy of fourteen or fifteen” who was “old for his age.”*
Two-and-a-half months before Hitler turned seventeen his grandmother died on Feb, 8, 1906. Klara’s mother had been loved by the whole family which went into deep mourning.
For the fourth time in six winters Hitler saw another close family member laid to rest.
With a school year lost and spring approaching, Hitler began making plans for his future.
Klara still had hopes that her son would take his final test to obtain his diploma and enter a local technical school and become a civil servant like his father.
Adolf, on the other hand, pleaded that sitting in an office wasn’t for him.
Hans Makart

He saw artists as a better class of society and his dream was to become a great artist, possibly like one of his three favorites, Rubens, or the moderns: Hans Makart or Anselm Feuerback.

Hans Makart (May 28, 1840 – October 3, 1884) was a 19th-century Austrian academic history painter, designer, and decorator; most well known for his influence on Gustav Klimt and other Austrian artists, but in his own era considered an important artist himself and was a celebrity figure in the high culture of Vienna, attended with almost cult-like adulation. The “Makartstil”, which determined the culture of an entire era in Vienna, was an aestheticism the likes of which hadn’t been seen before him and has not been replicated to this day. Called the “magician of colors”, he painted in brilliant colors and fluid forms, which placed the design and the aesthetic of the work before all else. His paintings were usually large-scale and theatrical productions of historical motifs.

Anselm Feuerbach

Anselm Feuerbach (12 September 1829 – 4 January 1880) was a German painter. He was the leading classicist painter of the German 19th-century school. He was steeped in classic knowledge, and his figure compositions have the statuesque dignity and simplicity of Greek art. He was the first to realize the danger arising from contempt of technique, that mastery of craftsmanship was needed to express even the loftiest ideas, and that an ill-drawn coloured cartoon can never be the supreme achievement in art.

Interestingly, these two artists had very dissimilar styles.

Makart’s style was flamboyant and ‘mannerist’, whereas Feuerbach style was cool and classical, and much closers to the style favoured by Hitler in his later years.
Hitler also developed a great liking for Franz von Stuck and Arnold Böcklin – but that would come later.
Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien

Hitler decided that he wanted to attend the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna (known then as the Vienna School of Fine Arts) that autumn.

A diploma was not necessary for admittance to the academy and he undoubtedly pointed out the good marks he had received in art during his last year of school.
Although not opposed to his studying art, Klara was strongly opposed to his relocating in Vienna.
She had been terribly shaken by his recent sickness and his frail appearance worried her.
He was her only surviving son and she wanted him by her side.
Vienna was a hundred miles away.
For Hitler’s seventeenth birthday, Klara gave in to her son’s insistence.
She gave him enough money for a vacation in Vienna where he could gather information on the Academy.
She did so, however, with the hope that he would get the idea out of his system and give up his idea of leaving home.
Shortly after his birthday, he arrived in Vienna where, after the blandness of Linz, he was immediately enchanted by the large metropolis.
Klara had misjudged her son.

The Vienna Trip

Ringstrasse und Opernhaus – Wien
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Stadtwappen Wien

Hitler spent his days sight-seeing and sketching many of Vienna’s wonders.
He spent most of his evenings visiting the music halls, theaters, and especially the opera which overwhelmed him when compared to the caliber of Linz’s.
Just walking the stairs of the Burg Theater or the State Opera House was enough to make any youth feel he was part of a world of power and grandeur. As he would later recall: “Never shall I forget the gracious spectacle of the Vienna Opera, the women sparkling with diadems and fine clothes.”

Vienna Postcard

Hitler sent postcards to his family and friends including Hagmuller, Kubizek and Dr. Bloch, voicing his enthusiasm.

He returned home more convinced than ever that he wanted to return to Vienna by late September when admission tests to the academy began.
Although the family finances were adequate, Klara did everything to dissuade him.
The love that mother and son had for each other was obvious to everyone, but the thought of being separated from her son was unbearable to Klara.
She was intent that he should choose a profession which would keep him at home.
During the family’s summer vacation on the farm that Summer, Adolf was hammered with alternative proposals for pursuing a more sensible career.
He became alienated and kept to himself.
Adolf Hitler – Zeichnung Hund

He whiled away the hours by drawing  in his sketch book, painting, reading or taking long solitary walks.

When the family returned home he was further barraged with suggestions by Angela’s husband, Leo.
Klara even had her baker friend and his wife attempt to secure Adolf a position as a baker’s apprentice which he refused.
When a neighbor, no doubt at Klara’s urging, suggested a position with the postal service, Adolf answered that he intended to become an artist.
Undaunted, Klara continued searching for an excuse to keep her son at home.
Kubizek had been taking piano lessons from an expensive Polish teacher named Josef Prewatzki.
Around the end of September when Adolf wanted to leave for Vienna, Klara suggested that he join Kubizek.
Klara knew her son occasionally thought about becoming a poet or writer.

Heitzmann und Sohn – Piano

With his love for music and the opera she attempted to convince him to study music so he could go on to become a composer, or possibly write operas.

Klara’s persistence finally paid off. Adolf relented.
The relieved Klara brought him a piano made by Heitzmann-Flugel, whose pianos were among the best in the world.
Hitler began piano lessons on October 2, 1906.
As with any subject he enjoyed, or found interest in, he threw himself into it.
He never missed a class and paid by the month.
According to the teacher, he was a little timid and was bored easily by finger exercises but he had a good ear for music, practiced his scales conscientiously and progressed steadily.
His sister Paula remembered that he would sit at the large piano at home for hours practicing. With the examinations to the art academy over for another year, life in the Hitler household settled down.
Hitler and ‘Rienzi’

Richard Wagner

In the Winter of 1906, Hitler and Kubizek attended an opera of Richard Wagner’s ‘Rienzi – der Letzte der Tribunen ‘.

The story is set in fourteenth century Rome and tells the story of a man of the people, trying to free them from the oppression of the upper classes.
The privileged make an attempt to kill Rienzi but are overpowered and after violating their oath of submission are exterminated.
Rienzi rises to the position of dictator and in one scene the trumpets blare and the people shout: “Heil, Rienzi. Heil the tribune of the people.

Rienzi der Letzte der Tribunen – Richard Wagner

Hitler was completely enthralled by the music and by the character of the rebel Rienzi who had been goaded to political action after witnessing the death of his younger brother.

Rienzi in the end, however, is stoned and burned to death by those who never really wanted the freedom he offered.
The long opera was not over until after midnight and Hitler, quite out of context, showed a side of his personality that Kubizek had never seen.
After the performance Hitler talked for over an hour about politics.
Like many young thinkers of the lower middle class he was beginning to develop a hard attitude against the upper echelon -“the social order which made everything dependent on whether or not you had money,” as he put it.

Stephanie Rabatsch

Because of those persons of quality he was first exposed to in high school, he appears to “have acquired a tenacious ‘class consciousness.'”

His turn of mind was no doubt compounded by the fact that Stefanie (his supposed, fantasy ‘girl-friend‘) and “her society,” as he put it, were out of his reach.
Undoubtedly influenced by the writers of the time, the seventeen year old Hitler also began to believe strongly in destiny.
The fact that two of his brothers died before he was born, and another was born and died after him, caused him to wonder why he was spared.
He confided to Kubizek that he believed in fate and that even he could be called upon someday by the people “to lead them out of servitude to heights of freedom.”
(This at first appears to be one of Kubizek’s exaggerations or recollections borrowed from others (including Mein Kampf), however, Adolf Hitler would tell more than one person that the “beginning” of his success began the first time he saw the opera Rienzi. It would be hard to deny that the first time he saw the opera was with Kubizek.)
Years later Hitler would comment to another friend on the story of Rienzi: “Listening to this blessed music as a young man in the theater at Linz, I had the vision that I too must someday succeed in uniting the German Reich and making it great once more.”
He believed that he was destined for a “special mission.”

Klara Hitler

In January of 1907 Klara fell ill and doctor Bloch summoned Adolf and Angela for a conference on the situation.

They learned that Klara had breast cancer and her only chance for survival was a serious operation.
Dr. Bloch was touched by Adolf’s tears and concern and recognized the strong “attachment that existed between mother and son.”*
Klara entered the hospital in mid January and on Jan 18, 1907, during an operation performed by a surgeon named Karl Urban, one of her breasts was removed.
She had little concern about herself but was most concerned about her children if she should die.
She did not hide from Dr. Bloch that her gravest concern was for her son.
Adolf is still so young,” she said repeatedly to him.

Dr Eduard Bloch

While she lavished her son with almost everything he wanted, she herself spent the next two and a half weeks recuperating in a third class ward of the hospital even though she could have afforded better.

Adolf visited her every day.
When Adolf’s recuperating mother returned home he, possibly afraid of disturbing her or unable to concentrate, discontinued his piano practice and lessons.
He resumed his painting and drawing.
Both Kubizek and Dr. Bloch (who called and at times administered Klara morphine to relieve her pain) speak of Adolf’s attentiveness to his mother and the fear in his eyes on bad days.
Dr. Bloch stated that this was not a pathological relationship, only deep affection between a mother who adored her son and a son who adored his mother.
As the months passed Klara appeared to have recovered.

 Home at Urfahr

Wappen Ufar
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Urfahr

In May the family moved to a new, two storied apartment building on Bluten Strasse in the Urfahr district.

Here Klara could venture out for walks or do her shopping without climbing as many stairs.
She now apparently had a change of heart about Adolf’s desire to become an artist.
When Klara’s sisters and especially Angela’s husband suggested to her that Adolf should give up his artistic desires and get a job, she now replied: “He is different from us.”
Late that summer she withdrew Adolf’s patrimony, now over 700 kronen, and gave it to him along with her blessings to pursue his dream of becoming a painter.
If Adolf was frugal, the money he received was enough for tuition and living expenses in Vienna for over a year.

Stumper Gasse – Wien
Gustl Kubizek

In Sept. of 1907 his plans were made to leave for the academy’s admission test.

Shortly before his departure Klara’s health took a turn for the worse, but examinations for entrance to the academy were scheduled for Oct. lst and 2nd and he would have to wait another year if he didn’t go then.
When Kubizek came to see Adolf off, there were tears all around as Klara, Paula and Adolf bid farewell.
They were aware that once accepted, he would begin classes in a week and he might not return till the holidays.
When he arrived in Vienna, he rented a single room on Stumper Gasse (Stumper Lane) which was only a few blocks southwest from the railroad station (Westbahnhof) that served all trains going west.
If word arrived that his mother’s health had taken a turn for the worse, he could catch a train and, for a little over seven Kronen, be back in less than three and a half hours.

Artist Admissions Test

Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien

Along with 51 other candidates, Adolf Hitler was refused admittance to the art Academy.

He was crushed.
All his dreams were dashed.
The fact that out of 113 original candidates only 28 were admitted did not console him. 
For over a week he roamed the streets of Vienna not knowing what to do.
He then received word that his mother had taken another turn for the worse.
Hitler returned home immediately to be by his mother’s side. 

Dr. Eduard Bloch

On October 22nd. he consulted with Dr. Bloch and found that Klara was in very serious condition.

The operation had occurred too late and the disease was spreading rapidly.
An experimental treatment was attempted which only added to her suffering.
Within a short time she needed constant attention.
Her bed was moved to the kitchen/living room area which was the warmest room in the house.
Although Adolf admitted to others that he had failed to gain admittance to the academy, he didn’t burden his mother with his rejection and assured her that he was accepted and would become an artist someday.
Klara spent the next two months in constant pain which she bore well believing “that her fate was God’s will.”
However, the ever present Adolf according to neighbors, Kubizek, and Dr. Bloch, anguished over her suffering.
Although Klara’s sister Johanna also helped care for Klara, Adolf took over as man of the house.
He was in constant attendance to his mother and did whatever possible to make her comfortable.
Dressed in his old clothes, he scrubbed floors, helped with the washing, and cooked her favorite meals which she greatly appreciated.
He took charge of his eleven year old sister, Paula, and even tutored her.
In late November, Klara had a serious relapse.
Adolf slept on the couch near her bed and did what he could to comfort her.
He read aloud to her the sentimental novels she loved even though he hated them.
He drew her picture and on some days held her hand for hours on end.
As Paula would state years later: “…my brother Adolf spoiled my mother during this last time of her life with overflowing tenderness.
He was indefatigable in his care for her, wanted to comply with any desire she could possibly have and did all to demonstrate his great love for her.”
When Kubizek or Dr. Bloch visited they found the normally high strung and proud Adolf quiet, gentle and apprehensive.

Weihnachtsbaum

If Klara showed any signs of improvement, Dr. Bloch noted, Adolf’s eyes would light up and he would take an optimistic view.

With the holidays approaching a Christmas tree was placed in the living room in hopes of lifting her spirits.
On Dec 20th. Dr. Bloch made two house calls and saw that the end was near.
Kubizek also visited and saw her lying, weak and barely able to speak.
Her thoughts, however, were of her son.
When the distraught Adolf left the room momentarily she managed to whisper to Kubizek: “Go on being a good friend to my son when I’m no longer here.”*
At 2a.m. the following morning, with Adolf at her bedside, Klara, age 47, died in the glow of the lighted Christmas tree.
Adolf was crushed. Dr. Bloch stated: “In all my career I have never seen anyone so prostrate with grief as Adolf Hitler.”
Two days later, on Christmas Eve, Adolf followed the hearse which drove to Leonding three miles away.

Leonding Kirche und der Familie Hitler Grab

The funeral Mass was held in the small church across the road from where they used to live and Klara was laid to rest beside her husband.

After everyone else had left, Adolf remained behind at her grave site as though unable to tear himself away.
Hitler would remember the lighted Christmas tree in the house and the memory was so bitter for him that he could never again enjoy Christmas.
He hated when it snowed, and was always in an emotional state around the holidays.
For the rest of his life he would usually spend Christmas Eve alone.
Almost twenty years later he would write in Mein Kampf: “My father I respected, my mother I loved.
He himself wrote the announcement of the passing away of his “deeply, loved, never-to-be-forgotten mother.”
For the rest of his life he would always have a picture of his mother on his person or nearby, and whenever the occasion arose would proudly and lovingly show it.

Dr Eduard Bloch

Dr. Bloch, who was Jewish, would later emigrate to the safety of the United States but still refused to repudiate his statements, including the one that described the young Hitler as “a fine and exemplary son who bore such a deep love and concern for his dear mother which one finds on this globe only in extremely exceptional cases.”

Kubizek, also, in an unsuccessful attempt to quell the psychologists, newsmen, historians in residence and other persons of quality, who never ceased to degrade the young Hitler as an uncaring son, would later write: “Adolf really loved his mother. I swear to it before God and man.
As Klara’s oldest child, Adolf, under the guidance of his legal guardian, the Mayor of Leonding, Josef Mayrhofer, took care of all of his mother’s personal unfinished business and paid all her debts with the estate left behind.
Surviving documents show that the doctor bill outstanding was 300 kronen while the funeral and coffin, cost 370 kronen -an extremely large sum for a lower middle class family to pay.
Adolf also gave a part of his inheritance to his stepsister since she and her husband agreed to take on the responsibility of raising the eleven year old Paula.
He thanked neighbors for their help and even gave one of his best paintings to a couple who had showed particular loyalty during his mothers sickness.

Josef  Mayrhofer

His legal guardian, Josef  Mayrhofer found the young Hitler’s actions “laudable.”

Since their father had been a State official, the “orphans” Paula and Adolf were now eligible for 600 Kronen annually between them.
Their guardian split the pension down the center.
The eighteen year old Adolf Hitler was to receive 300 kronen a year in monthly payments until he was twenty-four years old or until he became self-supporting.
Hitler, now armed with a letter of recommendation from his influential landlord (which described Hitler as a “nice, steadygoing …. serious and ambitious young man … mature and sensible beyond his years,”) decided to return to Vienna.
If fortune did not smile on him, he could retake the examination test to the Art Academy later that year.
As “my father had accomplished fifty years before,” he would later write, “I too, wanted to become ‘something.'”
Kubizek also wanted to leave Linz and enter the Academy of Music in Vienna but his father was against him leaving at the time.
Hitler made a trip to Kubizek’s house and persuaded the old man to let him go.
Kubizek would follow him shortly.
With what was left from his inheritance, Hitler left for Vienna in mid February 1908, in search of a “special mission.”

Hitler and Kubizek in Vienna

Westbahnhof – Wien

On a cold foggy evening in late February 1908, August Kubizek arrived in Vienna.
As he stood amidst the confusion of the railroad station (Westbahnhof), he saw his friend approaching through the crowd.
Hitler was wearing his dark, good quality overcoat and broad-brimmed hat.
Already at ease in his new environment, he wore kid gloves and carried a walking stick with an ivory handle.
The slim Adolf, Kubizek thought, “appeared almost elegant.”
After a warm greeting, they kissed on the cheek in the Austrian manner, they made their way to Hitler’s apartment.
After a short walk Hitler stopped in front of an imposing and distinguished building on Stumper Gasse.
With Kubizek on his heels, Hitler entered the arched entrance off to one side, passed through the more elaborate section of the building, crossed a small courtyard and entered the humbler rear section of the building.

Stumpergasse 29 – Wien

They went up the polished stone staircase to the “second floor” (3rd in America) and entered a small room.
This was the same building Hitler had stayed during his attempt to enter the Art Academy a few months before.
The monthly rent was ten kronen and although respectable, it was a no frills establishment in a lower middle class neighborhood.
Hitler’s monthly pension of 25 kronen only covered the cost of a meager diet, so he had to be frugal with what was left of his inheritance.
Like most tenement houses it was infested with bugs and the whole floor, six small apartments, had only one lavatory.
After Hitler cleared away the numerous sketches that lay around his room, he and Kubizek had something to eat.
Although Hitler was still suffering and bitter over his mother’s death, he insisted on taking Kubizek on a tour of the city.

Ringstrasse

They made their way to the Ringstrasse, the great boulevard (where once stood the city battlements) which circles the inner city.
Hitler’s blue eyes blazed excitedly as he pointed out many of the cities historical landmarks. Just off the Ring was the Art Academy which he still hoped to enter, and not far away was the Music Conservatory which Kubizek hoped to attend.
Like any young man who grows and matures in a small town, Kubizek, like Hitler was overwhelmed by the vast and thriving city.

Stephansdom Wien

Kubizek particularly wanted to see the immense soaring spire of St. Stephen’s Cathedral but it was shrouded in the fog.
In one of his letters, Hitler had offered Kubizek the advantage of staying with him for awhile. Hitler, however, was still the independent type and knowing that he and Kubizek had their differences, he had added: “Later we shall see.”
Hitler’s small room was not large enough to hold a piano that Kubizek would need to practice on so they spent the next morning looking for a room for Kubizek.
It proved difficult.
Vienna was the most overcrowded capital city in Europe.
Almost half the population lived in one or two rooms, and in the working districts 4 to 5 persons shared these “flats.”
The few rooms they found available were either sleazy, did not allow piano playing, or were too small to hold a grand piano.
After a fruitless search in the immediate vicinity, they finally came to a house with a sign: “Room to Let.”
They were admitted into the house by a maid and introduced to an elegant looking middle aged woman wearing a silk dressing gown, fur-lined slippers and little else.
As she showed them around the house, including the available bedroom, she appeared to take a shine to Hitler.
She suggested that Hitler rent the available room and turn his room on Stumper Gasse over to Kubizek.
At that moment the belt of her dressing gown became loose and her gown opened momentarily.
“Oh, excuse me, gentlemen,” she calmly said as she redid the belt.
Too fainthearted and too unworldly to take advantage of such an opportune moment, Hitler and Kubizek beat a hasty retreat.
They returned to their apartment and Hitler persuaded the landlady to give up her larger room next door for theirs.
By the end of the day they had settled into the larger room, #17, for an additional 10 kronen a month.
Because of the housing shortage, the normal rent for a one or two room flat ran from twenty-two to twenty-eight kronen per month in the laboring districts.
Their room was a real bargain.
Kubizek was again amazed by Hitler’s gift of persuasion.

Wiener Musikhochschule

Within a few days of his arrival, Kubizek took his test and was admitted to the Wiener Musikhochschule, (Music Conservatory).
Kubizek’s easy accomplishment magnified Hitler’s failure to enter the Art Academy, and he appeared envious for a time.
While Kubizek began attending morning classes, Hitler spent his time in one pursuit after another.
Some days Hitler relentlessly worked on his drawings, on another day, he would sit for hours reading on architecture, another, working tirelessly on an idea he had for a short story, the next, practicing on the piano Kubizek had rented.
Kubizek would state that Hitler was never idle, but always “filled with a tireless urge to be active.”

Alfred Roller

Interestingly, Hitler never made use of the letter of recommendation he had received which introduced him to one of Vienna’s best known stage designers, Alfred Roller.
Years later he would comment: “One got absolutely nothing in Austria without letters of introduction.
When I arrived in Vienna, I had one to Roller, but I didn’t use it.
If I’d presented myself to him with this introduction, he’d have engaged me at once.
No doubt it’s better that things went otherwise.
It’s not a bad thing for me that I had to have a rough time of it.”*
Having to live on a minimum budget, they spent their leisure time visiting the Vienna Woods, taking boat trips on the Danube and even once took a train trip to the Alps and climbed a mountain.
They also visited the numerous coffee houses in the area.
The Viennese cuisine was delightful;” Hitler would later recall, “at breakfast nothing was eaten, at mid day … [people] lunched off a cup of coffee and two croissants, and the coffee in the little coffee-shops was as good as that in the famous restaurants.
For lunch, even in the fashionable places, only soup, a main dish and dessert were served–there was never an entree.
One of Hitler’s favorite coffee-shops (which served a particular nut-cake he enjoyed) was a favorite of Jewish college students.
To an inquiring mind, Vienna offered much for no cost.
Hitler and Kubizek spent much of their free time touring the city.
They strolled the avenues and visited the countless museums, churches, historical sites, parks and plazas.

