Intrigue, loyalty, adultery ,anarchy, and esoteric mysticism. The great “family” of the German Late Romantic period.

(Considerations about a concert held)

Programme note

1) Richard Wagner – Hans von Bülow: Ouverture from Tannhäuser (for 1 piano 4 hands)

Alberto Firrincieli & Giovanni De Cecco: piano

2) Richard Wagner – Giovanni De Cecco: Parsifal. Finale

Giovanni De Cecco: piano

3) Richard Wagner – Franz Liszt: Isolde’s Lovedeath

Giovanni De Cecco: piano


4) Franz Liszt: Mephisto valzer n.1

Alberto Firrincieli: piano

5) Johannes Brahms: Haydn variations op. 56b (for 2 pianos 4 hands)

Alberto Firrincieli: piano I

Giovanni De Cecco: piano II


Only rarely do the paths of great men cross, creating a circle of great love and friendship, and at times of bitter hate.

Let’s begin with Hans von Bulow, great piano virtuoso and conductor.

At the age of nine he studied with Friedrick Wieck , father of Clara Schumann, wife of Robert Schumann. At 21 he became a pupil of Liszt, and married Liszt’s illegitimate daughter, Cosima, at 27, more for his devotion to his music master/teacher than for love.

Then he met Wagner and after hearing Lohengrin realised he wanted to become a musician. In 1862 Wagner became the lover of von Bulow’s wife, Liszt’s daughter. Hans von Bulow who, like Liszt, became the conductor of Wagnerian opera, piano transcriber (Tannhauser), and mentor totally devoted to Wagner, accepted the situation, realising that Cosima would be happy with no one else. Wagner married Cosima as late as in 1870, when von Bulow conceded the divorce.

Wagner had already been married to Minna Planner, whom he began to betray in an adulterous relationship with Mathilde Wesendonck. During this love affair Wagner conceived “Tristan and Isolde”, the central theme of this opera being adultery.

The devoted von Bulow, disappointed by his own devotions, will then follow the individualist anarchism of Max Stirner, the philosopher of absolute egoism. Few years before he had had to leave his wife to Richard Wagner, a follower of Bakunin’s socio-anarchism. Wagner will then give up any form of  revolutionary socialism to become a convert to Shopenhauer’s philosophy, approaching Buddhism and Oriental thought. In this he was greatly influenced by Liszt, who encouraged him to abandon revolutionary politics and to dedicate himself totally to music. Liszt himself, the great seducer and lover, will follow a similar path, deciding to become a Franciscan monk in the last years of his life.

Wagner the man, a prophet of socialist altruism in his youth and of mysticism of compassion in adult life (Parsifal), with his irresistible charismatic personality, bent to his will women, musicians, philosophers, founding a sort of religion of his own art, whose temple was in his house in Bayereuth, Villa “Wanfried” (“Peace/freedom from delusion/madness”, in German).

The most anti-semithic musician in history availed himself of many Jewish talents, among whom the great conductor Felix Mottl. After all, in his “incoherent coherence”, he declared: “I decide he who is a Jewish!”

As we have seen, great men can reach the highest peaks of meanness. And thus von Bulow, from  ardent supporter of Wagner, will become the most fervid follower of Brahms, the musician whom the aesthetics of the period had opposed to Wagner. He met him, strangely enough, in 1870, in the same year of his concession of divorce to Cosima and her marriage to Wagner. One worry drives out another!

And here the circle closes with Brahms, the devoted friend (lover?) of Clara Schumann, the wife of Robert Schumann and the daughter of von Bolow’s first music teacher. With her Brahms will perform, for the first time,  his Variations Haydn op 56b for two pianos.