Episode 5: Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt, with Anthony Negus and Prof Ken Hamilton

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Longborough Festival Opera's Music Director Anthony Negus joins the pianist and musicologist Professor Kenneth Hamilton, as they discuss the surprising personal and musical relationships between Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt. Hosted by writer and librettist Sophie Rashbrook.

Thanks to Stuart Essenhigh on trumpet in the introduction.

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Sophie Rashbrook

Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner: two titans of the 19th century music world with two very different legacies today. During their lifetime, Wagner was reliant on Liszt, the superstar pianist and composer, for public endorsement and financial support. A situation perhaps complicated by the fact that Liszt became Wagner's father-in-law in 1870 when he married Liszt’s daughter -  a certain Cosima.

Six years later at a feast following the first complete ring cycle at Bayreuth, Wagner raised a toast to Liszt, saying “for everything that I am and have achieved, I have one person to thank without whom not a single note of mine would have been known. A dear friend who, when I was banned in Germany, with matchless devotion and self-denial drew me into the light and was the first to recognise me. To this dear friend belongs the highest honour, it is my sublime friend and master Franz Liszt.” 

But things weren't always this rosy between the two men as we're about to find out. My name is Sophie Rashbrook and with me to explore the connections, both musical and personal, between Wagner and Liszt are professor Ken Hamilton, pianist and musicologist at the Cardiff University School of Music, and Longborough Opera's own music director Anthony Negus. 

Now, let's start with Ken - so you've written extensively on the connections between Liszt and Wagner. How did the two men first meet, and how did they later describe this meeting? 

Ken Hamilton

Well, they both meet initially in 1840 in Paris. Wagner remembers the meeting very well, but Liszt initially can't even remember that he’d ever met Wagner. And the situation is as follows - in 1840 Liszt is perhaps the single most famous musician in Europe, certainly the most famous performing musician. He has enormous fame as a pianist and beginning to have some importance as a composer; whereas Wagner is a penniless musician in Paris, he's had to flee Riga - where he was Kapellmeister, he was conductor of the opera there - with his wife to Paris where he has hoped to make his name but he hasn't managed to make his name, he ends up making some basically routine transcriptions, and copying jobs, and things like that - desperately trying to make a living. His wife is constantly giving him a hard time about, “why did you have to run up so much money and debts in Riga, why did we have to come here? This is not working is it?” or whatever, and he's really at the nadir of his career.

It's a very bad time which both he and his wife remembered with great bitterness. And of course Liszt is occasionally visiting Paris, he's living elsewhere and now mostly touring. He’s feted, he’s idolised, he’s making a huge amount of money. He’s constantly surrounded by admirers and sycophants and whatever. And so when he's introduced to Wagne he later doesn't even remember meeting Wagner because Wagner's just another guy that’s sort of hanging around, and is not famous at the time. But of course Wagner remembers meeting him. 

And then later Liszt hears Wagner's first big success, the opera Rienzi in Dresden. And Liszt a few years later becomes himself court conductor of the opera in Weimar. And of course Wagner is by that time also court conductor in Dresden, and that's roughly when they begin to start a proper interaction and friendship. But of course by the time, after 1844, Liszt begins to get to know Wagner's works and begins to admire them hugely. So it begins really as an artistic friendship, an artistic admiration on Liszt’s part that gradually develops into a personal friendship.


Maybe Ken you could tell us a bit about some of these piano transcriptions, what their function was for Liszt and Wagner and perhaps show us a bit of the musical language and the influence between them. 


Yes the transcription - Liszt described his Wagner transcriptions as “modest propaganda on behalf of the sublime genius of Richard Wagner”, this is what he said.

Of course there were more than that as well. They were a sort of artistic exchange. One has to remember that in the 19th century piano arrangements and transcriptions were effectively the equivalent of the CD or the radio broadcast - they were a way of preserving music, they were a way of giving people in their own homes some access to music that they would hear relatively rarely because orchestral concerts were actually relatively rare. Of course there was no recording so you had to go to the opera and the opera you wanted to see had to be being performed at that time. 

