On the Wagner Trauermusik [1844]

David Whitwell

This score, consisting of music taken from Carl Maria von Weber’s opera, Euryanthe, arranged for large wind band in 1844 by Wagner, is one of the most important compositions in the band’s repertoire. It is not a funeral march,but rather an elegy in the memory of Weber and has always been heard in concert performances as a particularly moving composition, an experience not common in the band’s repertoire. After a performance in 1927, for example, by the New York Philharmonic, conducted by the famous Willem Mengelberg, the New York critic, Herbert Peyser, wrote this music,

was profoundly moving, so filled with specious and majestic solemnity … magnificent and heart-shaking …

And that is how audiences all over the world have continued to hear this masterpiece to the present day.

Carl Maria von Weber died on 5 June 1826, in London at age thirty-nine. In spite of his great popularity in London, he was denied the use of the great cathedral, St. Paul, for his funeral service because he was a Catholic. Therefore, his public memorial service was held in a small Catholic Chapel, St. Mary Moorfields, at the corner of East Street, Finsbury Circus.

Early on the morning of 21 June 1826, a long funeral procession left the house of Sir George Smart in Great Portland Street, where Weber had been staying while in London for the premiere of Oberon. We are told in Weber’s biography written by his son, Max, that throngs filled the streets to see the almost medieval pomp surrounding the occasion. The Chapel itself was hung with black and blazing with wax-lights and was filled with a crowd of 2,000 persons, surely an exaggeration. As the casket neared the entrance of the Chapel, with priests standing at the door, music from Mozart’s Requiem burst forth. The son recalled “the deepest emotion was on every face … The singers trembled as they sang.”1 After this ceremony the casket, made in the shape of a violin, was deposited in the crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral, where it remained virtually forgotten.

By 1841, some fifteen years later, there began in Germany a growing concern that the remains of Weber be returned to Dresden. There were newspaper articles, committees appointed and concerts given to raise money, including one by the Dresdener Liedertafel and a significant one in Berlin conducted by Meyerbeer. All this interest had little actual result until 1844 and the involvement by the young assistant musical director in Dresden, Richard Wagner. Fundamental to Wagner’s plans was to be a great procession which would welcome the boat from London when it arrived on the Elbe River in Dresden and would accompany the casket to the catholic cemetery where a vault had been prepared to temporarily deposit the casket.

On 25 October 1844 the English ship, John Bull, carrying Weber’s coffin docked at Hamburg. Ships from all over the world fired their cannons, dipped their colors in tribute and the Funeral March from the Eroica Symphony was played as the body was transferred to a small boat for the journey down the Elbe. But the river froze at Wittemberg and the boat became stuck. After the ship became frozen, the coffin was removed and placed on a railroad car and continued to a station in Dresden, arriving on the morning of 13 December.2 Here the coffin was placed on a cart and removed to a disembarkation wharf3 on the left bank of the Elbe opposite the Packhof building. Here in the late afternoon it was placed on a similar ship, a ship made by the same maker of the ship which had left England and one already known to the residents of Dresden for it had, on a similar occasion, once brought the remains of King Antonus of Pillnitz to Dresden. Now the ship flags were at half-mast in honor of Weber.

On the following day, 14 December, a dense crowd was waiting by the wharf and countless masses of human beings in solemn silence lined the streets from the black-draped quay to the catholic cemetery in Friedrichsstadt.4 The participants began to arrive at 6:00pm, including members of three singing clubs, the Orpheus, the Liedertafel and the Liederkranz, the chorus employed by the king and the chorus of the Theater. In addition, invited were numerous members of the Royal Musical Chapel, acclaimed and beloved masters, Kapellmeister Reissiger and music director Röckel, the twelve oldest former members of the court musical establishment, together with more than one hundred men bearing burning wax torches and laurel wreaths. There were three military bands from regiments of the line and one from the Communal Guarde.5

