Tuesday 25 December 2018

A Wagnerian of the Past Remains Unmatched in 'Parsifal'

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.

Monday 24 December 2018

A Happy Wagnerian Christmas

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.

Monday 17 December 2018

New Wagner Book: The Trouble With Wagner

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.

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.

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.

Wagner's Life In Miniature

A Wagner biography in one and a half minutes? 

Wednesday 7 November 2018

Watch Now: Birgit Nilsson 100 Years

Tonight we are feeling hopeful for the future of a united humanity. A time where we may, eventually perhaps, see our species have a respect for each other, no matter race, gender or sexual preference. A future were one's spiritual beliefs or lack thereof, are both respected and not just tolerated or worse, condemned. We also have some hope for a humanity that regains its respect for our seemingly unique planet and all of its inhabitants - and not just its human inhabitants. And a joint humanity that finally fully recognises the long-term damage it is causing to our planet. A change that it is easily within our reach, if not reverse, then at least stop what is being called the "6th extinction" or Holocene extinction.

Too hopeful? Nieve? Perhaps. And we are certainly nowhere near, but one can throw the runes and find the odd positive indicator. And it is better to remain hopeful then fall into the sea of negativity that seems to have overtaken our world and that seems to draw out the worse in our species.

And with that in mind, we present the following three hours of Wagner in memory of the great Birgit Nilsson.

Birgit Nilsson was indisputably the outstanding dramatic soprano of the second half of the 20th century. Her top notes had an unequalled power and brilliance. Her personality commanded the stage. Long associated with the Royal Swedish Opera, it is this Opera in the Swedish capital that celebrates what would have been her 100th birthday in May 2018.

Wednesday 17 October 2018

An Interview With Allan Leicht. Author Of "My Parsifal Conductor"

We recently had the opportunity to catch-up with Allan Leicht, the Emmy award-winning author of the unusual, off-Broadway play "My Parsifal Conductor", As we have already noted, the play is based around the premise that, Wagner and Cosima, find themselves in a moral, political and musical dilemma when King Ludwig II of Bavaria insists that Hermann Levi, the son of a rabbi, conduct Wagner's final masterpiece, Parsifal.

"I am Wagnerite, with all the doubt and enjoyment that comes along with it" Allan Leicht

Given that Allan kindly agreed to this interview during rehearsals, and just prior to opening, this might seem a little shorter than our usual interviews, but given the circumstances, we think this is understandable.

Allan is a multiple Emmy Award, Writers’ Guild Award, Christopher Award-winning writer of, mainly, TV movies, including most notably, Adam, starring Daniel J. Travanti and JoBeth Williams, and Lady in a Corner, starring Loretta Young and Brian Keith, several comedy series, including Kate and Allie, and The Thorns, in collaboration with Mike Nichols; dramatic series, most notably, Mariah  and daytime dramas Ryan’s Hope and One Life to Live. As a director, he brought William Golding’s comedy, The Brass Butterfly, to the New York stage. His musical, The Adventures of Friar Tuck, for which he wrote book and lyrics, premiered at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. He produced Rashi, A Light after the Dark Ages, a video production starring Leonard Nimoy and Sir Paul Scofield and Rambam, The Story of Maimonides with Mr Nimoy and Armand Assante. Allan divides his time between New York and Jerusalem, where he recently appeared as an actor in Shakespeare’s Henry V. He is married to actress and designer Renee Lippin Leicht and they have three children and two grandchildren.

TW: Allan, first thank you for taking the time to talk to us during what I know is a very busy time for you. You have had a long and successful career, but can I ask, what have been the most important events to you?

AL: To me that I am a grandfather is most important. I wrote a movie called Adam. That was important. Adam did what writing wants to do: change things. (Adam was a 1983 movie that dealt with the real world horrendous kidnapping and murder of Adam Walsh along with its impact on his parents. Broadcasts of Adam were followed by pictures and descriptions of missing children, with a hotline being available to take calls regarding the children. This was ultimately credited with finding 13 of 55 children from the 1983 broadcast, and more after each repeat)

TW: Wagner as a subject, and the first performance of Parsifal especially, are unusual subjects for a playwright in the 21st century.- at least outside of Germany, Do you have a particular interest in Wagner, or did something else bring you to this subject?