So transcriptions represented a way that the public if you like could connect with the music as well. And in that respect, Liszt's transcriptions fall into two categories quite deliberately, one category he said were those that could only be played by “finished artists'', or virtuosi. Transcriptions like the huge Tannhäuser overture transcription is pretty difficult even for a professional pianist. And then there are the smaller transcriptions like, to take from the same opera Tannhäuser, the “Evening Star” transcription, which is not without its difficulties and of course to play beautifully is not easy at all, but the actual notes themselves if you like are well within the capacities of a decent amateur player.

So Liszt is trying to hit two markets in this sort of way, but the final thing he's beginning to do, as things gradually progress during the 1850s, is he’s beginning to add more and more of his own musical development into these transcriptions. Not into all of them, but certainly into some. So by the late 1850s, beginning of the 1860s, you hear quite a few things in the transcriptions that verge more onto fantasies. Some of them are beginning to sign a bit more like Liszt, if you like, and to some extent like late Liszt rather than Wagner, and this is actually quite unusual because Liszt is one of the few people of course writing transcriptions, and arranging for time, that has a strong enough musical personality to be able to do something like that effectively. 

So there are artistic exchanges as well. I'll give you a little example of that - if you take what seems like a difficult but straightforward arrangement, like the “Spinning Song” from The Flying Dutchman, most of it is a pianistic version of Wagner. The main tune you know, the Dutchman’s tune - and I just happen to have a piano here - you know this open fifth [music]. 

Which is harmonised by Wagner initially like Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony [music] like that, you know. But in Liszt’s transcription he basically starts playing around with it in a way that is nothing like what's in the Dutchman at all but is a lot like what the later Liszt style lifestyle begins. So we hear [music].

Now there's nothing like that in Dutchman but there’s stuff like that in later Wagner, sure. So it begins to be a sort of artistic interchange which Wagner to some extent admires and to some extent hates, but nevertheless accepts because it's Liszt. 


And about Tristan und Isolde, was there a similar playfulness in his settings in the transcriptions that he does of Tristan und Isolde


There is nothing like that in Tristan, there is an introduction that he adds that is basically a version of another part in the opera. Liszt only transcribed the final scene from Tristan, the so-called “love death”, Liebestod. But Wagner called that final scene “Isolde’s Transfiguration”, Verklärung, and in the opera it isn't led into at all by anything specific, it's just this flow of endless melody that we get [music]. 

And Brangane sings over this, you know, “do not hear us Isolde”, you know, “are you not paying attention”. And then we lead in here into the beginning of the so-called “love death”, the transfiguration.

But Liszt felt that sort of you if you like connective tissue wasn't suitable for the beginning of a piano piece, so took a theme from earlier in the opera, from act two, transposed it down effectively, the theme that was sung to the words “love holiest love” - and we get this as the introduction instead. [music]. And now into the original Wagner. 

Anthony Negus

That's really interesting. That theme, [German], “the longing for holy night” is a theme that comes exactly halfway through Tristan und Isolde, and it's a sort of culmination, you know. The theme in act two then that comes is much more chromatic in harmony, but it will become, so to speak, food for the rest of Tristan

So Liszt in a way was encapsulating one of the most important motifs and harmonies in Tristan, which I find very moving that he actually learnt them. And I also, Ken, I really find the transcription of the Liebestod wonderfully faithful to the original and I'm convinced that Liszt had a very vivid - the sound of this music in his head when he wrote that wonderful transcription. 


The interesting thing I think, not just musically, about the “love death”, the Liebestod transcription is that it was Liszt’s transcription that seems to have caused the change in title of that final scene of the opera. Wagner was really quite consistent in saying this was Isolde’s Verklärung, her transfiguration. But Liszt published his transcription as Isolde’s “love death”, as Isolde’s Liebestod, without as far as I can tell Wagner’s permission. And there’s been a lot of speculation of why was this, why the change in title - and the best explanation I've heard actually is from the scholar David Cannata, a Liszt scholar, who suggested that for Liszt as a very devout Catholic, perhaps a slightly unorthodox but nevertheless devout Catholic, the term “transfiguration” was associated with the transfiguration of the Saints and of Jesus Christ, it was a very religious concept. 

