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The Wagnerian Podcast No 1: Siegfried Wagner & Richard Strauss conduct Tristan

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday 18 September 2011 | 1:58:00 am

"At lunch a dismal occurrence; Fidi (Siegfried) behaves badly toward his father; the dreadful thought that he might prove unworthy of him takes possession of me, and this thought, instead of being turned against myself in resigned acknowledgement of original sin, turns inside me against my child, and I hit him, so violently that it causes bruises." Cosima Wagner's Diaries: 22 July 1878

Siegfried & Richard
There is much, now public domain/copyright free, Wagner performances out there, yet oddly it is very difficult to hear much of it. The aim of these podcasts is an attempt to make some of this available. I might also include the odd interview or review - time and interest permitting.

So with that in mind I thought the following might be of interest. In podcast one I include two historic recordings of the Vorspiel from Tristan und Isolde. First, you will hear Siegfried Wagner's recording of both the Vorspiel & Liebestod from 1926 (probably slightly less "lyrical" than many of Siegfrieds performances of his father's works). This is then followed by Richard Strauss conducting the Vorspiel alone in Berlin two years later in 1928. Given their ages, the recordings are of course well below modern recording standards but are, I think, "passable" nevertheless - but for Wagner "enthusiasts only.

Wagnerian Podcast 1

Siegfried Wagner: 

The following description of Richard Strauss early complex relationship with Wagner is taken from Richard Strauss net and can be read in full there:

“Lohengrin is a sweetish inanity“ … “the horn parts in Die Meistersinger are actually parts for the clarinet“ – Franz Joseph Strauss, Richard’s father and first hornist of the Munich Court Orchestra, scarcely missed an opportunity to inveigh against Richard Wagner’s music. His artistic creed centred on the “trinity of Mozart (above all), Haydn and Beethoven“. On the day after Wagner’s death he was the only member of the orchestra who refused to rise in commemoration of the deceased.

Richard Strauss
It is all the more surprising how soon Richard Strauss shook off the hatred of Wagner he had inherited from his father. Statements like the following one, after a performance of Siegfried, were rapidly to become a thing of the past: “The introductory passage is a long-drawn-out drum-roll with the bass tuba and bassoons roaring out deep notes so stupidly that I couldn’t help laughing … not a trace of coherent melody … and again the initial roar … utter chaos, I would say.”

Strauss eagerly imbibed the “poison”, as his father used to call it, clandestinely at first in order to avoid scandal in the family, then quite openly, particularly when voicing his enthusiasm about Tristan, the “most splendorous belcanto opera” (Strauss in 1886 after a rehearsal in Bologna). 

As early as 1882, his father most reluctantly decided to reward Richard for having successfully completed grammar school by taking him along to Bayreuth for a performance of Parsifal. When he encountered Maestro Wagner in person, however, Richard simply dared not address him – a missed opportunity.

Strauss’ early compositions clearly show how much he was already under Wagner’s spell. His actual
involvement with Bayreuth, however, only came about at a later date: Hans von Bülow, a disciple of
Liszt’s and Cosima Wagner’s first husband, mediated Strauss’ appointment as musical director at Meiningen. Bülow’s later dictum, “Wagner is Richard I, there is no Richard II, so Strauss is Richard III”, was soon to become legend.