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Wagner - with passing mention of Rossini and Grainger


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Author Topic: Wagner - with passing mention of Rossini and Grainger  (Read 545 times)
guest2
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« on: May 26, 2009, 11:50:44 am »

Rossini said that Wagner was a composer who had beautiful moments but awful quarter hours, and I am inclined to agree. Is Wagner's music much loved these days? It must be something of a blind spot for me, since most of the singing sounds like a drearily directionless and unmelodic recitative! Perhaps the problem lies in his misguided theories. If he remains popular in Germany is it because in all that recitative-like stodginess he showed an ear for the rhythms of the German language?

No, give me a well-constructed symphony or string quartet any day! Speaking of which, Percy Grainger said "I want the music, from first to last, to be all theme and never thematic treatment."

But that theory is not right either is it? Do we not in the long run prefer a Brahms symphony to a Grainger folk-song elaboration? Is not, in essence, "thematic treatment" (or "variation" if you like) just "theme" under another name?
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Reiner Torheit
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« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2009, 12:38:58 pm »

Is Wagner's music much loved these days? It must be something of a blind spot for me,

Not only loved, but adored and playing to packed houses wherever it is presented.  Perhaps your blind spot, Gerard, is not seeing it performed live?  Its creator did intend it as one element in a "complete art-work" of singing, drama, scenic elements etc,  and hearing one element of this alone is rather like hearing the film soundtrack to STAR WARS without watching the film Wink  That may be a playfully facetious answer, but it's made with serious intent... opera is musical theatre,  and even dvd recordings succeed only presenting only a partial impression of what the full staged performance was.

I am slightly ambivalent about Wagner in many ways - I certainly keep away from the Wagner Society and their fanatical views on the "Meister".  However, it is superlatively crafted musical theatre.  PARSIFAL and TRISTAN are seminal listening for anyone who hopes to understand what subsequently happened in C20th music,  whose seed lies substantially within those two works. 

One of the marvellous dichotomies of the music-theatre business is that the dyed-in-the-wool Wagner nuts tend to be, let us say, of a somewhat rightwing political persuasion...  whilst the seminal directors of Wagner's works have mostly been committed lefties like Gotz Friedrich (whose "Marxist" reading of the Ring remains a benchmark interpretation even for those who wildly disagree with it), Richard Jones, Keith Warner, and so on. 

Where Wagner is least well served is when his work is presented as high-budget big-name-performer devoid-of-meaning sententious tripe - such as the RING cycle about to be presented at the Royal Opera House in London by the Mariinsky under Gergiev.  I've had the deep misfortune to waste my time (and a lot of money... although not the 800-1000 being asked at the ROH) on this when it toured to Moscow three years ago.  The main problem is that there is no stage director at all...  it has been "staged" (ie not staged - the singers stand in straight lines and never move) by Gergiev himself.  After a WALKURE in which Wotan failed to show the slightest emotion at entombing his own daughter in a ring of eternal fire (an appalling travesty for which Gergiev should be put inside this fire himself) I gave away my tickets to the final two operas to friends...  I couldn't bear to see and hear the work wrecked so comprehensively and intentionally  Sad
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Reiner Torheit
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« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2009, 12:42:21 pm »

PS I would happily trade any one of Wagner's fine quarter-hours for all of Brahms's huffing and puffing  Cool 

I'm unacquainted with Grainger's output, except for his tinkly COUNTRY GARDENS stuff... I'd like to hope that there is more to him than this?
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Tony Watson
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« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2009, 01:25:43 pm »

I consider myself an admirer of Wagner but I could never give him the unreserved adulation that some people do, mainly because I don't consider him a great dramatist. I know it's not an original view but Die Meistersinger, for example, would work much better if it were trimmed by about an hour. Someone is going to ask me which hour but it's not any scene in particular. Then again, I find many operas too long, including Mozart's most famous ones.
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Reiner Torheit
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« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2009, 11:52:46 pm »

I know it's not an original view but Die Meistersinger, for example, would work much better if it were trimmed by about an hour.

I must disagree here.

An hour would not be nearly enough!  Cheesy  Moreover this extremely self-indulgent work (the unfunniest comedy in the repertoire) requires audiences to pitch-up for a the overture at 5pm  (when most who come by the money needed for the tickets honestly are still at their place of work). and then take taxis home afterwards since they've missed their last train. 

I am firmly of the opinion that you could go out to supper during Act II of MEISTERSINGER, return for Act III, and have missed nothing important.
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« Reply #5 on: May 28, 2009, 10:41:35 am »

I'm unacquainted with Grainger's output, except for his tinkly COUNTRY GARDENS stuff... I'd like to hope that there is more to him than this?
  There most certainly is!
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Tony Watson
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« Reply #6 on: May 28, 2009, 01:25:50 pm »

I've often thought that Grainger's Shepherd's Hey - short, witty, upbeat, contrasting moods involving all sections of the orchestra - would make an ideal encore piece. Otherwise, apart from Country Gardens and Mock Morris I don't know his music. I've got a CD which was part of the Chandos 30 Years celebration but I've only mananged to listen to it once so far.

I got a letter from Shrewsbury library this morning to say that I had not returned the Overture to La Cenerentola. This has happened before and this time, like the previous, they took my word for it. The problem is that they don't check in the books properly: you simply dump them in a large box. The only difference this time is that I couldn't find it on their shelves, so perhaps I haven't returned it! I am sure I would see it in my house if that were the case though.

But back to the music itself, I remember reading some strong claims for that overture in that (Eulenburg) edition in the introduction written in the 1950s. In particular, Rossini's mastery of rhythm was praised. Could Wagner be similarly praised?
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guest2
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« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2009, 11:29:38 am »

The problem is that they don't check in the books properly: you simply dump them in a large box.

That seems rather lax of them! At our local library there is a hole or chute through which one passes the items, and they arrive safely behind the counter that way. But since it is quite a drop I am always careful before letting go to poke my arm through as far as possible because I would not wish to injure the sensitive knuckles of any librarian who might at that moment happen to be retrieving earlier droppings.
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