Liszt did write a little piano piece “for the festival of the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ”, for example, and therefore Wagner’s sort of psycho-sexual love-death erotic Schopenhauerian transfiguration, you know, at the end of Tristan - much as Liszt was overwhelmed by musically and conceptually - just didn't fit in with Liszt’s idea of the transfiguration of the saints, or of his Catholic religion. Therefore he changed the title. And the interesting thing is it does show - you you asked earlier on, Sophie, about the function of these transcriptions - it does show how influential and well-known these transcriptions were, in that people thereafter began to refer to this final scene as Isolde’s Liebestod, not as transfiguration. Interestingly enough Wagner tended to refer to the prelude to act one the “love death”, as a sort of love death. 


And I guess, on the subject of religion - fascinating to kind of - you know obviously Liszt had a gift for marketing and finding a snappy title that would then kind of be taken on, and that was exactly what he was hoping would happen with these transcriptions. He strikes me as very generous actually. When I was reading about him, it wasn't just Wagner that he promoted, you know, he seemed to be doing modest propaganda for most of the major composers of the 19th century it seems. 


Yeah, he was a decent guy was Liszt, though it was not entirely selfless in that Liszt could see that Wagner was a transcendental genius, and it didn't hurt Liszt to be associated with Wagner despite all the disputes around Wagner. Even the people who despised Wagner and hated his music could recognise he was a major historical figure, but Liszt was you know, unusually selfless and generous as you say, both as a supporter of other composers but also as a piano teacher - he taught all his pupils for free, you know. So in that respect he was also sort of embodiment of Christian charity. As his own personal life wasn't exactly according to the catechisms of the Catholic Church, but he did have an essential decency. 


But he was a terrible father, wasn’t he?


Yes, he was. 


I’d love to make sure that we get the musical connection between Liszt and Wagner in the 1850s. Let's go back to Faust. Because in my experience, the Faust symphony of Liszt - which funnily enough is almost parallel with Wagner’s revision of his own Faust overture, which he’d written in 18, I think it was 1840 but didn't get played until 1844. And I think that so much of the germ, if you like, of what linked the two composers is to be found here. Let's just take all the facts - the fact that Liszt performed Lohengrin in Weimar in 1850. He was the one - and that's what Wagner was really referring back to in his speech at Bayreuth. Wagner of course would have been under arrest in Germany. He had to flee from Germany because of his partaking in the 1849 Dresden revolution. And it took years and years for him even to have a partial amnesty. 

So Liszt performed Lohengrin in Weimar, and Wagner was not able to be present. I love the story that he sat in the Zurich hotel, following the timing with his stopwatch - imagining it in his head. But it was Liszt’s symphonic poems as well as Faust that really put Wagner back on track again, if you like, after Lohengrin. Because when he was Zurich, he wrote mostly prose works, he conducted concerts, but he didn't compose. But then he got this stimulus, and I think the Faust symphony is one, because harmonically as well Wagner picked up so much from Liszt, and when somebody gave that away in a press note he was not very pleased. He would have preferred to keep it secret. 


Yes, it is interesting. I mean both composers learned a lot from each other actually, as Anthony says. But there’s a lot of coincidence because there is a natural affinity and musical language which seems sometimes like influence but in fact Liszt himself said, in his later life as an old man, said to a student August Göllerich that these examples from Faust, the second theme [music] - and the Wagner [music] - Liszt said to Göllerich “I give you my word that Wagner and I both independently came up” with the same sort of theme for the sort of pensive, questing, wondering, querulous Faust in the Faust symphony and the overture, as Anthony has pointed out. And I think that must be true because the sketches for that theme seem to date from basically the late 1840s, it’s difficult to date them precisely in Liszt’s output. 

