Cause and Effect presents:

“Wagner’s music is better than it sounds.” -Mark Twain

The influence of German composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883) on our world is too vast to fully assess. He found the conventions of the opera world too shallow and restricting, but gradually broke free from them with his “musikdrama”. He wanted to change the culture and he did.

[Kirsten Flagstad as Isolde.][Jessye Norman]

Also a prolific thinker and writer, Wagner didn’t just impact music. Once his name and ideas became known, he acquired many devout and fanatical followers all across Europe and elsewhere. Painters and poets who had never even heard Wagner’s music were calling themselves Wagnerians. He seemed to change how artists thought about their art and their audiences.

[Birgit Nilsson as Brünnhilde.]

[1875 engraving of the Bayreuth Festspielhaus]

You could say that in the mid- to late-19th century there were two kinds of artists: Those who wanted to be like Wagner, and those who deliberately tried to avoid being like Wagner. Karl Marx even complained once that he couldn’t go anywhere without people talking about Wagner. He is more than just a name, he is an adjective: Wagner left us in a Wagnerian world.

[Arthur Rackham illustrations for Wagner’s Ring.]

Wagner is best known for a dozen or so music dramas such as TannhauserParsifal, and his massive four-part series of operas Der Ring Des Nibelungen.He quite literally revolutionized music with his 1859 tragedy Tristan und Isolde, in which he turned traditional harmony on its head and lead the musical world down a path toward the radical innovations of the early twentieth century. Composers as diverse as Bruckner, Mahler, Debussy, Strauss, and Schoenberg all revered Wagner and learned from him in their own ways.

[Max Bruckner (1836-1918), The Walhalla, backdrop for the scenic design of Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelungs, Bayreuth]

If you are interested in learning more about Wagner’s political beliefs and actions, I may suggest exploring Stephen Fry’s 2010 documentary Wagner & Me, as well as the 2020 book Wagnerism: Art & Politics In The Shadow Of Music by Alex Ross. These two works will shed far more light on Wagner the man than I am willing or able to do here. Today we shall keep it simple and celebrate Der Meister’s extraordinary gift of music.


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    Time: September 10 - 9:05:31 am
  • Arturo Toscanini & NBC Symphony Orchestra, “Tannhauser Overture/Venusberg Music”

    from Toscanini Conducts Wagner

    RCA Red Seal - 2013

    recorded 1952

  • Time: September 10 - 9:24:00 am
  • Wagner: Parsifal - Good Friday Spell & Symphonic Synthesis Act 3 - EP

    Houston Symphony Orchestra & Leopold Stokowski, “Parsifal, WWV 111: Music From Act III”

    from Wagner: Parsifal - Good Friday Spell & Symphonic Synthesis Act 3 - EP

    Everest Records - 1959

  • Time: September 10 - 9:41:00 am
  • Kirsten Flagstad, with Wilhelm Furtwängler & Vienna Philharmonic, “Götterdämmerung, Act III. Brünnhilde's Immolation”

    from Wagner: Operatic Extracts

    EMI Classics - 2004

    recorded 1952

  • Time: September 10 - 10:03:00 am
  • Leopold Stokowski & Symphony Of The Air, “Wagner - Tristan Und Isolde, Act III, Prelude”

    from Leopold Stokowski: The Stereo Collection 1954-1975

    RCA Red Seal - 2012

    recorded 1961

  • Time: September 10 - 10:08:00 am
  • Jessye Norman with Klaus Tennstedt & The London Philharmonic, “Tristan und Isolde: Prelude & Mild un leise”

    from Wagner: Opera Scenes

    Warner Classics - 2013

  • Time: September 10 - 10:31:00 am
  • Birgit Nilsson & Wolfgang Windgassen, “Act II Duet "O sink hernieder"”

    from Tristan und Isolde Bayreuth 1966

    Deutsche Grammophon - 1966

  • Time: September 10 - 10:53:00 am
  • Karl Böhm & Bayreuther Festspiele, “Die Walkure Act II excerpt”

    from Der Ring Des Nibelungen

    Decca - 1967

    Cause and Effect    September 10th, 2022

Posted In: Blogging, Music, Music Shows

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