Author Topic: Wagner's Warehouse  (Read 2569 times)

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Offline Bonehelm

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Wagner's Warehouse
« on: December 11, 2007, 06:09:02 PM »
Is there a thread on this giant of German opera? I couldn't find it! So here it is:



"Wilhelm Richard Wagner (22 May 1813 – 13 February 1883) was a German composer, conductor, music theorist, and essayist, primarily known for his operas (or "music dramas" as they were later called). Unlike most other great opera composers, Wagner always wrote the scenario and libretto for his works himself.

Wagner's compositions, particularly those of his later period, are notable for their contrapuntal texture, rich chromaticism, harmonies and orchestration, and elaborate use of leitmotifs: musical themes associated with specific characters, locales, or plot elements. Wagner pioneered advances in musical language, such as extreme chromaticism and quickly shifting tonal centres, which greatly influenced the development of European classical music."

Straight from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Wagner.


I haven't explored his instrumental music seriously yet, aside from hearing a track or two of Karajan's Preludes to his music dramas. How is he like, compared to Bruckner and Mahler? I know people usually group these three guys together and give them pretty names like "Holy Trinity". I know I love Anton and Gustav, so I thought I might be interested in Richard as well. So is he accessible? Where should I start? Ring Cycle? Lohengrin?

Offline PSmith08

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Re: Wagner's Warehouse
« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2007, 06:23:59 PM »
Two things: First, "Wagner's Valhalla," as I recall, is the existing Wagner thread here. There are other threads on specific topics.

Second, start with an overtures-and-preludes disc, like the splendid Otto Klemperer disc on EMI. Then work your way into a bleeding-chunks set, like the Karl Böhm Best of the Ring set on Philips. Move into some of the shorter operas, like Der fliegende Holländer (Keilberth '55, Klemperer '68), Lohengrin (Von Matacic '59), or Tannhäuser (Sinopoli '89). After you've digested those, hit up Tristan und Isolde (Böhm '66, Runnicles '06) and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Von Karajan '71, Barenboim '99). After that, approach Der Ring des Nibelungen slowly and carefully, taking time to understand the music, the words, and the overall plot (Solti, Knappertsbusch '56, Barenboim). After that, which should take some time, head on over to Parsifal, just as slowly and carefully as the Ring (Knappertsbusch '62/'64, Kubelík '80, Thielemann '06).

Do that, making sure to really understand the text and plot, as well as the music, getting new recordings and relistening until you see what Wagner is doing.

Forget about Mahler and Bruckner when approaching Wagner. They were following his lead, not the other way 'round.

Offline Dancing Divertimentian

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Re: Wagner's Warehouse
« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2007, 06:29:28 PM »
Is there a thread on this giant of German opera? I couldn't find it! So here it is:

The 'official' Wagner thread is on the Opera Board.



Veit Bach-a baker who found his greatest pleasure in a little cittern which he took with him even into the mill and played while the grinding was going on. In this way he had a chance to have the rhythm drilled into him. And this was the beginning of a musical inclination in his descendants. JS Bach

Offline JoshLilly

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Re: Wagner's Warehouse
« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2007, 06:59:53 PM »
Not everything he wrote was operas. The one completed symphony with later revisions is one of my favourite symphonies ever, by anybody. Plus, he wrote one hell of a... well, three hells of piano sonatas. Er... anyway, yeah. #2 was really great. I recommend the Möller 2 CDs of all Wagner's known piano works. But the 1 and a half symphonies are really outstanding. Wagner could have been a real titan on the symphonic stage had he pursued that path, after listening to his self-revised Symphony in C I'm sure of it. One really neat thing is how in the first movement, right after the slow introduction (one of the best ever, by the way) ends, and the faster tempo picks up, it just sounds so much like Wagner, the shimmering violins and all that, it's just terrific. Clara Wieck used Wagner's success with his symphony to egg Robert Schumann on in a letter, and he started on his never-completed Symphony #0 "Zwickau".

While I can understand why people look past his earliest surviving opera Die Feen, considering the impact of his later stuff, I've always really liked it. Okay, to be fair, I don't like most of Wagner's later stuff, and Die Feen is my favourite vocal work of his, but this really is not a bad Weberian opera, IMO.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2007, 07:04:56 PM by JoshLilly »

Offline Bonehelm

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Re: Wagner's Warehouse
« Reply #4 on: December 11, 2007, 07:47:02 PM »
Thank y'all for the suggestions. Looks like he isn't THAT hard to listen to (I'm listening to a legally downloaded high bit rate mp3 of the tannhäuser overture right now. Pretty straight forward.

Offline PSmith08

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Re: Wagner's Warehouse
« Reply #5 on: December 11, 2007, 09:18:54 PM »
Thank y'all for the suggestions. Looks like he isn't THAT hard to listen to (I'm listening to a legally downloaded high bit rate mp3 of the tannhäuser overture right now. Pretty straight forward.

