THE OPERAS OF PETER CORNELIUS: A RATIONALE FOR
INCLUSION IN THE HIGHER LEVEL
ORVILLE TIMOTHY LAWTON
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Orville Timothy Lawton
This work is dedicated to my loving mother,
Theodora Ernestine Lawton,
and in loving memory of my father,
James William Lawton.
Their love and encouragement have sustained me.
This study would not have been possible without the help
of many people. Gratitude is hereby expressed to the
following persons whose encouragement and support were
extremely helpful in completing this project.
To my committee chairman Dr. Forrest W. Parkay, words of
thanks seem so inadequate for expressing my appreciation for
all the help he provided. His telephone calls to "see how
things are going" were very encouraging.
Cochairman Dr. David Z. Kushner, eminent musicologist,
advisor, and friend, provided invaluable friendship and
encouragement throughout the years.
Special thanks are given to other committee members:
Dr. S. Philip Kniseley, Mr. John Kitts, and Dr. Albert B.
Smith, III. Their assistance and encouragement are much
Mrs. Robena Eng-Cornwell, music librarian, gave
assistance well beyond the call of duty and became a dear
friend in the process.
I could not have completed this project without the
untiring help Ms. Geraldine Collins gave in securing the many
German articles and books through the Inter-Library Loan
Department. I am indebted to her.
Dr. Quincy "Q.C." Hilliard provided extremely valuable
assistance with the musical examples.
Frau Natalie Booth's interest and eagerness to help with
the German translations made my task easier. Special thanks
are given to her.
Elizabeth Graham and Julius Gilbert, my Gainesville
family, showed unfailing faith in me.
The moral support I received from Rachel Jerry, Eddie
Little, and Jausita "Cuz" Denson was more than I could ask
for. To each of them I am grateful.
My family has supported and encouraged me all the way.
Their love sustained me.
Finally, I would like to give heartfelt thanks to my
mother, Theodora Lawton. She is my greatest joy, my biggest
fan, and the one who gave her all to help me. All that I am
I owe to her.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ABSTRACT..... .......... ................................. viii
1 INTRODUCTION................................... 1
Statement of Purpose............................. 3
Need for the Study.............................. 4
Focus of the Study............................. 5
Definitions of Terms........................... 6
Organization of Chapters....................... 12
2 REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE................... 14
Books Written by Cornelius...................... 14
Books Written About Cornelius.................. 15
Articles Written About Cornelius............... 17
Other Books and Articles Related to the Study.. 20
3 BIOGRAPHY...................................... 24
Mainz and Wiesbaden (1824-1844)................ 24
Berlin (1844-1852) ............................. 27
Weimar (1853-1858) ............................. 29
Music at the Court of Weimar................... 31
Cornelius and Liszt............................ 45
Cornelius and Berlioz .......................... 50
Vienna (1859-1864): Cornelius and Wagner...... 52
Munich (1865-1874) ............................. 64
4 A BRIEF REVIEW OF OPERA IN GERMANY DURING
THE FIRST HALF OF THE 19TH CENTURY............. 69
Singspiel. ...................................... 69
Carl Maria von Weber......... .................... 75
Heinrich Marschner............................. 78
Albert Lortzing.................................. 79
Otto Nicolai .................................... 80
5 DER BARBIER VON BAGDAD: COMIC OPERA IN
TWO ACTS......................................... 83
History of the Text............................. 85
The Overture.................................... 96
Acts 1 and 2..................................... 108
Premier. ........................................ 150
6 DER CID: LYRIC DRAMA IN THREE ACTS............ 155
History of the Text........................... 159
The Burger Sonata as the Basis of Music for
Der Cid........................................ 164
The Overture................................... 171
Acts 1, 2, and 3................................. 176
7 GUNLOD: LYRICAL DRAMA IN THREE ACTS........... 220
History of the Text............................. 220
Acts 1, 2, and 3................................. 230
8 SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, AND IMPLICATIONS......... 288
MUSICAL WORKS .................................. 295
REFERENCES...... ......... ............................... 307
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .................................... 313
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
THE OPERAS OF PETER CORNELIUS: A RATIONALE FOR
INCLUSION IN THE HIGHER LEVEL
Orville Timothy Lawton
Chairman: Dr. Forrest W. Parkay
Cochairman: Dr. David Z. Kushner
Major Department: Educational Leadership
The 19th century, as did other periods in music history,
produced many great composers. Alongside the master
composers were musicians who worked on a smaller scale and
who were often neglected by the major writers of the period.
Peter Cornelius belongs to that distinguished minority of
nondemonstrative geniuses whose voices have been too rare and
too subtle to capture the attention of those who give heed
only to the inevitable. Although Cornelius's operas did not
attain popularity, this study shows that he was writing in a
style consistent with his contemporaries. His three operas,
therefore, can be cited as representative of German opera in
the time period 1858-1891.
Cornelius's literary and musical writings are an
invaluable source of material for studying the musical
climate of the mid-19th century. Their use in teaching
higher level courses in music history provides a wealth of
information the basic texts do not yield. His four volumes
of literary works have been used extensively by various
biographers of Liszt, Berlioz, and Wagner.
A survey of major music history sources provided only
basic information about Cornelius's work. This slight is not
easy to justify when one considers the quality of his work.
He has been an undeservedly neglected composer.
Extensive biographical information on Cornelius as well
as theoretical and historical analyses of his three operas,
Der Barbier von Bagdad, Der Cid, and Gunlod, are presented in
this study. Discussed are Cornelius's life and musical
training with particular attention given to his work in
various German cities and his relationship with composers
Liszt, Berlioz, and Wagner. The analyses focus on libretto,
thematic material, orchestration, meter, and formal design.
The relevance of these operas for study in higher level music
history courses is discussed and the relationship of these
operas to other operas of the period is considered.
Cornelius's operas are exemplary of the style and
technique of 19th-century musical practice and are,
therefore, relevant in teaching 19th-century music. This
study seeks to reawaken interest in Cornelius and his work as
well as to provide a stimulus for further research. A list
of Cornelius's musical works and a bibliography are included.
Peter Cornelius was not as present in the consciousness
of a musically interested public as Mozart, Schubert, Liszt,
or Wagner. In spite of being dually gifted as a poet and
musician, Cornelius did not epitomize the Romantic artist.
He was not the tremendous, overpowering artist that Wagner
was, nor was he a brilliant virtuoso and versatile man of the
world like Liszt, whose exploits won the admiration of his
contemporaries. Although a member of Liszt's circle,
Cornelius never became a blind partisan, developing instead
into an independent artistic figure (Massenkeil, 1977, p.
161). Monumentality and brilliance are foreign to him; depth
of feeling, intimacy, cordiality, simplicity, and purity are
the characteristics of his personality and his art. He
worked on a small scale, but on that scale he was prolific.
Today's circulation of Cornelius's work must also be
seen in relation to the works of other composers. An un-
fortunate trend of our musical life reveals that from the
very rich supply of valuable musical works of all ages, only
a small percentage is filtered out and performed. The
reasons for this are many, and only when one examines them,
can one easily answer the questions of what value the works
of Cornelius could have today. This widening uncertainty in
musical taste on the part of our music public leads to a
reduced selection of experiences. The widely known
compositions are seen as good, the less well-known as not-so-
good, and logically, they are not performed or rarely so. A
listening attitude develops as a consequence with the result
that the same few works are heard and learned well.
Cornelius wrote vocal music primarily, although some
purely instrumental works lie unpublished in the Vienna City
Library. These include the Entre Acte in F for orchestra:
Introduction. Andante and Polonaise for oboe and piano;
three sonatas for violin and piano; two string quartets; and
the Ouinter Walzer, Six Fugues, and Six Canons for piano.
Cornelius's preference for vocal music, in an age in
which instrumental virtuosity triumphed, had its roots in his
talent as poet and musician. Cornelius considered the human
voice the most wonderful form of musical expression, and from
this vantage point he composed vocal music compositions from
the smallest song form to the large opera. For Cornelius,
the song was the most personal form of expression of musical
organization in connection with the poetic component.
Consequently, many of his songs were not composed for the
concert hall, but rather must be considered as house music in
the best sense. For the most part, they were addressed quite
personally; for example, the OPUS 1 songs were published as
Musical Letters (Hoffman, 1977, p. 10). The goal of this
study of Cornelius and his three operas was to reawaken
interest in his works as well as to relate his works to our
times. Also discussed was the relevance of this material
in teaching higher level music history courses.
Purpose of the Study
The major purpose of this study was to provide extensive
biographical information on Peter Cornelius as well as
historical and theoretical analyses of his three operas. The
analyses focused on libretto, thematic material,
orchestration, meter, and formal design, all of which are
integral parts of existing courses devoted to musical
analysis in the higher level music curriculum.
A comparison of these elements showed stylistic traits
common to all of Cornelius's operas. Throughout this study
there was an attempt to answer the following questions:
1. How can biographical information on Cornelius
contribute to the teaching of higher-level music history?
2. Why are these operas relevant for study in higher
level music history courses?
3. What does an analysis of these operas reveal about
Cornelius's compositional style?
4. How do these operas relate to other operas of the
Need for the Study
The 19th century, as did other periods in music history,
produced many great composers. Alongside the great composers
were musicians who worked on a smaller scale and who were
often neglected by the major writers of the period. Peter
Cornelius belongs to that distinguished minority of
nondemonstrative geniuses whose voices have been too rare and
too subtle to capture the attention of those who give heed
only to the inevitable. Although Cornelius's operas did not
attain greatness, findings of this study indicate that he
wrote in a style consistent with his contemporaries and his
three operas, therefore, can be used as representative of
German opera in this time period, 1858-1891. Cornelius's
literary and musical writings are an invaluable source of
material for studying the musical climate of the mid-19th
century. Their use in teaching higher level courses in music
history would provide a wealth of information that basic
texts do not yield. His four volumes of literary works have
been used extensively by various biographers of Liszt,
Wagner, and Berlioz, yet the world at large knows him only as
the author of a delightful comedy, Der Barbier von Baqdad,
and some admirable choral music. Only the most basic facts
about Cornelius's life have been available in English; most
of the information about him is available in German.
A survey of major music history sources, such as Grout's
A History of Western Music, Ulrich and Pisk's A History of
Music and Musical Styles, The New Grove Dictionary of Music
and Musicians, Die Musik in Geschichte und Geaenwart,
Einstein's Music in the Romantic Era, and opera sources such
as The Simon and Schuster Book of Opera, Chase's The
Encyclopedia of Opera, Crowell's Handbook of World Opera, and
the Rosenthal-Warrick Concise Oxford Handbook of World Opera,
provided only basic information about Cornelius's work. This
slight is not easy to justify when one considers the quality
of Cornelius's work. He has been an undeservedly neglected
Focus of the Study
The present study focused on the following:
1. Extensive biographical information is given on Peter
Cornelius. Discussed is Cornelius's life and early musical
training with particular attention given to his work in
various German cities and his relationship with some of the
major composers of the period, such as Liszt, Berlioz, and
2. Peter Cornelius's three operas are analyzed.
In-depth analyses of Der Barbier von Bagdad, Der Cid, and
Gunl6d are presented. Only brief mention has been made of
Cornelius's other vocal works. Aside from the opera
overtures, Cornelius's purely instrumental works are not
discussed in these analyses.
Definition of Terms
For the purpose of this study, the following definitions
will be used:
Genre denotes a category of artistic composition
characterized by a particular style, form, or content.
Kappelmeister refers to the choirmaster in a court
Lied denotes a song in the German vernacular.
Terms Related to Opera
Accompanied recitative is speech-like singing, dramatic
rather than declamatory in style, with instrumental
Aria refers to an elaborate, well-developed solo vocal
piece with accompaniment in an opera or oratorio.
Ariette is a small aria preceded and followed by spoken
Berlin Lokalposse is a satirical farce on the manners
and habits of the German middle class. It is also the German
counterpart to the French Vaudeville.
Couplet, in 18th-century and 19th-century light opera,
denotes a strophic song of a witty character.
Duet denotes a composition for two performers or
Ensemble is a group of performers.
Libretto refers to the text of a vocal work, particu-
Liederspiel is a combination of play and opera in which
music and spoken dialogue alternate.
Opera buffa is Italian comic opera using characters
drawn from everyday life.
Parlando indicates that the voice must approximate
speech; in a sense, it is "spoken music," as distinguished
from the "musical speech" of the recitative.
Patter song denotes a comic song in which the greatest
number of words, delivered rapidly in conversational style,
are fitted into the shortest space of time.
Quodlibet describes a humorous composition consisting of
two or more complementary melodies played or sung together,
usually to different texts.
Singspiel refers to German comic opera using spoken
Vaudeville is a lyric drama typical of France. The
musical numbers deal very wittily with pertinent social or
political problems, mostly concerning the middle classes of a
Alliteration refers to the use of two or more words in
close succession that begin with the same initial letter or
Arabic meqamen are stories in rhymed prose, without
Ghasel denotes an Arabic lyric poem that begins with a
rhymed couplet whose rhyme is repeated in all even lines and
that is especially common in Persian literature.
Iambic meter in poetry signifies one unstressed syllable
followed by one stressed syllable.
Canon denotes a contrapuntal form whereby an extended
melody, stated in one part, is imitated strictly and in its
entirety in one or more other parts.
Formal design refers to the structure and design of a
Leitmotiv is a short, constantly recurring musical
phrase or theme used to denote characters, situations, and
Meter describes the basic pulse or beat in music.
Metric modulation refers to frequent change in meter.
Motif transition refers to musical themes leading from
one section of a work to another.
Motto denotes a formal proclamation of the subject to be
Orchestration refers to the instrumental scoring of
music for an orchestra.
Theme represents a musical idea that is the point of
departure for a composition.
Thematic material refers to the melodic subject matter
utilized in a musical composition.
The printed scores of the operas, Cornelius's
Literarische Werke and his Musikalische Werke were among the
primary sources used in this study. Der Barbier von Bacdad
(1858), Der Cid (1865), and Gunldd (1891) were published by
Breitkopf and Hartel in 1904 with reprint editions by Johnson
Reprint Corp., 1970. The Musikalische Werke (five volumes)
were first published by Breitkopf and Hartel in 1905-06 with
the reprint edition by Gregg International Publishers, Ltd.,
In addition to the aforementioned works, Carl Maria
Cornelius's Peter Cornelius, Der Wort und Tondichter, Gustav
Bosse Verlag, 1925; Helmut Federhofer's and Kurt Oehl's Peter
Cornelius als Komponist, Dichter. Kritiker und Essayist,
Gustav Bosse Verlag, 1977; and Max Hasse's Der Dichtermusiker
Peter Cornelius, Breitkopf and Hartel, 1922-23, were also
used as primary sources.
