Friday, February 10, 2006

Richard Wagner – Life and Work

He's been described as the greatest composer of all time, and as I'd like to be considered a well educated musician it behooves me to at least be familiar with some of his work. So I asked for and received a nice big four disc collection of his music for Christmas.

It was always going to be a bit of a challenge to get into this stuff, given my lifelong animosity toward opera and the fact that Wagner is remembered primarily for his operas. The first disc presents little problem, as it's all orchestral works, but in order to appreciate the remainder I had to first learn to appreciate women warbling at extremely high registers.

The final disc contains material from the Ring cycle, which I found the most enjoyable, partly because I'm somewhat familiar with the story and partly because it's more fantastical, numinous mood agrees with me more. Plus it contains the legendary 'Ride of the Valkyries', which of course we are all familiar with! The other operas impressed me a little less. In particular The Mastersingers of Nuremburg did nothing for me, possibly because it's a comedy and the music is very straightforward.

It still isn't obvious to me why this guy is the greatest composer of all time, (although it's easy to see his influence on twentieth century movie, television and musical soundtracks), but I'm willing to attribute this to my own ignorance. In the meantime I'll continue to listen to more instrumental classical music and come back to opera at some later date.

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