Wagner's rescue by Ludwig II, King of Bavaria, is the stuff of legend. When his affair with Mathilde Wesendonk exploded in 1858, Wagner separated from his wife Minna to become a wanderer, finishing the second act of Tristan und Isolde in Venice in March 1859, completing it in Lucerne in August. Hoping for a performance of Tristan at the Opéra, he moved on to Paris in September. Three concerts of his music in January and February 1860 were enthusiastically received, though the venture left a deficit. However spectacular, the Tannhäuser débâcle at the Opéra on March 13, 1861, proved simply another chapter in a downward slide. Rejoined several times by Minna -- now matronly, charmless, and censorious -- the Wesendonk affair had soured their marriage beyond repair at a time when Wagner, feeling the middle-aged itch, was looking elsewhere. Their last meeting took place on November 1862, though Wagner continued to support her until her death in 1866. Meanwhile, negotiations for performances of Tristan, conducting engagements, and raids upon friends to extract "loans" kept him moving -- Karlsrhue, Vienna, Venice, Paris, Biebrich (near Mainz -- home of his publisher, Franz Schott, who advanced him a large sum on the barely begun Die Meistersinger). In February 1863 he conducted in Prague, followed by a concert series in St. Petersburg and Moscow for which he was munificently rewarded. True to form, Wagner rented the second floor of a palatial estate near Vienna, outfitting it in plush carpets, walls hung with the finest violet and red silks and velvets, decorative lace, and over-upholstered furnishings, consuming not only his Russian earnings but borrowed money. On March 23, 1864, he fled his creditors and departed for Zürich. There Wagner was found by a Herr Pfistermeister, secretary to the King of Bavaria, who revealed that the newly crowned Ludwig II -- sheltered, art-struck, and agog at Lohengrin -- wished to "lift the menial burdens of everyday life from your shoulders...so that you will be able to unfurl the mighty pinions of your genius unhindered...." Following a first meeting on May 4, 1864, Wagner was given large sums to settle his debts and use of the Villa Pellet on Lake Starnberg where, as he composed the Huldigungsmarsch, or march of homage, for Ludwig's 19th birthday on August 25, he was consummating his passion for Cosima von Bülow, daughter of Liszt and the wife of his ablest conductor. Scored for winds and later orchestrated, the Huldigungsmarsch is the most satisfying of Wagner's occasional orchestral pieces.
Share this page
Description by Adrian Corleonis
|2016||British Military Music Archive||BMMACG 1614|
|2012||Oehms Classics||OC 844|