Schwarzenberg Platz – Wien

Hitler was particularly fond of the Schwarzenberg Platz, especially at night when the fanciful illuminated fountains produced incredible lighting effects.
Most of Hitler’s praises, however, were bestowed upon Vienna’s huge and ornate buildings.
He was very impressed by Schonbrunn Castle, the elegant 1200 room, royal summer residence of the Hapsburgs which had once been home to Napoleon himself.
After viewing such luxury, Hitler often grumbled about the sparse room they had to return to.

Wiener Sängerknaben

On Sundays, Hitler enjoyed listening to musical groups or soloists performing at the city chapel. He was particularly found of the Vienna Boys Choir.
There were also the countless parades, pageantry and social events which accompanied the Hapsburg dynasty.
These events were normally stern, formal and dignified affairs that showed off the ruling dynasty as lofty and untouchable.
In an age and in an empire that also believed in armed might, military holidays were celebrated with all the trappings of a society prepared for war.
Two or three evenings each week they went to a theater, opera, or concert because as a student, Kubizek could often get free tickets.
At concerts, Hitler was very fond of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

Anton Brukner

He enjoyed some of the music of the masters, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, and also the Romanticists, Weber, Schubert, Mendelssohn and especially Bruckner who had been an organist at the old Linz Cathedral for twelve years.
Like most Viennese, Hitler also enjoyed the music of Johann Strauss and the Hungarian Liszt.
When attending the theater Hitler preferred the more serious works, and Vienna’s theaters offered masterpieces by some of Europe’s best playwrights.
Vienna was also a famed joyful and carefree city, and its less dignified theaters offered worldly, lighthearted and often risqué performances.

Franz Lehar

Although Hitler never admitted to attending anything too risqué, he enjoyed Franz Lehar’s ‘The Merry Widow’ and often whistled Lehar’s happy tunes.
At the theater one evening a group of young men were causing a disturbance. Hitler and Kubizek attempted to silence them.
The leader of the group refused to keep his mouth shut and Hitler punched him in the side.
When Hitler and Kubizek left the theater they found that the noisemaker had summoned a policeman who attempted to arrest Hitler.
Hitler explained the situation and persuaded the policeman to let him go.
Hitler then caught up with the troublemaker and gave him, to quote Kubizek, “a sound box on the ears.”
Just as in Linz, the opera was still Hitler’s first choice in entertainment, but opera seats in Vienna were extremely expensive.
Although Hitler preferred a seat in the upper balcony, to save money, he and Kubizek usually took the cheapest standing room.
Like most people who go to movies today, Hitler did not care for foreign works.
He was only interested in German customs, German feeling, and German thought.

Verdi – Aida

Except for Verdi’s opera, Aida – the love story of an Ethiopian slave girl and an Egyptian warrior – he didn’t care for most Italian operas because of the many plots involving “daggers.”
He also wasn’t particularly fond of French operas and considered Gounod’s Faust (there are two rapes within the opera) vulgar.
Not even the Russian Tchaikovsky met with his approval.
On the other hand he appreciated many of the works of the Germans Beethoven and Weber and was especially delighted with Mozart’s anti-establishment comedy of infidelity, Figaro.

Richard Wagner

His favorite works were by the highly acclaimed Richard Wagner who wrote about figures of medieval history, saga, and myth.
Most of Wagner’s heroes were purely human and were torn between desire and morality -Wagner believed in the first.
During Hitler’s years in Vienna, 15 different productions of Wagner’s operas were performed in over 420 performances at the State Opera House alone.
Hitler attended every new offering and saw some of the performances over and over again. “I was so poor, during the Viennese period of my life,” Hitler would later recall, “that I had to restrict myself to seeing only the finest spectacles.

Tristan und Isolde

Thus I heard [Wagner’s] ‘Tristan’ thirty or forty times, and always from the best companies.”
Every young man has his idol and Wagner was Hitler’s.
For me, Wagner is something Godly and his music is my religion,” Hitler would later tell an American reporter.
Kubizek also noted Hitler’s devotion to Wagner.
When Hitler attended a Wagner opera the music had a profound, exhilarating influence on him.
When talking to friends or other opera buffs, Hitler always praised Wagner with passionate devotion.
Wagner not only wrote the music but the librettos (words) for his operas.
He refused allegiance to any set forms.

Siegfried – from ‘Die Nibelungen’ – Fritz Lang – 1924


Besides composing, writing and producing his operas he occasionally took on the role of stage manager, director, and conductor.
He referred to his mission as the ‘Kunstwerk der Zukunft‘ (art work of the future) and to his ‘music dramas’ as ‘Gesamtkunstwerk (total art work). Wagner saw the orchestra as just adding to the action on the stage (much like background music in movies today), but he ruffled the egos of many persons of quality by concealing the conductor and orchestra so they would not distract from the performance.

Siegfried – from ‘Die Nibelungen’ – Fritz Lang – 1924

Many of the themes of Wagner’s music dramas were grounded on lofty German myths and legends which revealed human emotions that influence nearly all issues and relations.
Like Wagner, Hitler was enthralled by the past, and believed that great significance lay in German mythology.

‘Lohengrin’







One of Hitler’s favorites was ‘Lohengrin’.
He could amaze opera buffs by reciting the entire libretto by heart.
While living with Kubizek, he saw ‘Lohengrin’ ten times.
Lohengrin’s pomp, pageantry, and dramatic interest is compelling.
It is considered by many to be the finest of all romantic grand operas.
The plot is set in the tenth century and involves a beautiful blonde maiden who is falsely accused of murder. To her rescue comes the gallant Lohengrin, the “Knight of the Swan,” who will champion the accused and later marry her.
The love duet is exquisite (“one of the sweetest and tenderest passages of which the Lyric stage can boast”) and there is also the haunting Bridal Chorus.
Besides the compelling music and German nationalism, Hitler no doubt associated with the silver-armored hero with his pure soul and wondrous flashing eyes.
In the end, ‘Lohengrin’, called Fuhrer (leader) by his followers, is forced to reveal that he is a “Knight of the Holy Grail” and must give up love for a higher calling.

Lohengrin is a romantic opera in three acts composed and written by Richard Wagner, first performed in 1850. The story of the eponymous character is taken from medieval German romance, notably the Parzival of Wolfram von Eschenbach and its sequel, Lohengrin, written by a different author, itself inspired by the epic of Garin le Loherain. It is part of the Knight of the Swan tradition.

The opera has proved inspirational towards other works of art. Among those deeply moved by the fairy-tale opera was the young King Ludwig II of Bavaria. ‘Der Märchenkönig’ (‘The Fairy-tale King’) as he was dubbed later built his ideal fairy-tale castle and dubbed it “New Swan Stone,” or “Neuschwanstein”, after the Swan Knight. It was King Ludwig’s patronage that later gave Wagner the means and opportunity to compose, build a theatre for, and stage his epic cycle, the Ring of the Nibelung.

‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’

Another of Hitler’s favorites was ‘Die Meistersingers’ which is told in terms of a simple love story.
The plot involves a young songwriter who comes up against traditional rules and methods.
In the end he overcomes the rank prejudices of The Master Singers and while preserving what is best in art tradition, succeeds and wins the heroin for his bride.

As with ‘Lohengrin’, Hitler knew the ‘Meistersingers’ by heart.

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (The Mastersingers of Nuremberg) is an opera by Richard Wagner. It is among the longest operas still commonly performed today, usually taking around four and a half hours. It was first performed at the Königliches Hof- und National-Theater in Munich, on June 21, 1868. The conductor at the premiere was Hans von Bülow.

The story takes place in Nuremberg during the middle of the 16th century. At the time, Nuremberg was an Imperial Free City, and one of the centers of the Renaissance in Northern Europe. The story revolves around the real-life guild of Meistersinger (Master Singers), an association of amateur poets and musicians, mostly from the middle class and often master craftsmen in their main professions. The Mastersingers developed a craftsmanlike approach to music-making, with an intricate system of rules for composing and performing songs. The work draws much of its charm from its faithful depiction of the Nuremberg of the era and the traditions of the Mastersinger guild. One of the main characters, the cobbler-poet Hans Sachs, is based on an actual historical figure: Hans Sachs (1494–1576), the most famous of the historical Mastersingers.

If an indication of the ideals and beliefs of a young man can be judged on the entertainment he enjoys, the young Hitler appears very normal for his time.
‘Aida’, and ‘Figaro’, are two of the most popular operas ever performed in their time.
‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’ and ‘Lohengrin’ have, almost since their conceptions been German favorites.
Hitler’s enjoying ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’ is comparable to young people in every generation enjoying stories whose plots rebel against tradition and the old folks.

‘Tristan und Isolde’ 

The story was written by Wagner to scorn the establishment that once rejected him.
The love story, however, is the backbone of the action and everything else is centered around it. The same thing can be said for ‘Lohengrin’ and especially ‘Tristan und Isolde’ which is about love and (did they love the night) little else.
That Hitler repeatedly enjoyed these operas places him in the majority of young men of his day who had high ideals concerning love.
During their trips to the opera, concert or theater, Kubizek noticed that women would flirt with Hitler despite his usually modest clothing and reserved manner.
On one occasion, a young lady handed Hitler a note informing him where she would be stopping after the performance.
Kubizek believed that women were attracted to Hitler because of his aloof but distinguished manners, or brilliant eyes, or some mysterious quality that can’t be described.
Hitler never responded to these opportunities.

Lucie Weidt

Like many eighteen year olds, Hitler had his favorite actress, Lucie Weidt (a gifted soprano ten years older than Hitler), “roused his enthusiasm in the part of Elsa in Lohengrin.”*
Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, noted during this period that people seldom, if ever discussed their sex drive.
Hitler never talked about his desires or his sex life.
When discussing the subject in an impersonal way, Hitler, according to Kubizek, found the loose morals in Vienna shocking.
His belief was influenced by the terribly high rate of syphilis that existed in Europe at that time, and the incurable and horrible consequences of contracting it.
A cure would not be readily available for a few years and complications of the heart, blood vessels, bones, skin, and finally paralysis and insanity were common.
Hitler, like many others of his time had a fear of catching the disease and would later condemn the government for its “complete capitulation” when an all out “fight” was needed to bring the “plague” under control to insure the “health” of the nation.
Vienna, nonetheless, thrived with centers of prostitution and cafes where the sexes mixed liberally.
A survey of doctors, carried out while Hitler lived in Vienna, revealed that only 4% of the doctors had their first sexual experience with middle class young women who might qualify as potential wives, 17% had their first experience with lower class waitresses or the like, while 75% had their first romp with prostitutes.
Legalized prostitution in Austria dated from the Liberal ascendancy three decades before. When Hitler arrived in Vienna, any girl sixteen or older could register or apply for a license.
She was then free to practice the profession as long as she could prove mental competence and meet simple health rules.
Even with such liberal regulations, there was still a thriving free lance business throughout Vienna, and it was estimated that over 10,000 girls went unregistered.
On their evening excursions on the town, there were occasions when Kubizek and Hitler were approached by lone streetwalkers.
According to Kubizek, in every instance the “ladies” ignored him, and asked Hitler if he wanted to go with them.
Kubizek thought that these girls of the “unholy city” were attracted to Hitler because they may have seen him as a man of moral restraint from the religious countryside.
Hitler always refused.
Kubizek had to get up early in the morning for classes and usually retired early while Hitler was often awake and out till late at night.
There were times Hitler would go out and not return till the following day.
Hitler, as earlier in Linz, also had suggestions for Vienna’s planning and layout.
He believed in wider streets, pollution control, and less crowding.
He advocated the destruction of old tenement housing and the building of lower income housing where workers could live cheaply.
He believed that there should be more areas set aside for parks and green areas.
He thought it unthinkable that railroads should run through a city, tying up people and traffic. Railroads, he believed, should be rerouted to the outskirts and what trains that had to enter the city should be placed underground.
These revolutionary ideas were already starting to have their effects in some of the larger cities throughout the world and Hitler no doubt read about them.
That an eighteen year old could grasped their long range significance and advocated such a policy is noteworthy.
As he had in Linz, he spent quite a bit of time working on drawings and the details of such planning.
Kubizek, in the meantime, continued with his classes and it was becoming apparent that he was one of the star pupils in the music school.
He was constantly sought after to tutor other classmates and to perform in small musical groups in the homes of some of the wealthy and cultivated of Vienna.
Occasionally Hitler went along and “enjoyed himself very much” though he normally chose to play the part of the silent listener.
As he was in no financial position to buy new clothes, it was only his inadequate dress, Kubizek observed, that made him feel uneasy.
Hitler was proud of his friend’s achievements but witnessing what appeared to be Kubizek’s easy accomplishment, he began searching for a road to instant success.
Although he continued drawing, he did little painting that summer.

Hofburg – Wien

The Hofburg, containing among other things, one of the most extensive (and beautiful) libraries in the world, was only a mile away from their room and Hitler visited there regularly.
He continued to read on architecture and art, but also mythology, religion, history and biography.
In his reading on architecture he acquired an extensive amount of history on many of Linz’s buildings and appears to have attempted to write a handbook or manual on the subject.
He then worked tirelessly on a short story he titled ‘The Next Morning‘.
He talked about becoming a playwright and after weeks of research at the library began a script centered on the time Christianity was introduced in Germany.

‘Die Melonenesser’
Bartolomé Esteban Perez Murillo

He then switched to a play about the Spanish painter, Bartolome Murillo, who’s art work Hitler knew well.
Murillo had also been a “poor orphan” and became famous for his charming paintings of religious subjects and sweet street urchins.
After a vigorous start, Hitler put the idea aside.
When Hitler felt dejected he would walk to Schonbrunn Castle and spend his time in the huge adjoining park where miles of shaded walks wended their ways among clumps of trees, arbors, vast formal flower beds and elaborate fountains.
Along with other attractions the park also contained a zoo and the Gloriette, an elaborate stone pavilion surmounted by a huge imperial eagle.
Hitler’s favorite spot was a stone bench not far from the Gloriette where he enjoyed feeding the birds and squirrels.
(The stone bench, along with the descendants of those birds and squirrels, are still there at this writing.)
He never went to the park on Sundays since he did not like crowds, and the noisy and carefree spirit of most of the young people annoyed him.
Sooner or later however, he would conceive another idea and wholeheartedly throw himself into it.

Hof-Library – Wien

After numerous day trips to the Hof-Library and night after night of continuous writing, he abandoned one idea after another.
After countless false starts as a playwright or writer, he suddenly decided to become a composer.
Hitler spent months working on a Wagnerian type opera which would have been understood by ancient Germans.
The work was to be performed with rattles, drums, reeds, crude brass wind instruments, primitive harps, and bone and wood flutes.
He searched excitedly through volumes of the Hof-Library studying ancient music and looking for the types of musical instruments used by ancient Germans.
That he had no formal musical training, other than four months of piano lessons, daunted him not.
To make up for his lack of knowledge he read the scores and librettos of a large number of operas and acquired an amazing knowledge of stagecraft.
He worked on his opera night after night plotting the story, producing drawings for the sets, sketching the main characters in charcoal and composing the music with Kubizek’s help. Kubizek acknowledged that the prelude turned out very presentable (after he had convinced Hitler to add a few modern instruments) but Hitler was not satisfied.
It reduced him to utter despair,” Kubizek wrote, “that he had an ideal in his head, a musical idea which he considered bold and important, without being able to pin it down.”
Hitler finally realized that success as a composer was as hard to come by as that of a painter or writer and finally gave up.

Schönbrunn Park – Wien

Dejected, he would return to the park and feed the pigeons and squirrels until another idea dawned.
Hitler came up with an idea for a traveling symphony.
He felt it was unfair that only the lucky few in the major cities were privileged to hear first rate performances.
His mobile orchestra was to travel to small towns where less fortunate people could hear other than second rate performances.
He spent quite a deal of time working out the intricate little details, including the composition of the group, their feeding, dress, direction, and rehearsal time.
He decided that only German composers would be played and he even timed the length of each piece while at concerts.
The orchestra was not only to perform classic and romantic works (the oldies so to speak), but also the works of modern, young and unknown composers.
As with traveling “concerts” today the ideal was plausible, but the lack of adequate public halls in small towns made him abandon the idea.
He then returned to the park.
Like all idealistic young men on a minimum budget, Hitler became disillusioned and he soon developed a strong social conscious.

Franzenring – Reichsratsgebäude – Wien

He would visit the Parliament when it was in session, and on a few occasions even dragged Kubizek along.

The Austrian Parliament Building in Vienna is where the two houses of the Parliament of Austria conduct their sessions. The building is located on the Ringstraße boulevard in the first district Innere Stadt, near the Hofburg Palace and the Palace of Justice.

The foundation stone was laid in 1874; the building was completed in 1883. The architect responsible for its Greek revival style was Theophil Edvard Hansen. He designed the building holistically, each element harmonizing with the others and was therefore also responsible for the interior decoration, such as statues, paintings, furniture, chandeliers, and numerous other elements. Hansen was honored by Emperor Franz Joseph with the title of Freiherr (Baron) after its completion. One of the building’s most famous features is the Pallas Athena fountain in front of the main entrance, built by Hansen from 1898 to 1902.

Hitler was amazed at the lack of action.
He had expected to see stately men in control, debating and pondering over the problems of their day.
What he saw was dissension, filibustering, confusion, rants, threats, procedure, formality and wordy nonsense.
He came away disillusioned and was appalled by politicians and their, as he called it, “ridiculous institution.”*
The Viennese are noted for their criticism (“a grumble a day keeps bad temper away,” is one of their mottoes) and Hitler fit in well.
“Isn’t this a dog’s life,” became one of his favorite sayings and he began to blame government for his situation.
He became impatient and developed a deep contempt for most politicians.
He began raging openly against, as he called them: “the well-born and all powerful people.”
He felt that the government should provide grants to students with ability and that poor working young women should receive trousseaus to encourage marriage so as to cut down on fatherless children and sex-related diseases.
He believed the government should do something to decrease the amount of alcoholic beverages consumed by promoting non-alcoholic drinks.
And, he still felt that more should be done to house the working class.
Hitler actually worked out a plan for housing those with low incomes.
Using his interior plan as a starting point, the standard building was to be a two storied, four family residence.
Under no condition was any building to contain more than 16 families and all should be surrounded by gardens, trees, and play grounds.
He thought professional landlords unfair and believed that housing should be owned and built by the government and the rent set to cover the cost and maintenance of the building.
He devoted much of his thinking to moving people out of  “distress and poverty.”*
The longer Hitler lived in the giant city, the more he saw of the inequalities.
While the upper classes practiced an almost complete indifference, those of the younger and poorer generation began to openly criticize their leaders.
Hitler became one of them for he could not understand the apathy and resignation of politicians and leading intellectuals.
Their stance that “nothing can be done about it,” earned them his undying hatred. “He who resigned,” Hitler stated, “lost his right to live.”

Alios Hitler

He saw these men of education with their professional training as a group of “idiots.
No doubt remembering that his more-than-qualified father had been held in the same position for seventeen years because of his background, Hitler felt that men who actually showed ability should be chosen to manage affairs as opposed to those with formal qualifications, class and connections.
With what was left of his inheritance running low and knowing that his pension would only support a meager living, disillusionment soon vented itself in anger.
For no apparent reason, there were days when he would go into a rage about the unfairness of life.
Any disagreement or rebuke on Kubizek’s part only heightened his anger.
A while later he would be calm, cooperative and charming.
But, Kubizek noted, it was contrary to his nature to ignore important issues, and there were days he would read or see something that would set him off all over again.
Hitler was often abrupt, moody, and brash, but Kubizek stated that he could never be angry with Hitler because he regarded him as a “visionary.”
For a long time, I had it rough in Vienna,” Hitler would later recall.
For months I never even had a hot meal. I lived on milk and dry bread but spent thirteen kreuzers day after day on cigarettes.
I smoked twenty-five to forty a day.
One day the thought came to me: ’Instead of spending thirteen kreuzers on cigarettes, buy butter for your bread.
That would be five kreuzers a day and I’d have money left over.’
Soon after that thought, I threw my cigarettes in the Danube and have never touched another“.
There is nothing worse than a reformed – whatever – and Hitler soon began ranting about the government’s involvement in the tobacco industry.
He argued that the State was ruining the health of its own people for monetary gains.
He felt all tobacco factories should be closed and the importation of tobacco, cigars, and cigarettes be forbidden.
(Later, when Hitler became Fuhrer and his European conquests seemed unstoppable, he made the statement: “Before going into retirement, I shall order that all the cigarette packets on sale in my Europe should have on the label, in letters of fire, the slogan: ‘Danger, tobacco smoke kills; danger: Cancer.'”)
Reflecting on Hitler’s meager fare, Kubizek concluded that much of Hitler’s anger stemmed from his financial situation.
Kubizek suggested that Hitler go to the “soup kitchen” and get a decent free meal.
Hitler angrily retorted that going to a soup kitchen was demeaning and that such “contemptible institutions…only symbolized the segregation of the social classes.”
Many of Vienna’s population lived in similar circumstances and Hitler “unhesitatingly” associated with the “simple, decent but underprivileged people.
He thought something should be done for the “‘little man,‘ the ‘poor betrayed masses.‘”
He ranted about the “tight fisted” ways of the upper classes.