The singers were formed in a large semicircle near the wharf and closed by a sea of fire of 120 torches, carried by members of the garrison artillery, in its midst were invited friends of Weber, his surviving son, Maximilian von Weber, members of the committee who had organized this ceremony and members of the Weber Foundation. Into this semicircle, on a black blanket, was now placed Weber’s lead coffin, formed in the shape of a violin in a wood case which was stained black with brass handles and decorations on the lid including a large copper plate with Weber’s name in Latin. Now the Antikenkabinet director, Herr Schulz, recited an effectively composed poem, “Gruss.” The 1200 choral members, under the direction of Kapellmeister Reissiger, began to sing a solemn song, beginning with the words, “Be grateful for your glorious cradle at its destination in the Heaven-land.”6 One newspaper states that Wagner’s Trauermusik was played at this time, before the procession began.7

Now a laurel wreath was placed on the coffin and it was moved to a nearby hearse, which was decorated with the Arms of the Weber family, made in London as part of the departure ceremony there. Next the procession began, with torch bearers in a line on both sides of the procession. The band was followed by the hearse, now hung with white silk ribbons and silver tassels, accompanied by members of the Weber Committee, Weber’s son, Maximilian von Weber, Hofrath Winkler, who had been the guardian of the Weber family and the chamber musician, Furstenau, who had accompanied Weber to London and had been present at his funeral there. Finally there came friends and companions and the singers amidst an interminable line of flaming torches which dimly showed the black banner on which were inscribed the words, “Weber in Dresden!” The accompanying public crowd was described as “countless.”

The whole scene offered an impressive and dignified sight! Arriving at the catholic cemetery the coffin was received in the chapel by the clergy and the Ladies of the Opera in mourning robes, who adorned it with garlands and flower arrangements.8

The important question today is, how did Wagner’s Trauermusik function in this ceremony? In Wagner’s own account of the band’s participation one clearly gets the impression that this was only processional music. But the reality of this is difficult to imagine. Aside from the fact that the tempo and notation of this music, with its long note values and soft dynamics is completely unsuited for marching, the absence of music stands and the dark of night makes imagining playing this music while marching down the street seem impossible. Furthermore, since two newspapers described Wagner as the conductor of his music, I, for one, find it quite impossible to imagine Wagner walking backward in front of the bands and conducting during this very cold and dark procession.

More significant, the character of the music is that of an elegy, not a march. Indeed, the Leipziger Zeitung, gives a description which sounds more like an elegy than a march, “based on the beautiful Weber song from Euryanthe, ‘A quiet brook, where pastures stand.’ ” Also Wagner organized a poster before the ceremony [a copy can be seen in the Leipziger Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung for 11 December 1844] seeking donations for the event, which promises a “great musical performance,” which, again, would not seem to reflect mere processional music. And we note that Wagner himself, in a letter, called this work a symphonic composition.

On the other hand, those members of the ceremonial military bands would have in their repertoire processional music for such occasions memorized from constant use which would have required neither music stands nor a conductor.

If some form of this music was indeed performed during the hour and a half procession to the chapel, it would seem more likely that Wagner also created a shorter and more regular version specifically to be played when walking. The fact that the original materials in Wagner’s hand are lost9 leaves this a possibility. One observer heard “a grandiose Trauermarsch by Wagner on motives from Weber’s Euryanthe,”10 a description, “grandiose,” which does not sound like the Trauermusik we know and also provides a title, Trauermarsch, which Wagner never ever used.

Finally, there could be a model for such a circumstance of making a special version for marching purposes. I would offer the suggestion that Wagner’s plan for this ceremony was likely inspired by a similar great procession which he had personally viewed in Paris only four years before in 1840, when the Funeral March, the first movement of the great Symphony for Band by Berlioz, was used for the initial part of a great memorial service for the remains of citizens killed in an earlier political uprising in Paris.11 Much as is the case with the Wagner Trauermusik, the first movement of the Berlioz Symphony we know today is completely unsuitable for use in a street parade, due to its rubato, changes in tempi and general musical sensitivity. We know today that Berlioz had created some special version for use in marching and this manuscript, which was lost in WWII, was even in a different key than the movement we know today.