It isn't hard to listen to Wagner. People have been doing it in movie theaters and on TV for a while now. It's much, much harder to absorb and attempt to grasp what Wagner was saying in his music. Don't let his ability to write a catchy tune on occasion fool you.

Offline Bonehelm

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Re: Wagner's Warehouse
« Reply #6 on: December 11, 2007, 10:03:41 PM »
It isn't hard to listen to Wagner. People have been doing it in movie theaters and on TV for a while now. It's much, much harder to absorb and attempt to grasp what Wagner was saying in his music. Don't let his ability to write a catchy tune on occasion fool you.

Yes, but at MY level, catchy tune is the main thing that attracts me to new composers for further exploration. I also like the overwhelming power of Mahler and the gothic grandeur of Bruckner.  :)

Offline PSmith08

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Re: Wagner's Warehouse
« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2007, 10:05:58 PM »
Yes, but at MY level, catchy tune is the main thing that attracts me to new composers for further exploration. I also like the overwhelming power of Mahler and the gothic grandeur of Bruckner.  :)

In that case, Wagner will have something for you often as not. Just remember, though, that Wagner was influential for a lot of reasons. Not least was the way he revolutionized music and the post-Romantic musical grammar. Without Wagner, there is no powerful Mahler nor is there grand Bruckner.

Offline Anne

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Re: Wagner's Warehouse
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2007, 09:51:54 PM »
If you have trouble getting Wagner, speak up.  Someone will help you.

Offline Alberich

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Re: Wagner's Warehouse
« Reply #9 on: May 01, 2014, 09:49:11 AM »
Have been browsing through lot of old topics lately. Forgive me for bringing this up.To all beginners with Wagner my advice is: save Tristan for the very last. I remember that when I first listened to Tristan I reacted like most of the critics back in 1865: I didn't get it. I was disappointed. I had heard all the praise for this revolutionary work in classical music history and after I finally heard it it just didn't live up to my expectations. It was only after relistenings and careful studying of the score that this monumental divine work finally opened to me and it has ever since been one of my favorite classical music works of all time.

I started with Ring, then moved on to Tannhäuser, then Meistersinger, Fliegende Holländer, Lohengrin, Tristan and finally Parsifal. Then I listened to Rienzi, die Feen, das Liebesverbot and the remaining few musical numbers from die Hochzeit. Then after having gone through the operas I listened to Siegfried Idyll, his magnificent C major symphony, many of his piano works, Wesendonck lieder (including version of "Träume" for violin and orchestra), Faust overture, etc. It is pity his early D major string quartet is lost. It possibly would not have been a masterpiece, being one of his most early compositions, but I think it is possible I could have enjoyed it. Siegfried Idyll itself is almost like chamber music work. Many of his early works are great IMHO.
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Offline Moonfish

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Re: Wagner's Warehouse
« Reply #10 on: May 22, 2018, 09:43:12 AM »
It is interesting that the Wagner thread is almost empty here in the Composer section of GMG.  So all discussion in regards to his life and times lives in the Wagner thread on the Opera section? Peculiar!
The main issue is that there are several threads created in the Opera section that deals with Wagner. Since there is no index in that realm it seems as if people generally create a new topic around the Ring operas.  Do a search on Wagner and check out the numerous threads with his name in it. A bit confusing to say the least. Is Wagner's Valhalla the main thread devoted to his music and times?
« Last Edit: May 22, 2018, 09:46:27 AM by Moonfish »
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Offline relm1

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Re: Wagner's Warehouse
« Reply #11 on: May 20, 2019, 07:22:15 AM »
Why does Solti's Ring Cycle from the 50's and 60's sound so much better than practically anything recorded at that time?  It sounds like it was recorded yesterday with state of the art equipment.

Offline Alberich

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Re: Wagner's Warehouse
« Reply #12 on: May 20, 2019, 08:06:22 AM »
Why does Solti's Ring Cycle from the 50's and 60's sound so much better than practically anything recorded at that time?  It sounds like it was recorded yesterday with state of the art equipment.

Are you sure it's not the re- or re-remastered version you're listening to? To my knowledge that was done decades later.
"Javert, though frightful, had nothing ignoble about him. Probity, sincerity, candor, conviction, the sense of duty, are things which may become hideous when wrongly directed; but which, even when hideous, remain grand."

- Victor Hugo

Offline Jo498

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Re: Wagner's Warehouse
« Reply #13 on: May 20, 2019, 08:38:25 AM »
Remastering helps with some things but it cannot completely transform recordings from mediocre to great.

I am not an audiophile at all but there are many recordings from the late 1950s to the mid 60s besides the Solti Ring that are revered for there excellent sound. Some included in those "Living stereo" or "Living Presence" series, but e.g. also lots or Ansermet's stereo recordings from Decca and maybe more (as I said, I am not really into that audio stuff).
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