‘Down and Outs’ in Vienna

As Kubizek would later state: “Everywhere we noticed a deep chasm between the social classes….We saw the splendid mansions of the nobility with garishly attired servants in front, and the sumptuous hotels in which Vienna’s rich society – the old nobility, the captains of industry, landowners and magnates – held their lavish parties. Poverty, need, hunger on the one side, and reckless enjoyment of life, sensuality and prodigal luxury on the other.”
The obvious social injustice embittered Hitler and the presumptuous and arrogant demeanor of the upper classes “roused in him a demoniacal hatred.”
He continuously railed “against the privileged position of certain classes.”
Although Kubizek always portrayed Hitler as a serious and stern young man, there was another side of him.
Kubizek took a short trip home for the Easter holiday and wrote Hitler that he had contracted an eye infection, and that when he returned he might be wearing glasses.
Kubizek knew his constant practicing on the piano distracted or annoyed Hitler at times so he also mentioned that he was also going to bring a viola, testing what Hitler’s reaction would be. On April 20, 1908, the day of his 19th birthday, Hitler wrote back (after making a joke about the bad weather in Vienna):
I am deeply sorry to hear that you are going blind.
It means you will play more wrong notes and keys.
The blinder you become, the deafer I will become. Oh dear.”
He also added that he was going out to buy “cotton” for his ears.
He then signed the letter: “Your friend, Adolf Hitler.
Kubizek returned shortly after and, in June, completed his first period at the Conservatory with excellent grades.
He was privileged to conduct the end-of-term concert where three of his songs were sung and part of his sextet for strings was performed.
At a gathering in the “artists’ room,” Kubizek was showered with praises by his teachers and classmates as Hitler sat quietly by himself watching.
It appeared that for Kubizek, success was just around the corner.
Kubizek went home in July to work in the family business for the summer.
Since he was nearly a year older than Hitler he was now of military age and was required to report for a physical.
Found to be fit, he was to undergo eight weeks of training for the Army Reserve and would not return till November.
Hitler’s landlady also took a trip to visit her brother and Hitler looked after the building for her until she returned.
Hitler kept in touch with Kubizek and on one occasion, referring to one of his ideas for a book, wrote: “Since your departure I have been working very hard often again until 2 or 3 in the morning.”
Knowing Hitler was running short of money Kubizek and his mother sent him some food packages.
A few days later the proud Hitler would write on a postcard dated July 19, 1908:

        Dear friend!

        My best thanks for your kindness. You don’t need to send me butter and cheese 

        now. But I thank you most gratefully for the kind thought. Tonight I am going
        to see Lohengrin. Kindest regards to you and your esteemed parents.

                                                                                            Adolf Hitler.


A few days later Hitler would write again mentioning that he was not feeling well.
It was not until August 17 that Kubizek heard from him again.
This time he mentioned that he had got over a “sharp attack of bronchial catarrh,” but was “writing quite a lot lately.”
Late that August, Hitler took a trip to the Wooded Quarter for a family gathering on the Spital farm.
Besides his two aunts and their families, his step-sister Angela and her family were also present.
Hitler still disliked Angela’s husband and had considered putting off the trip, but was no doubt shown the new addition to Angela’s family – a two month old daughter called “Geli.”
He also saw his twelve year old sister, Paula, who was now a pretty, quiet and reserved girl. Hitler had previously given Paula the book ‘Don Quixote’ (possibly after reading it) as a birthday gift and got into an argument with her because she disapproved of a list of books he obviously had read and suggested for her education.
Since they were never very close, her rejection of his advice separated them further.
Although “fond” of one another, as Paula would later state, they remained fairly distant all their lives.
Before returning to Vienna, Hitler sent Gustl a postcard wishing him the “best” on his Name-day.
It would be the last contact Kubizek would have with Hitler for thirty years. (After a promising beginning Kubizek’s artistic dreams would be shattered by der Große Krieg.
He became a “clerk.“)
In Sept 1908 the nineteen year old Hitler applied for entrance to Vienna’s Art Academy again. The drawings he submitted on this occasion were not considered adequate.
He was notified, that this time he would not even be permitted to take the test.
The 1908 entry in the Academy’s list read:

The following gentlemen …. #24 Adolf Hitler … April 20, 1889, German, Catholic …. Not admitted to test.

Again he was crushed.
This time he asked for a reason and was told that his abilities lay in architecture and it was recommended that he study that field.
This judgment is borne out by his surviving drawings and paintings which show a flare for architectural renderings.
To enter the Architectural branch of the Academy, however, a diploma was necessary.
What I had defiantly neglected in the high school ” Hitler stated, “now took its bitter revenge.”
Since he lacked a diploma he would have to show that he was “exceptionally gifted” to enter the architecture field.
Hitler was realistic enough to know that he did not possess such abilities and never attempted to register.
As Hitler would show many times in his life, he could not face people when things were going bad.
Although Kubizek had previously offered Hitler financial help, Hitler, as with the food packages, was too proud to accept, and decided to end their relationship.
Because of his failure to gain admittance to the Academy for the second time, he no doubt felt ashamed to face Kubizek, or anyone else.
Around the same time, Hitler also quit writing Hagmuller, the boy who used to have his lunch at the Hitler house in Linz, and they also “lost touch.”
On Nov. 18, 1908, with Kubizek expected back in a few days, the dejected Hitler gave notice to his landlady.
Without leaving a forwarding address he moved to a building across from the railway yards.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

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Richard Strauss – der Meister Garmisch

die Musik von
RICHARD STRAUSS
der Meister Garmisch

Richard Georg Strauss (11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras.

Richard Wagner
Gustav Mahler

He is known for his operas, which include ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ and ‘Salome’; his lieder, especially his ‘Four Last Songs’; and his tone poems and other orchestral works, such as ‘Death and Transfiguration’, ‘Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks’, ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’, ‘An Alpine Symphony’, and ‘Metamorphosen’.
Strauss was also a prominent conductor throughout Germany and Austria.

Strauss, along with Gustav Mahler (see left), represents the great late flowering of German Romanticism after Richard Wagner (see right), in which pioneering subtleties of orchestration are combined with an advanced harmonic style.

Staatsgartnerplatz – Munchen

Strauss was born on 11 June 1864, in Munich, the son of Franz Strauss, who was the principal horn player at the Court Opera in Munich.
In his youth, he received a thorough musical education from his father.
He wrote his first composition at the age of six, and continued to write music almost until his death.

‘Tannhäuser’ 

During his boyhood Strauss attended orchestra rehearsals of the Munich Court Orchestra, and he also received private instruction in music theory and orchestration from an assistant conductor there.
In 1874 Strauss heard his first Wagner operas, ‘Lohengrin’ and ‘Tannhäuser’ (see right).
The influence of Wagner’s music on Strauss’s style was to be profound, but at first his musically conservative father forbade him to study it.

‘Tristan und Isolde

Indeed, in the Strauss household, the music of Richard Wagner was viewed with deep suspicion, and it was not until the age of 16 that Strauss was able to obtain a score of ‘Tristan und Isolde’.

(The score of Tristan und Isolde has often been cited as a landmark in the development of Western music. Wagner uses throughout Tristan a remarkable range of orchestral colour, harmony and polyphony and does so with a freedom rarely found in his earlier operas. The very first chord in the piece, the Tristan chord, is of great significance in the move away from traditional tonal harmony as it resolves to another dissonant chord.)

Hans von Bülow


In later life, Richard Strauss said that he deeply regretted the conservative hostility to Wagner’s progressive works.

Nevertheless, Strauss’s father undoubtedly had a crucial influence on his son’s developing taste, not least in Strauss’s abiding love for the horn.
In 1882 he entered Munich University, where he studied Philosophy and Art History, but not music.
He left a year later to go to Berlin, where he studied briefly before securing a post as assistant conductor to Hans von Bülow (see right), who had been enormously impressed by the young composer’s Serenade for wind instruments, composed when he was only 16 years of age.
Strauss learned the art of conducting by observing Bülow in rehearsal.


Felix Mendelssohn
Robert Schumann

Bülow was very fond of the young man and decided that Strauss should be his successor as conductor of the Meiningen orchestra when Bülow resigned in 1885.
Strauss’s compositions at this time were indebted to the style of Robert Schumann or Felix Mendelssohn, true to his father’s teachings.
His remarkably mature Horn Concerto No. 1, Op. 11, is representative of this period and is a staple of modern horn repertoire.



Richard Strauss – Pauline and Franz
Pauline de Ahna

Richard Strauss married soprano Pauline de Ahna on 10 September 1894.
She was famous for being irascible, garrulous, eccentric and outspoken, but the marriage, to all appearances, was essentially happy and she was a great source of inspiration to him. Throughout his life, from his earliest songs to the final ‘Four Last Songs’ of 1948, he preferred the soprano voice to all others, and all his operas contain important soprano roles.

The Strausses had one son, Franz, in 1897.

Solo and Chamber Works


Some of Strauss’s first compositions were solo and chamber works.
These pieces include: early compositions for piano solo in a conservative harmonic style, many of which are lost; a string quartet (opus 2); a cello sonata; a piano quartet; Violin Sonata in E flat (1888); as well as a handful of late pieces.
After 1890 Strauss composed very infrequently for chamber groups, his energies being almost completely absorbed with large-scale orchestral works and operas.
Four of his chamber pieces are actually arrangements of portions of his operas, including the superb ‘Daphne-Etude’ for solo violin, and the string Sextet which is the overture to his final opera Capriccio.
His last independent chamber work, an Allegretto in E for violin and piano, dates from 1940.

Tone Poems and other Orchestral Works

Alexander Ritter

Strauss’s style began to truly develop and change when, in 1885, he met Alexander Ritter (see right), a noted composer and violinist, and the husband of one of Richard Wagner’s nieces.
It was Ritter who persuaded Strauss to abandon the conservative style of his youth, and begin writing tone poems.

Arthur Schopenhauer

He also introduced Strauss to the essays of Richard Wagner and the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer (see left).

Arthur Schopenhauer (22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) was a German philosopher known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity.
At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which examined the four separate manifestations of reason in the phenomenal world.
Schopenhauer’s most influential work, ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ – (The World as Will and Representation), claimed that the world is fundamentally what humans recognize in themselves as their will.
His analysis of will led him to the conclusion that emotional, physical, and sexual desires can never be fully satisfied.
The corollary of this is an ultimately painful human condition.
Schopenhauer’s metaphysical analysis of will, his views on human motivation and desire, and his aphoristic writing style influenced many well-known thinkers, including Friedrich Nietzsche, Richard Wagner, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Erwin Schrödinger, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Otto Rank, Carl Jung, Thomas Mann, and of course Richard Strauss.

Don Juan

Strauss went on to conduct one of Ritter’s operas, and at Strauss’s request Ritter later wrote a poem describing the events depicted in Strauss’s tone poem ‘Tod und Verklärung’(Death and Transfiguration).

The new influences from Ritter resulted in what is widely regarded as Strauss’s first piece to show his mature personality, the tone poem ‘Don Juan’ (1888) (see left), which displays a new kind of virtuosity in its bravura orchestral manner.

Richard Strauss –
Eine Alpensinfonie op. 64
Zugspitze

Strauss went on to write a series of increasingly ambitious tone poems:
‘Tod und Verklärung’, (1889), ‘Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks’ (1895), ‘**** ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’ (1896), Don Quixote (1897), ‘A Hero’s Life’ *(1898), Symphonia Domestica **(1903) and An Alpine Symphony (1911–1915). One commentator has observed of these works that “no orchestra could exist without his tone poems, written to celebrate the glories of the post-Wagnerian symphony orchestra.”


Solo Instrument with Orchestra

Strauss’s output of works for solo instrument or instruments with orchestra was fairly extensive. The most famous include two concertos for horn, which are still part of the standard repertoire of most horn soloists; a Violin Concerto in D minor; the Burleske for piano and orchestra; the tone poem Don Quixote for cello, viola and orchestra; the well-known late Oboe Concerto in D major; and the Duet-Concertino for bassoon, clarinet and orchestra, which was one of his last works (1947).

Opera
Around the end of the 19th century, Strauss turned his attention to opera. His first two attempts in the genre, ‘Guntram’ (1894) and ‘Feuersnot’ (1901), were controversial works: ‘Guntram’ was the first significant critical failure of Strauss’s career, and ‘Feuersnot’ was considered obscene by some critics.
In 1905, Strauss produced ‘Salome’, a somewhat dissonant modernist opera based on the play by Oscar Wilde, which produced a passionate reaction from audiences.
The premiere was a major success, with the artists taking more than 38 curtain calls.
Many later performances of the opera were also successful, not only with the general public but also with Strauss’s peers: Maurice Ravel said that Salome was “stupendous”, and Mahler described it as “a live volcano, a subterranean fire”.
Strauss reputedly financed his house in Garmisch-Partenkirchen completely from the revenues generated by the opera.
Strauss’s next opera was ‘Elektra’ (1909), which took his use of dissonance even further, in particular with the Elektra chord.
‘Elektra’ was also the first opera in which Strauss collaborated with the poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal. 
The two subsequently worked together on numerous occasions.
For his later works with Hofmannsthal, Strauss moderated his harmonic language: he used a more lush, melodic late-Romantic style based on Wagnerian chromatic harmonies that he had used in his tone poems, with much less dissonance, and exhibiting immense virtuosity in orchestral writing and tone color.
This resulted in operas such as the beautiful ‘Rosenkavalier’ (1911) having great public success.
Strauss continued to produce operas at regular intervals until 1942.
With Hofmannsthal he created ‘Ariadne auf Naxos’ (1912), ‘Die Frau ohne Schatten’ (1918), ‘Die ägyptische Helena’ (1927), and ‘Arabella’ (1932).
For ‘Intermezzo’ (1923) Strauss provided his own libretto.
‘Die schweigsame Frau’ (1934), was composed with Stefan Zweig as librettist; ‘Friedenstag ‘(1935–6) and ‘Daphne’ (1937) both had a libretto by Joseph Gregor and Stefan Zweig; and the wonderful ‘Liebe der Danae’ (1940) was with Joseph Gregor.
Strauss’s final opera, ‘Capriccio’ (1942), had a libretto by Clemens Krauss, although the genesis for it came from Stefan Zweig and Joseph Gregor.

Lieder

All his life Strauss produced lieder.
The incomparable ‘Four Last Songs’ are among his best known, along with “Zueignung”, “Cäcilie”, the uplifting “Morgen!”, “Allerseelen”, and others.
In 1948, Strauss wrote his last work, the masterful and haunting ‘Four Last Songs’ for soprano and orchestra.
He reportedly composed them with Kirsten Flagstad in mind, and she gave the first performance, which was recorded.
Strauss’s songs have always been popular with audiences and performers, and are generally considered – along with many of his other compositions – to be masterpieces of the first rank.

Strauss and the Third Reich

Because of Strauss’s international eminence, in November 1933 he was appointed to the post of president of the Reichsmusikkammer, the State Music Chamber, which was a section of the Reichskulturkammer (RKK).
Strauss, who had lived through numerous political regimes and had little interest in politics, decided to accept the position.

In order to gain Goebbels’ cooperation in extending the German music copyright laws from 30 years to 50 years, in 1933 Strauss dedicated an orchestral song, ‘Das Bächlein’ (“The Little Brook”) to him.
The 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics used Strauss’s monumental ‘Olympische Hymne’, which he had composed in 1934.
Strauss’s seeming relationship with the Nazis in the 1930s attracted criticism from some noted musicians, including Arturo Toscanini.

Late Works

Richard Strauss – Garmisch

Strauss completed the composition of ‘Metamorphosen’, a work for 23 solo strings, in 1945.

The title and inspiration for the work comes from a profoundly self-examining poem by Goethe, which Strauss had considered setting as a choral work.
Generally regarded as one of the masterpieces of the string repertoire, ‘Metamorphosen’ contains Strauss’s most sustained outpouring of tragic emotion.
Conceived and written during the blackest days of World War II, the piece expresses in music Strauss’s mourning of, among other things, the destruction of German culture — including the bombing of every great opera house in the nation.
The metaphor “Indian Summer” is often used by journalists, biographers, and music critics to describe Strauss’s late upsurge of genius from 1942 through the end of his life.
The major works of the last years of Strauss’s life, written in his late 70s and 80s, have a luminosity which matches anything he had composed earlier in his life, and they surpass most of them in emotional depth.
These pieces include, among others, his Horn Concerto No. 2, ‘Metamorphosen’, his Oboe Concerto, and his masterful and haunting ‘Four Last Songs’.
The ‘Four Last Songs’, composed shortly before Strauss’s death, deal poetically with the subject of dying.
The last, ‘Im Abendrot’, ends with the line “Is this perhaps death?”
The question is not answered in words, but instead Strauss quotes the “transfiguration theme” from his earlier tone poem, ‘Tod und Verklärung‘ — symbolizing the transfiguration and fulfillment of the soul after death.

Death and Legacy

Richard Strauss Haus – Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Richard Strauss died at the age of 85 on 8 September 1949, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany (see left).
Georg Solti, who had arranged Strauss’s 85th birthday celebration, also directed an orchestra during Strauss’s burial.

The conductor later described how, during the singing of the beautiful trio from ‘Rosenkavalier’, “each singer broke down in tears and dropped out of the ensemble, but they recovered themselves and we all ended together.”

Strauss’s wife, Pauline de Ahna, died eight months later, on 13 May 1950, at the age of 88.
During his lifetime Strauss was considered the greatest composer of the first half of the 20th century, and his music had a profound influence on the development of 20th-century music. There were few 20th-century composers who compared with Strauss in terms of orchestral imagination, and no composer since Wagner made a more significant contribution to the history of opera.
And Strauss’s late works, modelled on “the divine Mozart at the end of a life full of thankfulness,” are perhaps the most remarkable works by any composer.

MAJOR WORKS

* ‘Tod und Verklärung’

‘Tod und Verklärung’, Op. 24, is a tone poem for large orchestra by Richard Strauss.
Strauss began composition in the late summer of 1888 and completed the work on November 18, 1889.
The work is dedicated to the composer’s friend Friedrich Rosch.
The music depicts the death of an artist.
At Strauss’s request, this was described in a poem by the composer’s friend Alexander Ritter as an interpretation of Death and Transfiguration, after it was composed.
As the man lies dying, thoughts of his life pass through his head: his childhood innocence, the struggles of his manhood, the attainment of his worldly goals; and at the end, he receives the longed-for transfiguration “from the infinite reaches of heaven”.

Performance history

Strauss conducted the premiere on 21 June 1890 at the Eisenach Festival (on the same program with the premiere of his Burleske in D minor for piano and orchestra).
He also conducted this work for his first appearance in England, at the Wagner Concert with the Philharmonic Society on 15 June 1897 at the Queen’s Hall in London.

Structure

There are four parts (with Ritter’s poetic thoughts condensed):
Largo (The sick man, near death)
Allegro molto agitato (The battle between life and death offers no respite to the man)
Meno mosso (The dying man’s life passes before him)
Moderato (The sought-after transfiguration)
A typical performance lasts about 25 minutes.
[edit]Instrumentation

The work is scored for a large orchestra of the following forces:
woodwind: 3 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets in B-flat, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon
brass: 4 horns in F, 3 trumpets in F and C, 3 trombones, tuba
percussion: timpani, tam-tam
strings: 2 harps, violins i, ii, violas, cellos, double basses.

*Ein Heldenleben


Ein Heldenleben Op. 40 is a tone poem by Richard Strauss.
The work was completed in 1898, and heralds the composer’s more mature period in this genre.
Hero’s Life is a through-composed, circa fifty-minute work, performed without pauses, except for a dramatic grand pause at the end of the first movement.
The movements are titled as follows:

“Der Held” (The Hero)
“Des Helden Widersacher” (The Hero’s Adversaries)
“Des Helden Gefährtin” (The Hero’s Companion)
“Des Helden Walstatt” (The Hero at Battle)
“Des Helden Friedenswerke” (The Hero’s Works of Peace)
“Des Helden Weltflucht und Vollendung” (The Hero’s Retirement from this World and Consummation)

A Hero’s Life employs the technique of leitmotifs that Richard Wagner used, but almost always as elements of its enlarged sonata-rondo symphonic structure.

