Monday, 20 May 2013

Wagner 200 BBC Radio 3 birthday specials

Wagner's 200th Birthday is Wednesday 22nd. How he would have enjoyed the fuss and expected nice presents! Too often anniversaries are an excuse for sloppy programming, but BBC Radio 3 seems to be doing something useful. Here is a link to this week's schedule. It's quite a good introduction to the composer and the man.

Donald Macleod's "Composer of the Week" focuses on Wagner's early Romantic influences, a subject dear to my heart. MacLeod's Composer of the Weeks are sometimes very good and I think this is a new one we haven't heard. He will be shedding "light on Wagner's lesser known, early operas, created under the spell of such diverse influences as the German Romantic operatic tradition of Weber, the "bel canto" style of singing of Bellini, and French Grand Opera of the 1830s. Donald Macleod presents excerpts from Wagner's earliest opera Die Feen, his sunny, Italian-esque Das Liebesverbot, and the 'black sheep' of Wagner's output: his vast operatic spectacular Rienzi - which he later virtually disowned."

Most of the recordings being broadcast are familiar, but there are a few rarities, like Wagner's  arrangement of Beethoven's Choral Symphony and his Piano Sonata. Missing is the Urfassung edition of Der fliegende Hollander resuscitated in 2004, with no Erik, no Daland and no Norway!   This edition shows how Wagner was influenced by popular taste in his time. Rossini probably got there first with La donna del lago (which I'm at tonight). Then Donizetti Lucia di Lammermoor in 1835 and much else. At least Mendelssohn had the guts to hike through the country and see it first hand instead of relying on Walter Scott and Ossian. Since there was no tourist industry in Mendelssohn's time, he really was engaging with the locals and living fairly rough. So much for Wagner thinking Mendelssohn was effete. Perhaps one of the reasons we're not hearing the pre-Edition of DfH is that the only recording is pretty hokey. An edition is not a production. Productions we can see any time but an Urfassung is unique. The Ur-edition is being produced three times this summer in Germany, so who knows, a new recording might come about.

Many of us switch BBC Radio 3 off completely after 10 pm when music turns to chat. This week the chat is rather more elevated. At 22.45 the Essay will present a series on Wagner's philosophers, Wagner and German idealism. Roger Scruton, AC Grayling, Christopher Janaway, Michael Tanner and John Deathridge are the speakers.

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