Secondary sources included Margaret Griffel's "Turkish
Opera from Mozart to Cornelius," Ph.D. Dissertation, Columbia
University, 1975; "The Song Cycles of Peter Cornelius (1824-
1874) with Emphasis on the Two Sacred Cycles: Vaterunser and
Weihnachtslieder" by Robert J. Seeley, Ph.D. Dissertation,
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1980; Jacques Barzun's
Berlioz and the Romantic Century, Little, Brown, and Co.,
1950; and Eleanor Perenyi's Liszt: The Artist as Romantic
Hero, Little, Brown, and Co., 1974.
A majority of the articles used in this study came from
major German periodicals such as Neue Z-itschrift fur Musik,
Die Music, Die Musikforschung, and Echo, for which Cornelius
wrote. Other sources for articles included English language
periodicals such as Music Journal, The Musical Quarterly, The
Musical Times, and The Music Review.
Collection of Data
The collection of data was accomplished by purchasing
the scores of the operas from Breitkopf and Hartel,
Wiesbaden, West Germany. A methodical search was conducted
through major German and English language periodicals and
journals. Books and other historical material were available
in the University of Florida Music Library and The Library of
Congress, Washington, D.C., as well as through the Inter-
Library Loan Division of The University of Florida Library.
Analysis of Data
The musical works used in this study have been analyzed
in terms of the libretto, thematic material, orchestration,
meter, and formal design. The procedures for analyzing each
component were as follows:
Libretto. Sources for the text of each of Cornelius's
three operas were discussed. A comparison was made between
the original sources and Cornelius's adaptation.
Thematic material. Cornelius developed the musical
ideas in his operas around the incidences and personages in
each opera. Through an analysis of each opera those
important musical ideas were extracted and discussed.
Orchestration. Cornelius's instrumental scoring for his
operas was highlighted here with special emphasis given to
his use of certain instruments to heighten the musical idea
Meter. Cornelius often composed in an irregular
metrical scheme. The consistent change from regular to
irregular time signatures seems to be a general principal of
creation for Cornelius. These instances of metric changes
Formal design. The structure and design of Cornelius's
operas was taken into consideration here. Attention was
focused primarily on the form of the overtures and on each
act in each opera with regard to the arias, duets, and small
and large ensembles.
As a result of the analyses of Cornelius's operas, this
study has shown that a reassessment and reevaluation of these
operas as significant works are warranted, and their inclu-
sion in such higher level music courses as opera literature,
the history of opera, 19th-century vocal music, and other
history and literature courses would, therefore, be
The analyses and musical examples can be used in music
curricula dealing with the teaching of theory, form and
analysis, composition, and orchestration at the community
college as well as at the university level. This analytical
approach trains students in the perception of articulations
and relationships. The analyses can also serve as a guide
for curriculum planners wishing to utilize Cornelius's operas
as supplements to other courses such as music appreciation
and opera workshop.
The author translated various writings on and by
Cornelius. These literary works were used as background
information to shed insight into Cornelius's life as well as
to focus attention on musical matters that the scores do not
yield. Throughout this study the author has provided English
translations of all direct quotations.
Organization of Chapters
Chapter 1 contains the introduction, statement of
purpose, need for the study, focus of the study, definitions
of terms, methodology, and organization of chapters.
Chapter 2 contains a review of significant literature
related to Cornelius's musical output. Books by Cornelius as
well as other literary writings about him have been reviewed.
Chapter 3 contains extensive biographical information on
Cornelius. Particular attention has been given to
Cornelius's work in various German cities and his relation-
ship with Liszt, Berlioz, and Wagner.
A brief review of opera in Germany during the first half
of the 19th century is the focus of Chapter 4.
Chapters 5, 6, and 7 are devoted to the three operas of
Cornelius. Each of the operas has been examined with regard
to the libretto and to musical components such as meter,
orchestration, thematic material, and formal design.
Chapter 8 contains a summary of the study and offers
conclusions on the findings in relation to their implications
for use in the higher level music curriculum and for the
teaching of music history. An appendix of the complete works
of Cornelius and a comprehensive bibliography have been
REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
For the purpose of this study, the review of literature
has been divided into the following four categories: books
written by Cornelius, books written about Cornelius, articles
written about Cornelius, and other books and articles
relevant to the study.
Books Written by Cornelius
Only the most basic facts about Cornelius's life were
available in the English language. Therefore, to gain real
insight into Cornelius the man and to explore his artistic
genius, one must consult the sixteen hundred pages of his
personal correspondence and his numerous writings for the
major German musical periodicals of the 19th century (Seeley,
1980, p. 1).
Cornelius's Literarische Werke (four volumes) and his
Musikalische Werke (five volumes) were published in 1904-05
and 1905-06, respectively, by Breitkopf and Hartel. Volumes
I and II of the Literarische Werke contain his letters and
pages from his diary, edited by his son Carl. Volume III
presents his essays on music and art, edited by Edgar Istel,
and Volume IV contains his complete poems, collected and
edited by A. Stern (Slonimsky, 1978, p. 350).
Cornelius's diary and letters have been used extensively
by various biographers of Liszt, Berlioz, and Wagner to whom
Cornelius was friend and translator. The Literarische Werke
provide a discriminating look into his own life, as well as
that of 19th-century music and musical life. References are
made to his spiritual life, his many choral works for the
Catholic church service, and his two song cycles, Vaterunser,
Op. 2, and the Weinachtslieder, Op. 8, which are of special
interest to the history of church music. Also chronicled are
Cornelius's relationships with Liszt, Berlioz, Schumann,
Brahms, and Wagner (Seeley, 1980, p. 2349A).
The Musikalische Werke contain all of Cornelius's
published vocal works with information regarding text sources
and other musical considerations. Volume I of this five-
volume work contains solo songs with piano accompaniment.
Volume II contains various part songs for male and women's
choruses as well as duets. The remaining three volumes focus
attention on Cornelius's three operas.
Books Written about Cornelius
Although material concerning Cornelius is limited,
several books have been written about him. Much of the
biographical material is duplicated; however, the works cited
here give pertinent information concerning the various
aspects of Cornelius's musical works.
A comprehensive two-volume work, Peter Cornelius, der
Wort und Tondichter, which chronicles the life of Cornelius,
was written by his son Carl Cornelius (1925). A great deal
of biographical information is presented and attention is
drawn to Cornelius's musical training, to his musical and
literary works, and to his relationship with various
Peter Cornelius als Komponist, Dichter, Kritiker und
Essayist by Federhofer and Oehl (1977) is a very informative
source containing essays, letters, and documents which deal
with the various aspects of the composer's life and works.
Many of the essays contain critical examinations of his
Hasse's (1923) Der Dichtermusiker Peter Cornelius gives
information on Cornelius's three operas. Attention is
focused on the sources for the texts of each opera, the
themes in each work, the overtures, the sources for the
music, the comical and/or dramatic elements in each work, and
each work's premiere. Hasse also discussed Cornelius's
unproductive periods and his search for new material.
Articles Written about Cornelius
Many articles have been written about Cornelius. For
the purposes of this study, eight articles were selected for
their direct connection with his operatic works.
Hoffman (1977) presented excerpts from a commemorative
address on the centenary of the death of Cornelius. The
personal characteristics of Cornelius are described and the
impact of his work on the present day is pointed out.
Just (1977) devoted principal attention to the librettos
for Cornelius's three operas, Der Barbier von Bagdad, Der
Cid, and Gunlod. Cornlius's feelings of anxiety and his
self-doubts were viewed by the author as indications of
Cornelius's affinity with literary modernity.
Mahling (1977) shed light on the ambivalence which
marked Cornelius's relation to the so-called New German
School, with particular attention to his continual efforts to
preserve his independence. The evidence was drawn from
Cornelius's own statements.
. Ich kenne keine rein komische oper unter den
deutschen modern Werken, seit Dittersdorf haben wir
keinen eigenlichen Opera buffa ist in Deutschland
erst noch zu erleben. . (Voss, 1977, p. 129)
SI know of no purely comic opera in modern
German . since Dittersdorf we have had no
actual comics among composers; in Germany we
haven't yet experienced the flowering of the opera
Voss (1977) discussed Cornelius's plans to create a
"purely comical opera," which in his opinion did not exist or
did not exist yet in Germany. Cornelius had plans to produce
a comic opera long before he wrote Der Barbier von Bagdad,
but those plans did not materialize. For several years
Cornelius wanted to draft several operas into the comic, but
the feel- ing of not being strong enough held him back, and
he returned to the purely theoretical studies. Doubt of his
own compe- tence was a characteristic of Peter Cornelius, and
it is therefore not surprising that nothing came of the
Horst (1977) gave a brief overview of the history of the
Arabian tales, A Thousand and One Nights, from which Der
Barbier von Bagdad was adapted. He discussed the various
translations of these tales as well as the various editions
of "The Barber of Bagdad." Cornelius's edition is the 8th
edition and Horst focused on the degree of dependency
Cornelius's edition has to its predecessors. He made the
comparison between the original anecdote, "The Story of the
Tailor," and Cornelius's version of "The Barber of Bagdad."
Koppen (1977) discussed Cornelius's Der Cid from a
thematic view; that is, the "story of the material." He drew
a comparison between Cid, the 12th century hero of the
Spanish epic, and Cornelius. Cornelius's Cid embraces two
themes, that of Cid and that of Jimene. Koppen described how
Cornelius derived these themes from the various editions of
Cid available to him. He also discussed the composer's use
of mottos before every act in the original score. These
mottos show that Cornelius was fully aware of the problems
implied by the thematic heterogeny of his material.
Abert (1977) discussed Cornelius's search for operatic
material after the premier of his second opera, Der Cid.
There preceded, as Cornelius himself wrote, "the wild hunt
over fields and forests of romanticism and history." The
choice was difficult for him. First, because of the many
possibilities, and second, because of Wagner's shadow, which,
when it did not darken Cornelius's complete opera creation,
definitely influenced it. Gunlod remained incomplete at the
time of Cornelius's death.
His choice of Edda as the source for Gunl6d was also
discussed. "My trust is in Edda, the beautiful holy book,
exuberant with all the nectar of poetry" (Cornelius, 1904, p.
403). One finds in Edda the legend of poetry in the chapter
"Bragi's Conversations" as the basis for Gunlod. Cornelius's
choice of Edda was indicative of his tendency as a poet to
become involved in human problems without taking into account
their dramatic workability. Abert looked at the poetic form,
musical fragments, act, and the different completed editions
Federhofer (1977) discussed Cornelius's use of 7/4 meter
in his operatic works as well as the word-tone relationship
which was a general principle of creation for Cornelius.
Cornelius's consistent change from regular to irregular meter
appears to stem from his desire to avoid the danger of
rhythmic monotony and, at the same time, to give the text
more dramatic expressiveness. Cornelius often composed in an
irregular scheme, and variation from a metrically normal
scheme was indicative of future trends. The composer once
said humorously, "I am the actual man of the future, I am the
incarnate 7/4 time (Fe-erhofer, 1977, p. 119).
Other Books and Articles Related to the Study
In "Turkish Opera from Mozart to Cornelius" Griffel
(1975) explored "Turkish" opera, especially German "Turkish"
Singspiel, from its beginning in the 17th century to the mid-
19th century. In the first chapter Griffel was concerned
with nonmusical aspects of Turkish music and why such
subjects were attractive to European librettists and
composers. She examined two types of "Turkish" works:
those based on historical personages, such as Suleiman I and
Kara Mustafa, and the abduction of Europeans to Turkish
lands, and those involving translations and imitations of the
Thousand and One Nights.
In the second chapter Griffel examined authentic Turkish
music versus "Turkish" music, that is, European attempts to
imitate Turkish music. The chapter is divided into two
sections, the first deals with the military music of the
Turks. The second section addresses the components of
"Turkish" music which consists of the bass drum, cymbals, and
triangle, and certain Turkish mannerisms.
The latter section also includes discussion of the use
of unusual intervals such as the augmented fourth, irregular
phrasing, triadic or chromatic melodies, dissonances, fren-
zied scale passages, and pounding accompaniment. The fourth
chapter, on German "Turkish" opera, presents information on
the works of Telemann, Mozart, Weber, Kreutzer, Spohr, and
Lortzing. In the final chapter Griffel looks at Peter
Cornelius and his opera Der Barbier von Bagdad, a work
considered traditional in approach, but with Wagnerian
Seeley (1980), in his work on the song cycles of Peter
Cornelius, revealed Cornelius's compositional technique
through the study of his sacred song cycles. Vaterunser is a
cycle of nine songs, each of which amplifies a phrase of the
Lord's Prayer, and utilizes the accompanying Gregorian chant
fragment in the musical structure along with the frequent
canonic use of the cantus firmus. The cycle of six Christmas
songs, Weihnachtslieder, was written from the standpoint of a
parent relating the Christmas story to the children. The
concluding chapter gives an overview of Cornelius's life and
his three operas.
The development of German comic opera from the early
17th century to the mid-19th century is the focus of Judith
Leigner's (1944) work. Musical characterizations of the
comic in Mozart's operas, the period of indefinite forms, and
aspects of German comic opera after Lortzing have been
treated in subsequent chapters.
In his two-volume work, Berlioz and the Romantic
Century, Barzun (1950) has flanked the twenty-five
biographical chapters of Berlioz's life with critical essays
dealing with the major music scores an- has also included a
few "interchapters" on more general aesthetic aspects of the
century of romanticism. The unhappy, uneven course of his
life, the long succession of his works and their per-
formances, and his contacts with all the major figures of a
highly creative century have been chronicled.
Berlioz's work in Leipzig brought him into contact with
Cornelius. The latter began translating literary and musical
texts into German for the French master.
Perenyi (1974) presented an extended study of Liszt as a
man, a musician, and a phenomenon. She showed that the
artist's life was a true reflection of the age in which he
lived. For Perenyi, "the romantic elevation of the artist in
a society not yet prepared to glance so high for its
authority foreshadows all our modern art, and Liszt in his
own time illustrates each phase of this process" (Howard,
1974, p. 1250). She traced the connections between Liszt and
Hugo, Sand, Balzac, Cornelius, and Wagner.
Several articles by different authors have revealed
related information concerning Cornelius's life and works and
have been quoted throughout this study. These articles are
as follows: Edgar Istel, "Peter Cornelius," The Musical
Quarterly, 20, No. 2 (April, 1934), 334-43; Edgar Istel,
"Berlioz und Cornelius," Die Musik, 9, No. 5 (1903-04), 366-
72; Magda Max-Weber, "Hector Berlioz: Unbekannte Briefe an
Peter Cornelius," Die Musikforschung, 26 (1973), 236-37; E.G.
Porter, "The Songs of Peter Cornelius," The Mu-ic Review, 27,
No. 3 (1966), 202-06; Eric Sams, "Peter Cornelius," The
Musical Times, 115 (1974), 839-42; Leo Wumser, "Cornelius and
His Barber," Opera, 16 (December 1965), 836-37; Carl
Bamberger, "The Forgotten Barber," Music Journal, 20 (April
This review of related literature has suggested that
research on the life and music of Peter Cornelius has been
seriously lacking. Considering the quality of Cornelius's
vocal works, the extensive use made of his diary and letters
by various biographers of mid-19th century musical giants
such as Liszt, Berlioz, and Wagner, and his contributions to
the music and musical life of the 19th century through
numerous articles written for the major German music journals
and newspapers, the omission of Cornelius from standard music
sources is regrettable and makes this and future studies
about him necessary.
