It is not only the Christmas season that comes around again to private homes once a year, but also the Christmas tree, at least since the 19th century. Friends and relatives are invited, there must be decorations and lots of other things have to be organised. Not even a composer’s household was spared.
In 1869 Richard and Cosima Wagner spend Christmas in Switzerland. Arriving as a guest just in time for the 24th is none other than Friedrich Nietzsche, who immediately gets involved in the preparations. Cosima records about the Wagnerian chaos in her diary: ‘Professor Nietzsche comes in the morning and helps me set up the puppet theatre. In the afternoon I still have to take care of some other things while Richard rehearses [the story of] Servant Rupert [St. Nicholas’s companion in German folklore] and the little Christ Child [these characters are German stand-ins for Santa Claus].’ So, how was it to celebrate these holidays with of all people the future author of Die fröhliche Wissenschaft and Der Antichrist [‘The Gay Science’ and ‘The Antichrist’]? Maybe like this?
Perhaps it was more amusing at the home of Franz Liszt, Cosima’s father. Liszt, who has a lot of his music in our blue Urtext editions, dedicated to his granddaughter a very special Christmas tree, the suite Der Weihnachtsbaum. Arbre de Noël, Searle 186:
We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
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