1. “The Hero”: The first theme has been said to represent the hero. In unison, horns and celli play E-flat major triads ascending through an almost four-octave span. A contrasting lyrical theme first appears in high strings and winds in B major. A second motive appears, outlining a stepwise descending fourth. Trumpets sound a dominant seventh chord followed by a grand pause, the only prolonged silence throughout the entire piece.
2. “The Hero’s Adversaries”: The movement opens with chromatic woodwinds and low brass: multiple motives in contrasting registers are heard. It is said that the adversaries represented by the woodwinds are Strauss’s critics, such as 19th-century Viennese music critic Eduard Hanslick, who is memorably written into the score with an ominous four note leitmotif played by the two tubas in parallel fifths.
3. “The Hero’s Companion”: The movement features a tender melody played by a solo violin. In an extended accompanied cadenza filled with extremely detailed performance instructions by Strauss, after the fashion of an operatic recitative, the violin presents new motivic material, alternating with brief interjections in low strings, winds, and brass. During this section, the violin briefly foreshadows a theme which will appear fully later. The cadenza concludes and the new thematic material is combined in a cantabile episode commencing in G flat. Fragments of the motives from the previous movement briefly appear. A fanfare motive in offstage trumpets, repeated onstage, is then heard.
These three initial sections comprise an elaborate exposition, with elements of a multiple-movement symphony evident in their contrasting character and tempo. The remainder of the work will comprise development, recapitulation, and coda, with occasional new thematic material.
4. “The Hero’s Battlefield”: In this first extended development section of the work, percussion and a solo trumpet are heard in the first appearance of 3/4 time: a variation of a previous motive. A sequence of clamorous trumpet fanfares occurs as the music approaches a harmonic climax in G flat, and the related E flat minor. Percussion is pervasive throughout the movement. 4/4 time returns in a modified recapitulation of the first theme as it appeared at the beginning of the piece, this time with a repeated quaver accompaniment. A new cantabile theme makes its appearance in the trumpet, and an extended elaboration of this serves to preface the next section.
5. “The Hero’s Works of Peace”: Themes of previous works, including such works as Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Macbeth, Also sprach Zarathustra, Death and transfiguration, Don Juan, Guntram, the lied Traum durch die Dämmerung and Don Quixote, are heard in this movement. The melodies lead into the final section.
6. “The Hero’s Retirement from this World and Consummation”: Yet another new motive appears, commencing in a rapid descending E-flat triad, which introduces a new development of the original theme: an elegy featuring harp, bassoon, English horn, and strings. The reappearance of the previous “Hanslick” motive brings in an agitato episode. This is followed by a distinctly pastoral interlude featuring English horn, reminiscent of Rossini’s William Tell Overture. The descending triad now appears slowly, cantabile, as the head of a new, peaceful theme in E flat: this is the theme foreshadowed during the violin cadenza. In a final variation of the initial motive, the brass intones the last fanfare, suggesting the beginnings of another tone poem (Also Sprach Zarathustra, a work often coupled with Ein Heldenleben).

Instrumentation

The work is scored for an orchestra consisting of piccolo, three flutes, three oboes, English horn (doubling 4th oboe), E-flat clarinet, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 3 bassoons, contrabassoon, 8 horns in F, E and E-flat, 3 trumpets (used offstage briefly), 2 trumpets in E-flat, 3 trombones, tenor tuba in B-flat (euphonium), tuba, timpani, bass drum, snare drum, cymbals, tenor drum, tam-tam, 2 harps, and strings, including an extensive solo violin part.

 *** ‘Symphonia Domestica’

Symphonia Domestica, Op. 53 (Domestic Symphony) is a tone poem for large orchestra by Richard Strauss. The work is a musical reflection of the secure domestic life so valued by the composer himself and, as such, harmoniously conveys daily events and family life.

He worked on the piece during 1903, finishing it on New Year’s Eve, in Charlottenburg.
The piece is scored for piccolo, 3 flutes, 2 oboes, oboe d’amore, English horn, clarinet in D, 3 clarinets (1 & 2 in B♭, 3 in A), bass clarinet in B♭, 4 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 saxophones (soprano in C, alto in F, baritone in F, bass in C), 8 horns in F, 4 trumpets in F and C, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, tenor drum, bass drum, triangle, cymbals, antique cymbals, tambourine, glockenspiel, 2 harps, and strings.

Structure

The program of the work reflects the simplicity of the subject-matter. After the family has been introduced, the parents are heard alone with their child. The next section is a three-part adagio which begins with the husband’s activities. The clock striking 7am launches the finale.
The most detailed exposition of the work’s structure is that which was provided for the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance on December 12, 1904. On that occasion, the concert programme carried the following outline:

I. Introduction and development of the chief groups of themes
The husband’s themes: (a) Easy-going; (b) Dreamy; (c) Fiery
The wife’s themes: (a) Lively and gay; (b) Grazioso
The child’s theme: Tranquil
II. Scherzo
Parents’ happiness. Childish play. Cradle song (the clock strikes seven in the evening).
III. Adagio
Doing and thinking. Love scene. Dreams and cares (the clock strikes seven in the morning).
IV. Finale
Awakening and merry dispute (double fugue). Joyous confusion.

**** Also sprach Zarathustra’

Friedrich Nietzsche
Also sprach Zarathustra

Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 (Thus Spoke Zarathustra or Thus Spake Zarathustra) is a tone poem by Richard Strauss, composed in 1896 and inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical treatise of the same name. The composer conducted its first performance on 27 November 1896 in Frankfurt. A typical performance lasts half an hour.
The work has been part of the classical repertoire since its first performance in 1896.






Instrumentation

The orchestra consists of the following:
woodwinds: piccolo, 3 flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), 3 oboes, English horn, 3 clarinets in E-flat and B-flat, bass clarinet in B-flat, 3 bassoons, contrabassoon
brass: 6 horns in F, 4 trumpets in C, 3 trombones, 2 tubas
percussion: timpani (2 players), bass drum, cymbals, triangle, glockenspiel, bell on low E
keyboard: organ
strings: 2 harps, violins i, ii (16 each), violas (12), cellos (12), double basses (8) (several with low C string).

Structure

The piece is divided into nine sections played with only three definite pauses. Strauss named the sections after selected chapters of the book:

Einleitung, oder Sonnenaufgang (Introduction, or Sunrise)
Von den Hinterweltlern (Of Those in Backwaters)
Von der großen Sehnsucht (Of the Great Longing)
Von den Freuden und Leidenschaften (Of Joys and Passions)
Das Grablied (The Song of the Grave)
Von der Wissenschaft (Of Science and Learning)
Der Genesende (The Convalescent)
Das Tanzlied (The Dance Song)
Nachtwandlerlied (Song of the Night Wanderer)

The piece starts with a sustained double low C on the double basses, contrabassoon and organ. This transforms into the brass fanfare of the Introduction and introduces the “dawn” motif (from “Zarathustra’s Prologue”, the text of which is included in the printed score) that is common throughout the work: the motif includes three notes, in intervals of a fifth and octave, as C–G–C (known also as the Nature-motif). On its first appearance, the motif is a part of the first five notes of the natural overtone series: octave, octave and fifth, two octaves, two octaves and major third (played as part of a C major chord with the third doubled). The major third is immediately changed to a minor third, which is the first note played in the work (E flat) that is not part of the overtone series.
“Of Those in Backwaters” (or “Of the Forest Dwellers”) begins with cellos, double-basses and organ pedal before changing into a lyrical passage for the entire section. The next two sections, “Of the Great Yearning” and “Of Joys and Passions”, both introduce motifs that are more chromatic in nature.
“Of Science” features an unusual fugue beginning in the double-basses and cellos, which consists of all twelve notes of the chromatic scale. It is one of the very few sections in the orchestral literature where the basses must play a contra-b (lowest b on a piano).
“The Convalescent” acts as a reprise of the original motif, and climaxes with a massive chord in the entire orchestra.
“The Dance Song” features a very prominent violin solo throughout the section.
The end of the “Song of the Night Wanderer” leaves the piece half resolved, with high flutes, piccolos and violins playing a B major chord, while the lower strings pluck a C.
One of the major compositional themes of the piece is the contrast between the keys of B major, representing humanity, and C major, representing the universe.
Because B and C are adjacent notes, these keys are tonally dissimilar: B major uses five sharps, while C major has none.

World Riddle Theme

There are two opinions about the ‘World Riddle Theme’. Some sources denote the fifth/octave intervals (C–G–C8va) as the World riddle motif, however, other sources refer to the 2 conflicting keys in the final section as representing the World riddle (C–G–C B–F♯-B8va), with the unresolved harmonic progression being an unfinished or unsolved riddle: the melody does not conclude with a well-defined tonic note as being either C or B, hence it is unfinished.The ending of the composition has been described:
But the riddle is not solved.
The tone-poem ends enigmatically in two keys, the Nature-motif plucked softly, by the basses in its original key of C—and above the woodwinds, in the key of B major.
The unsolvable end of the universe: for Strauss was not pacified by Nietzsche’s solution.
Neither C major nor B major is established as the tonic at the end of the composition.

‘Vier letzte Lieder’

The ‘Vier letzte Lieder’ for soprano and orchestra were the final completed works of Richard Strauss, composed in 1948, when the composer was 84.
Strauss died in September 1949.
The premiere of the work was given posthumously at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 22 May 1950 by the soprano Kirsten Flagstad accompanied by the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler.
The songs are “Frühling” (Spring), “September”, “Beim Schlafengehen” (Going to sleep) and “Im Abendrot” (At sunset).

Joseph von Eichendorff

Strauss had come across the poem ‘Im Abendrot’ by Joseph von Eichendorff, which he felt had a special meaning for him.
He set its text to music in May 1948.

Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff (10 March 1788 – 26 November 1857) was a German poet and novelist of the later German romantic school.
Eichendorff is regarded as one of the most important German Romantics, and his works have sustained high popularity in Germany from production to the present day.

Hermann Hesse

Strauss had also recently been given a copy of the complete poems of Hermann Hesse, and he set three of them – ‘Frühling’, ‘September’, and ‘Beim Schlafengehen’ – for soprano and orchestra.

Hermann Hesse (July 2, 1877 – August 9, 1962) was a German poet, novelist, and painter. His best-known works include ‘Steppenwolf’ and ‘The Glass Bead Game’, each of which explores an individual’s search for authenticity, self-knowledge and spirituality. In 1946, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature.

There is no indication that Strauss conceived these songs as a unified set.
The overall title ‘Four Last Songs’ was provided by his friend Ernst Roth, the chief editor of Boosey & Hawkes.
It was Roth who categorized them as a single unit with the title Four Last Songs, and put them into the order that most performances now follow: ‘Frühling’, ‘September’, ‘Beim Schlafengehen’, ‘Im Abendrot’.

Pauline de Ahna

The songs deal with death and were written shortly before Strauss himself died.
However, instead of the typical Romantic defiance, these ‘Four Last Songs’ are suffused with a sense of calm, acceptance, and completeness.
The settings are for a solo soprano voice given remarkable soaring melodies against a full orchestra, and all four songs have prominent horn parts.
The combination of a beautiful vocal line with supportive brass accompaniment references Strauss’s own life: His wife Pauline de Ahna was a famous soprano and his father Franz Strauss a professional horn player.

The most heart-rending moment in the ‘Vier letzte Lieder’ come when the soprano sings the line ‘Ist dies etwa der Tod ?’, and the orchestra gently intone the ‘Verklärung’ theme from ‘Tod und Verklärung’ – written so many, many years before !

Instrumentation

The songs are scored for piccolo, 3 flutes (3rd doubling 2nd piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets in B-flat and A, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns in F (also E-flat and D), 3 trumpets in C, E-flat and F, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, harp, celesta, and strings.

‘Vier letzte Lieder’

‘Frühling’

In dämmrigen Grüften
träumte ich lang
von deinen Bäumen und blauen Lüften,
Von deinem Duft und Vogelsang.
Nun liegst du erschlossen
In Gleiß und Zier
von Licht übergossen
wie ein Wunder vor mir.
Du kennst mich wieder,
du lockst mich zart,
es zittert durch all meine Glieder
deine selige Gegenwart!



‘September’

Der Garten trauert,
kühl sinkt in die Blumen der Regen.
Der Sommer schauert
still seinem Ende entgegen.
Golden tropft Blatt um Blatt
nieder vom hohen Akazienbaum.
Sommer lächelt erstaunt und matt
In den sterbenden Gartentraum.
Lange noch bei den Rosen
bleibt er stehn, sehnt sich nach Ruh.
Langsam tut er
die müdgeword’nen Augen zu.


‘Beim Schlafengehen’

Nun der Tag mich müd gemacht,
soll mein sehnliches Verlangen
freundlich die gestirnte Nacht
wie ein müdes Kind empfangen.
Hände, laßt von allem Tun
Stirn, vergiß du alles Denken,
Alle meine Sinne nun
wollen sich in Schlummer senken.
Und die Seele unbewacht
will in freien Flügen schweben,
um im Zauberkreis der Nacht
tief und tausendfach zu leben.


‘Im Abendrot’

Wir sind durch Not und Freude
gegangen Hand in Hand;
vom Wandern ruhen wir
nun überm stillen Land.
Rings sich die Täler neigen,
es dunkelt schon die Luft.
Zwei Lerchen nur noch steigen
nachträumend in den Duft.
Tritt her und laß sie schwirren,
bald ist es Schlafenszeit.
Daß wir uns nicht verirren
in dieser Einsamkeit.
O weiter, stiller Friede!
So tief im Abendrot.
Wie sind wir wandermüde–
Ist dies etwa der Tod ?

Richard Wagner – Der Meister von Bayreuth

RICHARD WAGNER
Der Meister von Bayreuth

Wilhelm Richard Wagner (22 May 1813 – 13 February 1883) was a German composer, conductor, theatre director and essayist, primarily known for his operas (or “music dramas”, as they were later called).
Wagner Geburtshaus

Wilhelm Richard Geyer – later Wagner – was born at No. 3 (‘The House of the Red and White Lions’ – see left), the Brühl, in the Jewish quarter of Leipzig, the ninth child of Carl Friedrich Wagner ?, who was a clerk in the Leipzig police service, and his wife Johanna Rosine (née Paetz), the daughter of a baker.

Wagner’s father died of typhus six months after Richard’s birth, following which Wagner’s mother began living with the actor and playwright Ludwig Geyer, who had been a friend of Richard’s father.
In August 1814 Johanna married Geyer, and moved with her family to his residence in Dresden. Until he was fourteen, Wagner was known as Wilhelm Richard Geyer.
He almost certainly suspected that Geyer was his natural father.
Geyer’s love of the theatre was shared by his stepson, and Wagner took part in his performances.

Ludwig Geyer

The boy Wagner was hugely impressed by the Gothic elements of Weber’s Der Freischütz.

In late 1820, Wagner was enrolled at Pastor Wetzel’s school at Possendorf, near Dresden, where he received some piano instruction from his Latin teacher.
He could not manage a proper scale but preferred playing theatre overtures by ear.
Ludwig Geyer (see left) died in 1821, when Richard was eight.
Subsequently, Wagner was sent to the Kreuz Grammar School in Dresden, paid for by Geyer’s brother.
The young Wagner entertained ambitions as a playwright, his first creative effort (listed as ‘WWV 1’) being a tragedy, Leubald, begun at school in 1826, which was strongly influenced by Shakespeare and Goethe.
Wagner was determined to set it to music; he persuaded his family to allow him music lessons
By 1827, the family had moved back to Leipzig.
Wagner’s first lessons in harmony were taken in 1828–1831 with Christian Gottlieb Müller.
In January 1828 he first heard Beethoven’s 7th Symphony and then, in March, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony performed in the Gewandhaus.
Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven (see right) became his inspiration, and Wagner wrote a piano transcription of the 9th Symphony.

He was also greatly impressed by a performance of the Requiem of Mozart.
From this period date Wagner’s early piano sonatas and his first attempts at orchestral overtures.

Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient 
In 1829 he saw the dramatic soprano Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient (see left) on stage, and she became his ideal of the fusion of drama and music in opera.
In his autobiography, Wagner wrote, “If I look back on my life as a whole, I can find no event that produced so profound an impression upon me.”
Wagner claimed to have seen Schröder-Devrient in the title role of Fidelio; however, it seems more likely that he saw her performance as Romeo in Bellini’s ‘Capuleti e i Montecchi’.
He enrolled at the University of Leipzig in 1831 where he became a member of the Studentenverbindung Corps Saxonia Leipzig.
He also took composition lessons with the cantor of Saint Thomas Church, Christian Theodor Weinlig.

Weinlig was so impressed with Wagner’s musical ability that he refused any payment for his lessons, and arranged for Wagner’s piano sonata in B flat (which was consequently dedicated to him) to be published as the composer’s op. 1.
A year later, Wagner composed his Symphony in C major, a Beethovenesque work performed in Prague in 1832 and at the Leipzig Gewandhaus in 1833.
He then began to work on an opera, ‘Die Hochzeit’ (The Wedding), which he never completed.
In 1833, Wagner’s older brother Karl Albert managed to obtain Richard a position as choir master in Würzburg.
In the same year, at the age of 20, Wagner composed his first complete opera, ‘Die Feen’ (The Fairies).

Carl Maria von Weber,

This opera, which clearly imitated the style of Carl Maria von Weber, would go unproduced until half a century later, when it was premiered in Munich shortly after the composer’s death in 1883.

Meanwhile, Wagner held a brief appointment as musical director at the opera house in Magdeburg during which he wrote ‘Das Liebesverbot’ (The Ban on Love), based on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure.
This was staged at Magdeburg in 1836, but closed before the second performance, leaving the composer (not for the last time) in serious financial difficulties.
Minna Planer

In 1834 Wagner had fallen for the actress Christine Wilhelmine “Minna” Planer (see right).

After the disaster of ‘Das Liebesverbot’ he followed her to Königsberg where she helped him to get an engagement at the theatre.
The two married in Königsberg on 24 November 1836.
In June 1837 Wagner moved to the city of Riga, then in the Russian Empire, where he became music director of the local opera.
Minna had recently left Wagner for another man but Richard took her back; this was but the first debacle of a troubled marriage that would end in misery three decades later.
 ‘Rienzi’

By 1839, the couple had amassed such large debts that they fled Riga to escape from creditors (debt would plague Wagner for most of his life).

‘Das Fliegende Hollander’
During their flight, they and their Newfoundland dog, Robber, took a stormy sea passage to London, from which Wagner drew the inspiration for ‘Das Fliegende Hollander’ (see right) (The Flying Dutchman) with a story based on a sketch by Heinrich Heine.
The Wagners spent 1839 to 1842 in Paris, where Richard made a scant living writing articles and arranging operas by other composers, largely on behalf of the Schlesinger publishing house, however, he also completed his third and fourth operas ‘Rienzi’ (see left) and ‘Das Fliegende Hollander’ during this stay.
Wagner had completed writing ‘Rienzi’ in 1840.
Giacomo Meyerbeer

Largely through the strong support of Giacomo Meyerbeer, it was accepted for performance by the Dresden Court Theatre (Hofoper) in the German state of Saxony.

In 1842, Wagner moved to Dresden, where Rienzi was staged to considerable acclaim on 20 October.
Wagner lived in Dresden for the next six years, eventually being appointed the Royal Saxon Court Conductor.
During this period, he staged there ‘Das Fliegende Hollander’ (2 January 1843) and Tannhäuser (19 October 1845), the first two of his three middle-period operas.
Gottfried Semper

Wagner also mixed with artistic circles in Dresden, including the composer Ferdinand Hiller and the great classical architect Gottfried Semper (see right).

The Wagners’ stay at Dresden was brought to an end by Richard’s involvement in leftist politics.
A nationalist movement was gaining force in the states of the German Confederation, calling for constitutional freedoms and the unification of Germany as one nation state.
Proudhon
Richard Wagner played an enthusiastic role in the socialist wing of this movement, regularly receiving guests who included the radical editor August Röckel, and the Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin. He was also influenced by the ideas of Proudhon (see left).
Widespread discontent in Dresden came to a head in April 1849, when King Frederick Augustus II of Saxony rejected a new constitution.
The May Uprising broke out, in which Wagner played a minor supporting role.
The incipient revolution was quickly crushed by an allied force of Saxon and Prussian troops, and warrants were issued for the arrest of the revolutionaries.
Wagner had to flee, first visiting Paris and then settling in Zurich.

Wagner spent the next twelve years in exile.
He had completed Lohengrin, the last of his middle-period operas before the Dresden uprising, and now wrote desperately to his friend Franz Liszt to have it staged in his absence.
Liszt, who proved to be a true friend, eventually conducted the premiere in Weimar in August 1850.
Nevertheless, Wagner found himself in grim personal straits, isolated from the German musical world and without any income to speak of.
Before leaving Dresden, he had drafted a scenario that would eventually become the four opera cycle ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’.
He initially wrote the libretto for a single opera, ‘Siegfrieds Tod’ (Siegfried’s Death) in 1848. After arriving in Zurich he expanded the story to include an opera ‘Der junge Siegfried’ (Young Siegfried) exploring the hero’s background.
He completed the text of the cycle by writing the libretti for ‘Die Walküre’ and ‘Das Rheingold’ and revising the other libretti to agree with his new concept, completing them in 1852.
Meanwhile, his wife Minna, who had disliked the operas he had written after Rienzi, was falling into a deepening depression and then Wagner himself fell victim to ill-health which made it difficult for him to continue writing.
Wagner’s primary published output during his first years in Zurich was a set of notable essays: “The Art-Work of the Future” (1849), in which he described a vision of opera as Gesamtkunstwerk, or “total work of art”, in which the various arts such as music, song, dance, poetry, visual arts, and stagecraft were unified; “Judaism in Music” (1850), a tract directed against Jewish composers; and “Opera and Drama” (1851), which described the aesthetics of drama which he was using to create the Ring operas.

Wagner began composing ‘Das Rheingold’ in November 1853, following it immediately with ‘Die Walküre’ in 1854.
He then began work on the third opera, now called ‘Siegfried’, in 1856 but finished only the first two acts before deciding to put the work aside to concentrate on a new idea: ‘Tristan und Isolde”
Wagner had two independent sources of inspiration for ‘Tristan und Isolde’.

Arthur Schopenhauer 

The first came to him in 1854, when his poet friend Georg Herwegh introduced him to the works of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (see left).
Wagner would later call this the most important event of his life.
His personal circumstances certainly made him an easy convert to what he understood to be Schopenhauer’s philosophy, a deeply pessimistic view of the human condition.
He would remain an adherent of Schopenhauer, who was also Hitler’s favourite philosopher, for the rest of his life, even after his fortunes improved.
One of Schopenhauer’s doctrines was that music held a supreme role amongst the arts.
He claimed that music is the direct expression of the world’s essence, which is blind, impulsive Will.
Wagner quickly embraced this claim, which must have resonated strongly despite its contradiction of his previous view, expressed in Opera and Drama, that the music in opera had to be subservient to the drama.
Wagner scholars have since argued that this Schopenhauerian influence caused Wagner to assign a more commanding role to music in his later operas, including the latter half of the Ring cycle, which he had yet to compose.
Many aspects of Schopenhauerian doctrine undoubtedly found their way into Wagner’s subsequent libretti.
For example, the self-renouncing cobbler-poet Hans Sachs in ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’, generally considered Wagner’s most sympathetic character, although based loosely on a historical person, is a quintessentially Schopenhauerian creation.

