Theodor Uhlig
Theodor Uhlig was a German
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

The viola is a bowed string instrument. It is the middle voice of the violin family, between the violin and the cello.- Form :The viola is similar in material and construction to the violin. A full-size viola's body is between and longer than the body of a full-size violin , with an average...

-player, composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

 and music critic.

Uhlig and Wagner

The illegitimate son of King Frederick Augustus II of Saxony
Frederick Augustus II of Saxony
Frederick Augustus II |Tyrol]], 9 August 1854) was King of Saxony and a member of the House of Wettin.He was the eldest son of Maximilian, Prince of Saxony --younger son of the Elector Frederick Christian of Saxony—by his...

, Uhlig became a member of the Dresden orchestra at the age of 19. In the following year (1842), Richard Wagner
Richard Wagner
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, conductor, theatre director, philosopher, music theorist, poet, essayist and writer primarily known for his operas...

 came to Dresden for the premiere of his opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

, Rienzi
Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen is an early opera by Richard Wagner in five acts, with the libretto written by the composer after Bulwer-Lytton's novel of the same name . The title is commonly shortened to Rienzi...

, and remained in the city as Kapellmeister
Kapellmeister is a German word designating a person in charge of music-making. The word is a compound, consisting of the roots Kapelle and Meister . The words Kapelle and Meister derive from the Latin: capella and magister...

 until his flight following the May Uprising
May Uprising in Dresden
The May Uprising took place in Dresden, Germany in 1849; it was one of the last of the series of events known as the Revolutions of 1848.-Events leading to the May Uprising:...

 in the city of 1849 (in which he had taken a leading part).

Although originally opposed to Wagner, Uhlig quickly became a passionate convert. A tangible sign of his devotion was his arrangement of Wagner's opera Lohengrin
Lohengrin (opera)
Lohengrin is a romantic opera in three acts composed and written by Richard Wagner, first performed in 1850. The story of the eponymous character is taken from medieval German romance, notably the Parzival of Wolfram von Eschenbach and its sequel, Lohengrin, written by a different author, itself...

for piano. Uhlig defended Wagner in magazine articles and reviews; Wagner wrote of him in his autobiography Mein Leben
Mein Leben
Mein Leben is the title of several German autobiographies, including those of the following people :...

that he
grasped with clear understanding and perfect agreement those very tendencies of mine which many musicians of apparently wider culture than his own regarded with almost despairing horror.

During the early years of Wagner's exile from Germany Uhlig remained one of his most important contacts and the source of an extensive correspondence until Uhlig's early death in 1853 (from consumption
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

). Although Uhlig's letters to Wagner have not survived, there are nearly 100 letters from Wagner to Uhlig from 1849 to 1853, many of them very lengthy. In these the composer is often very frank about his own moods and depression, and frequently abusive of others, including mutual friends (e.g. accusing his former secretary Ritter of onanism)

Uhlig in part repaid Wagner by a series of articles, published in 1850, caustically attacking the opera Le prophète
Le prophète
Le prophète is an opera in five acts by Giacomo Meyerbeer. The French-language libretto was by Eugène Scribe.-Performance history:...

by Wagner's supposed enemy , Giacomo Meyerbeer
Giacomo Meyerbeer
Giacomo Meyerbeer was a noted German opera composer, and the first great exponent of "grand opera." At his peak in the 1830s and 1840s, he was the most famous and successful composer of opera in Europe, yet he is rarely performed today.-Early years:He was born to a Jewish family in Tasdorf , near...

. In a series of six essays in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik
Neue Zeitschrift für Musik
Die Neue Zeitschrift für Musik was a music magazine published in Leipzig, co-founded by Robert Schumann, his teacher and future father-in law Friedrich Wieck, and his close friend Ludwig Schuncke...

, entitled 'Contemporary Reflections', Uhlig castigated the music of the opera and attacked Meyerbeer personally, not least as a representative of 'Hebraic art-taste' (Meyerbeer was Jewish).
Wagner picked up on this phrase as an excuse to launch his virulent attack Jewishness in Music
Das Judenthum in der Musik
Das Judenthum in der Musik is an essay by Richard Wagner, attacking Jews in general and the composers Giacomo Meyerbeer and Felix Mendelssohn in particular, which was published under a pseudonym in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik of Leipzig in...

. Uhlig was involved in the negotiations for the publication of this pamphlet.

Wagner later dedicated to Uhlig his major essay Opera and Drama
Opera and Drama
"Opera and Drama" is a long essay written by Richard Wagner in 1851 setting out his ideas on the ideal characteristics of opera as an art form...


It was also to Uhlig that he first wrote of his intentions to create his Ring Cycle
Der Ring des Nibelungen
Der Ring des Nibelungen is a cycle of four epic operas by the German composer Richard Wagner . The works are based loosely on characters from the Norse sagas and the Nibelungenlied...

as a series of four operas. In this letter Wagner asks Uhlig to 'borrow' for him a book that needs about the Volsunga saga
Volsunga saga
The Völsungasaga is a legendary saga, a late 13th century Icelandic prose rendition of the origin and decline of the Völsung clan . It is largely based on epic poetry...

 from the Dresden Royal library.

Uhlig as composer and critic

Uhlig's compositions, which are now completely forgotten, were extensive (running up to opus number
Opus number
An Opus number , pl. opera and opuses, abbreviated, sing. Op. and pl. Opp. refers to a number generally assigned by composers to an individual composition or set of compositions on publication, to help identify their works...

 84). They included orchestral and chamber works, songs and Singspiel
A Singspiel is a form of German-language music drama, now regarded as a genre of opera...

e. He also wrote thoughtfully about other musical topics, including the music of Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of...

 and Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt ; ), was a 19th-century Hungarian composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher.Liszt became renowned in Europe during the nineteenth century for his virtuosic skill as a pianist. He was said by his contemporaries to have been the most technically advanced pianist of his age...

, and on phrase
Phrase (music)
In music and music theory, phrase and phrasing are concepts and practices related to grouping consecutive melodic notes, both in their composition and performance...

 structure in music.


  • Wagner, Richard, tr. J. Shedlock, Richard Wagner's Letters to his Dresden Friends, London, 1870
  • Warrack, John and James Deaville, Uhlig, Theodor in Oxford Music Online, (subscription only, consulted 22.6.2010)
  • Weiner,Marc A., Richard Wagner and the Anti-Semitic Imagination, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1997
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