Chronology of Wagner’s Trauermusik scores

Original autograph sketches

In the 1960s, when I was living in Vienna, I took the opportunity to visit Wagner’s home, Wanfried, in Bayreuth. At that time the home still contained Wagner’s original furniture and wall coverings, making a visit a very memorable experience. At that time they also had in Wanfried a small library of Wagner’s manuscripts among which I discovered the original two-line sketches for the Trauermusik, which at that time were unidentified on this manuscript.

In this autograph sketch, which is clearly Wagner’s starting point for this masterpiece, it is evident he was scoring and transposing at sight from some earlier score, presumably a full opera score itself. We find here no title and no introduction, the first sixteen measures. The repeat sign exists, which would appear at this time to be a repeat back to measure 17 of the later version. The ending includes the very important ties in the upper voices, which all subsequent editions fail to indicate. Also, the notation of the lower brass in the final two bars clearly shows the separation which is necessary to create the effect of large church bells bringing the work to a close.12

We also can see in mm. 22–23 of this original sketch the origin of the most important mistake found in all later editions. Here, and in modern editions, we see a powerful crescendo in m. 22, followed by a subito pp in m. 23. Taken literally, such a performance sounds wrong. If m. 22 contained only quarter-notes, it might be possible to then expand the crescendo a bit and think of the subito pp as some sort of dramatic effect. However the final eighth-note in m. 22 creates such strong forward motion that a sudden subito pp results in something more like musical humor, something clearly out of character with this music.

The fact is there are two errors in these measures. In m. 23, this same music in the autograph opera score contains an accent on the downbeat in all moving voices, which is exactly what the ear of any musician would expect, not a subito pp. Secondly Wagner, like most musicians today, misunderstood the pp of the accompanying voices to be meant in the modern tradition, suddenly soft. But the fact is, in Italian there is an alternative definition, which is still in use today, meaning suddenly slower. This was more common in the Classical Period and we must remember that while Weber is thought of today as the harbinger of the Romantic style, his own training was in the Classical School, as a student of Michael Haydn.

However, while the omission of the downbeat with an accent in m. 23 remains Wagner’s mistake, it appears that the real error existed in the score from which Wagner was copying from, which was not the actual Weber autograph score. How this happened deserves an explanation.

On one occasion when I was in Milan I had the opportunity to see a small exhibit at the La Scala Opera House honoring Mozart and his Marriage of Figaro. I was astonished to see in one cabinet an autograph score by Mozart with a title on top in his handwriting, in German, “Conductor’s score.” It consisted of essentially a piano reduction, filled with cues for singers, etc. But one was struck by the fact that not only was Mozart the composer of this opera, but he at that time still owned the full autograph scores. Why would he go to all the effort to make this piano score for use in his own conducting? The answer is obvious when you see any one of the three large volumes which contain the autograph score for the opera.13 Any one of them would not only collapse the small music rack on the harpsichord, but would result in the conductor being so busy turning pages that he could not cue the singers. It was for this reason that Mozart created a “conductor’s score” for his own use in performance.

During my years of research in European libraries I also visited the personal archives belonging to the major opera houses. There I found a number of these reduced “conductor’s scores,” all done by anonymous scribes for the same purpose as in the Mozart example. Wagner, when conducting this opera himself in Dresden, knew and had conducted from one of these “conductor scores,” which evidently contained this error. In this case it is known that after the premiere of Euyranthe} in Vienna in 1823, the original autograph score was returned to the Weber family and was not seen by anyone for the remainder of the nineteenth century. We cannot look further for the copyist’s score which Wagner knew and used, for this score was burned in the famous fire bombing of Dresden in WWII. When I examined the autograph score, now in Berlin, I noticed that though it had been in a safe, it too had water damage from this sad event.

