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  • Print publication year: 2017
  • Online publication date: April 2018

13 - Fata Morgana

from Contents of Volume One


In general, at this time my spirit was flooded with dreams, desires and plans of every sort. Not all of them would be realized; some fluttered by with the enticing shimmer and airy emptiness of soap bubbles; others reached as far as solid plans, indeed to poetical shape, in which I was assisted by the friendly participation of La Motte Fouque, Stieglitz, Droysen, Sietze and others. Yet others arrived at musical form, but not to musical completion. Indeed, my economic straits did not provide me with the necessary rest. I had to provide for myself, and for my parents — and I had still not abandoned my legal career. The time for completed works had not yet arrived for me.

Were these fleeting forms only the idle play of fantasy? Were they fruitless excitement of the spirit? I can answer no to both of these questions. I had devoted myself to each undertaking with the greatest seriousness. I had been driven, not by prudent speculation, but by the innermost enthusiasm for the circumstances at the time. Prudence, that is, the keen evaluation of how things stood - had it been present -would have rather dissuaded me from undertakings which, given the circumstances, and my utter helplessness, gave no prospect whatsoever of coming to fruition.

And so they were entirely fruitless! — From the outside, yes. But every undertaking, to which our spirit is devoted with serious longing and fervor, at least brings us inner fruit, even if only for the treasury of the spirit, which remains invisible. These undertakings exercised the creative imagination and power of judgment in emphasizing worthy materials and their poetic shaping. If German opera were ever to come to a perfection worthy of the German spirit, if the oratorio were ever to become once again a truth for our time, offering the church as a holy world-stage, as it did for an entirely different age and different circumstances in Sebastian Bach's Matthew Passion: then these two compositional powers must be trained in an entirely different manner than is usually the case.