Mathilde Wesendonck

Wagner’s second source of inspiration was the poet-writer Mathilde Wesendonck (see right), the wife of the silk merchant Otto Wesendonck.

Wagner met the Wesendoncks in Zurich in 1852.
Otto, a fan of Wagner’s music, placed a cottage on his estate at Wagner’s disposal.
During the course of the next five years, the composer was eventually to become infatuated with his patron’s wife.
Though Mathilde seems to have returned some of his affections, she had no intention of jeopardizing her marriage.
Nevertheless, the affair inspired Wagner to put aside his work on the Ring cycle (which would not be resumed for the next twelve years) and began work on Tristan, based on the Arthurian love story Tristan and Iseult.
While planning the opera, Wagner composed the ‘Wesendonck Lieder’, five songs for voice and piano setting poems by Mathilde.
Two of these settings are explicitly subtitled by Wagner as ‘studies for Tristan und Isolde ‘.

The uneasy affair collapsed in 1858, when Minna intercepted a letter from Wagner to Mathilde.
After the resulting confrontation, Wagner left Zurich alone, bound for Venice, where he sojourned in the Palazzo Giustinian.
The following year, he once again moved to Paris to oversee production of a new revision of Tannhäuser, staged thanks to the efforts of Princess Pauline von Metternich.
The premiere of the Paris Tannhäuser in 1861 was an utter fiasco.
Further performances were cancelled, and Wagner hurriedly left the city.
The political ban which had been placed on Wagner in Germany after he had fled Dresden was lifted in 1861.
The composer settled in Biebrich in Prussia, where he began work on ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’, the idea for which had come during a visit he had made to Venice with the Wesendoncks.
Despite the failure of ‘Tannhäuser’ in Paris, the possibility that ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’ would never be finished, and Wagner’s unhappy personal life at the time of writing it, this opera is his only mature comedy.
Between 1861 and 1864 Wagner tried to have ‘Tristan und Isolde’ produced in Vienna.
Despite numerous rehearsals the opera remained unperformed, and gained a reputation as being “impossible”, which further added to Wagner’s financial woes.
In 1862, Wagner finally parted with Minna, though he (or at least his creditors) continued to support her financially until her death in 1866.

LUDWIG II  

König Ludwig   von Bayern
Ludwig and Wagner

Wagner’s fortunes took a dramatic upturn in 1864, when King Ludwig II (see left) succeeded to the throne of Bavaria at the age of 18.

The young king, an ardent admirer of Wagner’s operas since childhood, had the composer brought to Munich.
He settled Wagner’s considerable debts, and proposed to stage ‘Tristan’, ‘Die Meistersinger’, the ‘Ring’, and the other operas Wagner planned. Wagner also began to dictate his autobiography, ‘Mein Leben’, at the King’s request.

for more information about Ludwig II see

Wittlesbach Arms
König Ludwig
von Bayern

To Wagner, it seemed significant that his rescue by Ludwig coincided with his learning the news of the death of his supposed enemy Meyerbeer, noting ungratefully that “this operatic master, who had done me so much harm, should not have lived to see this day”.

After grave difficulties in rehearsal, ‘Tristan und Isolde’ premiered at the National Theatre in Munich on 10 June 1865, the first Wagner premiere in almost 15 years.

Cosima von Bülow
Hans von Bülow

The conductor of this premiere was Hans von Bülow (see left), whose wife Cosima (see right) had given birth in April that year to a daughter, named Isolde, the child not of von Bülow but of Wagner.

Cosima was 24 years younger than Wagner and was herself illegitimate, the daughter of the Countess Marie d’Agoult, who had left her husband for Franz Liszt.
Liszt disapproved of his daughter seeing Wagner, though the two men were friends.
The indiscreet affair scandalized Munich, and to make matters worse, Wagner fell into disfavour among members of the court, who were suspicious of his influence on the king.
In December 1865, Ludwig was finally forced to ask the composer to leave Munich.
He apparently also toyed with the idea of abdicating in order to follow his hero into exile, but Wagner quickly dissuaded him.

Villa Tribschen

Ludwig installed Wagner at the Villa Tribschen, beside Switzerland’s Lake Lucerne.

‘Die Meistersinger’ was completed at Tribschen in 1867, and premièred in Munich on 21 June the following year.
In October, Cosima finally convinced Hans von Bülow to grant her a divorce, but this did not materialize until after she had two more children with Wagner; another daughter, named Eva, after the heroine of ‘Meistersinger’, and a son Siegfried, named for the hero of the Ring.
Minna Wagner had died the previous year and so Richard and Cosima were now able to marry.
The wedding took place on 25 August 1870.
On Christmas Day of that year, Wagner arranged a surprise performance of the ‘Siegfried Idyll’ for Cosima’s birthday.
The marriage to Cosima lasted to the end of Wagner’s life.

Wagner, settled into his newfound domesticity, turned his energies toward completing the Ring cycle.
At Ludwig’s insistence, “special previews” of the first two works of the cycle, Das Rheingold and Die Walküre, were performed at Munich in 1869 and 1870, but Wagner wanted the complete cycle to be performed in a new, specially designed opera house.
In 1871, he decided on the small town of Bayreuth as the location of his new opera house.

Bayreuth Festspielhaus
Bayreuth Festspielhaus

The Wagners moved there the following year, and the foundation stone for the Bayreuth Festspielhaus (see right) (“Festival Theatre”) was laid.

In order to raise funds for the construction, “Wagner Societies” were formed in several cities, and Wagner himself began touring Germany conducting concerts.
However, sufficient funds were raised only after King Ludwig stepped in with another large grant in 1874.

Villa Wahnfried
Villa Wahnfried

Later that year, the Wagners moved into their permanent home at Bayreuth, a villa that Richard dubbed Wahnfried (see left) (“freedom from delusion/madness”).

The expenses of Bayreuth and of Wahnfried however meant that Wagner still sought other sources of income by conducting or taking on commissions like the Centennial March for America.
The Festspielhaus finally opened on 13 August 1876 with ‘Das Rheingold’, now taking its place as the first evening of the premiere of the complete Ring cycle, and has continued to be the site of the Bayreuth Festival ever since.

Bayreuth Festspielhaus – Plan

The Festival has been overseen since 1973 by the Richard-Wagner-Stiftung (Richard Wagner Foundation), the members of which include a number of Wagner’s descendants.

 ‘Parsifal’ – Closing Scene

Following the first Bayreuth festival Wagner began work on ‘Parsifal’ (see left), his final opera.
The composition took four years, much of which Wagner spent in Italy for health reasons.
During this period he also wrote a series of essays, including some reactionary writings on religion and art which recanted his earlier views.
Many of these—including “Religion and Art” (1880) and “Hero-dom and Christendom” (1881) —appeared in the journal ‘Bayreuther Blätter’, founded in 1880 by Wagner and Hans von Wolzogen for Wagnerite visitors to Bayreuth.
Wagner completed Parsifal in January 1882, and a second Bayreuth Festival was held for the new opera which was premiered on 26 May.
Wagner was by this time extremely ill, having suffered through a series of increasingly severe angina attacks.

Gondola
Ca’ Vendramin Calergi

During the sixteenth and final performance of Parsifal on 29 August, he secretly entered the pit during Act III, took the baton from conductor Hermann Levi, and led the performance to its conclusion.

After the Festival, the Wagner family journeyed to Venice for the winter.
Wagner died of a heart attack at the age of sixty-nine on 13 February 1883 at Ca’ Vendramin Calergi, a 16th century palazzo on the Grand Canal.
Franz Liszt’s two pieces for pianoforte solo entitled ‘La lugubre gondola’ evoke the passing of a black-shrouded funerary gondola (see right) bearing Richard Wagner’s remains over the Grand Canal. Wagner was buried in the garden of the Villa Wahnfried in Bayreuth.

Wagner’s operatic works are his primary artistic legacy. Unlike other opera composers, who generally left the task of writing the libretto (the text and lyrics) to others, Wagner wrote his own libretti, which he referred to as “poems”. Further, Wagner developed a compositional style in which the orchestra’s role is equal to that of the singers. The orchestra’s dramatic role, in the later operas, includes the use of leitmotivs, musical themes that can be interpreted as announcing specific characters, locales, and plot elements; their complex interweaving and evolution illuminates the progression of the drama. Ultimately he urged a new concept of opera often referred to as “music drama”, (although he did not use or sanction this term himself) in which all musical poetic and dramatic elements were to be fused together—the Gesamtkunstwerk.

Wagner’s compositions, particularly those of his later period, are notable for their complex texture, rich harmonies and orchestration, and the elaborate use of leitmotifs: musical themes associated with individual characters, places, ideas or plot elements.

‘Tannhäuser’ 
‘Das Fliegende Hollander’

Initially establishing his reputation as a composer of works such as ‘The Flying Dutchman’ (see left) and ‘Tannhäuser’ (see right) which were in the romantic traditions of Weber and Meyerbeer, Wagner transformed operatic thought through his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”).

This would achieve the synthesis of all the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, and was announced in a series of essays between 1849 and 1852.
Wagner realised this concept most fully in the first half of the monumental four-opera cycle ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’.

‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’

However, his thoughts on the relative importance of music and drama were to change again and he reintroduced some traditional operatic forms into his last few stage works including ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’ (see left).

Wagner pioneered advances in musical language, such as extreme chromaticism and quickly shifting tonal centres, which greatly influenced the development of European classical music.

‘Tristan und Isolde’
Opening Bars
Bayreuth Festspielhaus

His ‘Tristan und Isolde’ is sometimes described as marking the start of modern music.

He had his own opera house built, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, which contained many novel design features.

It was here that the ‘Ring’ and ‘Parsifal‘ received their premieres and where his most important stage works continue to be performed today in an annual festival run by his descendants. Wagner’s views on conducting were also highly influential.

Bayreuth Festspielhaus

His extensive writings on music, drama and politics have all attracted extensive comment; in recent decades, especially where they have antisemitic content.

Wagner’s late dramas are considered his masterpieces.
Der Ring des Nibelungen, commonly referred to as the Ring cycle, is a set of four operas based loosely on figures and elements of Germanic mythology—particularly from the later Norse mythology—notably the Old Norse Poetic Edda and Volsunga Saga, and the Middle High German Nibelungenlied.
They were also influenced by Wagner’s concepts of ancient Greek drama, in which tetralogies were a component of Athenian festivals, and which he had amply discussed in his essay “Oper und Drama”.

Richard Wagner
The Ring

The first two components of the Ring cycle were ‘Das Rheingold’ (The Rhinegold) (completed 1854) and ‘Die Walküre’ (The Valkyrie) (completed 1856).

In ‘Das Rheingold’, with its “relentlessly talky “realism” [and] the absence of lyrical “numbers” “, Wagner came very close to the pure musical ideals of his 1849 – 51 essays.
‘Die Walküre’ (see left), with Siegmund’s almost full-blown aria (‘Winterstürme’) in the first act, and the quasi-choral appearance of the Valkyries themselves, shows more ‘operatic’ traits, but has been assessed as “the music drama that most satisfactorily embodies the theoretical principles of “Oper und Drama”.
A thoroughgoing synthesis of poetry and music is achieved without any notable sacrifice in musical expression”.

Siegfried – Richard Wagner

While still composing the Ring, (leaving the third Ring opera ‘Siegfried’ (see right) uncompleted for the while), Wagner paused between 1857 and 1864 to compose the tragic love story ‘Tristan und Isolde’ and his only mature comedy ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’ (The Mastersingers of Nuremberg), two works which are also part of the regular operatic canon.

‘Tristan und Isolde’ uses a story line deriving from the poem ‘Tristan und Isolt’ by the 13th century poet Gottfried von Strassburg.
Wagner noted that “its all – pervading tragedy […] impressed me so deeply that I felt convinced it should stand out in bold relief, regardless of minor details.
This impact, together with his discovery of the philosophy of Schopenhauer in October 1854, led Wagner to find himself in a “serious mood created by Schopenhauer, which was trying to find ecstatic expression. It was some such mood that inspired the conception of a Tristan und Isolde.
The work was first performed in Munich on 10 June 1865, conducted by Hans von Bülow.
Tristan is often granted a special place in musical history.
It has been described as “fifty years ahead of its time” because of its chromaticism, long-held discords, unusual orchestral colouring and harmony, and use of polyphony.
Wagner himself felt that his musico-dramatical theories were most perfectly realised in this work with its use of “the art of transition” between dramatic elements and the balance achieved between vocal and orchestral lines.
‘Die Meistersinger’ was originally conceived by Wagner in 1845 as a sort of comic pendant to Tannhäuser.
It was first performed in Munich, again under the baton of Bülow, on 21 June 1868, its accessibility making it an immediate success. It is “a rich, perceptive music drama widely admired for its warm humanity“; but because of its strong German nationalist overtones, it is also held up by some as an example of Wagner’s reactionary politics and antisemitism.

Götterdämmerung 

When Wagner returned, with the added experience of composing ‘Tristan’ and ‘Die Meistersinger’, to write the music for the last act of ‘Siegfried’ and for ‘Götterdämmerung’ (Twilight of the Gods), as the final part of the Ring was eventually called, his style had changed once again to one more recognisable as ‘operatic’ (though thoroughly stamped with his own originality as a composer, and suffused with leitmotivs) than the aural world of ‘Rheingold’ and ‘Walküre’.

This was in part because the libretti of the four ‘Ring’ operas had been written in reverse order, so that the book for ‘Götterdämmerung’ was conceived more ‘traditionally’ than that of Rheingold; still, the self-imposed strictures of the Gesamtkunstwerk had become relaxed.
However, the differences are also because of Wagner’s development as a composer during the period in which he composed ‘Tristan’, ‘Meistersinger’ and also the Paris version of ‘Tannhäuser’.
From Act III of ‘Siegfried’ onwards, the Ring becomes chromatic, and both harmonically more complex and more developmental in its treatment of leitmotifs.
Having taken 26 years from the first draft of a libretto in 1848 until the completion of ‘Götterdämmerung’ in 1874, the Ring represents in all about 15 hours of performance, the only undertaking of such size to be regularly represented on the world’s stages.

Parsifal

Erlösung dem Erlöser ! 
 ‘Parsifal’ 

Wagner’s final opera, ‘Parsifal‘ (1882), which was his only work written especially for his Festspielhaus in Bayreuth and which is described in the score as a “Bühnenweihfestspiel” (festival play for the consecration of the stage), has a storyline suggested by elements of the legend of the Holy Grail.

It also however carries elements of Buddhist renunciation suggested by Wagner’s readings of Schopenhauer.

Holy Spear – Parsifal
Wagner described it to Cosima as his “last card“.
The composer’s treatment of Christianity in the opera, its eroticism, and its relationship to ideas of German nationalism and  anti-Semitism have continued to render it controversial for non-musical reasons.
However, musically it has been held to represent a continuing development of the composer’s style , with “a diaphanous score of unearthly beauty and refinement“.
It is undoubtedly Wagner’s greatest opera – his masterpiece.

click here for more information about ‘Parsifal

Writings

Wagner was an extremely prolific writer, authoring hundreds of books, poems, and articles, as well as voluminous correspondence, throughout his life.
His writings covered a wide range of topics, including politics, philosophy, and detailed analyses of his own operas.
Essays of note include “Art and Revolution” (1849), “Opera and Drama” (1851), an essay on the theory of opera. One of his most significant writings is “Das Judenthum in der Musik” (“Jewishness in Music”, 1850), a polemic directed against Jewish composers in general, and Giacomo Meyerbeer in particular.

He also wrote various autobiographical works, including “My Life” (1880).
In his later years Wagner became a vociferous opponent of experimentation on animals and in 1879 he published an open letter, “Against Vivisection”, in support of the animal rights activist Ernst von Weber.
There have been several editions of Wagner’s writings, including a centennial edition in German edited by Dieter Borchmeyer (which however omitted the essay “Das Judenthum in der Musik”).
The English translations of Wagner’s prose in 8 volumes by W. Ashton Ellis, (1892 – 99), are still in print and commonly used, despite their deficiencies.
A complete edition of Wagner’s correspondence, (estimated to amount to between 10,000 and 12,000 surviving items), of which the first volume appeared in 1967, is still under way.
Wagner’s influence on literature and philosophy is significant.
Wagner’s protean abundance meant that he could inspire the use of literary motif in many a novel employing interior monologue.
The Symbolists saw him as a mystic hierophant; the Decadents found many a frisson in his work.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche was part of Wagner’s inner circle during the early 1870s, and his first published work ‘The Birth of Tragedy’ proposed Wagner’s music as the Dionysian rebirth of European culture in opposition to Apollonian rationalist decadence.

Nietzsche broke with Wagner following the first Bayreuth Festival, believing that Wagner’s final phase represented a pandering to Christian pieties and a surrender to the new German Reich. Nietzsche expressed his displeasure with the later Wagner in “The Case of Wagner” and “Nietzsche contra Wagner“.
Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Verlaine worshipped Wagner.
Edouard Dujardin, whose influential novel ‘Les lauriers sont coupés’ is in the form of an interior monologue inspired by Wagnerian music, founded a journal dedicated to Wagner, La Revue Wagnérienne, to which J. K. Huysmans and Téodor de Wyzewa contributed.
In the twentieth century, W. H. Auden once called Wagner “perhaps the greatest genius that ever lived”, while Thomas Mann and Marcel Proust were heavily influenced by him and discussed Wagner in their novels.
He is discussed in some of the works of James Joyce.
Wagnerian themes inhabit T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’, which contains lines from ‘Tristan und Isolde’ and ‘Götterdämmerung’, and Verlaine’s poem on ‘Parsifal‘.
Many of the Wagner’s concepts, including his speculation about dreams, predated their investigation by Sigmund Freud.
Adolf Hitler and Winnifred Wagner

In a long list of other major cultural figures influenced by Wagner, Bryan Magee includes D. H. Lawrence, Aubrey Beardsley, Romain Rolland, Gérard de Nerval, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Rainer Maria Rilke and numerous others. Wagner’s operas, writings, his politics, beliefs and unorthodox lifestyle made him a controversial figure during his lifetime. Wagner was responsible for several theatrical innovations developed at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus (for the design of which he appropriated some of the ideas of his former colleague, Gottfried Semper, which he had solicited for a proposed new opera house at Munich). These innovations include darkening the auditorium during performances, and placing the orchestra in a pit out of view of the audience. Adolphe Appia’s stagings of Wagner operas at Bayreuth had far reaching consequences in theatre practice generally.

Following Wagner’s death, the debate about his ideas and their interpretation, particularly in Germany during the 20th century, continued to make him politically and socially controversial in a way that other great composers are not. Much heat is generated by Wagner’s comments on Jews, which continue to influence the way that his works are regarded, and by the essays he wrote on the nature of race from 1850 onwards, and their influence on Adolf Hitler.

Wagner and Hitler

Wagner’s operas had an almost religious effect upon Hitler; Wagner’s skill for drama and dramatic music no doubt underscored the impact of the legends already known to Hitler from youth. 

Hitler and many of his associates shared a fascination with the history and mythology of the German Volk, and the following discussion will focus on examples of “mythical influences”, and how they helped shape the personal and political activities of these men. 
Richard Wagner’s (1813-1883) most famous works are undoubtably his music dramas.

‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’ (left ‘Das Rheingold’) and ‘Tristan und Isolde’ (right – model stage-set) and most importantly, ‘Parsifal’, (below – ‘Die große Gralsszeneare’), the works that are widely acknowledged as being of great musical significance
The development and use of the leitmotif, the parts written for the heldentenor, the manipulation of chromaticism in the tonal system, and the development of the music drama itself are all very important aspects of Wagner and his music.
The ancient sagas that Wagner used as a 
basis for these music dramas held for him revealed truths and insights into human behavior and emotions. He has not been alone in his interest and opinions.These myths have been used as an argument for, or illustration of, various beliefs and ideologies. ‘The Ring’ has been variously interpreted as a look into the human psyche; a means of promoting socialism; a prophecy of the fate of the world and humankind; and a “parable” about the industrial society that was coming of age in Wagner’s lifetime.
It was also used by the Nazi party to justify and glorify racism, and to supply a basis of fanatic loyalty in the Schutzstaffel, or SS.
The legends of German mythology are essentially the same as the old Nordic legends; many of the proper names are the same in both cultures, and most of the remaining names are very similar to the Norse versions, differing only in spelling. 