PETER CORNELIUS: A BIOGRAPHY
Mainz and Wiesbaden (1824-1844)
Peter Cornelius, composer-poet-critic-essayist, was born
December 24, 1824, in Mainz, Germany. He was the fourth of
six children. His parents, Carl Joseph (1789-1843) and
Friederike Cornelius nee Schwadke (1789-1867) were both
Peter owed the most vivid impression of his childhood to
the poetry of Goethe. Goethe's lyrics became his constant
companions. "These I spoke loudly out in the fields, these I
sang, with as good a chordal accompaniment as I could muster
at the piano" (Cornelius, 1904, 3:3). Peter's life "revolved
around two poles, word and sound. In the beginning was the
word" (Cornelius, 1904, 3:2). Because he was one of the last
of the Cornelius children, his father spent much time with
him, teaching him elocution. He wrote of his father's
diction as being "free from all mannerisms, pure, beautiful
in a manly way, a strong flawless German" (Cornelius, 1904,
3:3). Peter's father, who recognized his son's artistic
talent, began training him as an actor and also arranged for
him to have music lessons.
Cornelius made rapid progress with his musical studies.
He studied piano and voice, the latter under the notable
theater chorister, Scharrar, and later with Heinrich Esser.
He studied violin with Joseph Panny and, by 1840, he was
playing second violin in the Mainz theater orchestra,
traveling with the touring company to England where he heard
German operas expertly sung. As the last of twelve second
violins, Cornelius did not fare too well as a violinist; but
after the first performance (Weber's Der Freischutz) he wrote
to his father that he "got on very well in the orchestra and
did not cause the least trouble" (A.J.J., 1906, p. 610).
The earliest reference to his first composition dates
from 1837, when he wrote an overture, unfortunately now lost,
followed by a piano sonata (1840), and quartets, songs, and
choral pieces, such as a cantus firmus mass based on the
dorian mode (Seeley, 1980, p. 3).
"My destiny was the theater, and my father thought I
should cultivate music as an avocation, so that in my latter
days acting would not be a necessity to survival" (Cornelius,
1904, 3:2). Obedient to his father's wishes, on March 3,
1841, Peter left Mainz for Wiesbaden as an actor for the
court as arranged by his father. After a few unsuccessful
appearances, e.g., as Raoul in Schiller's Maid of Orleans
when his legs and chest were "splendidly stuffed" to give him
a manly appearance, he decided to abandon all hope of
appearing as an actor (Istel, 1934, p. 336). Apparently he
suffered a nervous condition as a result of his acting
experiences. Following the death of his father in 1843, his
brother Carl arranged for him to live with their father's
cousin, the famous painter Peter Cornelius1 in Berlin. Carl
wrote to his uncle:
Peter ist 18 Jahre alt, hat die Schulen schon
mehrere Jahre hinter sich, auf denen er sich eine
tuchtize allgemeine Bildung erworben hat. Wahrend
der Schulzeit und seitdem forwahrend hat er sich
mit Musik beschaftigt, Klavier gelernt, Violine
gespielt, Theorie studiert. Alle seiner Lehrer,
unter denen Panny ihn eine Zeitlang unterrichtete,
bezeugten ihre Freude an seinen Fortschritten.
Zwar wird er nie ein Virtuose werden daran ihn von
fruh an seine schlechten Augen gehindert, doch
spielt er gut Klavier. Das aber, worin er das
Beste listen wird, ist die Komposition und die
Leitung eines Orchesters. Alle seine musikalischen
Freunde schatzen ihn sehr. Er liest gelaufig
Partitur, komponiert unter der Leitung des Musik
directors Esser in Mainz. Im ubrigen ist er fertig
und gewandt im deutschen schriftlichen Ausdruck und
hat sich durch einen mehrmonatlichen Aufenthalt in
England das Englische bis zur vollstandigen
Fertigkeit im Schreiben und Sprechen angeeignet.
Nun ist Peter hier in Wiesbaden beim Theater fur
kleinere Rollen angestellt. Dafur erhalf er 300
Gulden jahrlich. . Er ist ein Kuntsler oder
wird er werden, davon bin ich fest uberzeugt. Ein
edler character, eine unaufh6rliche Begierde zu
lernen und sich auszubilden. (Cornelius, 1905,
Peter is eighteen years old and for some years
now he has been through with school. During and
after his schooling he studied music, learned
piano, played violin, studied theory. All of his
teachers . expressed their joy at his progress.
To be sure, he will never be a virtuoso, since from
childhood he has been hindered by bad eyesight. He
does, however, play the piano very well, and what
he would most like to do is compose and direct an
orchestra. All of his musical friends praise him.
He reads scores fluently and composed under the
1For whom Mendelssohn wrote his Cornelius March.
guidance of Esser, the music director in Mainz. He
is polished in literary German and has learned to
speak and write English during a several-month stay
in England. Peter is currently engaged in
Wiesbaden to play small roles for an annual fee of
three hundred Gulden. . He is an artist, or
will be, of that I am sure. A dear fellow, he has
an endless desire to learn and to improve himself.
Peter Cornelius settled in Berlin at the home of his
famous uncle and godfather Peter von Cornelius. There he met
some of the foremost literary and artistic figures such as
Franz Liszt, and poets Paul Heyse and Eichendorf. It was
Heyse who suggested Peter study the Romance languages, and
Peter's translations from Old French, Provengal, Italian, and
Spanish gave him the flair for form that proved so useful to
him later in his literary and musical work (Istel, 1934, p.
While earning his living as a music teacher, Cornelius
began his three-year period of study with Sigfried W. Dehn
(1789-1858)2 studying theory and working out problems in
counterpoint. During this period Cornelius wrote a great
deal of choral, instrumental, and chamber music, much of
which was not preserved. He also wrote poetry and essays on
music for newspapers.
After his studies with Dehn, Cornelius sought the advice
of Wilhelm Taubert (1811-1841), the conductor of the Berlin
2Dehn also taught Glinka and the brothers Anton and Nicolai
Royal Opera, and Otto Nicolai (1810-1849), the Kappelmeister
in Berlin. Taubert advised Cornelius to abandon the larger
structures, such as the opera, and concentrate on writing
songs. This, of course, was disappointing to the aspiring
young composer who bitterly remarked: "I had brought tragedy
and he said 'write songs'; I had come with plans for palaces
and he said 'go build pigsties.'" Nicolai was even more
cruel upon perusal of Cornelius's compositions. Cornelius
recalls, "He says I know nothing, can't write a note
correctly and should have studied with Taubert, anybody other
than Dehn. In fact he kicked me!" (A.J.J., 1906, p. 610).
These were a few of the many disappointments in store for the
young composer. The church works by Cornelius during this
period have since been regarded as mature and individual.
Cornelius's first literary publication was a review of
Les Prophete by Meyerbeer for the February 29, 1852, edition
of the Berlin music newspaper Echo (Cornelius, 1905, 3:9).
He subsequently wrote articles for that periodical and
Modespieqel as well as the Konstitutionelle Zeitunq.
Cornelius's interest in the "music of the future" as
promoted by Liszt and Wagner was aroused after reading some
of Liszt's essays. Berlin had nothing more to offer, and
Cornelius's search for an artist on whom to model himself
took him to Liszt in Weimar. Liszt was residing at the
Altenburg near Weimar as Kappelmeister to the Grand Duke.
Cornelius, therefore, went to stay with his sister at
Bernhardshutte, also near Weimar.
Peter Cornelius's first trip to Weimar on March 5, 1852,
lasted only a few hours. He carried with him his article
from the Echo, a review of Liszt's book on Chopin, and a
letter of introduction from his uncle Peter in Berlin. "As I
was walking up the steps to Liszt's rooms in the Altenburg,
the superstitious idea came over me: even number of steps is
lucky, uneven-unlucky. And, oh dear! there were twenty-one
steps" (A.J.J., 1906, p. 821). This Cornelius wrote in his
diary on March 20, 1852. However, notwithstanding the
twenty-one steps, young Peter was spared bad luck and was
cordially received by Liszt. His visit began with an
artistic experience almost revolutionary in its effects on
him. Cornelius was surprised to find that Liszt was as
gracious a personality as his expectations had led him to
believe. "As a friend, he extended me his hand. . Seldom
has it happened to me that artistic nobility appeared the
same in person as their reputation indicated. Since
Mendelssohn, Liszt is the first person whose demeanor was not
in conflict with his reputation, and with what my inner being
expected" (Seeley, 1980, p. 7). For the first time he heard
the music of Berlioz: in the morning the Carnival Overture;
in the evening Benvenuto Cellini at the theater. Sitting by
Liszt's side, he was privileged to listen to his incomparable
playing. Cornelius determined at once "to begin all over
again, to study his art, and, if possible, to join sooner or
later with this circle" (Istel, 1934, p. 337).
Upon Peter's departure from his first visit with Liszt,
he was advised not to return to Berlin for further study.
Cornelius soon became a frequent and welcomed guest at
Altenburg. Liszt recognized Cornelius's abilities as a
composer and readily accepted him into his circle, which at
that time included Hans van Bulow, Joseph Joachim, and
Joachim Raff. In a letter to Cornelius at Bernhardshutte
dated September 4, 1852, Liszt further advised him to
persevere in the writing of Catholic church music and
extended to him an invitation to take up residence at the
Altenburg in March of 1853. As has been seen, Cornelius took
Liszt's advice seriously with regard to writing sacred music
and composed four masses that year.
The Altenburg was a haven for musicians, poets,
painters, and actors. The house was forever full of guests.
Ideas and thoughts were exchanged in the vibrant atmosphere
of that center of German artistic activity.
It is necessary to break with chronological continuity
at this point to take a closer look at Weimar, its
inhabitants, and the influence of Franz Liszt on its musical
development, more especially court opera.
Music at the Court of Weimar
The years 1844 to 1861 were very productive in terms of
musical development for the province of Weimar, the Ducal
Court. A small Thuringian city, 60 miles southwest of
Leipzig, Weimar was the "German Athens" under the patronage
of its art-loving Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, and it
had a long musical history. The record of Weimar's court
orchestra extends as far back as the 16th century. Johann
Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was a violinist there in 1703 and
director of music in 1708. Johann Gottfried Walther (1684-
1748) was organist at the great church of Weimar from 1707 to
Johann Hummel (1778-1837) was Hofkappelmeister from 1819
to 1837. Perhaps because greater attention was paid to
poetry and drama in the late 18th and early 19th centuries
due to the influence of poets Johann Goethe (1748-1832) and
Friederick Schiller (1759-1805), Weimar's most brilliant era
of music came later. During the period 1847 to 1861 Liszt
settled there as chief Kappelmeister and gathered around him
a group which included Hans von Bulow, Peter Cornelius,
Joachim Raff, and (for a time) Joseph Joachim. Liszt's
productions of modern opera, like those of Wagner and
Berlioz, gave an impetus to the new German movement of which
Cornelius became the leading spirit under Liszt, and
Brendel's Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik, its organ of expression
(Daniels, 1966, p. 240).
In the 18th century, Weimar was a miniature realm with a
wall, a gate, and a clerk who recorded the names of those who
passed in and out; except for the clerk, Weimar was much the
same in the 19th century. Thuringia has a rainy climate, and
with no public transportation, streetlights that did not
work,3 and a town crier, Weimer was decidedly old-fashioned.
There was no industry, unless one considers the Ilmenau mines
in which Goethe took so much interest.
Germany in general and Weimar in particular were the
last places in Europe to contest the thesis that culture is a
metropolitan product. Weimar's character was at once both
utopian and provincial in its overriding desire to evade
world-historical events. The Weimarites managed to stay out
of history until Napoleonic times when Bonaparte, whom they
had rather admired, upset them by fighting the battle of Jena
just down the road. They conceived themselves as above that
sort of scuffle, an illusion the more easily sustained on
account of the backwardness of the country, the bad roads,
and inferior public services (Perenyi, 1974, p. 278).
Aside from the aforementioned, Weimar had its
enticement. The dynasty who ruled this little domain was
3The town acquired street lanterns in 1786 but they proved
too expensive to operate and the streets remained unlighted
until 1855 when gaslight was introduced.
noted for its charm and cultivation. The original tone of
the court, art-loving, free-and-easy about etiquette, was set
by Grand Duchess Amalie, Frederick the Great's talented
niece, who wrote, composed, painted, and acted. Her "court
of the Muses" must have been the only one in Europe where
people had a good time, with ait, and not rank, being the
price of admission.
The intellectual level had declined by Liszt's day, but
that was not the fault of the court, which retained its
respect for intelligence and for ingratiating manners. A
dreary royal custom, beloved of Queen Victoria, was to train
Weimar Princesses to "cercler" which is to move around a
circle of guests. This training took place in the royal
gardens where they practiced polite conversation with rose
bushes. The court theater continued to operate at a high
level; and if it could not quite live up to its past, which
included the twenty-six years of Goethe's management when it
was the nearest thing to a national theater in Germany, the
dynasty could not be faulted. They would have welcomed
another Goethe, or another Schiller, were that possible.
Still, entrancing as Weimar was, it had its weaknesses.
In fact, it suffered from the very qualities that made it
idyllic. Amateurism was Weimar's first weakness, as seen in
many of the works of Goethe: two-thirds of his extra-
curricular activity falls into the category of inspired
dabbling. His studies in botany, optics, and minerology were
merely games played by a genius with scientific toys, and of
no extrinsic value. He was, in short, a poet in a position
to indulge his curiosity about the natural world, the
operations of government, and a hundred other things, and the
same was true of all Weimar sages working within that cozy
vacuum. In a way, it was intended to be so. It was their
very imprecision, which had a peculiarly German sense -f
natural totality, that was admired. This, along with its
humanism, defined the Weimar style.
Different as they were, Weimar's great men were
distinguished by a metaphysical apprehension that marked them
members of the same tribe: they shared a contempt for
politics, they possessed an other-worldliness and collective
superiority complex, and they enjoyed a deep sense of
belonging (Perenyi, 1974, p. 279). Weimar lacked the evils
of war, capitalism, and the industrial revolution. Its
philosophers found no issue comparable to, for example,
slavery. In its heyday, Weimar journalism might have
emanated from the moon. Its little magazines, Schiller's Die
Horen, for example, were very idealistic to a fault; they
achieved a monumental irrelevance. Goethe realized the
drawbacks to Weimar's seclusion, especially after he began to
travel. He saw the limitations of the small audiences and
the feebleness of courtly approval as opposed to the bracing
give-and-take of great cities, and came to understand that
his liberty was an illusion. The French Revolution scarcely
registered on Weimar's insensitive social seismograph.