AL: I am Wagnerite, with all the doubt and enjoyment that comes along with it. In Richard Wagner we learn that genius can have its dark side; in Wagner’s case, the dark side was anti-Semitism and also an insatiable libido (or maybe that was his light side): a great amoral artist torn emotionally by every religion of which he was aware. But that music! That music! As our character of Hermann Levi says in the play, “How blithe we Jews are to judge men by their music.”

TW: What sources have you consulted in the creation of the work?

AL: He smiles, "Please, plays do not require footnotes. Nevertheless, I relied on Cosima’s diaries. Magee, Millington, Bremer, Carr, etc., Haas’ biography of Hermann Levi, My Life by Richard Wagner, several motion pictures, and most crucially an essay by the very eminent, late literary critic and scholar Peter Gay, in his collection of essays Freud, Jews and Other Germans. As Professor Laurence Dreyfus writes in his study, Hermann Levi’s Shame and Parsifal’s Guilt, Dr Gay takes Hermann Levi to severe task for being Jewish and a Wagnerite: a traitor to his people (not to mention Brahms). I was uncomfortable with that. I wanted to better understand Hermann Levi. How could the descendant of a long line of German rabbis dine at the Wagners’ Wahnfried table and conduct “a festival play for the consecration of the stage” that plumbs the depths of Christian mystery? That to me was, is incongruous. And incongruity is comedy. My Parsifal Conductor is a very funny Wagnerian comedy".

TW: There is strong academic evidence that this incident never took place and was instead created by the even more anti-Semitic "Bayreuth Circle" after Wagner's death (it is not even mentioned in Cosima's diaries). I am sure you are aware of this, so what made you concentrate on this? Are you applying the same artistic license that Peter Shaffer applied to his, highly enjoyable, Amadeus? Do you believe the incident happened? Or are you using it to address Wagner and Cosima's anti-Semitism in general?

"I would seem to be weak-minded, even mad to go to the extravagance of an additional, superfluous, inferior conductor."

AL: My Parsifal Conductor more closely resembles, at least in structure, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol than it does the marvellous Peter Shaffer’s marvellous Amadeus. Of course, Amadeus and My Parsifal Conductor are both about composers, but My Parsifal Conductor springs from incongruity — the incongruity of anti-Semitism, Judaism, German opera, Germans, Jews and Cosima’s judgment night, her last night on earth, April, 1930, the stuff of comedy; and with what was going on outside her bedroom windows, a comedy about anti-Semitism. It is about the irrationality of anti-Semitism. Yes, I do believe the incident happened. As Ludwig says to Wagner in My Parsifal Conductor, "I would seem to be weak-minded, even mad to go to the extravagance of an additional, superfluous, inferior conductor."

TW: This entire subject is not one that seems to lend itself easily to comedy. Why and how have you addressed this?

AL: I hope I have addressed the comedy question already. But my inclination is comedy. I like to believe there is truth in laughter, especially the laughter connecting heart and mind. We have a phenomenally talented cast of New York actors, a brilliant director, and unstintingly loyal producers. I wrote what I knew is a very tricky, even dangerous play. Claire Brownell and Eddie Korbich play Cosima and Richard Wagner, unapologetic anti-Semitic pre-Third Reich elites. The Wagners were no mere meat-pie making cannibalistic Sweeney-Todd-Mrs. Lovitts, these Wagners are Geniuses! Anti-Semitic geniuses akin to Dostoevsky or Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot (who also admired Groucho Marx). Please, fact check this for me, but I recall that one-third of Third Reich concentration camp commandants were PhDs. Why is it that high, even the highest, cultures ultimately become anti-Semitic? Funny. (Ed: And sadly more racist in general. An inclination more evident than ever these last few years)"

We conclude and I allow Allan to get on with the important work of fine-tuning his work. However, as he gets up to leave, he turns and leaves us with the following thought, "We’re in rehearsal. Come to see the show. Or it may come to England, where the subject is making current headlines (Allan means antisemitism which, has raised its ugly head once more in politics here in the UK.

