Music Composers

Claude Debussy-Part 7

On another occasion he writes: "From Bach's works a somewhat striking analogy forces itself on the mind. Bach is the Graal and Wagner Klingsor (the evil magician is Parsifal) who would destroy the Graal and usurp the homage given to it. Bach exercises a sovereign influence in music, and in his goodness and might he has willed that we should ever gain fresh knowledge from the noble lessons he has left us, and thus his disinterested love perpetuated. As years roll by Wagner's sombre and disquieting shadow lessens and grows dim." It is remarkable that paying a tribute of veneration to Bach, Debussy avails himself of figures created by Wagner.

Of Wagner himself he says; "Wagner has left us an inheritance of certain formulas for the union of music and drama, the insufficiency of which will some day be recognized. It is inadmissible that for his own particular reason he should have invented the leit-motif itinerary for the use of those who cannot find their way in a score, and by so doing he expedited matters by himself. What is of more serious import is the fact that he has accustomed us to making music responsible for the protagonist. Music posses rhythm, and this inner power directs its development. The movements of the soul have also a rhythm; it is more instinctively comprehensive, and it is subordinated to a multitude of different circumstances and events. From the juxtaposition of these two different rhythms a continual conflict issues. The twain do not amalgamate. Either the music gets out of breath running after the protagonist, or the protagonist has to hold on a note in order to allow the music to overtake him. There have been miraculous conjunctions of the two forces, and to Wagner the need of praise is due for having brought about some of these encounters. But these fortuitous occurrences have been due to chance; which more often than not shows itself unaccommodating or deceiving. Thus, the symphonic form to dramatic action, instead of helping it, as was triumphantly asserted in the days when Wagner reigned over lyric drama, is liable to injure it."

The Etude Magazine February 1921





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