Musical selection for the birthday of Richard Wagner

Today, on the birthday of the great German composer, conductor and music critic Richard Wagner, new musical selection is posted in our Sound Library

Wilhelm Richard Wagner (1813-1883) was a prominent opera reformer who had a major influence on European music culture, particularly on the development of opera and symphonic genres.

In far greater degree than all the European composers of the 19th century, Wagner saw his art as a synthesis, and as a way of expressing a philosophical concept. Two basic ideas emerged from this conception. The first idea is that art should be created by a community of people and belong to that community. The embodiment of the second idea was new opera form of "musical drama" created by Wagner. Its development became his life mission. According to Wagner, the musical drama is a work in which the Romantic idea of the synthesis of the arts (music and drama) is realized, it is the expression of programme in opera, instrumental art music that attempts to render extra-musical narrative. To implement this idea, Wagner abandoned the traditional opera forms that existed at the time. Attempting to bring opera closer to life, Wagner came up with the idea of an end-to-end dramatic development - from the beginning to the end of not just one act, but of the entire operatic work and even a cycle of works (all four operas in the cycle “Der Ring des Nibelungen”). Furthermore, Wagner completely abandoned separate numbers in favor of vast vocal-symphonic scenes flowing into each other, while arias and duets were replaced by dramatic monologues and dialogue. Wagner replaced the overtures with preludes - short musical introductions to each act, inseparably linked with the action on the semantic level. In the late Wagnerian operas (most notably Tristan und Isolde”), the external action was reduced to a minimum, as it was transferred to the psychological aspect, into the realm of the characters' feelings. Wagner believed that words were unable to express the full depth and meaning of inner feelings, and so it was the orchestra that played the leading role in the musical drama, not the vocal part. The latter was totally subservient to the orchestration and was considered by Wagner to be one of the instruments of the symphony orchestra. In connection with the specific nature of vocals in Wagner's opera music (exceptionally drawl, emphasis on dramatic mastery and exploitation of the voice tessitura), new stereotypes of operatic voices were developed in solo performing practice - the Wagnerian tenor, the Wagnerian soprano and so on.

Wagner attached exceptional importance to orchestration and symphonism. Wagner's orchestra was often compared with an ancient chorus.

Richard Wagner's literary legacy is vast. Of the greatest interest are his works on art theory and history as well as his critical writings on music. Wagner's extensive epistolary legacy and journal-books have been preserved and his memoirs “My Life”.

More details about the composer's work are in the sections "Authors" and "Thematic Articles".