Liszt certainly didn't know the Faust overture and Wagner certainly as actually Anthony pointed out didn't know the first symphony because it hadn't been published or written and the two men hardly knew each other. So there's a lot of sort of common ground here. There's a common ground and chromatic harmony, and I think what Wagner got from Liszt was this freedom of voice leading actually. Wagner was actually, although we think about Liszt and Wagner as radicals, they were both actually quite conservative in terms of classical voice leading in the sense that they both liked sort of logical progression of each part, having a sort of clear voice leading, which Schumann for example doesn't do - the voices sometimes go all over the place in Schumann. I mean, you can hear that in the example I just played with the Liebestod, you could hear the four of the voices like a quartet all sort of intertwining logically with each other, so you can take each one of these voices as an independent melody [music].

Like that, also with Liszt the idea of this very heavily chromatic voice leading. Now what Anthony didn't mention because I know he's mentioned to us earlier off air, that he doesn't find this connection very convincing but nevertheless I will talk about it now, is that what I regard as a really quite striking connection between the opening of Liszt’s song “Lorelei”, which this version of the song was was written in 1856, just before Wagner started work on Tristan und Isolde. And of course at that point as Anthony also mentioned the two men were undergoing perhaps their most intense period of artistic connection. The opening of Tristan as we all know is cellos going up [music], and then that carrying on - so basically a cello theme rising and collapsing [music], and then the woodwind going up [music]. 

Now the opening of “Lorelei” is actually not quite based on the Tristan seventh chord, which is this half diminished seventh chord, but it's based on a more normal diminished seventh. But in fact it's exactly the same musical idea, in other words a descending cello-like figure which when Liszt did eventually orchestrate it was what came up, followed by this through yearning woodwind-like figure [music]. Which as in Tristan is again repeated [music].

And of course both the song, about the temptress, this beautiful girl that sits up on the rock and causes the sailors all to crash their boats underneath in the river Rhine - the idea of the sort of sexual temptation and yearning is the same in both. Now it could of course be a complete coincidence and of course the difference in the Wagner is it's a different sort of seventh chord which people nowadays refer to as “the Tristan chord” because it permeates Tristan und Isolde so much, and of course what Liszt uses as well in his music. But I suppose all this illustrates is that the two composers to some extent, not 100%, speak a common musical language, which for the 1850s is a really unusual musical language - extremely free in chromaticism but strict in voice leading.

It's extremely imaginative and wide ranging. And I think when Wagner hears the first versions, and Liszt plays them to him, Liszt goes to Zurich and plays over his compositions as he's creating them, when Wagner hears the first versions of Liszt’s symphonic poems, what it gives him is a sense of harmonic freedom. It's not that he necessarily copies things directly - although as Anthony has also said sometimes he does, and he admits, that he says that you know, the the Liszt symphonic poems are “a den of thieves”, and he misspeaks slightly, he means that they're basically like the things you find in a den of thieves, things that are stolen. And he's saying that he has stolen a lot from Liszt’s symphonic poems, especially the ones that he really likes like Orpheus, where you get this theme in Orpheus [music]. 

Obviously turns up as Wotan, as the Wanderer, in act one of Siegfried [music].

And of course Wagner loved Orpheus, he said it was his perfect idea of the contrast between bliss and sorrow in music. And of course the two composers conducted these pieces respectively. Not Siegfried, certainly the Liszt symphonic poems were conducted by Liszt in a joint concert that Wagner and Liszt did in Switzerland in the mid-1850s. So there’s this tremendous interaction going on. Sometimes it's easy to see who borrowed from whom, sometimes it just seems that the music is in the air, and this is the sort of common language that they speak. 


Ken that was terrific, and I agree with you about “Lorelei” very much about the opening. I think later in the song I don't think about it anymore but certainly the opening. I just think what you say is absolutely right. I mean we cannot pin down who got there first on some things. But I think another aspect to add to this is also Wagner paid tribute to Liszt also for opening up his instrumentation. Because I mean, with the Rheingold prelude he was doing something so different from anything that he'd done before. For me I think it's [Die] Walküre above all where I really get this kind of Lisztian interplay, if you like. 