Autograph score, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (Mus.ms. Autogr.R. Wagner 3)

This autograph score (hereafter MM3) has always been taken as the original autograph score since it is in Wagner’s hand and is dated (15 Nov. 44). However, this cannot be said to be the original score for one can immediately see that this one, MM3, is itself a copy of some previous score. Furthermore, the instrumentation given in the left margin of the first page is in two different hands, or at least in two different styles of German, and clearly appears to have been written at two different times. First were written the names of the instruments in very clearly written modern German, but wedged in over the top of each instrument is additional information in a small, Gothic German handwriting, appearing to be a record of the number of players in the first performance in 1844. For example the oboe staff was originally written as “Oboen,” in modern German, but above we read “4 first and 3 second,” written in smaller, Gothic German.

This autograph score has no title, is marked Adagio and is in common time. There is, however, a loose sheet which appears to be in the hand of Wagner which gives the title he always used in his correspondence, Trauermusik. On this same sheet is a comment by Dr. Arthur Schurig of Dresden, the last private owner of this manuscript, indicating that he obtained this “sublime manuscript” from his uncle, Volkmar Schurig (1822–1899).

The manuscript which Volkmar owned appears to me to be the one we know today as MM3, but we have no further information on how or when he obtained it from Wagner. Another early name also associated with this period was a Mrs. Rudolf Tishatscheck of Dresden, who apparently owned a manuscript score of the Trauermusik, but now named Trauersinfonie. It was this score which was the basis for the first publication of the original music, by Breitkopf and Härtel in 1926, and is discussed further below.

While it seems difficult to trace the original ownership of the autograph score, or scores, correspondence between Wagner and the publisher, Fritzsch in 1871, implies that in May 1871 Wagner believed that his original score was still in Dresden and that only by 30 June 1871 had the score returned to him.14

The First Publication for piano, 1860

It appears that a renewed interest among the public in the music of Carl Maria von Weber resulted in the raising of a statue of the composer in front of the State Theater in Dresden in 1860. This, in turn, seems to have been the occasion for the publication of the Trauermusik, now under the title Trauer Sinfonie, in a version for piano. The arranger of this music for piano was Adolf Josef Maria Blassmann (1823–1891), a Dresden concert pianist and student of Liszt. The first edition for piano was published in 1860 in Dresden by C.F. Meser [plate 666] and a second edition in Berlin by Adolf Fürstner [plate 2997].

It seems most likely that the score Blassmann was using to create his piano arrangement was the original MM3. We assume this because it appears the autograph MM3 was still in Dresden in 1860, Blassmann and the publisher were in Dresden and we know from Wagner’s letter to the Leipzig publisher Fritzsch of 30 June 1871 that the score was only then returned to him. The piano publication itself is of little help in this regard, because Blassmann has made many alterations in order for the music to sound well on piano.

1885 Mehner copy

The most recent European publication of the Trauermusik score is found in the latest Richard Wagner, Complete Works (Mainz: Schott, 1997), XVIII, and gives as one of its three sources15 a manuscript in the hand of one of Wagner’s copyists, Carl Mehner, who died after 1878. This score, now in the Berlin Staatsbibliothek (Ms. ms. 22505),16 which was last in the possession of Wilhelm Tappert (1830–1907), a Dresden teacher and critic.17 Although this score uses the later title, Trauersinfonie, it lacks the trombones entrance in m. 16 which are found in MM3 but missing in later scores by Mottl and Balling. The Mehner score carries no date, there is a note of Feb. 1885 saying that this score was recently used in a performance on a Museum concert in Munich, conducted by Hermann Levi, conductor of the Court Opera in Munich.

1894 Anton Seidl manuscript

The fiftieth anniversary of the original performance of Wagner’s Trauermusik as part of the ceremony which welcomed the arrival of the remains of Carl Maria von Weber to Dresden, occurred in 1894. This anniversary appears to be responsible for the appearance of at least two new manuscript copies of the Trauermusik.