Democratic as its rulers were, they were absolute monarchs; a
situation that did not change until 1848 (Perenyi, 1974, p.
The Influence of Franz Liszt. Hofkappelmeiste
Franz Liszt (1811-1886) was one of the most remarkable
and fascinating of the Romantic personalities. He was a
virtuoso pianist-composer who left the imprint of his
virtuosity on almost all subsequent pianists. Born in
Hungary, he studied first in Vienna and then in Paris, where
he became known as a concert pianist. He later moved to
Weimar. At the age of 19, and already an acclaimed virtuoso
pianist, Liszt was overwhelmed by the technical brilliance of
the great Italian violinist Niccolo Paganini (1782-1840) and
tried to do for piano technique what Paganini had achieved
for the violin. Liszt inaugurated the recital as a popular
form of musical presentation. As a champion of program
music, he was responsible for the invention of the symphonic
poem, also called tone poem.
Irresistible to women and an incredible showman, Liszt
left a trail of broken hearts from Paris to Moscow. Aside
from his Don Juan activities, he was one of the most
unselfish and generous musicians who ever lived. Liszt
was one of those who provided the musical and financial
support crucial to Wagner's success.
In 1847, Liszt made a momentous decision to end his
career as a traveling concert pianist. He wanted time to
compose. His career as a traveling virtuoso was becoming
increasingly annoying to him. Liszt had visited practically
every country in Europe including Spain, Italy, Rumania,
Portugal, France, Russia, and Turkey, in eight years if
nonstop travel. He frequently played in a different town
every night. Thousands of people heard him. The time in
which Liszt traveled was still the age of the stagecoach, and
traveling was both time-consuming and exhausting. It was a
difficult pace to maintain (Walker, 1970, p. 65).
Earlier, in 1842, Liszt had been offered an appointment
at the court of Weimar which he now decided to accept. All
of Europe was amazed that he chose little Weimar for his
permanent domicile when he might have settled in any of the
great European centers. Weimar was at the time a tiny town
with about 12,000 inhabitants. As was the case with similar
capitals of the smaller German Duchies, a certain degree of
culture in court and professional circles was counterbalanced
by an almost complete lack of sophistication among the people
as a whole. With his experience in such capitals as Paris,
London, Vienna, and Berlin, he must have known from the first
that quaint little Weimar could, at best, provide him with
only limited resources for the realization of his goal to
make the town a musical center comparable to its literary
glories of the past (Newman, 1934, p. 163). Liszt had
principally two reasons for choosing Weimar. First, there
was the classical appeal of Weimar with its Goethe and
Schiller traditions. Second, there was his conviction that,
it was, as he put it, "better to be first in a hamlet than
second in Rome" (Friedheim, 1961, p. 107).
The position at Weimar was a rather desirable one in
that Weimar had an orchestra and an opera house. Liszt
wanted to master the orchestra, and no better way could be
devised than to have one at his command. Also, his duties
would be relatively light and he would have the time he
desired for composing. The job also carried with it free
residence, the Villa Altenburg, which Liszt was to make
famous throughout the musical world. It was here that the
master was to take charge of Weimar's musical life and turn
it into a center for all the arts (Walker, 1970, p. 67).
Liszt's plan for the development of music at Weimar was
disclosed in a letter to Marie d'Agoult. He states:
Weimar under the Grand Duke August was a new
Athens; let us think today of constructing a new
Weimar. Let us renew . (those) traditions.
Let us allow talent to function freely in its
sphere . and arrive little by little at the
triple result that should constitute the whole
politics, the whole government, the Alpha Omega of
all Weimar. A court as charming, brilliant and
attractive as possible; a theater and literature
that neither rots in the attic nor drowns in the
cellar; and finally a university (Jena). Court,
theater, university, that is the grand trilogy for
a state like Weimar that can never have anything
important in the way of commerce, an army or a
navy. There it is, my principal theme that I will
sound every note of in the distant hope that some
good may come of it. . (Perenyi, 1974, p. 285)
Upon his arrival at Weimar, Liszt had to build
everything from the ground up, even audiences for concerts.
This was, however, more a challenge and incentive than an
obstacle. Liszt had unlimited powers and an unbounded belief
in himself. A master interpreter of music, he recreated
masterpieces and gave them such new impetus that the effect
was irresistible. In addition to the concerts given in the
Ducal Palace by command, he conducted four programs at the
Opera with Beethoven symphonies as their principal feature
(Friedheim, 1961, p. 107).
When Liszt ended his career as a virtuoso and accepted a
permanent engagement as conductor of the court theater at
Weimar, he did so with the distinct purpose of becoming an
advocate of the rising musical generation, through the
performance of works which had little chance of seeing the
light of the stage. In short intervals, some twenty operas
by living composers were either performed for the first time
or revived on the Weimar stage. From all sides, musicians
and amateurs flocked to Weimar to witness the astonishing
feats to which a small but excellent community of singers and
instrumentalists were inspired by the genius of their leader.
It was at these gatherings that the musicians who formed the
so-called "New German School," until that time unknown to
each other and divided locally and mentally, came first to a
clear understanding of their powers and aspirations (Searle,
1980, p. 30). In Weimarian parlance they were known as Murls
(a word said to mean Moors) and Murlship was defined,
roughly, as adherence to the modern school. The Murls lived
and studied in Weimar, but Liszt usually traveled with one or
another of them, and sometimes with the whole crowd. "The
music of the future" was a slogan as fight-provoking as any,
and to conservative Germans doubly offensive when they
considered the source. In March 1860, a belligerent Brahms
and an unwilling Joachim were drawing up a public declaration
"deploring and condemning . the productions and new
unheard of theories of the leaders and followers of the 'New
German School' . as contrary to the inner-most nature of
music." The Brahms-Joachim manifesto was an incoherent
ideological document. Its burden was the personal dislike,
by men who were unworldly, conservative and provincial, for a
foreigner who was none of these things (Perenyi, 1974, p.
It is, nonetheless, amazing to observe what Liszt
accomplished between 1848 and 1858 in transforming little
Weimar into a musical mecca. His powers of endurance were
phenomenal. He conducted the concerts and the opera in
Weimar and took the podium innumerable times in other cities.
He gave scattered piano recitals and composed industriously.
Symphonic works, masses, oratorios, choruses, instrumental
solos, and songs poured from his pen; he wrote books and
articles; he inaugurated the first "Master Classes for Higher
Piano Playing," taking no payment from the pupils. Berlioz's
Harold in Italy Symphony and several of Liszt's larger works
He also introduced evenings of chamber music at which
modern works took their place beside the classics (Friedheim,
1961, pp. 110-111). Though he did not accomplish all he
wished for Weimar, because of unfavorable circumstances, the
little town continued to rank high among German art centers.
Liszt converted Weimar into a workshop of a unique kind;
it was the only place in Europe where new music, neglected
music, "difficult" music could be regularly heard (Searle,
1966, p. 258). There was nothing like it then, and there
have not been many such experiments since. An almost
incredible individual, Franz Liszt was comparable, in some
respects viz. his genius for organization, to Napoleon.
There is little wonder that he won the affection and
admiration of all those with whom he worked or came into
As Hofkappelmeister Liszt did much to promote opera at
the Court of Weimar. He planned to present, at least once a
year, a new opera by a German composer. This was a time when
fairly good, but not brilliant, results were being obtained
at various German ducal theaters by conductors who were very
serious and hard working. Despite its great cultural past,
Weimar was no glittering exception. Johann Hummel (1778-
1837) had been Kappelmeister in the 1830s and, before he
died, he was instrumental in introducing yearly two symphonic
concerts in Weimar at a time when few outside the musical
profession knew the repertoire of instrumental works. Hummel
was succeeded by Jean Baptiste Chelard (1789-1861) who was
less competent. When Liszt shared conducting
responsibilities with Chelard and was temporarily away in
1851, Genast, the stage manager, wrote to Liszt:
The performance of Robert le Diable was dis-
graceful! I have neither the courage nor the
desire to recount the mistakes and many foolish
things perpetrated by that ignoramus Chelard, with
the continual smirk on his face. . He could
smile while I was in despair. Not one number was
without errors. Tomorrow we are doing La Vestale.
We have already had two rehearsals and the second
one was worse than the first. The man seems to do
his very best to throw the orchestra and singers
into the greatest confusion. May heaven guard you
and all your beloved ones and bring you back to us
very soon. (Friedheim, 1961, p. 106)
Joachim Raff was even more dramatic in his letter to Liszt:
Our theater gets worse every day! We have
just had two performances of Freischutz and The
Magic Flute and the blunders that occurred were
such as to offend the ears of even the most
patient, harmless and unmusical listeners, many of
whom left the house before the end of the opera.
Should your absence be prolonged for longer than a
few months, you may rest assured that you shall not
find some of us here on your return. We are left
entirely to our own society because there is no one
worth associating with in this damned village. One
loses heart, joy in work and belief in Art.
(Friedheim, 1961, p. 107)
These two accounts of the state of opera indicate how much
faith the musicians and those associated with the Theater had
in Liszt--to make things right.
Liszt's career as a conductor of opera began promisingly
with a carefully rehearsed and devotedly performed Fidelio.
He followed the production of Fidelio with Tannhauser by
Wagner in 1849, its first performance outside Dresden.
Nobody, except for Liszt himself, fully appreciated his
reasons for presenting the work, as only a few musicians knew
it, and even fewer thought highly of it. Even Wagner
regarded Liszt's interest as merely a gesture of friendship
and justifiably feared that the presentation would be
inadequate with local artists, and only part of the regular
company. He attended one rehearsal and was convinced that
his music was in reliable and capable hands (Friedheim, 1961,
p. 111). Hans von Bilow, the pupil who became his son-in-
law, laid much stress on Liszt's "radical rejuvenation of
opera," by which Bilow meant that Weimar productions of
Wagner were executed at a time when no other German house
would touch them. It was Bulow's estimate that carried the
day in Germany, where even those closest to Liszt had little
faith in his music (Perenyi, 1974, p. 283).
Liszt gave other composers much consideration as well.
Schumann's non-symphonic works were more consistently
presented in Weimar than anywhere else. His opera Genoveva
was in no other repertory. His hybrids for voice and
orchestra, mostly slighted in other cities, were given in
Weimar with particular care: Faust in 1849; the premier of
Manfred in 1852; Paradise and the Peri in 1857. Liszt gave
Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini its first (and for many years
only) hearing after its disastrous debut in Paris in 1838.
Benvenuto Cfelini won only a moderate success in Weimar and
none at all elsewhere, and it quickly disappeared from the
repertoire. In Berlioz's case, Liszt did the unprecedented
for a living composer by devoting two festive weeks to
Berlioz's symphonic works in 1852 and 1855.
Liszt's revival of older music was indicative of the
fact that he was not limited to modernism. Gluck, almost
forgotten, was strongly represented with a production of
Orfeo in 1854, of Iphigenie in 1856. In the same year he
produced Beethoven's Fidelio, Schubert's Alfonso and Estrella
was produced. Producing Schubert's opera was a labor of love
for Liszt because of its cumbersome libretto which had to be
drastically revised. Of course, there was a certain amount
of stuffing, that is, producing operas that would not detain
modern audiences, and probably would not have detained Liszt
had the composers not been his friends and associates. On
the other hand, operas by composers Raff (King Alfred),
Lassen (Landqraf Ludwias Brautfahrt), and Rubenstein
(Siberian Hunters) were also hits with Liszt's public and,
although Weimar had no choice but to take what he gave, he
did not expect toleration of a steady diet of Lohengrin, for
which the house usually had to be papered (given free
tickets). For the same reason, he did not try to cut out old
favorites--Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini--who, for that matter,
were his favorites also. At times Liszt would go out of his
way to flaunt the pleasure principle: Because Rossini's Le
Comte Orv "bubbled like champagne" he ordered magnums of it
served during the second act (Perenyi, 1974, p. 284).
Often times Liszt's plans were hampered by many of those
persons whom he sought to promote with Wagner being most
prominent. The "New German" movement was frequently impeded
by Wagner because of his injudicious outbursts of temper and
bad taste. One such outrage was his pamphlet Das Judentum in
der Musik (Jewry in Music), a long discourse filled with
antisemitism, envy, unjust arguments, and malice. Reproved
by Liszt, Wagner's defense was that he only "wished to
frighten certain people"! The most grievous result of this
publication was that it frightened the wrong people, for the
intemperance of the booklet turned away a large contingent of
those who had become adherents of Liszt, Wagner, and the
"music of the future." The confirmed opponents of the new
school had powerful representatives in the press and they
utilized Wagner's indiscretion to let loose an added flood of
abuse and enmity directed at him, at Liszt, and at all
modernists. Wagner's pamphlet was one of the causes of
Liszt's failure in his efforts to found a special theater in
Weimar for Wagner, where the "Bayreuth" of the future should
have been. The irony of it all is that, despite Wagner's
antisemitism, the whole Bayreuth project was carried out by
wealthy Jews, aside from King Ludwig.
Unfortunately, it was upon Liszt's head that the full
fury of the storm fell, engineered by those who hated the new
music and its composers. A major accusation against Liszt
was that he employed the Ducal orchestra in Weimar as a
medium for the performance of his own "unworthy" works. At
least no such reproach could hold up in regard to the Weimar
Opera, for after his single effort at age fifteen, Liszt
wrote no operas and even declined to set the libretto of
"Wieland der Schmied" when Wagner offered it to him
(Friedheim, 1961, p. 112).
Cornelius and Liszt
One of Cornelius's main reasons for taking up residence
at the Altenburg was to become familiar with the early works
of Wagner. He also sought and obtained Liszt's counsel
concerning many of his compositions. In his account of his
first meeting with Wagner, Cornelius expressed the joy of his
early days at the Altenburg. Liszt and his entourage had
traveled to Basel to see Wagner and to hear performances of
Wie frohlich waren unsere Abende, wie laut
unsere Nachtel Das Motiv des "Fliegenden
Hollanders" war unser Erkennungs reichen auch in
sternenlosem Dunkel, die Konig fanfaren aus dem
"Lohengrin" unser letter GruB, wenn wir uns von
Liszt trennten. (Istel, 1904, 3:325)
How joyful were our evenings, how noisy our
nights. The motive from Der Fliecender Hollander
was our password in a starless night, the fanfare
of the King from Lohengrin was our last greeting
when we parted for the night.
Cornelius's role at the Altenburg was a unique one. He
was not a virtuoso pianist, a recognized composer, or poet.
Liszt seemed impressed with his litt-ary skills and saw in
him the answer to his need for a secretary and translator.
Cornelius began writing his occasional articles for Neue
Zeitschrift ftr Musik, his first being a review of chamber
and house music in 1855 (Seeley, 1980, pp. 8-9).
