Hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, a collection of love songs grew up. Under the title of the “Most beautiful of songs”, they found a home in the Old Testament-it was Martin Luther who first gave them the name of “Song of songs”-and since that time they have inspired and fascinated a vast number of theologians, mystics, philosophers, poets, painters, and, last but not least, composers. Particularly during the Baroque period, these poetic, sensual, vividly descriptive texts were set over and over again to music, and they inspired librettists to expand on the original texts.
“I do not know precisely what is my destination: however, I do know that 1 evening, after for the 1st time hearing a symphony by Beethoven, I became feverish & ill. As soon as I recovered, I became a musician.” Thus Richard Wagner described the enormous impression that Beethoven’s music had made on him in his novelette Eine Pilgerfahrt zu Beethoven (a pilgrimage to Beethoven). Although it is difficult to separate fact & fiction in this novelette, Beethoven’s music did indeed exert a major influence on the life of the young composer. Wagner was 17 years old when he 1st heard Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, a work which was to play a central role during his entire life, & which he was, for instance, to conduct in 1846 at the opening of the Festival Theatre in Bayreuth.