Torquato Tasso op.14
(b. Mühlheim / Ruhr area, 14. March 1845 – d. Leutesdorf, 26. October 1915)
Torquato Tasso op.14
August Bungert was one of those composers in the generation immediately succeeding Richard Wagner that suffered a sort of creative identity crisis in the wake of the seismic and megalomaniacal innovations of the Bayreuth founder. His early work demonstrates a preoccupation with the typical subjects of German romanticism – the present score, Torquato Tasso, drawn from homonymous drama of Goethe, is illustrative of this – rendered in a slightly personal but largely conventional fashion. He was notably prolific, composing in every available genre, not least over four hundred lieder. Yet Bungert’s reception both in his time and subsequently was grounded in his output as an opera composer, in particular his sprawling answer to Wagner’s Ring.
Here is composer and music critic Walter Niemann’s description of Bungert in 1913: “Only a single German opera composer has been temporarily proclaimed, in all seriousness, to be a successor to Richard Wagner, and there is a certain comic irony in the fact that in his desire to move beyond Wagner he has, alongside [Karl] Goldmark and [Edmund] Kretschmer, called on Wagner’s mortal enemy Meyerbeer in his quest for a supreme-dramatic, storming pathos. This is August Bungert, who, it must be admitted, is a sensitive lyric poet, an excellent composer of piano and chamber music in an eclectic, late romantic style, and an ideal German artist who should be commended, so long as he is not seized by self-delusion.”1
Niemann goes on to lament that it was in fact this very self-delusion – the urge to fly too close to the Wagnerian sun – which was the source of Bungert’s downfall. To illustrate this, he mentions the operatic tetralogy (in actual fact a projected hexalogy, reduced from an original conception of a double tetralogy) Homerische Welt for which Bungert had planned his own festival on the obvious precedent of Bayreuth. Naturally enough, these plans fell through. Niemann concludes: “It has since become rather quiet around Bungert.” [Es ist seitdem ganz still um Bungert geworden] …
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