In 1863 Cornelius began composing the series of song
cycles and groups of songs. While in Wallerfangen, he
composed a group of six short songs and described the
experience in a later autobiographical sketch:
Der dichter in mir war . unter groBen
Wehen geboren; der Musiker war ein Angstkind von
jeher; . da kam aber nun das Glickskind, das
von beiden das beste hatte und mit freiem
kuntslerischen Gebahren in die Welt lachte. Das
war der Dichter-Musiker. Mein Opus I war da.
(Cornelius, 1905, 3:8)
The poet in me was born through much pain.
The musician had always been a child of anxiety.
. Finally, however, arrived the child of
fortune, with the best of both worlds, laughing in
free, artistic birth. Here was the poet-musician.
My Opus I had arrived.
The Opus 2, Vaterunser, was also being conceived during
this time, and many other songs followed including "Trauer
und Frost," Opus 3, and three songs for high voice,
"Liberslieder," Opus 4, which were dedicated to the Princess
Marie von Sayn Wittgenstein. Cornelius appears to have
composed no works for solo voice in 1855. The Rheinische
Lieder, Opus 7, were written in the summer of 1856 and the
Brautlieder were written soon afterwards at Bernhardshitte.
The famous Weihnachtslider, Opus 8, was the last cycle
composed during this period. Cornelius was not much
influenced by the mentality of the German literary
Romanticism of his generation, nor was he attracted to the
historical or mythological; thus, in his poems, little
conflict or strong contrast is found. Cornelius soon turned
to operatic endeavors and to Der Barbier von Bagdad.
After a few years at the Altenburg, Cornelius felt that
his continued proximity to Liszt was exercising the worst
possible influence upon his creative faculties. Finding the
atmosphere increasingly oppressive, Cornelius left for the
Bernhardshitte to compose and to find himself again (A.J.J.,
1906, p. 822). "The past days I have been very busy, but ah!
I must say, only with the tiresome translations for Liszt.
This must stop! I can see, however, that as long as I remain
here, there will be no end to it" (Cornelius, 1904, 1:189).
While at Bernhardshitte Cornelius translated Anton
Rubenstein's opera Siberian Hunters and Berlioz's Benvenuto
Cellini. It was during this time that Cornelius vacillated
between enjoying and thriving in the intellectual atmosphere
of the Altenburg or stifling from it. In a letter to the
Princess Wittgenstein Cornelius confided ". . how offensive
these disagreeable, vehemently, feuding voices sound to me.
It is like a room full of seething, shrieking men who are
drunk on wine" (Cornelius, 1904, 1:268).
Cornelius understood, perhaps better than any other
member of Liszt's circle, that with due reverence and
friendliness toward the members of the New German School, it
was important to maintain a distance and to cling t, his own
individuality. This stance was not at all easy to attain and
Cornelius had to endure much unpleasantness as a result of
In October of 1854, Cornelius was back in Weimar working
for Liszt and in a decidedly bad temper because Princess
Wittgenstein, and she a Russian, ventured to criticize his
translations of Liszt's articles (written in French) and to
pull his well-turned sentences apart. Cornelius always took
pride in himself and stood firmly by his convictions. He was
apparently the only one in Liszt's circle who had the courage
to express his opinion without fear of reprisal. Princess
Wittgenstein stated at a dinner party that "Liszt scores
better than Berlioz" and asked Cornelius if he agreed. His
answer was an emphatic "No!" "But I blushed all over," he
writes, "because I had dared to contradict the dear, great
lady in the silk dress. Yet my 'No' is more precious to me
than all the treasures of the world. . Whoever puts the
question of my conviction to the test of a simple Yes or No,
shall hear Yes or No as I may think right, even if he is the
Emperor of China himself" (A.J.J., 1906, p. 822).
Despite his frustration in the service of Liszt,
Cornelius was nonetheless glad for the association of their
names after the publication of translated works, which
enjoyed widespread circulation. Cornelius expressed his
gratitude for Liszt's help and encouragement by dedicating to
him an extended setting of Psalm 13 for Tenor. Chorus and
Orchestra, published in 1855. It was also quite apparent
that Liszt respected Cornelius as a person, associate,
composer, and poet, for he set to music two of Cornelius's
poems, "Weimar volkslied" (for male chorus, 1857) and "Wieder
mocht dir gegegnen" (solo lied, 1860); he also dedicated a
setting of Psalm 61 to Cornelius (Cornelius, 1904, 1:443).
Perhaps the highest expression of admiration for
Cornelius was for Liszt to produce his first opera, and also
the first written at the Altenburg, Der Barbier von Bagdad.
This was the last opera Liszt conducted in Weimar in 1858.
Sentiment had turned against Liszt because of his open
support of Wagner and the expensive production of Wagnerian
works in Weimar. The first performance of Der Barbier was an
outright fiasco and encountered a degree of opposition
unparalleled in the annals of Weimar, though through no fault
of Cornelius or the opera. It was provoked by an anti-Liszt
faction, led by Intendant Franz Dingelstadt, which had been
gathering for sometime in Weimar determined to overthrow
Liszt's rule. Some objected to his private life, others to
his continued espousal of new music; still others resented
his dictatorial control over musical style. This clique came
out in full force to create a scandal at the premiere with
such effect that the Barber had no repeat performance.
Liszt, outraged, resigned his post. With Liszt's resignation
came the end of a very productive musical period in Weimar.
Cornelius and Berlioz
On a trip with Liszt to Leipzig, Cornelius met Berlioz.
He describes their meeting in "Ein Kunstfahrt nach Leipzig,"
an article for the Echo in 1854. It was Cornelius (then a
youthful thirty) who launched the slogan of the three B's--
the original three B's.
On the heights where Bach and Beethoven
already dwell, there will the third great "B" first
find recognition. For if I mistake not, the
specific polyphonic musician in Berlioz controls
the poet, in such a way as to create within the
symphony a dramatic form fit for his variegated
Allow me then in concluding, to sound a small
fanfare for my favorite modern master, for the
proud and daring hero, Hector, for the many-voiced
composer and many-sided writer Berlioz, who is also
one of the humorists of our nineteenth century,
three cheers, now Bach! Beethoven! Berlioz!
(Barzun, 1950, 2:76)
Berlioz's personality and music made an overwhelming
impact on Cornelius, who later began translating literary and
musical texts into German for him; the first of these was La
Damnation de Faust, from a French version roughly based on
Goethe. When corresponding with Cornelius concerning the
endeavor, Berlioz was cordial but businesslike. In the
letter of January 2, 1855, he was given the task of adapting
the melody for the newly translated text, "Pour le Premier
Ballade Le Pecheur, vevillez essayer d'adapter a la musique
les vers originaux de Goethe enfaisant tous les changements
dans la melodie que ces vers necessiteront." He was also
given responsibility for finding an actor to portray a
certain part ". .. quand vous connaitrez l'ouvrage et le
genre de talent que le role reclame, vous voudrez bien
l'indiquer a Liszt pour qu'il demand de ma part a
cetrartiste d'accepter la tache assex difficile de
representer ce personnage" (Max-Weber, 1973, pp. 236-237).
This portion of translation was one of several performed
during the 1855 Berlioz Festival in Weimar. Berlioz was in
Weimar for two weeks preparing performances at the court on
February 17th and in the theater on February 21st. Among the
many other services performed for the event by the Neu
Weimar-Verein, the copying of parts fell to Cornelius. As a
result, he became familiar with excerpts from such works as
Romeo et Juliette, La Damnation de Faust, Benvenuto Cellini,
Le Captive, the Symphonie Fantasticue, and the oratorio
L'Enfance du Christ, having also prepared the German
translations of texts and program notes. Cornelius later
made arrangements to have his translation of L'Enfance du
Christ published. He expressed much satisfaction for having
done the translations for the famous French composer and
received a generous honorarium for having done the work
(Cornelius, 1904, 1:95). After this he was frequently
employed by Berlioz and was always paid as generously as he
was treated politely. In fact, the two musicians became
Cornelius maintained correspondence with Berlioz during
the next several years, and in a letter to his bride-to-be
(dated December 22, 1866), he related having completed a
later translation of Les Trovens for financial rather than
artistic benefit (Cornelius, 1904, 2:463).
Barzun indicates that Berlioz was also aware of
Cornelius's compositional ability. "Of the new musicians who
came to Berlioz's attention he seems not to have missed a
single one . in Germany, besides Mendelssohn and Wagner,
Berlioz saw at once the merits of Cornelius, Joachim, and
Brahms (Barzun, 1950, 2:261).
With Liszt's resignation and subsequent departure from
Weimar, Cornelius's reasons for remaining had virtually
disappeared. He left Weimar almost immediately, and after a
short stay in his native town of Mainz, he arrived in Vienna
on April 12, 1859. Cornelius lived in the most modest
circumstances, dependent on private music lessons and
financial support from his relatives, yet happy because of
his many contacts with composers, poets, and musical
dilettantes. He and Brahms, whom, like Schumann, he had come
to know in 1852, respected each other; he was friend and
advisor to Carl Tausig; and he felt a particular reverence
for Friedrich Hebbel and his Hibelung trilogy. Cornelius
carried with him to Vienna his four books of songs which he
revised for publication. The songs were, however, rejected
by several publishers, and the major accomplishment of this
period in his life was the completion of his second opera,
Der Cid, for which he again wrote both text and music. A
major translation project was that of Liszt's Die Musik die
Ziquener which was published in 1861.
All of the aforementioned relationships and influences
were overshadowed by the fascination exerted by Wagner, whose
circle Cornelius eventually entered, when Wagner was in
Vienna for the production of Lohengrin, followed by Tristan
und Isolde. Brahms is mentioned frequently in Cornelius's
correspondence over the next few years. However, December of
1864 brought the close of the friendship between he and
Brahms. Cornelius felt that Brahms was "too self-serving and
too self-endeared" and had long since ceased to seek the
company of him, making it clear in his diary that it was
Brahms who had sought the company of Cornelius (Cornelius,
Cornelius continued to improve his piano technique and
worked on Bulow's studies, which he regarded as very
difficult and most suitable for the development of fingering
(Cornelius, 1904, 1:758). Articles for the Osterreiche
Zeitung and the Allgemeine Zeitung were written during this
time. He set to music poems of other poets, among them his
friend Fridrich Hebbel, as well as the poems of his own Opus
5. In 1864, he also broke from the "tyrannical friendship"
of Hebbel in his quest for freedom and originality (Seeley,
1980, pp. 25-26).
The number of references in Cornelius's diary and
letters are indicative of the depth of the friendship he had
with Richard Wagner and reveals the tenacity with which
Wagner at times pursued it. Their first encounter was that
brief meeting in Basel, October 6, 1853, with Liszt. While
at the Altenburg, there can be no doubt that Cornelius became
well-versed in Wagner's musical and literary philosophies.
Cornelius was the first to tread Wagner's path without
losing sight of his own course. Others who came under
Wagner's influence were constantly threatened with the loss
of their artistic individuality, a danger Cornelius clearly
Soon after their second meeting, in Vienna, which was to
begin a very trying friendship between the two, Cornelius
Ich kann mich kaum noch wieder auf mich selbst
besinnen, da Wagner wieder abgereist ist. .. Mit
Wagner waren wir taglich zusammen. . Ich habe
den ganzen Tristan von ihm singen horen. .
Tristan ist gewiB den groBte musikalische Werk, das
seit Beethoven geschaffen wurde. Die Partitur ist
eine Wonne zu lesen. . Wagner kommt am 15
August wieder hierher und bleibt, bis er die Oper
die ersten drei Male dirigiert hat. Bis dahin und
iberhaupt nimmt er festen Sitz in Karlsruhe. Wer
weiB aber, ob er nicht in Wien gefe8elt wird! Die
Geruchte uber seinen personlichen Verkehr, die sehr
verbreitet waren, sind hochst abgeschmackt. Er ist
der einfach liebenswurdigste Mann von der Welt; ich
habe ihn herzlich lieb gewonnen. . Er will mir
uber meinen Cid einen Brief schreiben mit
Veranderungsvorschlagen am zweiten und dritten Akt.
(Cornelius, 1904, 1:594-595)
I can hardly think once again about myself
since Wagner first returned. . We (Tausig and
I) have been with Wagner daily. . I have heard
him sing all the way through Tristan which is
surely the greatest musical work created since
Beethoven. The score is a delight to read. . .
Wagner will return on August 15 and remain until
the opera has been directed by him three times.
Between now and then he is making his place in
Karlsruhe. Who knows, perhaps he will settle in
Vienna! Rumors concerning his personal business,
which are widespread, are absurd to the height. He
is the most simple, kind man of the world; I have
become enamoured of him. . He is going to write
a letter to me concerning Cid with suggestions for
revisions of the second and third acts of the
Cornelius soon had a glimpse of the other side of
Wagner's character. Wagner borrowed Cornelius's initials to
attain publication of an article in the October 8, 1861,
edition of osterreiche Zeitung in an effort to gain
additional publicity and support for Tristan. This article
flattered the Kappelmeister of the Vienna Hofoperntheater
(Court Opera Theater) for his choice of Tristan for its
previous season. Wagner even went so far as to have an
unknown deliver it and read the proofs.
According to Edgar Istel, the editor of volume three of
Cornelius's Literarische Werke, there was an understanding
between Wagner and Cornelius that the former should use the
latter's initials. Cornelius's son, however, shows that this
was not so. Peter was known to the editor of the paper,
Wagner was not; and he made use of his friend's name without
his knowledge and consent, no doubt thinking he was being
both humorous and clever. Peter was angry at first, but
relented when Wagner assured him that perhaps the fate of
Tristan depended on the article. Cornelius apparently
forgave Wagner for this infraction, for when the Tristan
rehearsals began Cornelius took an active part.
When things went badly, Wagner decided to visit Paris,
where he planned to write the libretto of Die Meistersinger.
"Wagner has strengthened me miraculously," Cornelius wrote to
Tausig. "I have complete confidence in myself and am proud
that we are on familiar terms--auf Du und Du--a privilege
Wagner granted me himself in his first letter from Paris."4
A splendid testimony of the friendship between Cornelius
and Wagner is revealed in another letter Wagner wrote to
Cornelius from Paris:
Peter! Listen! On Wednesday, February 5, in
the evening, I shall read the Mastersingers at
Schott's in Mainz. You have no idea of what it
means--what it means to me and what it will mean to
my friends. You simply must be present that
evening! Get Standhartner to advance you, in my
name, the money you will need for the journey. In
Mainz I shall repay this at once and give you what
you require for the return trip. The thing is
settled! I have often thrown away money to worse
purpose. This time I shall take real pleasure in
it. Do not spare yourself! It will be a memorable
4Wagner suggested that he and Cornelius address each other as
"Du" as an affectionate gesture.
evening, believe me, and will make you forget
everything. You are coming then! If you don't,
you are just an ordinary fellow, though perhaps a
good fellow, and I shall call you "Sie" again!