I think the fundamental point is that although their personal relationship went through many ups and downs, especially because of Wagner’s relationship with Cosima, and also because Wagner was jealous about Liszt being so well known. Wagner was somebody who found it very difficult to not be the centre of attention. Even though you read criticisms in some of Wagner's “table talk”, if you like - because Cosima wrote down almost everything Wagner said over the last 25 years of his life in her hearing - although he sometimes criticises Liszt there's no doubt that Liszt is one of the very few fellow composers, contemporary composers, he respects and admires. 

Hence all the common musical language, they admitted stealing which he would joke about, you know. And when he composes Parsifal he looks through the Liszt cantata “The Bells of Strasbourg Cathedral”, he says to Cosima “just to make sure I haven't committed too obvious a plagiarism from your father”, you know, so they joke about this and then when Liszt eventually hears Parsifal, he hears that the opening theme is very similar to the opening theme of “The Bells of Strasbourg Cathedral”, that [music]. In Wagner it’s a much longer theme. 

He turns to Liszt and says “we've heard this somewhere before haven't we?”. And Liszt replied, “yes we have but at least it's being played a bit more now” is what Liszt replies. So basically that despite all the personal ups and downs and the temporary estrangement, they respect each other as creative geniuses. And this is really quite important because Wagner hardly respects anybody, really, if you read most of his writings about other composers or his personal comments. So there's a huge amount of respect even when they don't like what the other person is doing. 

And that's why this sort of common influence can can actually work because even when Wagner thinks Liszt is being too Catholic or something like that - he keeps saying the Dante symphony is too Catholic, you know “all this God and stuff blah blah” but nevertheless he really admires it, because it has fascinating musical ideas. And when you hear the opening of Parsifal the way that that theme I've just just played begins to rise up in the orchestra [music]. 

I mean, wonderful, it's one of these sort of transcendental moments in music. But you can hear exactly the same effect with different material in the beginning of the second movement of the Dante symphony, with the orchestra gradually rising up, and a different theme, a beautiful theme rising up, floating gradually higher and higher in this sort of, you know, “yearning towards paradise” as Liszt would have said. Now it doesn’t mean that the Parsifal isn't original as well, it is, but there is this sort of shared artistic world and shared admiration. 

And of course Liszt was intending to dedicate the Dante symphony to Wagner. He did, and he didn't - because he was annoyed with him at the time. He intended to and it was going to be the counter-dedication to the dedication of Lohengrin which had been dedicated to Liszt. What happened was that Liszt was very pleased with the Dante symphony and wrote to Wagner saying “this will be dedicated to you”, and was going to send him a score - and Wagner, very imprudently, this was about 1858, Wagner was going through one of his many financial crises. And wrote and said yes “the Dante symphony sounds fantastic, but send money first”. And Liszt  who was going to a very bad period at the time, things were not going well in Weimar, he just resigned his conductorship there, was extremely hurt by this and he sent a letter back to Wagner - which didn't appear in the original correspondence, it was censored when the Liszt/Wagner correspondence originally appeared, and has only in the last few decades been published in a genuine complete edition - replied saying “I'm not going to send you the score of Dante, because it can't be exchanged for a bank draft”, is what he said, “and I would ask you not to bother me again with importunate requests for money and assistance that in this difficult time can only serve to wound me”. And he doesn't. So the Dante symphony is not published with the dedication but everybody knows it really is dedicated to Wagner and, of course, they make it up later. And of course Wagner then writes a letter immediately to Liszt trying to make up, saying “oh come on now Franz, I was only joking” you know, but the damage has been done at that point and it takes up a while for it to heal. 