In 2017 I had the good fortune to discover one of these scores which was prepared for this celebration, which appears to have been unknown until I found it. And this manuscript score must be considered an important one, for it is in the hand of Anton Seidl (1850–1898) who was the most important copyist of Wagner and from 1872 to 1878 actually lived in the Wagner household. We can document at least one other arrangement for band by Seidl, the Brunnhilde’s Awakening from the Ring which was published with a note, “Done under the personal supervision of the Master.” In addition to this close association with Wagner, we have the intriguing note by Seidl himself the Trauermusik, “Composed for the re-internment of the ashes of von Weber, Dresden, 1844. Scored by Seidl from Wagner’s sketches.”

Together with the discovery of this manuscript, we are also fortunate to have the only original complete set of parts yet to be found. The date when Seidl finished his score he gives as 29 November 1894 and two weeks later Seidl conducted this version on 15 December 1894 in an anniversary concert with the New York Philharmonic, with the program title in the English translation, Funeral Music.18 Seidl was the conductor of the New York Philharmonic from 1891 until his death in 1898. His tenure as conductor of the orchestra was of a very high level and included his commission and premiere of the New World Symphony of Dvorak in the previous year 1893. The printed program for this fiftieth anniversary concert19 by Seidl and the New York Philharmonic calls this the first performance of the Trauermusik in America and points out that it is for wind instruments only, which confirms Seidl’s own score was used, and not someone’s arrangement for orchestra.

This Seidl score gives the tempo as Langsam, like the piano arrangement of 1860 and the score title as Trauermusik like the MM3 score of 1844, although there are some extra title pages in Seidl’s hand which use the title Trauersinfonie. The fact that the trombones are present in bar 16, also points to the MM3 score. Of the various scores made by others after 1844, this is the only one which specifies that it was made from “sketches.” Since Seidl began his association with Wagner in 1872, the year following Wagner’s own reacquisition of the autograph score, MM3, and because Seidl, together with Wagner himself, had made an additional, but separate, band transcription of Brunhilde’s Erwachen, it is possible that Seidl had had the MM3 copy in his possession after 1872 and only got around to making his edition for the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary.

The discovery of the Seidl score offers some additional insights, because it survived together with the only early original set of parts for the Trauermusik. Since these parts were made and used for the performance of the New York Philharmonic conducted by Seidl, we have some important insights into the rehearsals, in the form of markings made by the players, that is, how this close personal associate of Wagner interpreted this composition. These markings in the parts, together with the markings in the score which vary from modern editions include the following:

  1. Markings indicate Seidl conducted in 4, and his score is also notated in common time.
  2. The parts have a rall. added in m. 14.
  3. M. 16 has a fermata with a symbol indicating a break after the fermata.
  4. MM. 19–20 have a crescendo–diminuendo added.
  5. The accompanying brass all have a final quarter-note rest in m. 19, not an eighth-note rest.
  6. MM. 28–29 has a tie in the Seidl part for Clarinet 2 and 4.
  7. MM. 29–30 has a tie for Oboe 2 and Clarinet 2.
  8. MM. 30–31 has a tie in the Oboe 2 and Clarinet 4.
  9. In m. 31 the trombones have a half-note E-flat on the first half of the bar and Trombone 2 continues with an F half-note in the second half of the bar. This E-flat is an important correction in the harmony which is missing in later editions.
  10. In m. 32 the Seidl score begins the percussion roll which begins in m. 37 in later editions.
  11. In m. 33 of the Seidl score Horns 3 and 4 were first written an octave lower, then crossed out and written an octave higher, as in modern editions.
  12. In m. 37 of the Seidl score there is no dolce. The lower clarinets are slurred by the measure, not by the beat, and Horns 1 and 2 are not portamento, but rather with tenuto signs. Bassoon 1 should have a tie in mm. 38–39, and again in 39–40.
  13. In mm. 39–40 the Tuba should be notated exactly as in mm. 37–38.
  14. In m. 41 Horns 3 and 4, Bassoons and Percussion should have only an eighth-note on the first beat, not a quarter-note.
  15. In m. 46 Horns 1 and 2 were first written an octave lower, then crossed out and written an octave higher, as in modern editions.
  16. In mm. 45–46 and 47–48 the Tuba should have a slur to a lower dotted half-note on F.
  17. Seidl gives new bassoon notes not found in other early scores, including m. 45: both unison F, 4th line. m. 46, C and E-flat above the staff. m. 47, B-flat and D above the staff. m. 48 like m. 46. These new notes, however, were not copied into the parts.
  18. Percussion should be marked f, beginning in m. 52 and not in m. 53.
  19. In m. 56 Clarinets 3 and 4 should be changed to the enharmonically correct D-sharp.
  20. In m. 60 the correct pitch for Trumpet 2 is E-flat, not F. Trombones and Tuba should read piano crescendo in this measure.
  21. In m. 66 Trombones, Euphonium and Tuba should read pp in this measure and again in m. 69, and Horns 3 and 4 in m. 69.
  22. In m. 68 the Tuba on the 3rd beat and the next down beat should be one octave lower.
  23. In mm. 70–71 the Bassoons and Horn 2 should have a tie.
  24. In mm. 84–85 it is very important that the woodwinds which have the same pitch in both bars should be notated as a tie. The lower brass with half-notes should be played as individual fermati with a space between the notes, resulting in the effect of three great church bells ringing.

1894 Höstel copy

Yet another manuscript score was created in this anniversary year, one by the Dresden composer and band conductor, Kurt Höstel (1862–1929).20 Kurt Mey, writing twelve years later in 1906, tells us that Höstel’s score was made “down to the smallest detail accurate” of the MM3 manuscript.21 Mey writes that in fact Höstel made two copies at this time, one of which belonged to Mey [thus he identifies it as the same as MM3 and recommends as being the one which should be published] and one was donated to the Wagner Museum in Beyreuth, then housed in Wanfried. Unfortunately, according to the scholar, Keith Kinder, none of the Höstel scores have as yet been discovered.

1897, Trauersinfonie, manuscript score22 dated July 6, 1897

By Felix Mottl (1856–1911), Austrian conductor and briefly a copyist for Wagner.23 This score is discussed below as the source for the 1926 edition.

1926 First Musicological Edition

In the Collected Works of Wagner, ed. Michael Balling, Vol. 20, Breitkopf \& Härtel, 1926, as Trauersinfonie.

The occasion for the publication of this score was no doubt the 100th anniversary of the death of Weber. A performance in this year was given in Munich from the balcony of the opera house, conducted by Fritz Busch.

This edition was based on a manuscript given to Balling in 1922 as a gift “declaring the authenticity and veracity of the content,” by Felix Mottl (1856–1911), an Austrian conductor and composer who had been one of the enthusiastic group of young men who were helping Wagner prepare for the first Bayreuth Festival in 1876.24 Mottl’s manuscript copy25 of the Trauermusik is dated “6.7.97, Marienbad.”

On the title page of this copy he gave to Balling there is a pencil note in Mottl’s handwriting which attests that he made this score on the basis of one in the possession of Mrs. Rudolf Tichatschek.26 Following this, he continued in pencil to point out that the word “Dresden” had been added to the printed title page which apparently accompanied Mrs. Tichatschek’s score. This printed title page, with Wagner’s added “Dresden” is no longer cataloged with Mottl’s copy today but is found instead together with the materials cataloged with the copy MM3. Finally, the title page of this 1897 manuscript in the hand of Mottl has, beneath the name of Wagner, the word “Tichatscheck.”