Thus the Norse Odin, the ruler of the gods, becomes Woden, (or Wotan), further south in the Germanic regions. In the same fashion, the Norse heroes known as Sigurd, Brynhild and Gudrun become Siegfried, Brünnhilde, (see right ‘Wotan &  Brünnhilde), and Günther in the German stories. 
The extremely close parallels between the two cultures makes it an absolute certainty that both the Germanic stories and the earlier Norse legends were derived from the same ancient tales.
These early legends are known to the modern world from two collections: the Elder Edda, which is written in verse, and the Younger Edda, (consisting of the sagas), which is written in prose. The dating for these collections seems to be in some dispute; in Bulfinch’s Mythology rather specific dates are assigned: 1056 for the Elder Edda and 1640 for the Younger Edda. However, in Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, she speaks of the oldest manuscript of the Elder as dating from circa 1300, some three hundred years after the arrival of Christianity in Iceland, and almost three hundred years after Bulfinch’s date.
Hamilton does state, however, that all of these legends are completely pagan in nature, (thus predating Christianity), and that almost all scholars agree the stories must be much older than the oldest manuscript.
The dates for the Younger Edda are likewise apparently uncertain; Bulfinch’s date of 1640 is hard to reconcile with Hamilton’s statement that the Younger was “written down by one Snorri Sturluson in the last part of the twelfth century.”
Regardless of date, it is agreed the most important collection is the Elder Edda.
These two very long epics furnish the material for almost all of the presently known myths and legends about the ancient gods of the North. 
Unfortunately, as Christian missionaries from the Mediterranean area journeyed further north, they systematically destroyed all the pagan artifacts they could find in a remarkably successful attempt to completely obliterate all remnants of the belief system they were replacing.
Only a few fragments of the entire northern European prehistoric collection of myths have been preserved. The legend of Beowulf in England and the Nibelungenlied in Germany are two tales that survived the zeal of the missionaries. 
The Eddas are known only from Iceland; apparently Icelandic missionaries were less influential than their counterparts on the continent of Europe — Iceland was one of the last European countries to be Christianized.
All of these surviving legends are essentially gloomy and pessimistic in nature; depressingly so to modern readers.

In Nordic and Germanic mythology the Earth, (Midgard), and Heaven, (Asgard), were destined to be utterly destroyed by the Frost Giants, (who lived in Jötunheim), in a final great battle between Good and Evil, called Ragnarok, (Ragnarok is paralleled by Götterdämmerung in Wagner’s Ring Cycle – see right).

In this final battle, Evil was predestined to win, and the entirety of creation was to be destroyed. The only bright factor in this thoroughly depressing viewpoint was the belief that, in spite of all, if one could die a courageous, heroic death, then all else faded into insignificance. 
It is of interest to realize that the Western ideal of heroism and heroic deeds in the face of certain death springs almost entirely from these Nordic myths, and not from the Greek and Roman mythology that most people are more familiar with. (The Greek gods were remarkably un-heroic in their conduct), and of course, this idea of heroism and fighting to the death against any odds would fit very well with the kind of fanatic loyalty sought by Hitler and Himmler.
When Richard Wagner embarked upon the composition of ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’, (around 1849), he chose as his framework the Teutonic epic of the Nibelungenlied, (The Norse version of this legend is called the Volsungasaga).
Wagner finished the first two segments, (‘Das Rheingold’ and ‘Die Walküre’), and part of the third, (‘Siegfried’), by 1857, but seventeen years would go by before he would finish the great work with the completion of ‘Siegfried’ and the final music drama in the cycle: ‘Götterdämmerung’.
As mentioned earlier, the Teutonic versions of these myths are very similar to the Nordic versions, differing chiefly in descriptions of climate, and social condition. The Teutonic versions were generally slightly less violent than their Viking equivalents.

In turn, it seems apparent that Wagner again tempered the German tales somewhat; in ‘Tristan und Isolde’, after the hero Tristan is mortally wounded, he is kept alive by the power of love until he is united with his lover, Isolde. After Tristan’s demise in her arms, she is overcome by waves of ecstatic love, and she dies. 

As discouraging as this ending may seem, Wagner saw it as the triumph of love in the face of all adversity; not even death could truly defeat it. 
Of course, the story steps outside of the bounds of reality somewhere along the way, but this only adds to the transcendent quality of the story and of the music drama itself.
Adolf Hitler’s attraction to Richard Wagner’s music began at an early age. At the age of twelve, I saw … the first opera of my life, Lohengrin. In one instant I was addicted. My youthful enthusiasm for the Bayreuth Master knew no bounds.”

Adolf Hitler

In 1905, at the age of sixteen, Hitler left school – ostensibly because of illness – and was able to spend his time as he wished – which he later described as the happiest time of his life.

Two of his favorite pastimes were aimlessly roaming the streets of Linz (see right), and attending the opera at night.
He had a passion for music; most especially the mystic operas of Wagner, which he would attend night after night.
His meager supply of pocket money was spent mainly on the opera, (a standing-room ticket cost only the equivalent of ten cents), and on purchasing books on German history and mythology, which he would read for hours at a time.

His fascination with Wagner’s operas seems to have had a profound effect upon him.

His only friend from this period of his life was one August Kubizek, (nicknamed “Gustl”), who gave an interesting description:

“The charged emotionality of this music seemed to have served him as a means for self-hypnosis, while he found in its lush air of bourgeois luxury the necessary ingredients for escapist fantasy”.
Kubizek goes on to relate the events of a particular evening spent in Hitler’s company.
They had attended a performance of Wagner’s ‘Rienzi’, and according to “Gustl”, Hitler had a quite powerful reaction to the opera.
The youthful Adolf was “overwhelmed by the resplendent, dramatic musicality” of the opera, as well as deeply affected by the story therein; that of Cola di Rienzi, a medieval rebel who was an outcast from his fellows and was “destroyed by their incomprehension”. After the opera …
“… Hitler began to orate. Words burst from him like a backed-up flood breaking through crumbling dams. In grandiose, compelling images, he sketched for me his future and that of his people”.
Thirty years later, the boyhood friends would meet again in Bayreuth, and Hitler would remark: “It all began at that hour !”.
More convincing evidence of Wagner’s influences can hardly be wished for after a statement such as this one, but there is more.
Between 1909 and 1913, a time which Hitler described as “the saddest period of my life”, he resided in Vienna.
It was here, by his own statement in Mein Kampf, that he became a confirmed anti-Semite.

The anti-Semitic opinions Richard Wagner had held were no secret, and the concurrence of opinion between these two men could only have served to pull Hitler closer to a greater regard for Wagner.
Indeed, Hitler claims to have heard ‘Tristan und Isolde’ thirty to forty times during his years in Vienna.
(During these years in Vienna, at the Hofoper opera house alone, at least 426 evenings featured performances of works by Wagner).

In 1923, just before the abortive “Beer-Hall Putsch”, Hitler presented himself at Wahnfried, the home of the Wagner family.

There he met Siegfried Wagner, (Richard Wagner’s only son), and Siegfried’s English born wife Winifred (*see below).
He is said to have sought out the Master’s study, and, deeply moved, stood before Wagner’s grave in the garden for a long time. 
Afterwards, he was introduced to Houston Stewart Chamberlain (**see photo below & ‘AN ENGLISHMAN AT THE COURT OF THE KAISER), (Richard Wagner’s English born son-in-law), who was of advanced age and could not speak. Chamberlain later wrote a letter to Hitler voicing his support for Hitler’s goals and ideas. 

Hitler valued this letter greatly, almost as if it were “a benediction from the Bayreuth Master himself”.

Hitler continued in his contacts with the family of Wagner, and it is rumoured that he had a relationship with Winifred after Siegfried’s death.




Hitler also became a favourite ‘uncle’ (uncle Wolf), to the Wagner’s two sons, Wieland (left) and Wolfgang (right).

His idea of the supreme expression of opera was the final scene in ‘Götterdämmerung’, and, when in Bayreuth, whenever he witnessed this finale, he would turn around in his darkened box, seek out the hand of Frau Winifred Wagner, and “breathe a deeply moved Handkuss upon it”.
By this time he had seen all of Wagner’s operas countless times, and boasted of having listened to ‘Tristan und Isolde’ and ‘Die Meistersinger’ over a hundred times each.

Other indications of Wagner’s influences are furnished by Albert Speer, who began as Hitler’s chief architect and ended as Reich Armaments Minister.
He speaks of the interior furnishings of Hitler’s country house, the Berghof at Obersalzberg.
The salon was furnished, along with normal items of furniture, with a “sideboard over ten feet high and eighteen feet long” which was used to store phonograph records. Against another wall was “a massive chest containing built-in speakers, and adorned by a large bronze bust of Richard Wagner by Arno Breker“.
The admiration Hitler had for Wagner was reciprocated by the Wagner family; when furnishing this dwelling, the Wagners donated linens and china, and sent Hitler a complete set Richard Wagner’s works, along with a page from the original score of Lohengrin.

There is yet another facet of Hitler’s dwelling at Obersalzberg that shows his sense of unity with Germany’s “heroic” past: the view.

Obersalzberg, as one might imply from the name, is a mountain; high enough to give a good view of the surrounding area.
The Berghof, which was designed by Hitler himself, featured a large picture window which offered a view of the Untersberg, Berchtesgaden, and Mozart’s hometown, Salzburg.

Legend has it that the Emperor Charlemagne still sleeps in the Untersberg, but will someday awaken and restore the German Empire to its past glories.
Hitler didn’t hesitate to apply this prophecy to himself: “You see the Untersberg over there. It is no accident that I have my residence opposite it”.
On the eve of World War II, Hitler’s forces reoccupied the Rhineland. Returning from a triumphal trip through this area, and jubilant over the Allies’ weakness, he requested that some Wagner be put on the phonograph. Listening to the vorspiel to Parsifal, he remarked:

I have built up my religion out of Parsifal. Divine worship in solemn form … without pretenses of humility … One can serve God only in the garb of the hero“.

The record continued to play. 
The next selection was the funeral march from Götterdämmerung, and brought forth the following comments from Hitler:
I first heard it in Vienna – at the Opera – and I still remember as if it were today“.
The Germanic myths and the dramatic presentation of these myths by Richard Wagner were, very obviously, a central tool of the Nazi Party.
The psychological effects of these music dramas and stories on the principal figures of the Third Reich are equally obvious, when they are looked for. 
In Joachim Fest’s biography of Hitler, there are no fewer than thirty-four references to Richard Wagner or his music.
And of course, one cannot help but wonder what Richard Wagner would have thought about Adolf Hitler, one of his all-time biggest fans ! However, it was Richard Wagner who declared in his ‘music dramas’ that the coming master race was that of the Germans.

Originally, Nietzsche had delighted in Wagner’s music, but the latter’s obsessive anti-Semitism and conversion to an Aryanised Christianity caused him to denounce the composer with every twist of biting irony at his command.
The great mass of people, however, were to respond more to Wagner’s music than to Nietzsche’s difficult writings, partly because it was great and inspired music and partly because its maker had resurrected the mythology of the German race.
It is said that myths are the truest expression of a race’s spirit and culture, and in ‘The Ring’ the Teutonic ‘Supermen’ bestrode a stage, wherein was war, treachery, courage, blood and fire, climaxed with a stupendous ‘Götterdämmerung’.
The world of Wotan and Thor, heroes and giants, great deeds, great victories, and great destruction had never been expressed with such power.

The beauty of Wagner’s music moved men to such an extent that Hitler would declare that to understand National Socialist Germany one must first know Wagner.
For Wagner believed that the virtues of the Teuton tribes had atrophied with the coming of industrial civilisation; that courage and will had been poisoned or emasculated by capitalism and race pollution; that the Jews were responsible for the enervation and enslavement of the German spirit; and that a new Siegfried must arise to lead the Germans to an awareness of their greatness and their glory.
Schopenauer (see right) destroyed the meaning of values, Nietzsche proclaimed the need for passing beyond them, and Wagner supplied a new set to replace the old.
These three men, renowned more posthumously than in their own lifetimes, challenged the world of 1889 and became, in time, the favourites of Adolf Hitler.
From them he derived what fundamental values he possessed.
It is impossible to tell whether these men expressed what they felt around them, or what they sensed would be the future; or whether they were determined to stamp their wills upon the world.
Were they prophets? Or were they magicians?
We know that Nietzsche derived much of his inspiration from mystical trances which possessed him without warning, and that his greatest work, Thus Spake Zarathustra, was inspired by one such experience in the winter of 1882-3.
We know also that Wagner claimed that the sources of his inspiration flowed from similar supra-rational experiences, and the effect of this can be seen in that extraordinary mystical opera, ‘Parsifal’.
Whatever the truth, it is at least certain that much of what they foretold, later came to pass.
Yet the world of 1889 ignored these insignificant portents of change.
People continued to live as though nothing important had happened or would happen, and no one so much as deigned to notice the birth of Adolf Hitler.
Treaties and contracts were made and broken; money was won and lost; children were educated as though all was absolutely certain.
Books were written and read which taught Christian, bourgeois, industrial capitalist, materialist, humanist European values as if no other could ever be of the slightest relevance.

And yet it was these books which lacked all relevance.
Nietzsche, (see left and NIETZSCHE – CREATOR OF THE ÜBERMENSCH ), who knew the true spirit of his age and of the age to come, wrote:
‘And what doeth the saint in the forest?’ asked Zarathustra.
The saint answered: ‘I make hymns and sing them; and in making hymns I laugh and weep and mumble: thus do I praise God.
‘With singing, weeping, laughing, and mumbling do I praise the God who is my God. But what dost thou bring us as a gift?’
When Zarathustra had heard these words, he bowed to the saint and said: ‘What should I have to give thee! Let me rather hurry hence lest I take aught away from thee!’
And thus they parted from one another, the old man and Zarathustra, laughing like schoolboys.
When Zarathustra was alone, however, he said to his heart: ‘Could it be possible! This old saint in the forest hath not yet heard of it, that God is dead!”

click below for a fascinating insight into the early life and personality of Adolf Hitler

Der Bayreuther Kreis

Der Bayreuther Kreis (The Bayreuth Circle) was a name originally applied by some writers to devotees of Richard Wagner’s music who attended and supported the annual Bayreuth Festival in the later 19th and early twentieth centuries.
Many of these devotees espoused nationalistic German politics, and  were supporters of Adolf Hitler from the 1920s onwards, and therefore this group of people were directly associated with the rise of Nazism.
There was never any organisation named Der Bayreuther Kreis, or any group of people who identified themselves by that name; but the term has been used by many historians as a convenient label for Hitler supporters associated with Wagner and Bayreuth.
Examples of such association are given in the following citations:
‘Only with timely support from the Bayreuth circle, especially Houston S. Chamberlain, Winifred Wagner, and henchmen like Dietrich Eckhart in the Thule Society, could Hitler assume the public image of a Wotan/Siegfried figure, complete with telling nickname: “Wolf.” ‘
‘Thus Hitler himself admitted: `It was Cosima Wagner’s merit to have created the link between Bayreuth and National Socialism’.
‘It was the Bayreuth circle which raised Wagner’s message to the status of gospel, manoeuvring his ideas into a Germanic doctrine of salvation.’

Significant Operas

‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’

   

The cycle is a work of extraordinary scale.
Perhaps the most outstanding facet of the monumental work is its sheer length: a full performance of the cycle takes place over four nights at the opera, with a total playing time of about 15 hours, depending on the conductor’s pacing.
The first and shortest opera, ‘Das Rheingold’, typically lasts two and a half hours, while the final and longest, ‘Götterdämmerung’, takes up four and a half hours.
The cycle is modelled after ancient Greek dramas that were presented as three tragedies and one satyr play.
‘The Ring’ proper begins with ‘Die Walküre’ and ends with ‘Götterdämmerung’, with ‘Rheingold’ as a prelude.

Wagner called ‘Das Rheingold’ a Vorabend or “Preliminary Evening”, and ‘Die Walküre’, ‘Siegfried’ (see left below) and ‘Götterdämmerung’ were subtitled First Day, Second Day and Third Day, respectively, of the trilogy proper.

The scale and scope of the story is epic.

It follows the struggles of gods, heroes, and several mythical creatures over the eponymous magic Ring that grants domination over the entire world.
The drama and intrigue continue through three generations of protagonists, until the final cataclysm at the end of Götterdämmerung.
The music of the cycle is thick and richly textured, and grows in complexity as the cycle proceeds.

Wagner wrote for an orchestra of gargantuan proportions, including a greatly enlarged brass section with new instruments such as the ‘Wagner tuba’ (see left), bass trumpet and contrabass trombone.

Remarkably, he uses a chorus only relatively briefly, in acts 2 and 3 of ‘Götterdämmerung’, and then mostly of men with just a few women.
He eventually had a purpose-built theatre constructed, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, in which to perform this work.
The theatre has a special stage that blends the huge orchestra with the singers’ voices, allowing them to sing at a natural volume.
The result was that the singers do not have to strain themselves vocally during the long performances.
Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle begins when the dwarf Alberich rejects love in order to gain unlimited power over the world by forging a Ring of Power from the Rhinegold.
The rejection of love is the only possible way of seizing this gold from the Rhine Maidens who had teased and taunted Alberich’s love.

Once Alberich has seized the gold he forges it into a ring and a magical helmet (the Tarnhelm) that allows all who don it to shift shape at will and cross great distances in an instant.
When the god Wotan is himself allured by the wealth of the gold and power of the ring – stealing them from Alberich in order to pay for a great hall of the gods (Valhalla), the embittered dwarf curses the ring with a spell – ensuring that it will henceforth bring about the death and downfall of all who wear it.
Only the Earth goddess Erda, embodiment of primordial wisdom, and Loge – the luciferic fire spirit upon whom Wotan has relied – recognise the full pathos of what will befall both gods and mortals if the Ring is not returned to its source in the Rhine.
This is ultimately achieved not by the naïve and fearless hero Siegfried, nor by his loveless rival, the son of Alberich but by Siegfried’s lover Brünnhilde – (see right).
She is a female warrior, a ‘death angel’ or Valkyrie born of Erda’s violation by Wotan. 
In the symbolism of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, rejection of love in favour of power over, and the enforced submission of female gods and mortals combine to bring about a loss of inner power and knowledge.
In the end Wotan regains the wisdom lost to Erda only by willingly submitting to the fate imposed by the power of the Ring.
He does so by encouraging Brunnhilde to follow her own loving instincts for both Siegfried and himself – knowing full well that this will eventually bring about the downfall or ‘Twilight’ of the gods, but knowing at the same time that only this will save mankind and redeem the world.
The epic ends with Brünnhilde flinging the ring back into the Rhine – whose luciferic flames then rise to engulf Valhalla and cause its collapse.
The gods – hitherto embodiments of inner power and knowledge – fall prey to the allure of outer symbols of that power and knowledge (gold, heroic victory in war, and the grand fortress of Valhalla that is home to dead heroes).
Thus bringing about their own downfall, they now await their return – no longer as gods but as human beings – loving men and women of inner power and inner knowledge.

Parsifal

Parsifal is an opera in three acts by Richard Wagner.

It is loosely based on Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, the 13th century epic poem of the Arthurian knight Parzival (Percival) and his quest for the Holy Grail, and on Chrétien de Troyes’ Perceval, the Story of the Grail. Wagner first conceived the work in April 1857 but it was not finished until twenty-five years later.

It was to be Wagner’s last completed opera and in composing it he took advantage of the particular acoustics of his Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal was first produced at the second Bayreuth Festival in 1882.
The Bayreuth Festival maintained a monopoly on Parsifal productions until 1903, when the opera was performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Wagner preferred to describe Parsifal not as an opera, but as “ein Bühnenweihfestspiel” – “A Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage”.
At Bayreuth a tradition has arisen that there is no applause after the first act of the opera. Wagner’s spelling of Parsifal instead of the Parzival he had used up to 1877 is informed by an erroneous etymology of the name Percival deriving it from a supposedly Arabic origin, Fal Parsi meaning “pure fool”.
for more information see the post
   
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Winifred Wagner

Winifred Wagner (23 June 1897 – 5 March 1980) was an English-born Welsh woman married to Siegfried Wagner, Richard Wagner’s son
She was the effective head of the Wagner family from 1930 to 1945, and a close friend of German dictator Adolf Hitler.
Winifred Williams was born Winifred Marjorie Williams in Hastings, England, the daughter of John Williams, a writer, and his wife, the former Emily Florence Karop.
Winifred lost both her parents before the age of two and was initially raised in a series of homes. Eight years later she was adopted by a distant German relative of her mother, Henrietta Karop, and her husband Karl Klindworth, a musician and a friend of Richard Wagner.
The Bayreuth Festival was envisioned as a family business, with the leadership to be passed from Richard Wagner to his son Siegfried Wagner, but Siegfried, who was secretly homosexual, showed little interest in marriage.

It was arranged that Winifred Klindworth, as she was called at the time, aged 17, would meet Siegfried Wagner, aged 45, at the Bayreuth Festival in 1914.A year later they were married. It was hoped that the marriage would end Siegfried’s homosexual encounters and the associated costly scandals, and provide an heir to carry on the family business. Following their marriage on 22 September 1915, they had four children in rapid succession: Wieland (1917–1966), Friedelind (1918–1991), Wolfgang (1919–2010) and Verena (born 1920). After the death of Siegfried Wagner in 1930, Winifred Wagner took over the Bayreuth Festival, running it until the end of World War II.

In 1923, Winifred met Adolf Hitler who, as we have seen earlier, greatly admired Wagner’s music. 
When Hitler was jailed for his part in the Munich Beer Hall Putsch, Winifred sent him food parcels and stationery on which Hitler’s autobiography Mein Kampf may have been written. In the late 1930s, she served as Hitler’s personal translator during treaty negotiations with England. Although Winifred remained personally faithful to Hitler, she denied that she had ever supported the Nazi party. Her relationship with Hitler grew so close that by 1933 there were rumors of impending marriage.

