By Euler L.
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A basic lexicon includes the following: that Wagner was a dangerous revolutionary; that he was personally arrogant, especially in writing his own opera librettos; that the music of the future was nonsense; that he was Echoes 37 compositionally inept; that his music was too noisy; that it was too cacophonous; that it flouted accepted standards of good taste; that it was chaotic and formless; that it was destitute of melody and lyricism; that it repeated themes obsessively; that it made dramatic nonsense; that it was tedious, boring, and enervating; that it was pompous or too common; or that it constituted a monstrous assault on the senses.
What was unchaste and unnatural were the lower forms of eroticism: the ogling of women’s bodies at the ballet and the negotiation of sexual favors with which, she believes, they must be connected. 30 Raised in Frankfurt, Malwida had grown up watching Schopenhauer walk his dog every day on the quay of the River Main and had been told even by trustworthy people, she reports, that “he was an absolute idiot” (MR, 212). Hearing now about Schopenhauer from Wagner, whose texts (though not yet his music) she knew intimately, she was drawn to the philosopher’s critique of optimism, causing her even to question her socialist principles.
Other claims, indeed, are consonant with accusations of unashamed eroticism and sexual degeneracy. The point, then, is that Wagner’s erotics represent a special nodal point that brought together both advocates and critics, and the high pitch of the attack on sensualism signals widely shared social anxieties. Certainly it was a charge not leveled at anyone else’s music before Wagner’s. Clara Schumann Perhaps the most telling rejection of Wagner’s erotics issued from a musician of the fi rst rank: Clara Wieck Schumann (1819– 96).
An analytical exercise by Euler L.