Richard Wagner. Commemorating the 205th firth anniversary
In May 2018, we are celebrating the 205th birth anniversary of the outstanding German composer, conductor and musician who broke the mold, Richard Wagner. His creative work had a significant impact on the development of world music culture.
Wagner carried out the opera reform, completely rethinking the idea of the opera genre. He criticized the existing system that had developed by the middle of the 19th century, opposing it with his unique vision of opera art. Thanks to the innovative approach of Wagner, the music in his works turned into an “endless melody”.
Wagner's creative work is syncretic; his main idea was to synthesize different kinds of art in opera. Drama, music and scene craft - all merged in the works of Richard Wagner in a single spectacle. The composer wrote librettos on his own, was the first to stand with his back to the audience in the process of conducting for better creative contact with the orchestra (until that moment the conductors were facing the public), he expanded orchestra cast, making it sound more majestic and monumental. He personally handled every facet of the musical creation, turning it into a unique treasure.
The composer never compromised his own principles regarding taking the libretto writing into his own hands. A curious story related to this fact survived to our days. A poet from Vienna once addressed Wagner with the suggestion to writhe the libretto for his new opera, however he received the following answer from Wagner: “Your libretto is good, but not so as to make me change my principle - to write libretto myself. If you come to Venice, you will see your libretto on the shelf in my library with No. 2985. This, I hope, is the last one offered to me. The number, as you can see, is considerable”.
The orchestra is endued with special role in Wagner's opera - leading-motive technique, thanks to which the main characters, their experiences and even some philosophical categories and inanimate objects were endowed with their own specific musical motifs. The soloist’s voice in Wagner’s operas became one of the expression means, one of the instruments of the colossal orchestra, having lost its leading role.
Wagner, the ardent adherent of monumental forms, wrote the longest opera in the history of music in 1868, "The Master-Singers of Nuremberg" (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg). It lasted 5 hours and 15 minutes. Below is a fragment of this work performed by the Austrian conductor, composer and pianist Felix Mottl, whose creative life was inextricably linked with the music of Richard Wagner. Being a brilliant interpreter of the German composer, Mottle conducted many of Wagner’s productions in the leading theaters around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Covent Garden in London, on the best stages of Moscow and St. Petersburg.
He took an active part in organizing the first Bayreuth Festival in 1876, subsequently becoming its permanent participant. The last performance of Felix Mottl, which he conducted was “Tristan and Isolde” in 1911. The conductor died on the stage of a heart attack.
The festival dedicated to Richard Wagner’s creative work with his masterpieces performed is held presently. The composer established the annual summer Bayreuth Festival in 1876.
The tetralogy operas “The Ring of the Nibelung” (Der Ring des Nibelungen), “Das Rheingold”, “Valkyrie”, “Siegfried”, “Twilight of the Gods” (Götterdämmerung) are staged Bayreuth annually. Those operas form the repertoire of the event. Overall duration of the operas is about 17 hours, and the opera “Twilight of the Gods” presents a scene that is a record-holder in duration: the aria of Brunhilda's sacrifice lasts for 14 minutes and 46 seconds.
The comprehensive collection of Richard Wagner’s works is stored in the Museum. Piano transcriptions of his works recorded on Welte-Mignon paper music rolls are among them. You can hear them in our Sound Library.
They are “Tannhäuser and the Minnesingers' Contest at Wartburg”, 1845 - Act 3, “Tannhäuser Pilgrimage”, Pilgrims Choir. The performer - Emil Paur.
“Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg”, 1862 - Am stillen Herd zur Winterszeit, Walter's Song, 1 act. The performer - Felix Mottl.
“Valkyrie”, 1856 - Wotan's Farewell and Fire Spell, the opera final. The performer - Cornelius Rybner.