Today the question is, how is this manuscript physically related to the one which remains in the hand of Wagner, MM3. This is a very important question because the inference was that Mrs. Tichatscheck had an original Wagner manuscript score. But there are some significant differences with the MM3 score. First, whereas MM3 has no title27 on the first page of the score, both the Mottl and Balling scores carry the title, \Trauersinfonie. Second, whereas the Wagner score has Adagio as the tempo indication, the Mottl’s manuscript score has no tempo designation, although on Balling’s 1926 publication of it we find Andante maestoso. Third, the Wagner score has an entrance of the trombones in the last bar of the introduction, while the Mottl and Balling scores do not. Finally, while the Wagner manuscript is given in common time both Mottl and Balling have an alla breve sign.

While these distinctions are important, the rest of the score does reflect Mottl’s promise that his copy was authentic and had veracity. And it is important to stress the obvious, Mottl’s score is a copy of something. But what is it a copy of? In this regard I find one important clue. In the autograph score, MM3, in mm. 38–41, someone has written in the upper margin, above the score, a correction in the percussion part. The handwriting in this correction, both the music, the eighth-note stems and quarter-note rest, and especially the word “Tromeln” is precisely the handwriting of the MM3 score itself! In other words, it was Wagner himself who discovered this omission and added the correction in the margin above. But in these measures, 38–41, in both Mottl and Balling scores the corrected part is in its proper place on the percussion line. This means that whatever score Mottl was looking at while making his copy, it was after this correction by Wagner. And since Mottl was copying the corrected copy and because he has written “Tichatscheck” on the title page of his own copy, I am led to believe that the copy owned by Mrs. Tichatscheck was in fact the score we know today as MM3.28 And, afterall, we have the evidence of Mottl’s own handwriting on the score saying he copied from the score of Mrs. Tichatscheck.

Balling made it clear in his notes that he had not seen the autograph, but used a copy by Mottl which he was assured by Mottl was made from the autograph. This 1926 publication was the source for the American band edition by Erik Leidzen [NY: Associated Music Pub. 1949].

Performance Suggestions

In the opera, Euryanthe has lost her lover, Adolar, and she is walking on a forest path contemplating her fate. The principal emotion at m. 17, therefore, is nostalgia. In such a place I ask the players to think of something for which they feel nostalgia while they play—it could be a friend, mother, first pet, etc. And if they do so, you will hear an astonishing change in the sound of the band.

Believing herself as being responsible for the break with Adolar, she wants to die. While walking in the woods we hear at m. 25 the soft rustling of the leaves and she sees a beautiful clearing in the woods [mm. 25 and 26] and sings “and over there” [the trumpet solo]; and again at m. 28, a place for her to be buried.

As in life’s path the unexpected happens, so in m. 32 she comes upon a dragon. Here the low brass must create the image of the dragon being awakened, rising up and lying back down again. We must understand this passage to be the origin of the great dragon which we find later in Siegfried.

The music of this great masterpiece has never sounded to me like Trauer music; it is not sad and it also does not sound like a funeral march. In the opera it is all about the meditations of Euryanthe. Since the terms Trauermusik or Trauersinfonie have application only to how Wagner used this music in the ceremony of 1844, for concert performance today I prefer to call this composition, Meditations of Euryanthe.

Finally a note on the first 16 measures of this composition as we know it today. This music does not appear in Wagner’s original sketch, but does in the autograph score, MM3. Here it was presumably scored for enough instruments to be heard outdoors. But the original music in Weber’s manuscript is scored very soft, for soli, divisi eight-part violins and marked not only pp, but muted! Judging by similar passages in similar places in Weber this is evidently intended to be a choir of angels. In order to make these bars more angelic (and easier to balance!) I rescore the first 16 measures for only a few woodwinds./p>

