Wieland der Schmied (Wayland the Blacksmith)
Hausegger was impelled to write Wieland der Schmied by his readings of Wagner’s literary fragment based on that legend. Hausegger’s take on the subject is, characteristically, less bloody and more idealistic. Hausegger also considered the tale an allegory of the process of artistic creation. A curious sidelight: Wagner’s work was also the basis for an incomplete opera sketched out by a teenage Austrian music student, August Kubizek, and his roommate - Adolf Hitler. Hausegger wrote a prefatory text to his score outlining its program, summarized as follows:
The power and fame his art have created do not suffice for Wieland; he
yearns for more. A swan-maiden hovers, descends out of the sky and inclines toward
Wieland. He reaches out, but, frightened by his singeing subterranean fire, she flies away.
Powerless to follow, he collapses, assailed by the paralyzing thought that he who would be
lord of the skies is bound insolubly to earth.
The vision of Schwanhilde fades; a cripple, Wieland stumbles, friendless
through his life. Of what use is his art, power, fame? The pain of longing builds
up to a cry for redemption.
Suddenly, the lethargy melts away. The transfiguring and blissful vision
of Schwanhilde rises within him. His strength returns, bolder than ever. His art
will carry him to luminous heights!
He forges himself wings of glittering steel. From the sky, the voice of
Schwanhilde calls. Free of his earthly woes, he spreads his mighty wings and
flies up to his woman. United in love, the couple soars into the sun.
Although in one continuous movement
lasting ca. 20 minutes, he divided the work into four sections: Wieland and Schwanhilde; the paralyzed Wieland; Wieland forges his
wings and the flight into the sun. He completed the work on
Piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 3 bassoons (contrabassoon)
4 horns (in E flat, E and F - Wagner’s baleful influence here), 3 C trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba
2 tympanists, 3 percussion- bass drum, crash cymbals, triangle, gong, glockenspiel
2 harps, (62) strings
Wieland begins in a manner reminiscent of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, with a stabbing tremolo, followed by a short, explosive figure symbolizing Wieland’s frustration.
This figure - according to the composer the most important theme in the work - builds sequentially to a rapid climax, to be followed by a more lyric theme, that of Earthly Longing:
He soon combines a variation of it with the theme of Heavenly Longing.
Hausegger develops these two, with interjections of Ex. 1x in the horns, leading to an especially anguished outcry of Ex. 2, after which, the mood shifts.
Divisi violins, flageolet lower string tones and feathery, cascading woodwind sextuplets introduce Schwanhilde’s theme in E flat major, on a solo violin. The horn fifth harmonies in the woodwinds clearly indicate Alpine skies (Ex. 4)
A continuation of her melody will gain later significance.
The contrast between her coloring and that of the introductory music could hardly be stronger. Hausegger began this work soon after his first marriage. One wonders if he meant this segment as a musical portrait of his wife, Hertha, a very attractive young woman if photos are any guide. If so, it’s certainly more flattering than Richard Strauss’ depiction of Frau S. in Ein Heldenleben.
Wieland’s courtship begins with an upwardly-striving version of Ex. 1, developed in canon in conjunction with Ex. 2. A more animated version of Schwanhilde’s theme in diminution with syncopated rhythms might express her alarm at her newly-found admirer. A new brass theme expresses Wieland’s avid sparking.
A fff brass climax on this theme summarizes his earthly woes and the crash of his ambitions, resulting in inner paralysis.
The second part of the poem, the paralyzed Wieland, starts with a dragging, disjointed version of Wieland’s theme.
The section introduces two new themes. The first is that of Purification. Its continuing phrase, though Hausegger gave it no title, will still be important.
Twice, that phrase leads to a crescendo, interrupted by Ex. 7, though a brief clarinet theme offers a hint of change:
The music breaks down in a despairing brass climax of the courtship theme, Ex. 6. Wieland’s efforts have thus far been in vain.
After the silence following this collapse, Schwanhilde’s theme (violin solo) appears in B major, expanded in rising sequences, as if to offer a ray of hope. The end of this calm interlude brings a new theme on the clarinet: that of Awakening Inner Liberation. Its last segment plainly derives from Schwanhilde’s theme.
Then ensues a violent crescendo, using bits of Wieland’s theme. It culminates in a resounding brass call, taking us to the third section of the work: Wieland forges his wings.
Our hero sets about the job with a vengeance. Over a marcato F# tympani pedal, Ex. 1 appears in a steady, martial guise. The relentless effect of the driving rhythms curiously recalls the first movement of Mahler’s Sixth (the pieces were composed at about the same time). As an in-joke, there’s also a sly reference to Siegfried’s Forging Song from the Ring.
Thrown into the mix are transformations of Exx. 4 and 9. As if to prefigure Schwanhilde, the solo violin plays the theme of Inner Liberation (Ex. 8), eventually taken up in triumph by the horns and lower brass. The violins contribute an inversion of Schwanhilde’s motiv (head over heels in love?).
The final section depicts the union of Wieland and Schwanhilde as lovers and their flight into the sun. The music introduces a broad, lyric version of Ex. 1, now in Schwanhilde’s tonality of E flat major.
Impelled by the initial phrase of Ex. 8 in sequence, Hausegger combines the lovers’ main themes into a “distantly beginning love duet”.
The lovers unite with a radiant version of Schwanhilde’s theme, once more accompanied by the woodwind cascades from its first appearance.
The pace quickens, spurred on by repetitions of Ex. 13 in ascending sequences. The rhythms become more irregular, as if the lovers were growing more impetuous. The climax of the duet combines the trumpets in an augmented version of Ex. 3 (Heavenly Longing), with the rest of the brass choir playing the extension of Schwanhilde’s theme, Ex. 5. With some last pealings of Ex. 13, the sonorities pointed by the glockenspiel, the music ends triumphantly. On the final chord, as is only proper for a work about a blacksmith, the heavy metal - brass in this case - prevails. Yet while Wieland’s theme has the last word, it’s in Schwanhilde’s domain of E flat major. Heroic maidens, those Vikings.
Hausegger heavily revised this score. My copy has pages of corrections, deletions and paste-overs in his hand. The revisions are improvements: lines rescored or reinforced for clarity and redundant parts deleted. To take two examples, he cut out an obstreperously busy bass drum part from the final peroration. (One wonders why an experienced composer would include it in the first place?) The final chord, which originally the entire orchestra cut off sharply, now has the long fermata for the brass - both programmatically and poetically the better choice. The only performance I’ve ever heard of the music uses the revisions.
Rudolf Louis, a censorious guru of the times, wrote that Wieland was a step backward from Barbarossa. Though, Barbarossa, with the diatonic themes and clear-cut tunes fitting its subject is an instantly likeable work, Wieland’s themes are more subtle and its rhythmic motion more fluid. In a not overly long piece, there are 60 meter changes. The themes’ transformations also have more psychological insight. E. g., the segment depicting Wieland’s crippled spirit (Ex. 7 et. seq.) strikes a greater sense of spiritual desolation.
With its greater fluidity of inner
parts, regardless of occasional clashing dissonances, and the freedom and
mastery with which he combines his various themes, Wieland is the Hausegger work which most
shows the influence of Richard Strauss. Artistically, it represents real
progress. Along with Barbarossa, Wieland is the only Hausegger
work to have been performed in the