Addio! Your Richard! (Istel, 1904, p. 339)
Cornelius arrived in Paris in mid-winter for the reading
of Die Meistersinger. Because he arrived late Wagner was
unsure if Cornelius would come. An attendant at the reading
recounted that Wagner paced back and forth, repeatedly
looking at his watch and the door. Finally he explained.
"We must wait a little more because Cornelius has not yet
arrived," to which someone replied, "He is of course in
Vienna." Wagner in turn replied, "No, in a few minutes he
will come through the door"! (Istel, 1904, p. 327). Almost
instantly Cornelius knocked on the door and walked into the
room. He was embraced by Wagner and smothered in kisses.
Those in attendance sat stunned with amazement and then
jumped to meet their dear friend whom they thought was so far
away and who suddenly appeared in their midst as if in a
fairy tale. After the reading Cornelius immediately took the
next train back to Vienna.
In the summer of 1862 Cornelius spent time with Tausig
on the sea of Genf. He decided to go there to relax and to
practice piano daily and did not bother to send regrets to
Wagner's invitation for a visit in Biebrich. Wagner was very
upset at this insult and later reminded Cornelius of it.
Cornelius apparently had learned that the best way not to be
persuaded by Wagner was to ignore him in certain matters.
Cornelius at times grew completely impatient with Wagner
because of his inconsiderate egoism. In his diary he wrote:
Wagner! Das ist ein Hauptkapitel! Ach, ich
mag nicht ausfuhrlich daruber reden. Ich sag es
kurz: Seine Sittlichkeit ist schwach und ohne
rechtes Fundament. Sein ganzer Lebensgang mit
seinem egoistischen Hang in Verbindung hat ihn in
ethische Labyrinthe verstrickt! Er hat sich
innerlich zu sehr darauf gerijhtet, daB seine
geistige GroBe alle sittlichen Schwachen decken
soll und ich furchte, die Nachwelt nimmt es.
(Cornelius, 1904, 1:698)
Wagner, he is a main chapter! Ah, I shall not
write in detail. I'll say it briefly: his
morality is weak and without proper foundation. He
has woven his whole way of life with his
egotistical inclination in relationships into an
ethical labyrinth. He has judged himself to be of
such spiritual greatness that it will cover up his
spiritual weaknesses, and I fear, the future
generations will not be so kind.
In the spring of 1863 Wagner made his home in Vienna but
still traveled extensively, returning Christmas of 1863. He
gathered about him his circle of friends and gave them all
expensive gifts. Cornelius gave away half of all the gifts
he received the next day, perhaps because he could not afford
to purchase gifts for those who had blessed him with
friendship during the preceding year. Also, he was
completely overwhelmed and perhaps turned away by Wagner's
solicitous nature (Seeley, 1980, p. 37).
The following year Cornelius was nearing the completion
of Der Cid and sensed the need to move on from Vienna. He
was hoping to obtain a position at a small court theater
where he could study and conduct opera. Wagner was in Zurich
and invited Cornelius to visit him. Cornelius also received
an invitation from Liszt in Rome about which he said, "I'd
rather go to Liszt than to Wagner" (Cornelius, 1904, 1:765).
Following a trip to Russia in the early months of 1864,
Wagner went to Zurich because he could not bear to return to
the now oppressive atmosphere of Vienna. He was unhappy
everywhere he went. Wagner often sought motional refuge in
his friends and he turned to Cornelius when overcome by
depression concerning an absence of financial and artistic
support. A most timely answer to Wagner's plea for help came
in May of 1864 when he received an invitation to come to
Munich in the service of King Ludwig II. Wagner, in need of
the intellectual and emotional support of Cornelius, summoned
him to come at once to Munich. Cornelius, apparently
enjoying the freedom from the oppressive Wagner, did not
reply. In retaliation, Wagner sent a very aggressive letter
dated May 31, 1864:
Entweder Du nimmst jetzt unverzuglich meine
Ein ladung an, und richtest Dich dadurch fur alle
Lebenszeit etwas zu einem wirklichen Hauslichen
Lebensbunde mit mir ein. Oder--Du verschmahst
mich, und entsagst dadurch ausdrucklich dem Wunsche
mit mir Dich zu vereinen. Im letzten Falle entsage
ich Dir ebenfalls gang und vollstandig und ziehe
Dich in keiner Weise mehr in meine Lebensein-
richtungen. Von dem Grade Deines Vertrauens, in
betreff der Mitteilung Deiner Grunde wird und muB
es ferner abhangen, ob wir uberhaupt vom Schicksal
zu fernerem Freundesverkehr bestimmt sind. Du
ersiehst hieraus eines--wie sehr ich der Ruhe
bedarf. (Cornelius, 1904, 1:768)
Either you accept my invitation immediately
and settle down for the rest of your days to some
sort of domestic life-bond with me--or, you reject
my proposal with scorn, and so expressly disclaim
the wish to unite yourself with me. In the latter
case, I, for my part, renounce you wholly and
absolutely, and try no more to draw you into my
scheme of life. On the degree of your confidence
with regard to the ground you have for your conduct
it will and must depend whether fate has it in
store for us that our relations shall remain
friendly. You must see from this how sorely I need
Wagner's efforts to lure Cornelius to Munich were almost
fruitless. "I am to become the complete Kurvenal," Cornelius
wrote to one of his friends. "I have many qualifications for
the role, even dog-like fidelity. What Wagner fails to
understand is that I am at the same time a bit too
independent in character and talent to play Zero to his
Figure One. A slave cannot write a Cid" (Istel, 1934, p.
Wagner returned to Vienna in June but Cornelius was away
in Weimar working on Cid. Wagner left an angry note to which
Cornelius sent an apology for his long silence. He agreed to
go to Munich after work on his opera was completed. In a
letter to his sister Suzanne, Cornelius wrote:
Und bei Wagner hatte ich keine not
geschrieben. . Auch ware ich nur eine Art
geistiges Mobel fur ihn, ohne EinfluB auf sein
Leben, soweit es tiefer liegt. . Ich hab mich
Wagner nie aufgedrangt. Ich freute mich herzlich
seiner Freundschaft, war ihm aufrichtig zugetan in
Wort und Tat. Aber sein Leben zu teilen--das lockt
mich nicht. Ich habe so was durchgemacht. Mit
Liszt. Da tat ich alles naiv, aus innerem
Lebensdrang. (Cornelius, 1904, 1:775)
With Wagner I could not have written a single
note . and besides, I would only be a piece of
intellectual furniture for his household, without
influence in his life, as far as its depths are
concerned. . I have never intruded upon Wagner.
I have been attentive to our friendship and have
been honest with him in word and deed. But to be
part of his household, that does not entice me. I
have already been through that--with Liszt. Then I
was naive about the inner workings of life.
Still Wagner did not give in, finally writing to
Cornelius on October 7, 1864:
Lieber Peter! Im besondern Auftrage Sr.
Majestat des Konigs Ludwig II von Bayern habe ich
Dich aufzufordern, sobald Du kannst nach Munchen
uberzusiedeln, dort Deiner Kunst zu leben der
besondern Auftrage des Konigs gewartig, und mir,
Deinem Freunde, als Freund behilflich zu sein. Dir
ist vom Tage Deiner Ankunft an ein jahrlicher
Gehalt von eintausend Gulden aus der Kabinettskasse
Sr. Majestat angewiesen. Von Herzen Dein Freund,
Richard Wagner. (Cornelius, 1904, 1:786)
Dear Peter! I am specially commissioned by
His Majesty King Ludwig II of Bavaria to invite you
to come to Munich as soon as you are able, to
pursue your art there, to execute the King's
occasional orders and to help me, your friend, as a
friend. From the day of your arrival your annual
salary of one thousand gulden will be assigned you
from His Majesty's Exchequer. Your Affectionate
friend, Richard Wagner.
Cornelius, while in Vienna, had had no prospect of any
secure professional post and reluctantly accepted the
An inner voice said: Do not go! His thousand
gulden are only a temptation of the Devil's.
Everyone about me said: This offer you must
accept, this offer really amounts to something! I
said: Keep after the Cid, never losing sight of
him for a moment; wait for success and, relying on
yourself alone, win your own place in the world.
This I cannot do when I am with Wagner. He uses me
up. The atmosphere about him is too oppressive.
He consumes and robs me of the breath of life.
(Istel, 1934, p. 340)
Pawning his watch for fare, Cornelius left for Munich on
December 29, 1864. The situation that met Cornelius on his
arrival in Munich did not allay his apprehensions, artistic
or personal, for once again, the back and forth search for
freedom from Wagner's stifling friendship had resumed.
The following is an account of Cornelius's first meeting
with the King:
On the morning of January 13, Peter Cornelius,
barbered regardless of the expense, and arrayed in
his indigent best, was shown into an antechamber of
the Munich residence, where, noticing that the sole
of his right shoe was split, he had to sit with the
dilapidation turned all the time groundwards. He
later wrote, "It must have given me, in consequence
of my immobility, something of the appearance of a
statue." (Newman, 1943, 4:65; Seeley, 1980, p. 42)
Cornelius was quite impressed by Ludwig's dignified
appearance and by the simple human-kindness that seemed to
radiate from him. His fears over the meeting quickly
disappeared. Cornelius was a penetrating reader of men, and
he left the meeting thoroughly convinced that his (Ludwig's)
was a soul of exceptional beauty and nobility. Such an
impression left no doubt in Cornelius's mind that the King
might indeed provide for him some means of stable financial
security. As for Wagner, Cornelius wrote:
In the eyes of the world my relations with
Wagner are indefensible--and they are proving too
much for me. Wagner neither knows nor imagines how
trying he is with his everlasting ardor, his
languishing after the fatal draught (Verschmachten
seit dem unseligen Trank) . yet I cannot tell
him--he does not understand, does not even suspect
that our being together draws the very marrow from
my soul--that I need solitude, above all, freedom.
(Istel, 1934, p. 341)
Accordingly, Cornelius chose not to attend any of the
Tristan performances. Instead, he traveled to Weimar for a
performance of the Cid something that irritated Wagner beyond
measure and led him to openly threaten to deprive Cornelius
of his thousand gulden (Istel, 1934, p. 341).
As was Cornelius's way, he spoke frankly to Princess
Wittgenstein in a letter to her June 27, 1865. He stated:
Vor dem aufgefihrten Cid war vieles anders,
ich konnte schwankend, zuwartend bleiben; nach
demselben ist er mir nur zu entschieden, daB ich in
der Produktion nicht die Wege des Sch6pfers von
Tristan und Isolde nacht reten kann, sondern im
innersten frei meinen eignen Weg gehen muB. Heute
mogen meine Freunde dies tadeln; nach lahren werden
sie einschen, daB ich recht gehabt. (Cornelius,
S. Before the Cid was performed things were
different. I could suspend judgment, remain
expectant; now I am only too sure that I cannot
follow the composer of Tristan und Isolde in my
creative work. I must go my own way, spiritually
independent. Today my friends may censure this;
eventually they will realize that I am right.
Cornelius sent Wagner a "cordial, enthusiastic" letter
of farewell. Yet no break occurred at that time. Cornelius,
after a five-month stay in Weimar, finally returned to
Munich, with the financial help of his brother Carl. Hans
von Bulow and his wife Cosima arrived in Munich in the fall
of the year and through Billow's intervention Wagner and
Cornelius became close friends again. Cornelius apologized.
"Wagner, I am heartily sorry. I have been stupid about many
things." "Nonsense"! Wagner replied, "Let us be men and
forget about it." From this point their friendly relations
continued without serious disruption (Istel, 1934, p. 341).
Cornelius's eternal respect for Wagner the composer is
revealed in a series of essays written about him and his
operas: "Der Lohengrin in Munchen," 1867; "Der Tannhauser in
Munchen," 1867; "Beim Jahreswechal," 1868; "Die Meistersinger
von Richard Wagner," 1868; "Deutsche Kunst und Richard
Wagner," 1871 (Seeley, 1980, p. 46). Concerning the Bulows,
Cornelius saw early on the course of events which were taking
shape in the Wagner household. His diary and letters to
family are a chronicle of Wagner's entanglement with the
Bulow couple. As a result of much unpleasantness which
followed, the King himself asked Wagner to leave Munich,
which took place on December 10, 1865. Of Wagner, Cornelius
writes to a friend, "One must simply accept Wagner for the
unique being that he is, tolerate him, and love him, for like
everyone else he has lovable qualities after all" (Istel,
1934, p. 341).
Shortly after assuming his position in Munich as reader
to King Ludwig II and as teacher of music theory and rhetoric
at the Munich Royal School of Music, Cornelius became engaged
to Bertha Jung. He had known her since 1853 as a family
friend. It was during their first year of engagement that he
produced his sixth and last song cycle, An Bertha, Opus 15.
They were married two and a half years later on August 14th.
Cornelius traveled to Meiningen for the Allgemeinen
Deutschen Musikvereins where he lived in the hotel with
Liszt. He frequently wrote to Bertha and his letters
reflected the atmosphere there. "Liszt was truly dear but
there is one unique thing--Wagner is, despite all his deceit
and storminess, still more dear." Notwithstanding
Cornelius's distaste for the morality of Wagner, he was a
devoted friend to him (Seeley, 1980, pp. 46-47).
Hans von Bulow became the new administrator for the
Koniglichen Musikschule which opened in October of 1867.
Cornelius had heavy demands on him as instructor of both
harmony and poetry; nevertheless, he produced a large number
of sacred and secular choral works, Opus 9 through Opus 13,
and Opus 17 through Opus 19. He also started a third opera,
Gunlod, but did not live to complete it. During this past
period, Cornelius settled down to a rather uncomplicated and
domestic life. Plans for assuming the editorship of Neue
Zeitschrift fur Musik in 1869 did not materialize. His
friendships of earlier days were now restricted to rather
infrequent correspondence (Seeley, 1980, p. 49).
While Cornelius was killing himself with work in Munich,
Wagner was beginning the most brilliant period in his career
in Bayreuth. Cornelius's last personal encounter with
Wagner, at the cornerstone laying for Wagner's new opera
house in Bayreuth in 1872, yielded a disappointingly curt
conversation with Wagner, who now had no further need of the
lesser composer's friendship. "We (Cornelius and Bertha)
spent two days there and scarcely saw the master," Cornelius
reports. "I can count the words that we exchanged." So
ended a friendship (Istel, 1934, p. 343).
At the request of Cosima von Bulow-Wagner, Cornelius
wrote a new text for some music Wagner had composed in 1835--
in honor of Wagner's sixtieth birthday. He also resumed
translations for Liszt and prepared German translations of La
Serva Padrona and Alceste.
