Most of his reforms have since been intelligently carried out as normal principles in more arts than one; but, shocking as the statement may seem to loth-century orthodoxy, Wagnerian harmony is a universe as yet unexplored, except by the few composers who are so independent of its bewildering effect on the generation that grew up with it, that they can use Wagner's resources as discreetly as he used them himself.
Krehbiel, Studies in the Wagnerian Drama (1891); Jessie L.
Not until the third act does the great Wagner arbitrate in the struggle between amateurishness and theatricality in the music, though at all points his epoch-making stagecraft asserts itself with a force that tempts us to treat the whole work as if it were on the Wagnerian plane of Tannhauser's account of his pilgrimage in the third act.
The brilliant success of Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel, in which Wagnerian technique is applied to the diatonic style of nursery songs with a humorous accuracy undreamed of by Wagner's imitators, points a moral which would have charmed Wagner himself; but until the revival of some rudiments of musical common sense becomes widespread, there is little prospect of the influence of Wagner's harmonic style being productive of anything better than nonsense.
Such a passage as bars 5 to 8 in the first movement of Beethoven's 8th symphony is as unintelligible from the point of view of Wagnerian opera as the opening of the Rheingold is unintelligible from the point of view of symphony.
More than a modicum of rusticity is needed as a protection to a man who attempts such colossal reforms. This necessity had its consequences in the disquieting inequalities of Wagner's early work, and the undeniable egotism that embittered his fiery nature throughout his life; while the cut-and-dried system of culture of later Wagnerian discipleship has revenged him in a specially sacerdotal type of tradition, which makes progress even in the study of his works impossible except through revolt.
The special feature upon which most stress has been laid, ever since Wagner's death in 1883, has been not so much the musical as the dramatic significance of the works; it is contended by the inmost circle of Wagnerian adherents that none but they can fully realize the master's intentions or hand down his traditions.
The modern Wagnerian conductor is apt to complain that Beethoven, in his four-bar phrase, drowns a melody which lies in the weakest register of the clarinet by a crowd of superfluous notes in oboes, horns and flutes.
The present influence of Wagnerian harmony is, then, somewhat indefinite, since the most important real phenomena of later music indicate a revolt both from it and from earlier classical methods.
For all his Wagnerian impatience, his progress was no struggle from out of a squalid environment; on the contrary, one of his latest discoveries was the greatness of his master Haydn.