But we were talking about Parsifal, weren’t we. And also about the cult around Liszt that Wagner found so irritating. Ironically of course Wagner ended up with the cult around him, in Bayreuth. And of course Cosima was responsible for this. And although Wagner liked it to some extent, he had to break out of it. I think this is one of the most interesting things that had this sort of wild Saxon character, which Cosima found extremely disturbing to begin with. Because she was used to Parisian manners, and brought up there. And Wagner had this practical joking side of him, and talking incredibly intimately to people that he had only just met. And I think this put Cosima off him to begin with, but by the time she’d become his wife she really took it over. And I think, Ken would you agree, she really created the Wagner cult. 


Oh very much so. The amazing thing is that Cosima lived to 1930, which shows just how not only was she much younger than Wagner but she was much much longer lived. Now it's true for about the last 12 years of her life she was basically suffering increasingly from dementia, so that the fact the family by that time had taken over, but basically made Bayreuth a sort of museum piece. And Siegfried Wagner, their son, suffered most from this - the repeat performances of the Ring after Wagner had died, in the 1890s, she would insist that nothing could be changed at all from The Master’s production. Even the things that the master hated - because after the initial Ring production Wagner was very despondent about the things that hadn't worked, and he said to many people “next time we'll do it completely differently” because some things had gone well but some things had gone very very badly indeed.

But Cosima was determined that it remained exactly the same. When she would drag the little Siegfried into rehearsals - now Siegfried had been about five years of age or whatever during the first Ring production - and when anybody tried to do anything differently from what the master had done 1876, she would “no we can't have that, that was not the way it was done in 1876, is that not correct Siegfried?”, and she would look down at Siegfried and he would go “Ja mama”. So basically she did the opposite of what Wagner wanted. Wagner very famously used to say to younger musicians, performers, composers, he would say “children go and do something new, create something new”. But what Cosima tried to do was sort of create this museum aspect of Bayreuth and it really was like that until Wieland Wagner, until the post-war situation effectively forced a revision of Bayreuth. 

There’s a very funny story that when the so-called new Bayreuth came in and it was conducted by Hans Knappertsbusch - who was a very sort of famous Wagner conductor that at time, had conducted Wagner for decades - that with the empty staging, and just the lighting effects, and very advanced for that time sort of productions, that Knappertsbusch was utterly baffled. And after the first night he came off stage after the performance of Rheingold and said, “I'm utterly astonished. I just assumed the scenery had arrived yet.” So that was the sort of radical division, but Cosima did that, 


I can add to that because Knappertsbusch asked Wieland - Knappertsbusch was very upset because the dove did not descend at the end of Parsifal. So Wieland took to letting the dove descend as far as Knappertsbusch could see it from the pit, but that the audience could not see it. 


We started off with if you like the family interrelations, and we're probably ending with it in a way. I think Cosima is the figure now that we’ve got to that explains a lot of the subsequent reception history, but also explains her behaviour to some extent. Cosima had obviously deliberately decided to be a muse, a successful muse to Wagner, in the way that her own mother the Comtesse d'Agoult had been if you like a failed muse to Liszt, you know. Comtesse d'Agoult was the “Lorelei” - originally she was a blonde girl that Liszt associated both slightly ironically with the virgin Mary, because first name was Marie, and also with the Lorelei because of her blonde hair. So when Liszt wrote the first version of that Lorelei song - which is actually very different in many ways, the first version - the Lorelei in his mind was undoubtedly Marie d'Agoult, Cosima’s mother. 

But as we've talked about they split up, and they became estranged and as Anthony quite rightly says this was taken out on the children. And Liszt did behave extremely badly towards, he forbade the children to see their mother for a long time in Paris, he removed the children from his mother who was looking after them, whom they loved - his mother was very distressed by this as well. And Liszt’s second long-term partner, the Princess Wittgenstein became a sort of hate figure, quite rightly I think to the children, because they couldn't understand why Princess Wittgenstein and her daughter Marie Wittgenstein were allowed to live with Liszt in Weimer, but Liszt’s own children were not allowed to live in Weimar. So it became very difficult. 

