I got a ticket to see Gotterdammerung in November, to be performed by the Washington National Opera. It's the only Wagner opera I've never seen. I am so excited. I fell in love with Gotterdammerung when I was 12 years old, and it's been a life-long love affair. The performance I will be seeing will be a concert version. The Washington Opera can't afford a staging because of the economy. (Apparently, the Ginsburgs -- Ruth and Marty -- haven't donated enough to the Washington Opera to offset the organization's costs!) I love concert versions of Wagner. I saw a concert version of Tristan und Isolde on New Year's Eve, December 31, 1978, at Carnegie Hall in New York City, conducted by Eve Queler. The orchestra is so magnificent in Wagner, especially Gotterdammerung. I remember Leonard Bernstein's remark that the complexity of the orchestral writing in Mahler rivals anything in Gotterdammerung. It's a miraculous score.
My mother bought me the Solti recording of Gotterdammerung for my thirteenth birthday, December 23, 1966: all six LP record albums. This gift took on added significance when, years later, I was reading Arthur Rubinstein's autobiography, "My Young Years," and learned that Rubinstein's mentor, Bertha Drew, had bought him Karl Tausig's "unsurpassed" piano transcription of Wagner's Die Meistersinger for his thirteenth birthday. Arthur Rubinstein loved Die Meistersinger and named one of his daughters Eva, after the character in the opera. (Incidentally, Rubinstein's other daughter, Alina, is a psychoanalyst, a graduate of the Columbia Medical School, who resides in New York City.)
"Do you remember Tausig?"
The Polish pianist and composer, Karl Tausig, was born to Jewish parents and received his early musical education from his father, Aloys T. Tausig (1820-1885), who was a pupil of Thalberg and a composer of brilliant pianoforte music. When Carl was 14 years of age his father took him to Weimar to study under Franz Liszt, whose favorite pupil he soon became and the two travelled together.
In 1858 Carl Tausig made his début in public at an orchestral concert conducted by Hans von Bülow at Berlin; and during the following two years he gave concerts in various German cities. After a sojourn at Dresden he went to Vienna (1862), where, however, his classical programs and his artistic views failed to find acceptance. He married in 1865, settled in Berlin the same year, and soon afterwards opened a piano school, and occasionally gave pianoforte recitals. Shortly before his death he made several concert tours through Germany and Russia, and was everywhere received with enthusiasm. He died in Leipzig from typhoid at the age of 29.
Karl Tausig, who was known for his exemplary technique, ranks with Franz Liszt and Anton Rubinstein as one of the three greatest pianists of the 19th century. Franz Liszt himself said that Tausig had "fingers of steel". He was one of the stanchest champions of the "music of the future". At the age of 16 he met Richard Wagner, of whom he became a devoted follower. Wagner enjoyed patronising him (as is evident from Wagner's autobiography, My Life) despite his Jewish background. Tausig made piano arrangements of many of Wagner's operas. It was Tausig who formulated a plan for raising 300,000 thaler for building the Bayreuth Theater, and who "with his exceptional endowment and splendid energy seemed to regard the execution of this plan as his own particular task" (Richard Wagner, Complete Writings, ix. 385). An epitaph composed by Wagner was inscribed on Tausig's tombstone in Berlin.