Wagner, in a letter to Franz Liszt:
“If I am obliged to plunge once more into the waves of an artist’s imagination in order to find satisfaction in an imaginary world, I must at least help out my imagination and find means of encouraging my imaginative faculties. So I cannot live like a dog, I cannot sleep on straw and drink common gin: mine is an intensely irritable, acute and hugely voracious, yet uncommonly tender and delicate sensuality which, one way or another, must be flattered if I am to accomplish the cruelly difficult task of creating in my mind a non-existent world.”
Wagner was a man of many mistresses, fine food and drink, and the beautiful comforts of life. And his point in the quotation is that to create at the highest level, the Wagnerian creator needs high-level stimulation in all areas of life.
Wagner’s lifestyle is in contrast to another musical great’s, Rachmaninoff, who in this quotation implied a more ascetic focus on creating and creating alone that submerged other elements of life.
So given the high quality and quantity output of both Wagner and Rachmaninoff, should we conclude different strokes for different creative folks? Some artists are sensual, and some are ascetic; some surround themselves with luxuries, and some live plainly; some have active social lives, and some are loners?
Source: Quoted in Michael Tanner’s Wagner (Princeton University Press, 1995), p. 24.