So I think when Cosima and Wagner got together, Cosima saw this as a chance for her to be the creative inspiration of Wagner, in a way that her mother had failed to be with Liszt. But she also took things out on Liszt a bit because although Cosima obviously loved and idolised her father she obviously resented him, for good reason as well - because of the way that her own childhood had developed. So to some extent she would also play Liszt and Wagner off against each other, and then feel very guilty about the results. 

Wagner would get very jealous when Cosima was paying too much attention to her father. He would be good to become furious, you know. But Liszt got very very hurt when Cosima converted to Protestantism in order to marry Wagner - and she must have known that this was going to be the result. And this sort of tangled torturous but nevertheless sincere, if you like, soap opera carries on for really that the final 25 years of the life of both composers. 


And I think you know that quote about “children make it anew”, I think is really interesting. We see that in Liszt and his very playful use of Wagner’s musical material as well. He's kind of dancing around the Wagner with sometimes quite wacky harmonies, would it be fair to say at times?


Yes at times I mean in the Meistersinger transcription, he extends the sequences far, far longer than actually even Wagner himself does. [music] - you think he's finished but he’s not [music] and only then we’re back to Wagner now.


That is really interesting because when you started playing I hadn't a clue what it was you were going to play. And it wasn't until you got to [sings] that I though “oh I see what it is!”.


Well, yeah and I'm sure you conduct this so if you don't know what it is initially then what chance that anybody else got! 


Wagner was criticising Liszt often for creating sort of strange harmonic effects for the sake of it. He always wanted to disguise in some way even the most strikingly innovative discords and things, that they should never be harsh. They should never draw attention to themselves. I think that may be, I don't know if you agree with me Ken, but there I think is a real fundamental difference between the two in many ways. That Wagner pursued this ever more subtly, so that in Parsifal he writes one of the greatest discords in his whole output - but it doesn't come across as kind of “ooh!”. Not like The Rite of Spring, you know. And he doesn't practice strange harmonies for their own sake. Well, he may do a bit in Rheingold, but certainly the later, the more mature of Wagner’s works into Gotterdammerung and Parsifal, he is smoothing over, covering and making an endless join so to speak through his music


Yeah, I think that's true. I think also Liszt likes some of the harmonic effects for their own sake more than Wagner - when Liszt will just suddenly modulate up a third or sixth or whatever, and you will get the whole passage - just because he loves the effect of this sudden harmonic transition, especially in his religious music like the Grand Mass. And in fact in that bit of Meistersinger, the second stanza is still in B major and the tune in Wagner [music]. 

A lovely tune, but when it comes back the second time Wagner's operas, a different orchestration but it's in the same key. But Liszt again modulates up a sixth [music]. 

You know, just a completely different modulation which Wagner, writing a sort of operatic act lasting over an hour would be unlikely to have done at that point. And of course by the end, by Wagner’s last year's when he's getting very truculent, sometimes gets very angry with Liszt, and Cosima says to him, “but you're always saying that father has made many great musical advances”, and Wagner replies: “yes, in piano fingering!”. 


For all of these myths that surround both composers, you know Lisztomania, and the Wagner kind of “shrine”, which which would have you believe I suppose that they were these two idols working in isolation, that would be the kind of, ostensibly from from the outside could be how it appears - actually it was anything anything but. And so yeah, I’d just like to thank both of you - Ken and Anthony. And perhaps just end with a little humorous cartoon, a quote from a Hungarian cartoon that was published in 1876 - which was the same year that Wagner gave that toast to his friend and his mentor as he described him, or his “master” rather I should say.

This Hungarian cartoon shows Liszt and Wagner talking to each other. Liszt says to Wagner, “You’re Dante, you’re Shakespeare!” and Wagner says: “I'm bigger”. And Liszt says, “you're the Buddha of notes, you're the Christ of counterpoint, you're the Richard Wagner of Richard Wagner”. And Wagner says, “I'm the biggest”. And Liszt says, “yes - you're my son-in-law”. They could never escape. So on that note yes, thank you to Ken and Anthony, and thank you to Cardiff University music school for the use of the piano as well.