Cornelius's life was also ending. Before reflecting on
his last days, mention of his personality traits is
warranted. A primary characteristic of Cornelius was his
deep faith. His habits and ethics stemmed from it. He was
Catholic and religious, but not dogmatic. He married a
Protestant and they had four children, three sons and one
daughter. Cornelius turned down a possible appointment in
Soest because it was coupled with the demands of a dogmatic
One could characterize him as liberal, and not only in
the Christian area. The anti-semitism attributed to him
because of his unfailing devotion to Wagner cannot be
justified, because it is known that many of his personal and
closest friends were Jews: his teacher Dehn, the pianist
Carl Tausig, the publisher Schlesinger, who published
Vaterunser, which was a deeply religious statement by
Cornelius. Honesty must be named as an apparent character
trait of Cornelius. His ethics are connected to this trait,
as inferred by his work as a music critic. The standards by
which he measured the worth of an artist were seriousness,
devotion, determination, and craftsmanship. Cornelius was
determined to live by these same standards as attested to by
his self- criticism. In addition to his objectivity,
Cornelius possessed a modesty which was not flirting. He
called himself an evolving being and this evolution in him
mani- fested itself in his enormous struggle for education.
He managed this quite systematically in the style of today's
"life-long learning." For example, this is how he learned in
the course of his life seven languages, which he spoke
fluently. He was able to translate works from German and
Two further characteristics were almost inseparable in
his lifestyle--his love for his homeland, for the scenery of
the Rhine and for Mainz, and his always-ready humor. His
great sense of justice also distinguished him, as well as his
gratitude, to which Liszt, Wagner, and his brother Carl have
testified. Cornelius's struggle for the identity of his
feelings, thoughts, and actions served as the connecting
trait of his personality which lasted throughout his entire
life (Hoffman, 1977, pp. 115-116).
In a letter to a friend, written in 1849, Cornelius
If I were to pass judgment on myself, it would
be in these terms: I have a fair talent for
composition, in spite of the fact that nature has
not endowed me with the inexhaustible invention of
a Mozart or a Rossini. . I can quietly lay
claim to one good thing--what little I have is my
own property. I do not dig in other people's
fields, or adorn myself with others' feathers; so I
may hope that when I come to my years of discretion
I have, God willing, a certain individuality to
display. (Ewen, 1966, p. 101)
On October ,6, 1874, having developed a respiratory
illness, Cornelius died, just two months short of his
fiftieth birthday. Two of his four children, all under the
age of six at the time of his death, died soon after him.
His bride of seven years died in 1904.
"I know that I must remain unknown for years on my path
as poet-musician; but I also know for sure that my struggle
will be noted and admired" (Hoffman, 1977, p. 14).
A BRIEF REVIEW OF OPERA IN GERMANY DURING THE
FIRST HALF OF THE 19TH CENTURY
In Germany, the first half of the 19th century was one
of transition, uncertainty, and disintegration with regard to
opera (Leigner, 1944, p. 51). Opera was very slow in
developing in Germany and, aside from the Hamburg operas,
only translations of other operas were presented. When the
Hamburg operatic venture floundered in 1738, the Hamwurst
company in Vienna's Karntnertortheater was the only German-
language Singspiel venture with a permanent home. Wandering
troupes gave operatic performances of a popular nature and in
the vernacular. This alone helps account for the short-lived
and usually simple nature of the early German-language
Singspiels. Aside from the fact that most of the casts were
actors and actresses who could also sing, as opposed to fully
trained musicians, the expense of trying to maintain even a
moderate-sized orchestra as well as large-scale works was far
beyond the means of almost all of the companies (Branscombe,
1980, pp. 585-586).
Singspiel was the immediate background of German opera;
it reached its peak with Mozart's The Magic Flute (Grout,
1980, p. 625). The major literary figures, such as Wieland
and Goethe, met with limited success by providing superior
texts, and neither added to his reputation or to the
permanent repertory of the Singspiel by his contribution to
the genre (Branscombe, 1980, p. 586).
Suffering from extremely pour books on one hand and lack
of originality on the other, these early operas, Singspiele
or Liederspiele, were little more than vague or even direct
plagiarisms from the best-known composers of the day. The
great number of Quodlibets were the ultimate creations in
Breidenstein's Der Kappellmeister von Venedig (c. 1844),
a typical example of the Quodlibet genre, is full of long
quotations from Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute, Fiqaro, and
some of the Dittersdorf works. Apart from Mozart, Ditters
von Dittersdorf (1739-1799) was the best of the Viennese
Singspiel composers of some prevention (Branscombe, 1980, p.
588). He became one of the most charming composers not only
of the Singspiel but of a large number of symphonies,
divertimenti, and chamber music. In his comic operas, he
captured the fluency of the Italians and the humor of the
Germans or, rather, Austrians. By any standard other than
comparison with Mozart, his feeling for musical
characterization and humor was exceptional (Leigner, 1944, p.
59). Dittersdorf's greatest successes--Der Apotheker und der
Doctor, Der Betruq durch Aberglaudeb, Hieronvmus Knicker, Die
Liebe im Narrenhause, and Das rote Kappchen--were all
Singspiels, though he sometimes favored the description
"komische Oper" (Branscombe, 1980, p. 588).
Ignaz von Ritter Seyfried (1776-1841), who was taught by
the greatest masters of his time--Haydn, Albrechsberger,
Mozart, and his friend Beethoven--realized he could not excel
his teachers; he filled his twenty operettas and his twenty-
five operas with quotations from their works. Judging from
the titles of his operas, he undoubtedly had a flair for the
comic: "The Ox-Minuet," "Husbands after a Fashion," "The
Postman," "The Living Wine-Barrel," and "Rachus Pumpernickel"
(Leigner, 1944, p. 90).
In the early 19th century the Singspiel productions were
influenced mostly by French opera. In its search for
national unity and a sense of growth and direction, the
politically stagnant group of states that then formed Germany
turned to France as its inspiration for a dynamic alternative
society (Warrack, 1980, p. 591).
The serious music dramas of the French opera, mostly
horror and rescue stories, were a product of the French
Revolution which had a profound effect on the German
composers. The social and political upheavals following the
Revolution found expression in the operatic books of the
period. Floods, earthquakes, shipwrecks, etc. were popular
topics of the horror operas. The usual plot of the rescue
opera was an imprisoned hero or heroine, who, after long
suffering and almost insurmountable odds, is finally freed,
and the villain arrested. Beethoven's only opera Fidelio is
an outstanding example of the strong influence of the French
composers on their German counterparts (Leigner, 1944, p.
The most important factor to influence oper. after
Mozart was the new literary concept, Romanticism. The
Singspiel became increasingly imbued with Romantic elements,
at the same time retaining and even intensifying its national
features. These two trends are illustrated by two operas
produced in 1816: Undine by the distinguished author and
musician E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776-1822) and Faust by Ludwig
Spohr (1784-1859), the leading minor German composer of the
early Romantic era (Grout, 1980, p. 625). In its contact
with music, romanticism tended to give way to complete
freedom of emotional expression as an ever moving force
rather than make use of the more logical and formal
structures of the previous period. The literary movement
soon engulfed all phases of life.
The more serious pursuits such as the creative arts and
scientific and scholarly fields, history, etc. were also
tinged with the romantic concept. Histories of music,
musicians' monographs, and musical criticism are indicative
of the changed frame of mind (Leigner, 1944, p. 53). The
Romantic concept was perfectly valid, but its effect on
music, especially operatic music, was at times unfortunate;
the word gained a towering position over the music.
Frequently this was only theoretically true.
Legend, fairy tales, horror stories, and magic became
the central points of attraction. The same elements can be
found in late 18th-century operas, but there was a greater
tendency to improve the quality of the text and bring ocu its
innermost feelings. This became an uncontrollable passion in
the early 19th century.
Romanticism was very personal and filled with contrast-
ing concepts of music, so much so that not all characteris-
tics of style were present in all forms. Contradictions in
style existed between groups of composers and even within the
works of individual composers (Wold and Cykler, 1979, p.
A characteristic aspiration of the German romantic was
the idea of opera as a fusion of the arts--poetry, music,
acting, painting, and dancing--and not just as a conjunction
(Donnington, 1978, p. 113). There was one concept that all
Romanticists had in common which gave their music a sense of
unity: Their music was aimed at the evocation of emotion as
its primary function. The concept was based on the premise
that a feeling of musical tension is necessary to achieve a
corresponding intensification of emotional response (Wold and
Cykler, 1979, p. 175).
For the romanticizing of opera, two centuries had
provided abundant subject matter: the invitation of
Classical tragedy, the main point for the Florentine
Camerata; the appearance of figures from Roman history; the
appearance of figures from the early Middle Ages and from the
period after the decline of the Roman Empire; and the Spanish
dramas with their colorful adventures as well as the Spanish
novel--Don Quixote carried the principal role, as hero, in a
After 1750, a new and more colorful source emerged which
manifested itself throughout the entire operatic field, the
"Turkish opera," with its half comic, half fantastic
character. The "Turkish opera" presented a new exotic world
and as examples of Singspiel, Neefe's Adelheit von Veltherm
(1780) or Mozart's Entfuhrung aus dem Serail (1782).
Frenchman Andre Gretry perhaps contributed most to the
transformation of 18th-century opera into Romantic opera.
His comedie-ballet, Zemire et Azor (1771), set in a distant
part of the Orient (where fairies still intervene in the fate
of men), was reworked by a German librettist five years later
(1776) and bore the subtitle "Romantic Comic Opera." This
new concept, which proved so influential in the realm of
opera, had received explicit, verbal expression for the first
time. The material used in Gretry's Zemire et Azor was later
used by Spohr in 1819 (Einstein, 1975, p. 105).
The fusion of the fantastic with the folklore, and
similarly also of the sentimental with the comic, was present
in works like Mozart's The Magic Flute (1791), with which the
history of German opera as a whole began. Ignaz Holzbauer's
Gunther von Schwarzburg (Mannheim, 1777) was considered a
patriotic opera. Baldur's Death (Copenhagen, 1778) by Dane
J.E. Hartmann was a "heroic Singspiel" with a Valkyrie
chorus--seventy years before Richard Wagner. There were
fairy tale operas a hundred years before Humperdinck's Hansel
und Gretel, such as Rihezohl (1789) by Joseph Schuster of
Dresden (Einstein, 1979, p. 106).
It was not within the scope of this study to examine the
following composers or their operas in detail. Only the
basic and most outstanding features have been mentioned in
order to show their positions in the development of German
Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826)
The definitive work that established German Romantic
opera was Weber's Der Freischutz, first performed at Berlin
in 1821. Weber has been considered the founder of the German
Romantic school of opera. He was something of a child
prodigy and in addition to his fame as a composer, he was
well known as a brilliant pianist, a master orchestrator, and
conductor (Wold and Cykler, 1979, p. 194). His opera Der
Freischitz ("The Freeshooter") is based on a German folk tale
that dwells on supernatural phenomenon and reveals the
sentimentality of middle-class personages. The story
concerns a gamekeeper's assistant who can win his bride only
if he is successful in a shooting match. But his hand is
unsteady, and the prospects are not bright. A comrade, who
has long since fallen and sold his soul to the Devil,
misleads him into casting enchanted bullets, of which six
will hit their mark but one will be directed by the Devil as
he wishes. At the crucial moment, it strikes the girl. But
Heaven has regard for the mortals: A wreath of consecrated
white roses protects the victim and reflects the bullet to
the villain. The action is set in the superstitious period
after the Thirty Years' War and in the forests of Bohemia
(Einstein, 1979, p. 111).
The importance of Weber's Der Freischutz as a landmark
of Romantic opera lies in its inventive synthesis of many
elements. It includes songs drawing on a melodic style
fashioned out of folksongs, substantial arias, popular
choruses, ensembles using motivic methods, and functionally
colorful orchestration; its subject celebrated popular life
while at the same time using the Romantic fascination with
supernatural horror in the Wolf's Glen, a graphic depiction
of the upheaval of nature, the horror in trafficking with the
devil, and the tragic event in store for the hero (Warrack,
1980, p. 594).
Der Freischutz has been called "the most German of all
operas." But it is only the material that is German--in the
sense of the distinctively German Gothic horror and of the
then popular German tragedies of fate. The "German" pieces
in the opera are, after Weber's manner, sharply German: the
hunters' choruses, the peasants' march, and the bridesmaids'
chorus. Der Freischutz is Weber's own, and because Weber's
style is so markedly personal, he set the tone for the entire
Romantic German opera (Einstein, 1979, p. 111).
Weber followed Der Freischutz with Euryanthe (1823), a
heroic-romantic opera without supernatural elements but with
a pseudo-medieval plot, and Oberon (1826), a fairy tale
Singspiel. Der Freischitz and Oberon follow conventional
German use and employ spoken dialogue; Eurvanthe, with
recitatives, is exceptional. All three operas make a point
of recurring themes in the orchestra to suggest recurrent
ideas, characters, or presence, clearly foreshadowing
Wagner's technique of leitmotifs (Jacobs, 1974, p. 214).
The elements found in Weber's operas are those which
established the German Romantic opera. The stories were
often based on medieval history, German legends and folklore,
or fairy tale; plots leaned heavily on supernatural and
occult elements, as well as the wild and mysterious aspects
of nature. Supernatural incidents were treated seriously as
intertwined with the fate of the human protagonists. An
important element used was the idea of salvation or
redemption theme somewhere in the story; German operas differ
strongly from French and Italian operas in the importance
given to the physical and spiritual background (Grout, 1980,
p. 626). Their musical style and forms naturally have much
in common with the operas of other countries: The
recitatives and arias are still closed forms but with a new
element, the use of simple folk-like melodies, usually to
represent the people, "das volk." The orchestra became a
powerful instrument in creating atmosphere, moods, and bits
of realism. There was a strong reliance on harmony and
orchestral color for dramatic expressiveness. Recurring
themes became prominent. The overture became a collection of
the important melodies of the opera (Wold and Cykler, 1979,
The slowness with which Romantic opera spread in Germany
was due largely to practical considerations. German life was
decentralized and lacked organization. As a result, Germany
was for a long time dependent on Hoftheater (Court Theater),
in which aristocratic and normally Italian tradition
predominated. There were numerous composers who worked on a
smaller scale but made notable contributions to the genre in
the years after Weber's death (Warrach, 1980, p. 594).
Heinrich Marschner (1795-1861)
If it can be said that Weber had a successor, it was
Marschner. He continued to exploit the supernatural,
mingling it with an undisputed gift for the comic. His first
success came in 1828 with Der Vampvr ("The Vampire"), an
opera now remembered mainly because it was one of Wagner's
models for Der Fliegende Hollander. Marschner's Templar und
Judin ("The Templer and the Jewess," 1829) was adapted from
Scott's Ivanhoe. His masterpiece, Hans Heiling (1833), was
on a libretto by Edward Devrient from a story by K6rner,
originally intended for Mendelssohn. Just as the central
situation of Templar und Judin is similar to that of
Lohengrin, so the figure of Hans Heiling, half man and half
earth spirit, in love with a natural woman, has many points
of resemblance to Wagner's Dutchman (Grout, 1956, p. 370).
