The Kaisermarsch (Imperial March) is a patriotic march composed by Richard Wagner in 1871 in order to exalt the foundation of the German Empire after the victorious Franco-Prussian War.
The victory in the Franco-Prussian War and the consequent proclamation of William I, King of Prussia, as German Emperor spurred patriotism and incited several German composers to write patriotic music dedicated to the nation and the new empire. Johannes Brahms, for example, wrote his Song of Triumph (op. 55) in 1871.
Wagner, already known for his musical patriotism in several of his operas, hence composed the Kaisermarsch which entailed both positive and negative reviews but did not succeed in attaining a more prominent status with regard to official ceremonies celebrating the newly achieved victory. Wagner wrote:
After the return of our victorious army, I made private inquiries in Berlin whether, in case a grand ceremonial in honour of the fallen soldiers were projected, I could be permitted to provide a piece suited to such a solemn occasion. But I was told that it was not considered desirable to make special provision for painful impressions to accompany the joyous return of the army. I proposed, still privately, another piece, which was to accompany the entrance of the army, and into which, at the close, — say in defiling before the victorious monarch, — the excellent vocal corps of the Prussian army might join with some popular melody. But this would have necessitated serious changes in the arrangements that had been completed long before, and I was dissuaded from my project. Consequently, I arranged my Kaisermarsch for the concert-hall, for which let it be adapted as well as may be.
Wagner's estranged friend Friedrich Nietzsche wrote derisively of the work, that "to Wagner's Kaisermarsch, not even the young German Kaiser [i.e. Wilhelm II] could march".
The text of the march did not become popular, and is rarely sung when the Imperial March is performed nowadays. The main reason for this is the low quality of the text, which emanates from the fact that it was written after the composition of the tune and thus had to be "trimmed" in order to fit the melody.
Song for the Emperor
Another patriotic piece by Wagner is Hans Sachs′s final monologue in Die Meistersingerwhen he warns his fellow Germans to protect German culture from foreign influence:
Verachtet mir die Meister nicht
Und ehrt mir ihre Kunst!
Was ihnen hoch zum Lobe spricht,
Fiel reichlich Euch zur Gunst.
Nicht Euren Ahnen, noch so wert,
Nicht Eurem Wappen, Speer noch Schwert,
Dass Ihr ein Dichter seid,
Ein Meister Euch gefreit,
Dem dankt Ihr heut Eu′r höchstes Glück.
Drum denkt mit Dank Ihr dran zurück,
Wie kann die Kunst wohl unwert sein,
Die solche Preise schließet ein?
Dass unsre Meister sie gepflegt
Grad recht nach ihrer Art,
Nach ihrem Sinne treu gehegt,
Das hat sie echt bewahrt:
Blieb sie nicht adlig, wie zur Zeit,
Da Höf′ und Fürsten sie geweiht,
Im Drang der schlimmen Jahr
Blieb sie doch deutsch und wahr;
Und wär sie anders nicht geglückt,
Als wie, wo alles drängt und drückt,
Ihr seht, wie hoch sie blieb in Ehr′:
Was wollt Ihr von den Meistern mehr?
Habt Acht! Uns dräuen üble Streich −
Zerfällt erst deutsches Volk und Reich
In falscher welscher Majestät,
Kein Fürst bald mehr sein Volk versteht,
Und welschen Dunst mit welschem Tand
Sie pflanzen uns in deutsches Land;
Was deutsch und echt, wüsst′ keiner mehr,
Lebt′s nicht in deutscher Meister Ehr′.
Drum sag ich Euch:
Ehrt Eure deutschen Meister!
Dann bannt Ihr gute Geister;
Und gebt Ihr ihrem Wirken Gunst,
Zerging in Dunst
Das heil′ge röm′sche Reich,
Uns bliebe gleich
Die heil′ge deutsche Kunst!
In the third act of Lohengrin , King Henry praises the Germans of Brabant and their will to defend the Empire against Hungarian attacks:
ALL THE MEN
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