Whatever my passions demand of me, I become for the time being — musician, poet, director, author, lecturer or anything else.
– Wagner, letter to Liszt
For me Wagner is impossible… he talks without ever stopping. One can’t just talk all the time.
– Robert Schumann, quoted in H Gall, Johannes Brahms (1961)
His is the art of translating, by subtle gradations, all that is excessive, immense, ambitious in spiritual and natural mankind. On listening to this ardent and despotic music one feels at times as though one discovered again, painted in the depths of a gathering darkness torn asunder by dreams, the dizzy imaginations induced by opium.
– Charles Baudelaire (1821-67), Richard Wagner et Tannhäuser à Paris (1861)
If one has not heard Wagner at Bayreuth, one has heard nothing! Take lots of handkerchiefs because you will cry a great deal! Also take a sedative because you will be exalted to the point of delirium!
– Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924), letter, 1884
Wagner’s art recognises only superlatives, and a superlative has no future. It is an end, and not a beginning.
– Edward Hanslick (1825-1904), in: Pleasants, ed., Hanslick’s Music Criticism (1950)
Is Wagner a human being at all? Is he not rather a disease? He contaminates everything he touches — he has made music sick. I postulate this viewpoint: Wagner’s art is diseased.
– Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Der Fall Wagner (1866)
Of all the affected, sapless, soulless, beginningness, endless, topless, bottomless, topsiturviest, scrannel-pipiest, tongs and boniest doggerel of sounds I ever endured the deadliest of, that eternity of nothing was the deadliest — as far as the sound went.
– William Ruskin, letter, 1882, referring to a performance of Die Meistersinger,
Wagner has lovely moments but awful quarters of an hour.
– Gioacchino Rossini, 1867
I have been told that Wagner’s music is better than it sounds.
– Mark Twain, Autobiography (1924)
Not until the turn of the century did the outlines of the new world discovered in Tristan begin to take shape. Music reacted to it as a human body to an injected serum, which it at first strives to exclude as a poison, and only afterwards learns to accept as necessary and even wholesome.
– Paul Hindemith (1895-1963), The Craft of Musical Compostions (1837)