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"Musical Review" Criticised

By George B. Weston .

The "Harvard Musical Review." for May is appropriately devoted to Wagner, who was born the 22nd of May, 1813.

By far the most interesting and valuable of the Wagner features of the number is Professor White's article "Some Sources of Richard Wagner's Ideas and Ideals," brief but suggestive account of the main forces that contributed to shape Wagner's ideas, with a historical review of pre-Wagnerian reform-movements.

In his album-leaf characterization, d'Indy's frank acknowledgement of the debt of present-day composers to Wagner is an agreeable testimony to the artistic sincerity of the distinguished French musician. There are those of his countrymen who are suspiciously over-emphatic in their denial of the Wagnex influence.

There is good sense, as well as generous enthusiasm--a rare combination in musical critics--in Ernest Newman's "After Wagner--What? Most of the short article is occupied with a discussion of certain aspects of Wagner's greatness, such as his never-relaxing grasp, down to the smallest details, of his vast material.

Whether, however,--quoting Newman--"the time is now surely ripe for someone to take up all modern music into one vast synthesis," may be questioned. Newman, as others have done, cites Michelangelo among great men with whom Wagner deserved to rank. It may one day be recognized that the two have not only commanding genius in common, but that they hold by no means dissimilar positions in the history of their respective arts. We look upon the exaggerations and fads in the art of the age succeeding Michelangelo with the same contemptuous pity for so much wasted talent and endeavor, with which future historians of music may one day regard the antics of the post-Wagnerians in their feverish straining after originality.

Were an ornithologist suddenly to stumble upon a real live dodo, his pleasure, but not his surprise, might be greater than that of a music-lover of 1913 on finding himself confronted with Mr. Goepp's "Is Wagner a Master?" Mr. Goepp supports his negative answer with all the impressiveness and argumentive force which the printing of the word "no" in italics can confer. However, the right to his own opinion is one far from the present reviewer be the attempt to dissuade Mr. Goepp from his honest conviction that Wagner was "destructive of melody," that his career was "decadent," and what not.

Sweeping generalizations, slap-dash impressions and random notions calmly labelled "facts," all delivered pell-mell in a kind of word-storm, seriously impair the value of the article "Wagner--After the Noise of Battle," by H. K. Moderwell '12. For example, if anyone of the ancient objections to Wagner's voiceparts. has been amply refuted by the experience of the last forty years, it is that they "tend to tear his singers to pieces," as the author of this article affirms. It has, on the contrary, been observed again and again that the only singers whose voices have been seriously injured by singing the more heroic Wagner roles, have been those who have either not known how to sing, or whose voices were by nature unsuited to highly dramatic music.

If it be true of Wagner, as is further stated, that "in general he over shot himself," it is to be feared that our critic has not escaped the contagion.

The varied offerings of this Wagner number, uneven in value though they be, testify to the energy of the "review" editors, who deserve thanks for having gathered material which shown that after all, the Wagner question is still a live one.

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