David Whitwell, 2018

  1. Max von Weber, The Life of an Artist, II Chapman and Hall, 1865, 477ff. []
  2. The most detailed description of the first day, 14 December 1844, of the ceremony is found in the Leipziger Zeitung of 17 December 1844. An issue of this same paper for the day before the ceremony worried that the “sharp cold” would bring the participants harm. Another lengthy account can be found in a paper issued two days later, on 19 December, the Dresden Beiblätter zu den Correspondenz-Nachrichten der Abend-Zeitung. []
  3. Ausschiffungsplatz, confirmed in all sources, refers specifically to a ship wharf and not a train station. []
  4. Carl Maria Von Weber, John Hamilton Warrack and John Warrack, p. 364ff. []
  5. Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (Leipzig) of 18 December 1844. []
  6. Beibläatter zur Kassselschen Allgemeinen Zeiung, December 23, 1844. []
  7. Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, 23 December 1844. Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (Liepzig) of 18 December 1844, reports that the Wagner Trauermusik was performed only at the end of the procession, as the hearse reached the doors of the chapel. []
  8. Allgemeine Wiener Musik-Zeitung, 31 December 1844. On the second day of this ceremony, 15 December 1844, the Trauermarch was not used, but Wagner made a long, heartfelt oration, which is quoted in David Whitwell, Wagner on Bands (Whitwell Books), available from amazon.com. []
  9. The “autograph manuscript,” in Berlin is actually only a copy of an unknown original score. []
  10. Dresden Beiblätter zu den Correspondenz-Nachrichten der Abend-Zeitung []
  11. One writer has suggested Wagner was inspired by Napoleon’s reburial at Les Invalides in Paris on December 1840. See Philipp Ther, Center Stage = Operative Culture and Nation Building in the 19th Century. []
  12. We also find in the sketches, in the transition passage in the present mm. 51–53, Wagner doubles the rhythmic notation of the original passage in the opera. Perhaps Wagner felt the original speed was too fast for the majestic version he had in mind, but in expanding this passage he created a very difficult intonation problem for the woodwinds, creating a crescendo in this unison, highly placed line. []
  13. For many years, one of these three volumes resided in East Germany and rarely was seen by scholars. One more recent western scholar, when she was allowed to examine this “lost” volume, wrote that she had to push her chair away from the table while reading it, in order to prevent her tears from falling on the pages! []
  14. The letters are quoted in John Deathridge, Martin Geck and Egon Voss, in Wagner Werk-Verzeichnis (Mainz, Schott, 1985), 304. []
  15. The other two are Mottl and MM3. []
  16. Another copy in the state library in Dresden was burned during WWII. []
  17. Tappert, in his Musikalisches Wachenblatt, 1872, describes a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony during which Wagner got so excited he broke his baton. []
  18. This concert also included a performance of Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony, Anton Rubinstein’s Overture to Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra and a Concerto for Piano by MacDowell. []
  19. The program gives the starting time of the concert as 8:15pm, with ticket prices ranging from “Parquet” at $2.00 to the balcony, after the first two rows, at 78 cents. []
  20. Höstel also finished Wagner’s libretto for Wieland der Schmied [Wieland the Smith] and composed music for it. Höstel describes himself as “One who has thought and lived in the Wagner tradition.” []
  21. Kurt Mey, Richard Wagners Webertrauermarsch, in Bernard Schuster (ed), Die Musik VI, vol. 12, Berlin and Leipzig, 1906/1907. He identifies this score as the same as MM3. []
  22. Now in the Wagner Museum, Bayreuth, Bm 7, and first performed by the Munich Hofkapelle in 1905. []
  23. Mottl observed, “Everything I can do, I owe to this Bayreuth apprenticeship.” []
  24. When one considers how busy Wagner must have been in preparing the music for this first Bayreuth Festival in 1876, it must surely explain why the composition he wrote for the celebration of the American Independence in the same year is so poor. []
  25. Now housed in the Wagner Museum in Bayreuth. []
  26. The Tichatschek family were close friends with Wagner during his Dresden residence. []
  27. Wagner, in his correspondence, always called it Trauermusik.” []
  28. Keith Kinder, the first modern scholar to publish much of the information about the early manuscripts, takes a different view, believing the score Mottl was copying in 1897 is unknown and that the Tichatscheck score is lost. []

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