‘Haus Wahnfried’, the Wagner home in Bayreuth, became Hitler’s favorite retreat, and he had his own separate accommodation in the grounds of Wahnfried, known as the Führerbau.
Hitler gave the festival government assistance and tax exempt status, and treated Winifred’s children, particularly Wieland and Wolfgang solicitously.
According to biographer Brigitte Hamann, Winifred Wagner was reported to be “disgusted” by Hitler’s persecution of the Jews. In one notable incident, in the late 1930s, a letter from her to Hitler prevented Hedwig and Alfred Pringsheim (their daughter Katia was married to Thomas Mann) from being arrested by the Gestapo.
According to Gottfried Wagner, Winifred’s grandson, she never admitted the error of her ways. After the war, her posthumous devotion to the man she cryptically referred to as “USA” – for ‘Unser Seliger Adolf’ (our blessed Adolf) – remained undimmed.
She corresponded with Hitler for nearly two decades.
Scholars have not been allowed to see the letters which are kept locked away by one of Winifred’s grandchildren, Amélie Lafferentz.


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© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013


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Parsifal und die Deutsche Seele – Richard Wagner

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013


(Parsifal and the German Soul)

Parsifal is an opera in three acts by Richard Wagner.
It is loosely based on Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, the 13th century epic poem of the Arthurian knight Parzival (Percival) and his quest for the Holy Grail, and on Chrétien de Troyes’ Perceval, the Story of the Grail.

Bayreuth Festspielhaus
Bayreuth Festspielhaus

Wagner first conceived the work in April 1857 but it was not finished until twenty-five years later.
It was to be Wagner’s last completed opera and in composing it he took advantage of the particular acoustics of his Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal was first produced at the second Bayreuth Festival in 1882.
The Bayreuth Festival maintained a monopoly on Parsifal productions until 1903, when the opera was performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Metropolitan Opera House – New York

Wagner preferred to describe Parsifal not as an opera, but as “ein Bühnenweihfestspiel” – “A Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage”.

At Bayreuth a tradition has arisen that there is no applause after the first act of the opera.

Wolfram von Eschenbach

Wagner’s spelling of Parsifal instead of the Parzival he had used up to 1877 is informed by the etymology of the name Percival, deriving it from an Arabic origin, ‘Fal Parsi‘ meaning “pure fool”.

Wagner first read Wolfram von Eschenbach’s poem Parzival while taking the waters at Marienbad in 1845.

Arthur Schopenhauer

After encountering Arthur Schopenhauer’s work in 1854, Wagner became interested in oriental philosophies, especially Buddhism.

He was particularly inspired by reading Eugène Burnouf’s “Introduction à l’histoire du buddhisme indien” in 1855/56.
Out of this interest came “Die Sieger” (“The Victors”, 1856) a sketch Wagner wrote for an opera based on a story from the life of Buddha.
The themes which were later explored in Parsifal of self-renouncing, reincarnation, and exclusive social groups (‘castes‘ in ‘Die Sieger’, the ‘Knights of the Grail‘ in ‘Parsifal’) were first introduced in “Die Sieger”.






Mathilde Wessendonk
Asyl

According to his own account, recorded in his autobiography ‘Mein Leben’, Wagner conceived Parsifal on Good Friday morning, April 1857, in the ‘Asyl‘ (German: “Asylum”), the small cottage on Otto von Wesendonck’s estate in the Zürich suburb of Enge, which Wesendonck – a wealthy silk merchant and generous patron of the arts – had placed at Wagner’s disposal. 

The composer and his wife Minna had moved into the cottage on 28 April:




Minna Planer

“… on Good Friday I awoke to find the sun shining brightly for the first time in this house: the little garden was radiant with green, the birds sang, and at last I could sit on the roof and enjoy the long-yearned-for peace with its message of promise.

Full of this sentiment, I suddenly remembered that the day was Good Friday, and I called to mind the significance this omen had already once assumed for me when I was reading Wolfram’s Parzival.
Since the sojourn in Marienbad [in the summer of 1845], where I had conceived ‘Die Meistersinger’ and ‘Lohengrin’, I had never occupied myself again with that poem; now its noble possibilities struck me with overwhelming force, and out of my thoughts about Good Friday I rapidly conceived a whole drama, of which I made a rough sketch with a few dashes of the pen, dividing the whole into three acts.”

Wagner did not resume work on Parsifal for eight years, during which time he completed ‘Tristan und Isolde’ and began ‘Die Meistersinger’.
Then, between 27 and 30 August 1865, he took up Parsifal again and made a prose draft of the work; this contains a fairly brief outline of the plot and a considerable amount of detailed commentary on the characters and themes of the drama, but once again the work was dropped and set aside for another eleven and a half years.
During this time most of Wagner’s creative energy was devoted to the ‘Ring’ cycle, which was finally completed in 1874 and given its first full performance at Bayreuth in August 1876.
Only when this gargantuan task had been accomplished did Wagner find the time to concentrate on ‘Parsifal’.
By 23 February 1877 he had completed a second and more extensive prose draft of the work, and by 19 April of the same year he had transformed this into a verse libretto (or “poem”, as Wagner liked to call his libretti).

In September 1877 he began the music by making two complete drafts of the score from beginning to end.
The first of these (known in German as the ‘Gesamtentwurf‘ and in English as either the ‘Preliminary Draft’ or the ‘First Complete Draft’) was made in pencil on three staves, one for the voices and two for the instruments.
The second complete draft (‘Orchesterskizze‘, ‘Orchestral Draft’, ‘Short Score’) was made in ink and on at least three, but sometimes as many as five, staves.
This draft was much more detailed than the first and contained a considerable degree of instrumental elaboration.
The second draft was begun on 25 September 1877, just a few days after the first: at this point in his career Wagner liked to work on both drafts simultaneously, switching back and forth between the two so as not to allow too much time to elapse between his initial setting of the text and the final elaboration of the music.
The ‘Gesamtentwurf‘ of Act III was completed on 16 April 1879 and the ‘Orchesterskizze’ on the 26th of the same month.
The full score (‘Partiturerstschrift‘) was the final stage in the compositional process.
It was made in ink and consisted of a fair copy of the entire opera, with all the voices and instruments properly notated according to standard practice.
Wagner composed ‘Parsifal’ one act at a time, completing the ‘Gesamtentwur‘ and ‘Orchesterskizze‘ of each act before beginning the ‘Gesamtentwurf‘ of the next act; but because the ‘Orchesterskizze‘ already embodied all the compositional details of the full score, the actual drafting of the ‘Partiturerstschrift‘ was regarded by Wagner as little more than a routine task which could be done whenever he found the time.
The ‘Vorspiel of Act I’ was scored in August 1878.
The rest of the opera was scored between August 1879 and 13 January 1882.

The Premiere

Paul von Joukowsky

On 12 November 1880 Wagner conducted a private performance of the ‘Parsifal Vorspiel’ for his patron Ludwig II of Bavaria at the Court Theatre in Munich (see left).
The premiere of the entire work was given in the Festspielhaus at Bayreuth on 26 July 1882 under the baton of the conductor Hermann Levi.
Stage designs were by Max Brückner and Paul von Joukowsky  who took their lead from Wagner himself.


The Grail hall was based on the interior of Siena Cathedral (see left) which Wagner had visited in 1880, while Klingsor’s magic garden was modelled on those at the Palazzo Rufolo in Ravello (see right).
In July and August 1882 sixteen performances of the work were given in Bayreuth conducted by Levi and Franz Fischer.
The production boasted an orchestra of 107, a chorus of 135 and 23 soloists (with the main parts being double cast).
At the last of these performances, Wagner took the baton from Levi (see right) and conducted the final scene of Act 3 from the orchestral interlude to the end.

At the first performances of ‘Parsifal’ problems with the moving scenery during the transition from Scene one to Scene two in Act 1 meant that Wagner’s existing orchestral interlude finished before Parsifal and Gurnemanz arrived at the Hall of the Grail.
Engelbert Humperdinck (see left), who was assisting the production, provided a few extra bars of music to cover this gap.
In subsequent years this problem was solved and Humperdinck’s additions were not used.

Thirty-seven years had gone by between the first idea for the work and its completion.

Concerning Wagner’s knowledge of occultism, which is crucial, we know he was acquainted with Freemasons, with whom he entered into fierce debate, and with the Rosicrucians.

In his library, now situated in Bayreuth, and open to the public, there are translations of the ‘Upanishads’ and the ‘Mahabharata’, which were just being published in his time.

The Upanishads are a collection of Sanskrit philosophical texts which form the theoretical basis for the Hindu religion.
They are also known as Vedanta, (the end of the veda).

The Upanishads

The Upanishads are considered by orthodox Hindus to contain revealed truths (Sruti) concerning the nature of ultimate reality (brahman), and describing the character and form of human salvation (moksha).
More than 200 Upanishads are known, of which the first dozen or so are the oldest and most important and are referred to as the principal or main (mukhya) Upanishads.
Historians believe the chief Upanishads were composed over a wide period ranging from the Pre-Buddhist period to the early centuries BCE, however, there has been considerable debate among authorities about the exact dating of individual Upanishads.

Chariot of Krishna and Arjuna
Bhagavad Gita

Their significance has been recognized by writers and scholars such as Schopenhauer, Emerson and Thoreau, and of course Wagner, among others. Scholars also note similarity between the doctrine of Upanishads and those of Plato and Kant.
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Ramayana.
Besides its epic narrative of the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kaurava and the Pandava princes, the Mahabharata contains much philosophical and devotional material, such as a discussion of the four “goals of life” or purusharthas (12.161). Among the principal works and stories that are a part of the Mahabharata is the superlative ‘Bhagavad Gita’ – ‘The Song of the Lord’, often considered as work in its own right.

Richard Wagner undoubtedly had exceptional intuitive abilities, and could see many extremely subtle realms and interrelations directly; also that he suffered deeply because all too often he simply could not find the words to express what took place so clearly before his spiritual eye.

Amfortas 

It is therefore understandable that he identified with the figure of Amfortas – (see right): Wagner believed in living life to the full; he also saw things but could not grasp them.
The basic spiritual tendency running through the opera is compassion.
Reincarnation and karma are clearly described in several places – without them the whole drama would be inexplicable.
A number of symbols and mythical elements are important for a general understanding of the work.
First, the symbol of the Grail combines elements of legends from Persia and Asia Minor with those from Celtic mythology.

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Parsifal Vorspiel – Leitmotiven

A leitmotif  is a musical term referring to a ‘short, constantly recurring musical phrase’, associated with a particular person, place, or idea.
It is closely related to the musical concepts of idée fixe or ‘motto-theme’.

Richard Wagner

The term itself is an anglicization of the German ‘Leitmotiv’, literally meaning “leading motif”, or perhaps more accurately, “guiding motif.”
A musical motif has been defined as a ‘short musical idea…melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic, or all three’, a salient recurring figure, musical fragment or succession of notes that has some special importance in or is characteristic of a composition: “the smallest structural unit possessing thematic identity.”
In particular such a motif should be ‘clearly identified so as to retain its identity if modified on subsequent appearances’ whether such modification be in terms of rhythm, harmony, orchestration or accompaniment. It may also be ‘combined with other leitmotifs to suggest a new dramatic condition’ or development.
The technique is notably associated with the ‘music dramas’ of Richard Wagner.

The Vorspiel to “Parsifal” is based on three of the most profound leitmotifs in the entire work.

It opens with the Motive of the Sacrament, over which, when it is repeated, arpeggios hover, as in the religious paintings of old masters angel forms float above the figure of virgin or saint.
Through this motive we gain insight into the office of the Knights of the Grail, who from time to time strengthen themselves for their spiritual duties by partaking of the communion, on which occasions the Grail itself is uncovered.
This motive leads to the Grail Motive, effectively swelling to forte and then dying away in ethereal harmonies, like the soft light with which the Grail illumines the hall in which the knights gather to worship.
The trumpets then announce the Motive of Faith, severe but sturdy — portraying superbly the immutability of faith.
The Grail Motive is heard again and then the Motive of Faith is repeated, its severity exquisitely softened, so that it conveys a sense of peace which passeth all understanding.
The rest of the Vorspiel is agitated. That portion of the Motive of the Sacrament which appears later as the Spear Motive here assumes through a slight change a deeply sad character, and becomes typical throughout the work of the sorrow wrought by Amfortas’s crime.
I call it the Elegiac Motive.
Thus the Vorspiel depicts both the religious duties which play to prominent a part in the drama, and unhappiness which Amfortas’s sinful forgetfulness of these duties has brought upon himself and his knights.

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The Grail Legend

Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival

Every German schoolboy knew the great folk tale of the Grail by heart.

Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival was one of the greatest works of literature in the German (or any other) language.
On the surface it is a familiar tale of a pure knight’s search for perfect love and redemption.
Few pieces of heroic literature had more impact on the nation-conscious Germans than Parzival.

The Grail legend is interpreted in two ways.
Generally, it is viewed as a story of Christian love and the redemption of mankind.
The second is the mythical interpretation.
The Grail is said to contain a coded message known only to a few, and understood by a tiny number.
It is this interpretation which is accepted by Ravenscroft in ‘The Cup of Destiny’ (1981) and Angebert in ‘The Occult and the Third Reich’ (1974).

Lucifer – Prince of Heaven

Lucifer was a Prince of Heaven before his sin prompted God to cast him to Hell.

On the descent to the Underworld his crown fell to earth, and from it a huge emerald.
This was used by men of antiquity to fashion a drinking cup to be used in occult rituals.
Here we find the most ancient relic accepted by both Christians and gnostics.
The cup was ringed with the usual special signs, symbols, runes and the like, all depicting the ascent of man through various stages to a final state of blessedness.
The Grail had become the sacred vessel of Initiate Knowledge.
It contained on its exterior the great trove of primordial knowledge and tradition which linked the past to the future. 
hat primordial knowledge can bring man back into the natural and only true condition for him, the primordial state of consciousness.
Within Germany many regarded the Grail as the lost, secret book of the Aryan race.
It had been entrusted to them since eons past, and was lost and recovered on occasion.
What precisely it contained was unknown, and since it was written in symbols, the interpretation given these runes may have differed from age to age.
It was the one great treasure of all Aryans, at all times.
From age to age it had been the uniting factor, the one artifact that provided a rationale for the existence of the race.
The Grail predated Christianity.
This is an absolute whose acceptance is necessary for understanding the importance of it as an artifact to the NSDAP and its leaders, notably the SS.
In Alfred Rosenberg’s ‘Myth of the 20th Century’ the Grail may be viewed as the cause of German objection to some aspects of Christianity, notably to Roman Catholicism.
It may be viewed as having provided direction to the German people, or at least a significant portion of it, when the people were confronted by orthodox Western church teachings which were alien to them.

The Grail

The Grail, the cup which Jesus used at the Last Supper, was made from the stone which fell from Lucifer’s crown as he plunged to earth (see left).
Lucifer (the Light-bringer) brought the mental principle to evolving humanity.
The stone from Lucifer’s crown can therefore be regarded as ego-consciousness or “I am I”: without the awakening mind principle humanity would not be able to acquire knowledge, and the first step along this path is “I am I.”
That this stone was fashioned into a cup or bowl which was used to catch the blood of Christ elevates its meaning because it then stands for the divine self.
As Wagner remarked, it becomes “Grail consciousness” — purified, redeemed “I am.”
The Grail is entrusted to Titurel.
He gathers a brotherhood of knights around him, called the knights of the Grail, who devote themselves to the service of this Grail consciousness through noble deeds.


A second important symbol is the spear, derived from the spear of Longinus (see left) who, it is said, thrust it into Christ’s side during the crucifixion, shedding the Savior’s blood.
It stands for higher mind, that part of us which must decide whether the mind will aspire to spirit or succumb to material desire.
A third central symbol is the swan (see right), denoting the north.
Wagner uses the swan as a symbol of those beings who, though still devoid of individual consciousness, are located in the divine realms, but have their whole development before them; this symbol is identical with that of the angel.
In the last scene a dove appears, symbol according to Wagner of “divine spirit, which floats down idealistically onto the human soul.” It is the Holy Ghost or Spirit.

The first act of the opera, which takes place in the realm of the Grail, close to Montsalvat (see left), begins with trombones sounding the reveille.

Gurnemanz, teacher and guardian of the secret wisdom of the Grail, wakens two squires lying asleep under a tree, saying: “Do you hear the call? Give thanks to God that you are called to hear it !
That the reveille sounds from the realm of the Grail indicates that it is a spiritual call.
At this time Amfortas, King of the Grail, lies sick and wounded, the wound being an external symbol for inner events.
In his striving towards higher things, Amfortas battled in the realm of the lower mind ruled by the black magician Klingsor and lost the spear.
Klingsor wounded him in his side with the spear, a wound which will not heal.
This wound is the pivot of all further action.
It is the fissure between the higher self and the personal self, caused by the fact that the mental principle was directed into the earthly realm where it is now ruled by Klingsor, or mind linked with sexual desire.
Gurnemanz and the squires try to alleviate the pain suffered by the King of the Grail.
They wish to bathe the wound, though Gurnemanz in his wisdom knows this will be of no avail. The King’s wound, an inner wound, cannot be closed by baths or ointments.
Wrapped in thought, he sings: “There is but one thing can help him, only one man.”
When a knight asks the man’s name, he avoids answering.
Then Kundry enters the scene, appearing wild one moment, lifeless the next.
She presses on Gurnemanz a small crystal vessel containing balsam with which Amfortas might be healed.

Kundry personifies the desire nature, messenger and temptress at the same time.

On the one hand, desire binds us to earthly things, while on the other it provides the first impulses to understand what is hidden. Thus Kundry serves both the Grail and also, as temptress, Klingsor who seeks to divert people from the quest for the divine through the power of the senses.
Wagner remarks that the black magician “beclouds the divine judgment of man through the sense impressions of the material world, and thereby leads him into a world of deception.”
A dispute arises between the knights of the Grail and Gurnemanz about Kundry (desire).
The squires mistrust her, but Gurnemanz says:
Yes, she may be under a curse. She lives here now — perhaps reincarnated, to expiate some sin from an earlier life not yet forgiven there.
Now she makes atonement by such deeds as benefit our knightly order; she has done good, beyond all doubt, serving us and thereby helping herself.’
Naturally, Kundry was also involved when Klingsor seized the spear from Amfortas.
In his pain, Amfortas addresses the Grail and asks for a sign of help.
In a vision he describes how someone will come to help him: “Enlightened through understanding, the innocent fool; wait for him, the appointed one.

This announcement of the foolish innocent (“Fal parsi,” hence Parsifal) refers to the reincarnating ego, which hastens from life to life.

If the reincarnating ego gives full expression to its divine individuality in its personal life, the inner fissure – the wound — will be closed again, for the mind which has been directed to things carnal and of matter will be turned back to the divine.
Before divinity can be attained, however, human evolution has to be experienced.
At the outset, mankind is completely un-selfconscious and lives in a state of divine innocence, untouched by things of matter and without an independent mind, a state symbolized by the swan.
It has to leave this state, descend to the physical realm, and experience all the conflicts that evolution entails.
Through the associated suffering and the development of the thinking principle, humans learn from their own experience to feel compassion for other beings.
These developments find their corollary in the departure of young people from their parental home, the maternal plane.
Such a departure is often very difficult and may be accompanied by a great deal of pain and many reproaches; but this break is absolutely necessary if young people are to go through their own experiences and develop the ability to think for themselves, though this simultaneously causes the maternal principle much grief.

Parsifal und der Schwan
Parsifal und der Schwan

This “descent” or gaining of independence is represented by Wagner in the slaying of the swan by Parsifal.

Gurnemanz sternly reproaches Parsifal for killing the swan with an arrow.
Parsifal is at first filled with childlike pride at his accuracy but becomes increasingly disturbed when he looks at the dead bird, and for the first time he feels pity.
Gurnemanz inquires of Parsifal his name and origin, but Parsifal cannot remember and replies: “I had many, but I know none of them any more.”
The only name he remembers is that of his mother: Herzeleide (Heart’s Sorrow).
Kundry is able to provide more information about his origin: his father was killed in battle, and his mother “reared him up in the desert to folly, a stranger to arms.”
Parsifal nevertheless recalls that one day he saw the knights of the Grail riding along the forest’s edge: “I ran after them, but could not overtake them; through deserts I wandered, up hill and down dale.”
Parsifal yearns for more than a solitary, peaceful life.
Kundry confirms this, and informs him of his mother’s death.
Parsifal springs furiously at her, but Gurnemanz restrains him.
Thus although the Parsifal is endowed with a feeling of right and wrong, his mind is not yet fully developed.
It therefore turns, in conjunction with desire, to anger and rage.
Gurnemanz, the wise initiate, restrains him.
The rest of the opera describes what takes place during this descent of the human soul. Gurnemanz has already recognized that Parsifal is someone who can restore the divine harmony.
He offers to lead him to the feast of the Grail.

Both move into their inner, spiritual realms, represented by the temple of the Grail.
This realm lies beyond the differentiation of space and time. Hence Parsifal remarks: “I scarcely tread, yet seem already to have come far.
Gurnemanz answers, significantly: “You see, my son, time here becomes space.”
Gurnemanz warns Parsifal to pay close attention to everything he encounters and later to take it back into the realm of his personal consciousness.
Before them both a scene opens with a pillared hall where the knights of the Grail carry in Amfortas.
The covered shrine of the Grail is carried before them.
In the background can be heard the voice of Titurel, the former guardian of the Grail, who received the Cup from the aeon’s hands and learned the occult mysteries in an inner vision.

He says, “Amfortas, my son, are you in your place? Shall I again today look on the Grail and live ?

