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A Wagnerian of the Past Remains Unmatched in 'Parsifal'

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday 25 December 2018 | 4:08:00 pm

An article in the New York Times from 1993.

The conductor Hans Knappertsbusch had an unmatched way with Wagner's "Parsifal." Now two important recorded documents of that mastery have reappeared in the record stores: the old Decca/London album of the 1951 Bayreuth Festival production, which reopened that shrine after World War II, and an account of a 1943 (or 1942; the notes are contradictory) Berlin performance of Act III with the same Gurnemanz, Ludwig Weber.

I heard Knappertsbusch conduct "Parsifal" at Bayreuth, but I never saw him there. At Bayreuth, the sunken orchestra pit masks both conductor and orchestra, and after "Parsifal" there are no curtain calls. So my favourite Knappertsbusch sighting remains one from 1962 in the Prinzregenten Theater in Munich, a wooden structure modelled after Bayreuth but without the sunken pit.

The opera was Wagner's "Fliegende Hollander," whose overture begins full tilt, plunging into a mid-oceanic maelstrom of furiously sawing strings and thundering brass. As the lights dimmed, the audience settled down, awaiting the stately arrival of the conductor -- who was, after all, 74 years old. (He died in 1965.)

Suddenly there was a loud bang -- the sound of the door through which Knappertsbusch had emerged slamming shut. The conductor, all six feet, four inches of him, was forging through the startled players, brushing them aside as if he did not even see them. Baton held high, he gave the downbeat when he was still a good 15 feet from the podium, and the musicians hurled themselves onto Wagner's stormy seas in the most thrilling beginning to an opera that I ever hope to hear.

Knappertsbusch is legendary today as one of the last Teutonic musical mystics, conductors who protracted Wagner's ruminations to extreme length but sustained a solemn rituality that brisker modern maestros miss. That was true, although both Arturo Toscanini and James Levine have conducted "Parsifal" even more slowly at Bayreuth.

4:08:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

A Happy Wagnerian Christmas

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday 24 December 2018 | 11:16:00 pm

In these trying times our daily chats and communication with our readers, either via email here, or on twitter or facebook, are a constant reminder of how pleasant people that like Wagner are. We may not agree on everything but when we do not agree, we do so in the most civil and pleasant of manner. This remains an unusual occurrence in a century that seems to have lost much of its civility and we thank you all for this. Indeed, it is unlikely that we would continue the Wagnerian if it was otherwise. For this, we would like to thank you all and wish you the most pleasant of holidays. As a way of thanks, we include a little gathering of Wagner miscellanea below. Think of them as a smattering of presents under the tree.  We hope you find something of interest.
11:16:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

New Wagner Book: The Trouble With Wagner

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday 17 December 2018 | 6:56:00 pm

There is a long line of Wagner books to be reviewed. We have this and will attempt to do so. In the meantime, this is from the publisher. Although, we have to point out that nearly £30 for such a slim volume seems "extravagant". Sample below 

In this unique and hybrid book, cultural and music historian Michael P. Steinberg combines a close analysis of Wagnerian music drama with a personal account of his work as a dramaturg on the bicentennial production of The Ring of the Nibelung for the Teatro alla Scala Milan and the Berlin State Opera. Steinberg shows how Wagner uses the power of a modern mythology to heighten music’s claims to knowledge, thereby fusing not only art and politics, but truth and lies as well. Rather than attempting to separate value and violence, or “the good from the bad,” as much Wagner scholarship as well as popular writing have tended to do, Steinberg proposes that we confront this paradox and look to the capacity of the stage to explore its depths and implications.

Drawing on decades of engagement with Wagner and of experience teaching opera across disciplines, The Trouble with Wagner is packed with novel insights for experts and interested readers alike.
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Watch Now: Prelude to Tristan und Isolde Arranged By Terje Tønnesen

Norwegian Chamber Orchestra. Terje Tønnesen, conductor. We greatly enjoy chamber arrangements of Tristan. This one is worth your attention.

6:26:00 pm | 0 comments | Read More

A Must See: A Brief Introduction To Der Ring des Nibelungen

If this doesn't make you want to pop on your favourite Ring on CD, DVD or travel the world to see it live, nothing will. 

A brief introduction to Richard Wagner and the creation of his pioneering opera The Ring of the Nibelung.

Screened before the Salzburg Marionette Theatre’s adaptation of The Ring, performed at the BOZAR in Brussels, March 2015.
1:11:00 am | 0 comments | Read More

Wagner's Life In Miniature

A Wagner biography in one and a half minutes? 

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