Though lacking Weber's imaginative penetration and lyri-
cal gift, Marschner possessed real dramatic feeling. His
harmonic sense and gift for vivid orchestration were well
adapted to express the supernatural side of Romanticism. In
spite of his penchant for the macabre, he possessed an equal-
ly typical Romantic love of nature and peasant life that
comes out in the comic episodes of his opera (Einstein, 1975,
Albert Lortzinq (1801-1851)
Alongside the specifically Romantic traits of Marschner
was a strong current of lighter, entertaining, comic popular
music inherited from the Singspiel of the 18th century.
Albert Lortzing was famous for his comic production. His
music has a simple charm that fits well to the type of
romantic comedy he preferred. Though not a polished
composer, and sometimes an overly sentimental one, his works
represent the most agreeable type of German comic opera
(Leigner, 1944, p. 130). Lortzing's Zar und Zimmerman ("Czar
and Carpenter," 1837), Der Wildschutz ("The Poacher," 1842),
and Der Waffenschmied ("The Armorer," 1846) abound in
humorous situations like those of the older Viennese
Singspiel, with a fresh, pleasant, and often witty melodic
style. Some of the ensembles recall the spirit of Mozart.
Most characteri-Lic are the simple songs in folk idiom.
Lortzing ventured on the ground of romantic opera, with
its supernatural beings and theme of redemption through love.
His systematic use of leitmotifs and his powers of musical
description are interesting both in themselves and as
predecessors of the music of Wagner's Ring. Lortzing's opera
Hans Sachs (1840) is one of the numerous sources of Die
Meistersinger (Grout, 1956, p. 371). Zar und Zimmerman was
important because comic opera was not a major genre in 19th-
Lortzing, whose Ali Pascha appeared almost twenty-five
years before Der Barbier, was influential because of his
comic bass characters such as Van Bett in Zar und Zimmerman.
Cornelius was familiar with this opera, having seen a
performance of it in Wiesbaden in 1847. He expressed a
desire to become a second Lortzing but more noble in every
respect (Griffel, 1975, p. 391).
Otto Nicolai (1810-1849)
Nicolai was one of the German composers who felt the
necessity of "living under the southern sun to get the proper
operatic inspirations." Discouraged by the conditions in
Germany he spent most of his life in Italy writing mainly
Italian operas. He was very anxious to write a German opera
but felt that "Germany is a country of baboons. She would
rather take the worst Italian or French operas than pay for a
German one . a sad, sad fate to be a German opera
composer" (Leigner, 1944, p. 121).
Nicolai was influential to Cornelius through his one
remembered (and last) work Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor
("The Merry Wives of Windsor," 1849), a fine comic work which
contained elements of magic and atmosphere. It was in this
work that Nicolai blended Italian and German characteristics.
Die lustigen Weiber is in the traditional style of
German, French, and Italian comic operas with spoken dialogue
and an assortment of the usual set pieces. It does, however,
offer several important parallels to Der Barbier. The
orchestra sets the scene of the mystical Windsor woods and in
Der Barbier the zwischenakt (Entracte) describes the exotic
environment of Bagdad musically through the use of Oriental
themes. Two comic characters in the Nicolai work, Falstaff
and Frau Reich, have their counterparts in the Barber and
Bostana; and the young lovers, Fenton and Anna, are similar
to Nureddin and Margiana. Cornelius matched Nicolai's skill
in adapting the comic parlando style to German. Nicolai,
unlike Cornelius, remained free of any Wagnerian influence
(Griffel, 1975, p. 394). Chronologically, Cornelius figures
prominently at this time. His operas will be discussed in
the succeeding chapters and will not be addressed at this
with Nicolai we come to the close of the first half of
the 19th century in Germany. From here the succession of
composers runs straight to earl, Wagner. Beethoven's name
dominated musical history in the first half of the 19th
century, and for many people at the time, that of Richard
Wagner seemed equally important in the second.
Wagner created a new form that combined music and drama,
certainly operatic in terms of stage performance, but in
structure owing almost as much to Beethoven's symphonies as
it did to the operas of Gluck or Weber (Headington, 1976, p.
232). With the music dramas of Wagner, the second half of
the 19th century completed the return to the original
Florentine ideal of opera as drama continuously and flexibly
unfolding in words and music (Donnington, 1978, p. 121).
DER BARBIER VON BAGDAD
Cornelius's first creative period as poet-musician
concluded with the Wiehnachtslieder ("Christmas Songs") in
November of 1856, and the most noted evidence of his lyrical
word-tone-poetic style is his cycle of songs Trauer and Trost
("Sorrow and Solace") (Hasse, 1923, p. 1). His success was
limited to dramatic-musical areas, for he was not a post-
classical master of song. Perhaps this was due to the choice
of poor texts rather than with a possible one-sided ability
of the composer.
The most fruitful period for him was during the years
1854-56, the first half of his life, but his lyrical world-
tone style did not reach full maturity during these years.
It was during this time, however, that he changed from the
subjective style of the lyricist to the objective style of
the playwright. This transition from subjectivity to
objectivity appears to be spiritually induced. With regard
to the blending of word and tone, Cornelius could not explain
this type composition when he told others about his work. He
asserted that the music was always the base and it gave the
inner mood for the text (Hasse, 1923, p. 6).
Cornelius spoke on occasion of his "inner song" when he
was composing. This "inner song" sounded so powerful to him
at times that it temporarily expelled the words. It had to
do with a specific phenomenon that might interest
psychologists. The "inner song" referred to the "inner
hearing of the entire piece." Individual scene- appeared to
him and he conceived music with them (Cornelius, 1904, 3:3).
His absolute pitch enabled him to perceive the orchestral
sound during the creative process. The hours of tonal
harmony with the piece, and then of the words with the tone
were some of the happiest in his life. This time was the
"holiest and deepest" for him, and he called it "the coming
of the Holy Spirit" over him. He then began to weep (Hasse,
1923, p. 8).
The phenomenon is explained thusly: The poet-musician's
soul experiences moments in which his dramatic material
overpowers him, but the inner perception does not always
immediately come to words. Chains of association relating to
the nature of sound are awakened to carry this material
higher. To this awakened world of sound the word is joined,
which adds to it, and in its way becomes a reflection of this
world of sound. If it is written down, and one views it
again later, it reawakens that world of sound clearly, or
unclearly, again and puts the artist in the position of
giving his already established inner picture of tone a solid
form: The "composing" begins (Hasse, 1923, p. 10).
History of the Text
In the biography of his father, Carl Cornelius stated
that the beginnings of Der Barbier von Bacdad "lay completely
in the dark." Also, the stimulus came perhaps from the
masquerade of fantasy that the Lisztians practiced, in that
they called their master "Padischah" and themselves "Muzls,"
with all possible Oriental nicknames (Cornelius, 1925,
1:224). One thing is certain: The story of "The Barber of
Bagdad" was based on one of the stories from A Thousand and
One Nights, the best known example of Arabic literature in
the world. The narrative bore the title "The Story of the
Tailor" (Horst, 1977, p. 122).
Cornelius's is the eighth musical version. To ascertain
the amount of dependency his adaptation had to its
predecessors, a brief discussion of the other versions is
needed. Attention must first be focused on the original
"Story of the Tailor" to see how each version differed.
The narrator--the Tailor--tells of a young man with a
lame leg who joins a marriage celebration, but when he sees a
certain barber among the revelers, he threatens to leave.
When asked why, he offers the following tale. The son of a
wealthy merchant in Bagdad, he was walking along the street
one day and accidentally entered a rarely traveled
passageway. He noticed there the most beautiful lady he had
ever seen, and she was watering flowers. When she looked up
and saw her admirer, however, she closed the window and
disappeared. The youth was smitten by love and remained in
front of her house until sunset, when he saw her father, the
Cadi, return. He then retired to his home and began grieving
because of unrequited love, until an old woman came to him
and promised to bring him to the young lady. A rendezvous
was arranged for the hour of prayer, when the father was
expected to be at the mosque. In preparation for the
meeting, the young man called for a barber to shave him.
Instead of beginning right away, however, the barber,
following an age-old tradition, started an endless stream of
chatter. The barber also started to tell the youth's
horoscope and found that now was the best time for a shave,
since Mars and Mercury were in conjunction. When the young
man protested the delay, the barber launched into a self-
laudatory monologue. Exasperated by this speech, the youth
blundered by calling the barber an unbearable chatterer,
whereupon the latter replied he bore the name as-Samit, the
Silent one, and launched into the tale of his six unfortunate
brothers and their gruesome fates. At that, the young man
wanted to send him away, but the barber refused. Even
begging was fruitless. Finally the barber began to shave
him, but with great pauses, in which he gossiped further.
The youth told the barber he was invited somewhere in the
afternoon, which reminded the barber that he had invited
friends for lunch, but had not bought anything yet. The
youth fed the barber and left the house just in time to hear
the Selam for Friday called out by the Muezzins. He then
went to the young damsel's house and was admitted by the old
But the barber followed him there, and as the old
troublemaker waited outside, he heard the father beating a
slave for a minor offense. Taking the shrieks of the slave
to be those of the youth, he started crying for help and
telling the neighbors that his master was being murdered in
the Cadi's house. The young man's servants also arrived on
the scene and, believing the barber, began tearing their hair
in mourning. When the Cadi went out to see what the
commotion was about, the barber accused him of murder. At
that the Cadi asked why he should kill their master. The
barber told him the young man was with his daughter. The
Cadi allowed them to search the house; the wailing horde, led
by the barber, entered the house. The young man had heard
everything from the window and hid himself in the only
available place in the young lady's room, a large chest. The
barber entered her chamber, saw the chest, found the young
man in it, lifted it onto his head, and started out the door.
The desperate youth then raised the lid, jumped out, and
escaped through a window, but at the price of breaking his
leg in the fall. The barber chased him through much of
Bagdad but finally lost his trail, until the current wedding
party. At that--so continues the storyteller--the young man
went away and the barber told his story and that of his six
brothers (Burton, 1962, pp. 418-420).
In this "Story of the Tailor" several characteristics of
Arabic love stories are found: (1) love at first sight--a
young man falls deeply in love at the first sight of a lovely
girl or even the sight of her picture or even at the
description of her beauty; (2) the unhappy lover--the unhappy
lover becomes sick, becomes insane or, as preserved legend
shows, even dies; (3) the old matchmaker--the matchmaker
attempts (and succeeds) through untiring efforts to cause the
unhappy lover to at least make a visit; (4) the figure of the
barber--the envious one, the one who envies the lovers'
happiness and attempts to put all sorts of hindrances in the
way. Also, the one who is an authority in every field of
knowledge; (5) the secretive hiding in the loved one's house
at a time when disruption is least to be feared, namely on
Friday at noontime, when the Moslems are accustomed to
practicing the Friday service with prayer in the main mosque
of the city; and (6) the bodily danger when an unmarried
couple meet for a delicate tete-a-tete. There are, however,
two characteristics of the Tailor story that are not typical:
the unhappy ending of the story and the fact that the
characters have no names (Horst, 1977, p. 123).
Frenchman Charles Palissot published Le Barbier de
Baqdad, Comedie after the original "Story of the Tailor." He
changed nothing apart from the character of Arlequin, which
he newly introduced. There are, however, some other things
that are different from the original and have to do mainly
with subject matter. For the first time the characters
possess names: the young man is called Alamanzor, the girl
Zulime, the old matchmaker has been changed to a slave with
the name Fatme. Arlequin, a slave of Alamanzor's, a comic
figure, as well as other slaves of Alamanzor and the
attendants of Cadi are newly introduced (Horst, 1977, p.
From this first French edition of The Barber of Bagdad
there is an anonymous accurate German translation from about
1772 supposedly written by Johann Heinrich Faber. Additional
German editions have been operettas. The third edition is by
Wilhelm Mylius from about 1780. In Mylius's work Zulime
becomes Sulamith, Arlequin becomes Zulip, and the barber
receives the name Sandrapandraback (Horst, 1977, p. 125).
The fourth edition, also an operetta, by Johann Andre is also
similar in content with the predecessors. The comical slave
is now called Osmin, the barber loses his name again and does
not portray his own excellent qualities himself, but Osmin
Two other editions were by Maximilian Habicht and
Friedrich Heinrich, and Alexander Konig (Horst, 1977, p.
126). Of the several translations available for A Thousand
and One Nights, Cornelius chose the one by Alexander Konig,
which was published in Berlin by Carl J. Kelmann in the first
half of the 19th century (Cornelius, Musikalische Werke,
1903, 3:vi). The Tailor's story begins on the twenty-fourth
night. Konig's work came to Cornelius's attention through a
conversation with Reinhold Kohler, who provided him with the
preserved German edition in the Grand Duke's library (Hasse,
1923, p. 2).
Cornelius, as well as Palissot, kept the essence of the
original story but his opera opens with the youth pining away
for his unattainable love. The tale ends happily, with the
young couple being united, instead of the young man fleeing
and being injured.
The Main Characters
In his Barber Cornelius furnished the anonymous people
of the "Story of the Tailor" with names and traits like those
of other personages in various Nights stories. Nureddin, the
hero of Cornelius's opera, has the same name as the
protagonist in various Nights stories, including the tale of
"Nur Al-Din Ali and His Son Badr Al-Din Hasan" (no. 5) and
"Nur Al-Din and the Damsel Anis Al-Jalis" (no. 7). One can
readily see the connection with regard to the spelling of the
name--Nureddin (Nur al-Din) (Griffel, 1975, p. 404). The
barber in Cornelius's opera is called Abul Hassan Al Edn
Bekar. Sources for this may have included the tale of
"Aboul-l-Hassan 'Ali b. Bakkar," which incidentally, follows
the tales of the barber's six brothers in the French
collection. In addition, Ali Edn Bekar is a Persian prince
who appears in a number of other tales from the Nights. It
is in the treatment of the central figure of the barber that
Cornelius deviated from the buffa norm. Heretofore, an old
man, usually the girl's guardian, attempts to thwart the
young lovers because he himself wants to marry her. The
barber, however, is the promoter of love. He assumes
responsibility for Nureddin without logical reason and
protects the young man throughout the opera. He is an
extremely peculiar, attractive character, the Oriental
fatalistic philosopher and astrologer.
Margiana, the heroine of the opera, appears in two
tales, "Firuz and His Wife" (no. 11)1 and "The Lovers of the
Banu Uzrah" (no. 145) (Griffel, 1975, p. 406). "Margiana"
means "the she branch" in Persian and is usually the name of
a female slave in the Nights (Burton, 1962, 2:1059). She is
also similar in character and name to Morgiane, the soprano
heroine in Cherubini's Ali Baba.
The fourth main character of the opera, the go-between
Bostana, has namesakes in various Nights tales. She is the
daughter of the magician Bahram in the tale of "Qamar az-
Zaman" (no. 12B) (Griffel, 1975, p. 406).
1This tale also contains the name Aboul al-Hassan, which, if
combined with Ali ibn Bakkar, forms the name of Cornelius's