This indicates that the life forces of spiritual traditions steadily weaken if they are not renewed by intuitive, creative individuals.
Time and again attempts are made to establish a spiritual, compassionate brotherhood.
If, however, the innovators fail, the effort comes to a standstill; the teachings ossify, and what used to be the content becomes a veil, until nothing is left of the original impulse.
Titurel must therefore die.
So Titurel calls upon Amfortas to view the Grail, but Amfortas is incapable of doing so – he has lost the mental principle to Klingsor, the lower mind.
Titurel now calls for the uncovering of the Grail, the revelation of occult wisdom.
When, at his insistence, this takes place, Amfortas is racked with pain: for those imprisoned in the lower mind, the sight of divine wisdom is unbearable.
The tragedy of such a situation is clear.
On the one hand, such people are impelled by divine impulses; on the other, they are completely entangled in the world of deception and sensuality.
When the full, idealistic nature of the Grail appears to Amfortas, so great becomes his despair that he begs to die.

But the Chorus sings again: “Enlightened through knowledge, the innocent fool: – wait for him, the appointed one.

Gurnemanz, who led Parsifal to this inner vision, stands beside Parsifal throughout the scene.
At the end he asks Parsifal: “Do you know what you have seen ?
But Parsifal cannot answer, as he is overcome by the suffering he has seen.
Gurnemanz angrily dismisses him.
Parsifal is not yet able to help, as this requires more than just a vision of things occult.
He must first acquire occult knowledge on the physical plane.
This alone will enable him to internalize what he has seen and make it part of his consciousness.
Only in this way can the divine be carried over into all realms.

The second act of Parsifal takes place in the magic castle (in the realm of illusion) of the black magician Klingsor.
Here the evil principle, personified as the magician Klingsor, tests Parsifal’s will power.
Wagner regards Klingsor “as the counterweight to the god-seeking impulse, which beclouds the power of discernment, with two sources of illusion: the power of sense impressions and passionate desire.
Klingsor evokes those forces of passion which compel us into a seemingly endless cycle of re-embodiment,  ever seeking redemption.
Through self-castration Klingsor has forcibly rendered himself un-receptive to desire.
He has obtained magic power over Kundry, and the possession of the holy spear.
Now he intends, with her aid, to gain possession of the Grail: Kundry is to seduce Parsifal, as she did Amfortas before him.
Kundry suffers because of herself: she longs for satisfaction and the stilling of her eternal urges.
But a knight must be able to withstand, control, and refine the dark forces of desire – ultimately it is desire which impels us to aspire to higher things.
Kundry resists the entreaties of the magician, but when Parsifal enters the realm of Klingsor, she succumbs to the magician’s power.
The violent love which she feels, however, is the result of desire. 
Thus tragedy is preordained.

Parsifal und die Blumenmädchen

When Parsifal enters the magic castle, Klingsor conceals himself and turns the area into a beautiful tropical garden where young maidens clad in soft-colored veils dance.

When Parsifal approaches, they embrace him, and the game with the flower maidens begins.
The higher self can only play with beauty; as soon as one is entrapped by it, his powers become bound to the physical realm.
The maidens want more than just to play, and they crowd around him.
Firmly driving them off, Parsifal cries: “Have done! You shall not catch me !
The first attempt at seduction through the power of deceptive beauty has been repulsed, but when Kundry enters and calls his name – ‘Parsifal’ – he is shocked, because his mother had once addressed him in just the same way in a dream.
The flower maidens fade away and Parsifal recognizes the deceptive nature of the material world.
Now the power of ‘desire‘ is revealed to him: Kundry becomes visible.
She tells Parsifal of his origin: Parsifal left the world of illusion and went his way, following the laws of spirit.
In the world of appearances it is impossible to understand such decisions.
So great is the sorrow of his mother (his biological origin) at his decision that she finally dies.


Parsifal and his Mother
Hans-Jürgen Syberberg

When Kundry tells of his mother’s grief when he ran away to seek higher things, she awakens the pity of the higher self with regard to the personal self.
Parsifal sinks down at Kundry’s feet and torments himself with severe self-reproaches.
Parsifal experiences here the possibly strongest temptation the aspiring human being can encounter.
Overpowering pity in the face of suffering has proved the undoing of many who betrayed their divine ideals for the sake of alleviating suffering.
In his state of weakness, Kundry tells Parsifal of the great love between his parents; nevertheless, he does not give in to Kundry’s fantasies, but instead sees a vision of Amfortas before him.

The Temptation of Parsifal -1894
Arthur Hacker-1858-1919

This time he does not merely see the sorrow in the realm of the Grail, as in the first act, but suffers it directly.
Parsifal suddenly starts up with a gesture of the utmost terror, his demeanor expresses some fearful change; he presses his hands hard against his heart as if to master an agonizing pain.
He cries: “Amfortas ! The wound! The wound!  It burns within my heart !
Parsifal remembers what he saw in the temple of the Grail and “falls into a complete trance.
The vision of his link with divinity awakens once again within him.
He is filled with deep understanding, which no longer relates to the personal self, nor to the suffering of the spiritual self (Amfortas), but to the innermost  heart of creation, calling us to the ultimate vision of the cosmos.
It is compassion for his own essential being – his ‘true will’ which is enchained by the fetters of desire.
This understanding activates the ‘true will’ and sets in motion the will to complete the process of attaining the divine vision.
Kundry tries to hinder Parsifal’s understanding, but he recognizes the demonic nature of her attempt.
Kundry tries to kiss Parsifal, but he forcefully repulses her.
This is the turning point of the whole drama.
The deceptive maneuver of the black magician which brought about the downfall of Amfortas and the knights of the Grail, is penetrated by Parsifal, enabling him to achieve clearness of vision.

Wagner’s Parsifal
Hans-Jürgen Syberberg

He sees through the bewildering attacks of his adversary and hears the call of the divine will to redemption “in proving himself through the understanding he feels for the sorrow of humanity” (quotation from Wieland Wagner).
Only now does Klingsor begin his most powerful attack on the initiant.
Through Kundry he attempts to conjoin universal love with the personal.
Kundry reveals to Parsifal the tragedy of her existence and her own suffering, saying:
‘One for whom I yearned in deathly longing, whom I recognized though despised and rejected, let me weep upon his breast, for one hour only be united to you and, though God and the world disown me, in you be cleansed of sin and redeemed !’
Parsifal here recognizes Klingsor’s seductive attack on his will to Truth.
He discerns the way in which the human desire nature repeatedly feigns reformation, and binds us to the material world.
He again repulses Kundry, saying: “For evermore would you be damned with me if for one hour, unmindful of my mission, I yielded to your embrace.”
The seducing skills become increasingly spiritual (geistig).
Kundry begs for pity and promises Parsifal the attainment of divinity.
But the initiant understands that in no event must he allow himself to be ruled by the desire nature; only if desire is used to liberate the aspiring human ego will it be redeemed.
He says to Kundry: “Love and redemption shall be yours if you will show me the way to Amfortas.”
Kundry tries once again to win Parsifal’s act of redemption for herself: she tries to embrace him and implores him to take pity, but it is too late: Parsifal is already in a higher state of consciousness.
He vigorously pushes her aside.
The initiant has withstood the test.
Kundry flies into a fury and curses “the fool” in her selfish longing for redemption.
She tries to prevent him from reaching the Grail.

Parsifal – Klingsor
Klingsor then appears in person and hurls the Spear at Parsifal, but Parsifal catches the Spear and holds it above his head: sensuous lower mind is transformed into aspiring higher mind.
Parsifal says: “With this sign I rout your enchantment.As the spear closes the wound which you dealt him with it, may it crush your lying splendour into mourning and ruin !
In the light of the higher mind the demonic illusion fades away;
Klingsor’s magic realm is violently destroyed, as if by an earthquake.


The third act, concerning redemption, takes place in the realm of the Grail on the morning of Good Friday: flowers are in bloom all around and desire moves through the whole of nature, awakening it to new life.
Gurnemanz enters from a humble hermit’s hut, when he hears Kundry moaning.
He notices a change in her: the wildness has vanished.
She allows Gurnemanz to reawaken her from her paralysis.
Her only concern seems to be to serve the knights of the Grail, but Gurnemanz informs her of a change in the knightly order: the spring of divine wisdom has failed.
Everyone now looks after himself.
Meanwhile Parsifal enters clad in black armor, which Wagner regarded as a symbol of the True Will, – the fighting strength of the personal self.
He saw the conquest of the powers of illusion as an act requiring personal effort and struggle – the assertion of the higher will in the midst of personal, earthly life: a strong awareness of suffering can raise the intellect of the higher nature to knowledge of the meaning of the world.
Those in whom this sublime process takes place, it being announced to us by a suitable deed, are called heroes. – (Collected Writings of R. Wagner, vol. 10)

Der Speer

Gurnemanz calls upon the “stranger” to lay down his weapons at this holy spot.
Parsifal then “thrusts the spear into the ground before him, lays shield and sword beneath it, opens his helmet, takes it from his head and lays it with the other arms, then kneels before the spear in silent prayer. . . . Parsifal raises his eyes devoutly to the spearhead.”
In the realm of the Grail the weapons of the personal consciousness are sacrificed to the power of intuition: the helmet of intelligence, the shield of courage, and the sword of the active will, while the point of the spear represents the moment of maximum concentration which leads the ultimate creativity.
Gurnemanz now recognizes the spear, and also the man who had once slain the swan.
The spear is back in the realm of the Grail: the power of intuition shines again.
When asked where he comes from, Parsifal answers: “Through error and the path of suffering I came; . . . An evil curse drove me about in trackless wandering, never to find the way to healing; numberless dangers, battles, and conflicts forced me from my path even when I thought I knew it.
Gurnemanz reports that since Titurel’s death the state of the Order has worsened: intuition has been completely lost, and the Grail itself remains enclosed within the shrine.
The knights now feed only on dogmas.
Parsifal springs up in intense grief – he feels responsible for the knights’ suffering since he, the chosen “Redeemer,” had succumbed to illusion.
Amfortas is due to open the shrine in which the Grail is concealed on that very day, when his father is carried to his grave.
Gurnemanz wants to take Parsifal to him, but first, one of the most significant scenes of the opera takes place: as Kundry bathes Parsifal’s feet, the full consciousness of his task awakens in him.
Once the purification and cleansing of the personal self have been carried out, Gurnemanz proceeds to anoint his head – his spiritual judgment must likewise light up pure and spotless within the personal self – enabling the personal self to be united with the divine self of its own free will.
Parsifal is thereby made King of the Grail.
His first office is to baptize Kundry: the desire nature is incorporated into the community as an element necessary to progress, and becomes the driving force of pure divine love.
That desire no longer serves the lower, but the higher self, brings about a transformation in the whole of nature.
In Gurnemanz’s words: “Thus all creation gives thanks, all that here blooms and soon fades, now the nature, absolved from sin, today gains its day of innocence.”
Parsifal then kisses Kundry gently on the forehead.
In the distance the sound of bells is heard.
As they approach the temple of the Grail, time once more becomes space and the interior of the temple becomes visible.
It is the same scene as at the end of the first act, but more gloomy.
Two processions of knights enter the stage, one carrying Titurel’s coffin, the other with Amfortas on his deathbed.
The knights are aware that without the creative power of intuition of the Grail, they are doomed to die.
They are not strong enough to open the shrine themselves and therefore insistently press Amfortas to do so, but in his immeasurable pain he is no longer able to open the shrine.
He calls upon the knights to kill him, since no one is able to close the wound.
At this moment the higher self breaks through: Parsifal enters the hall, accompanied by Gurnemanz and Kundry and, touching the wound with the end of the spear, says: “But one weapon serves: only the spear that smote you can heal your wound.
The personal mind, gravitating to things of earth, opened up the gulf in human nature; the intuitive mind closes the fissure between the spiritual and earth-bound poles.
Parsifal continues: “Be whole, absolved and atoned! For I now will perform your task. O blessed be your suffering, that gave pity’s mighty power and purest wisdom’s might to the timorous fool !
Parsifal steps towards center stage, holding the spear aloft before him, saying: “I bring back to you the holy spear !

Parsifal Choir
Hans-Jürgen Syberberg

All gaze in reverence at the uplifted spear, to whose point Parsifal raises his eyes and intones:
‘O highest  wonder ! This that could heal your wound I see pouring with holy blood yearning for that kindred fount which flows and wells within the Grail.
No more shall it be hidden: uncover the Grail, open the shrine!
Parsifal then mounts the altar steps, takes the Grail from the shrine now opened by the squires, and kneels before it in silent prayer and contemplation.

The Holy Grail
Der Speer des Schicksals

The Grail begins to glow with a soft light, increasing darkness below and growing illumination far above.
A beam of light: the Grail glows at its brightest.
From the dome a white dove descends and hovers over Parsifal’s head.
Kundry slowly sinks lifeless to the ground in front of Parsifal, her eyes uplifted to him.
Amfortas and Gurnemanz kneel in homage to Parsifal, who waves the Grail in blessing over the worshipping brotherhood of knights.
Wagner by these stage directions for the final scene epitomizes the ultimate triumph of the heroic soul.

Through Parsifal’s act the earthbound human will is directed upwards again towards the creator; the power of creative intuition flows again through all the realms.

As a result, the fossilized spiritual tradition of Titurel is reinvigorated, and he rises from his coffin.
The divine spirit, symbolized by the dove, hovers over Parsifal’s head, – the consciousness of the ‘True Will’ experiences its innate divinity.
This represents a transformation into something completely new: the attainment of transcendence.
Erlösung dem Erlöser !


Nietzsche & Parsifal

By pity guided,
The guileless fool;
Wait for him,
My chosen tool.


Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche heard the ‘Parsifal Vorspiel’ (Prelude) for the first time in Monte-Carlo in January 1887 :

‘Putting aside all irrelevant questions (to what end such music can or should serve?), and speaking from a purely aesthetic point of view, has Wagner ever written anything better?
The supreme psychological perception and precision as regards what can be said, expressed, communicated here, the extreme of concision and directness of form, every nuance of feeling conveyed epigrammatically; a clarity of musical description that reminds us of a shield of consummate workmanship; and finally an extraordinary sublimity of feeling, something experienced in the very depths of music, that does Wagner the highest honour; a synthesis of conditions which to many people – even “higher minds” – will seem incompatible, of strict coherence, of “loftiness” in the most startling sense of the word, of a cognisance and a penetration of vision that cuts through the soul as with a knife, of sympathy with what is seen and shown forth. Has anyone ever depicted so sorrowful a look of love as Wagner does in the final accents of his Prelude ?’

Letter to Peter Gast – 1887

Johann Heinrich Köselitz (10 January 1854–15 August 1918) was a German author and composer.
He is known for his long-time friendship with Friedrich Nietzsche, who gave him the pseudonym ‘Peter Gast’.


‘I cannot think of it without feeling violently shaken, so elevated was I by it, so deeply moved.
It was as if someone were speaking to me again, after many years, about the problems that disturb me.
When listening to this music one lays Protestantism aside as a misunderstanding – and also, I will not deny it, other really good music, which I have at other times heard and loved, seems, as against this, a misunderstanding !’ 

Letter to Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche (Nietszche’s sister) – 1887

Therese Elisabeth Alexandra Förster-Nietzsche (July 10, 1846, Röcken, Prussia – November 8, 1935, Weimar, Germany), who went by her second name, was the sister of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and the creator of the Nietzsche Archive in 1894.
Förster-Nietzsche was two years younger than her brother. Both were children of a Lutheran pastor in the German village of Röcken bei Lützen. The two children were close during their childhood and early adult years. However, the siblings grew apart in 1885 when Elisabeth married Bernhard Förster, a former high school teacher.

_______________________________________

NATIONAL SOCIALISM AND THE HOLY GRAIL
‘I have built up my religion out of Parsifal’
Adolf Hitler
The one esoteric legend in particular which captivated the National Socialists was the Quest for the Holy Grail.

Lucifer
Philosopher’s Stone

While popular mythology presents the Grail as the cup Jesus Christ used at his last supper, occult groups dismiss this materialistic interpretation as a “blind” to preserve for initiates the Grail’s true meaning: the quest for racial purity defined in gnostic symbolic style as the “philosopher’s stone” (see right), the “third eye” or the spiritual “crown” of Lucifer (see left) which fell from his forehead when he lost his place in heaven.

In real terms, that “seeing eye” is the Knowledge of self-as-god which Lucifer exhibited, and which he offered mankind in the Garden of Eden.
Hitler saw in Wagner’s ‘Parsifal’ a detailed parable of the National Socialist philosophy as “a religious brotherhood of templars to guard the Holy Grail, the august vessel containing the pure blood“. (Hitler to Rauschning).
The Grail, defined here as the “vessel”, refers to the racially pure body which holds the blood that can comprehend the ‘True Will’. 
In search of this ‘holy blood‘ which contains the coveted knowledge of the ‘True Will’, every member of the SS was screened for purity of Aryan lineage, and was taught his duty to father as many racially pure children as possible.

Heinrich Himmler
Еле́на Блава́тская
Helena Blavatsky

Heinrich Himmler (see left) believed that if conception took place in an Aryan cemetery, the resulting child would receive the spirit of “all the dead heroes” buried there; accordingly, lists of Nordic cemeteries were published in the SS periodical ‘Das Schwarze Korps’.

Gnosticism had another, lesser-known influence on Völkisch religion, which also appears in ‘New Age’ thought: the Jewish God is not the ‘Most High’ and only God, but a “Demiurge” pretending to be such.
Helena Blavatsky (see right) agreed that the Gnostics “were right in regarding the Jewish God as belonging to a class of lower, material and not very holy denizens of the invisible world.”
In Blavatsky’s understanding, “only angels of a low hierarchy” could have created “those wretched races, in a spiritual and moral sense, which grace our globe.
The “moral wretchedness” referred to is Jewish obsession with the enjoyment of the material aspects everyday life, and their continual thanksgiving for every material blessing.
This attitude was condemned by the Gnostics, who considered the body and the physical world a prison which the mind must reject and transcend through meditation and magical rites, and escape to the “real” or spiritual world.

Jehovah
The Jewish God of the Old Testament

The “spiritual wretchedness” is the Jewish “Old Testament”, rejected by Gnostics as evil, which teaches that the Creator of heaven and earth is the ‘Most High God’.

Since materialism is evil, and “Jehovah” created the physical world, he must be evil as well: and merely a usurper of the title “God”.
The Jews, who persist in spreading their teachings, are the tools of Satan, and their influence in the world is deadly to human souls.
Hitler reiterated this Gnostic doctrine: 
The Jew is the anti-man, – the creature of a lesser god.
Hitler was also known for his severely simple lifestyle, voluntarily shunning material pleasures, physical appetites and a meat diet – all classic Gnostic elements of “purification from the world“.
This cosmology, by placing the Jews in alliance with cosmic Evil neatly reinforced the Völkisch pursuit of racial purity: not only was the Aryan race threatened with defilement on a genetic level, but on a spiritual level as well.

Führer und Reichskanzler
Adolf Hitler – Speaking
Wagner’s Parsifal
from the film by
Hans-Jürgen Syberberg

For Hitler (see right) the Gnostic themes of the Grail quest and the cosmic struggle between Light and Darkness were perfectly portrayed in Richard Wagner’s ‘Parsifal’.

Being an occult initiate, Hitler was aware of the Gnostic message behind “the externals of the story, with its Christian embroidery… the real message was pure, noble blood, in whose protection and glorification the brotherhood of the initiated have come together.”
Gnosticism also clarifies some otherwise unintelligible proclamations, like those by Völkisch apologist, writer and philosopher, Alfred Rosenberg: “The earth-centered Jew lacks a soul“; and “The continuing existence of the Jew would lead to a void, to the destruction not only of the illusory earthly world but also of the truly existent, the spiritual.
These statements, and also his insistence that “The denial of the world needs… to grow so that it will acquire a lasting predominance over affirmation of the world,” only makes sense to a grail seeking Gnostic. 


© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Adolf Hitler

Arno Breker
Heroic Head


Adolf Hitler’s interpretation of Parsifal –
  “I have built up my religion out of Parsifal.  Divine worship in solemn form … without pretenses of humility … One can serve God only in the garb of the hero”  


   ‘What is celebrated in Wagner’s ‘Parsifal’ is not the Christian religion of compassion, but pure and noble blood, – blood whose purity the brotherhood of initiates has come together to guard.

 ‘I have built up my religion out of Parsifal.’
The king (Amfortas) then suffers an incurable sickness, caused by his tainted blood.

Then the unknowing but pure human being (Parsifal) is led into temptation, either to submit to the frenzy and to the delights of a corrupt civilisation in Klingsor’s magic garden, or to join the select band of knights who guard the secret of life, which is pure blood itself.

Der Speer des Schicksals
© Peter Crawford 2012

‘All of us suffer the sickness of miscegenated, corrupted blood.

Note how the compassion that leads to knowledge applies only to the man who is inwardly corrupt, to the man of contradictions.
And Eternal life, as vouchsafed by the Grail, is only granted to those who are truly pure and noble !
Only a new nobility can bring about the new culture.
If we discount everything to do with poetry, it is clear that elitism and renewal exist only in the continuing strain of a lasting struggle.
A divisive process is taking place in terms of world history.
The man who sees the meaning of life in conflict will gradually mount the stairs of a new aristocracy.
He who desires the dependent joys of peace and order will sink back down to the unhistorical mass, no matter what his provenance.
But the mass is prey to decay and self-disintegration.
At this turning- point in the world’s revolution the mass is the sum of declining culture and its moribund representatives.
They should be left to die, together with all kings like Amfortas.’

“The old beliefs will be brought back to honor again.
The whole secret knowledge of nature, of the divine, the demonic.
We will wash off the Christian veneer and bring out a religion peculiar to our race.”

Adolf Hitler

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