We hope the play does reach the UK, especially given how rare such projects are outside of Germany. If you want to see it now, and can get to New York, My Parsifal Conductor will be running till November 3. More information, including booking details, click here:

Friday 14 September 2018

A New Wagnerian Music Friday

We see this sort of hashtag trending frequently on social media and so thought, we might try something new. Its debatable whether these are "new" but newly released in this format/remaster or with this CD cover at least.  Playlist put together in Spotify. If anyone would like it in Tidal or Qobuz also let us know and we shall do - if we can.

Listen Now: Jonas Kaufmann Discusses Tristan and Performing The Role In Full In Three Years

Or at least he hopes to perform the role in full in three or so years time. But given how far ahead performers like Kaufmann are booked in advance, it seems perhaps more certain than it sounds.  Ignore the German in the video title. The interview in English.

Monday 3 September 2018

The Jury Is In: Spotify, Tidal Or Qobuz. Which One Is The Best

Part one is here, offering an overview of streaming services
Part two  looks at Tidal's features in detail here
Part three looks at Qobuz features in detail here

We noted in part one of this, now a four-part feature, that we are unlikely to leave Spotify. However, for us this is a very specific reason: it allows us to share various recordings with the widest group of people, even if they are using the free Spotify service. When we started this meant that there was really only one other reason to even consider Tidal or Qobuz and that was that they offered lossless streaming - at an additional cost. However, having used both services now for some time, we have found an additional reason to move to at least one of them, but more of this later.

Available music

During our time with both services, we have never found a time where there was something that we wanted that was not on both - and was also on Spotify. There was a great difference in how quickly and easily we were able to find music, as we noted when discussing how each platform managed meta tags and how well they were clearly maintained and curated. Within classical music, Tidal was simply not as good as Qobuz. Indeed, given that it struggles with even playing some classical multidisc sets in the correct order, it was sometimes much worse than Spotify. But when it did work, which is most of the time, it did so well


As we have noted, both offer apps across a range of platforms and also allow web access via a browser. Both services take a very different approach to how these are laid out. Tidal is clearly closely inspired by Spotify, while Qobuz offers a cleaner, approach, where releasing screen space is key. Again, both work well across a range of platforms that we tested and which one you prefer will be a matter of personal choice. In our opinion Qobuz does have the edge here for two reasons: it offers the ability to view and read the CD booklets where available and it also allows you to click on a record labels name which will then bring up all of that labels recordings. The first is an impressive addition and one we greatly valued. The second is something that all services should have, but only Qobuz offers. 

Music Audio Quality. 

Both services offer streaming and offline playback in lossless format and both at the same monthly cost. While both are very good we noted a difference in that Tidal seemed to favour mids and highs while Qobuz seems to favour a more rounded, warmer sound stage natively (any of this can be changed to some degree with a graphic equaliser of course).  As to which one you might prefer is a matter of personal choice but as both offer a month's free trial this would be easy to decide. Tidal does have an advantage here, in that it offers to stream at greater than CD quality - studio master quality if you will - and this is included at the monthly price of 19.99. Qobuz also offers this but at what we consider an excessive annual only cost of 349. 99. Yes, it does give you the opportunity for significant discounts when buying studio master quality recordings but so does its more affordable annual subscription of  219.99 (which is also cheaper than the monthly cost of 19,99). There is, however, something that needs to be taken into account with Tidal's "Master" quality recordings. Because they use MQA, and because MQA needs a decoder at your side to play the tracks, this master quality is only available in the Tidal App. If you want to playback in a web browser or in Linux, then you can only do so at a maximum CD quality stream. Still, it is affordable

Music Discovery

To me, there are two main reasons for using a service like Tidal or Qobuz, or indeed any other: convenience and discovery. It's simply convenient that I don't have to access a particular drive that contains the music I want at home, or copy them to my music player when I go out or travel (21-century problems. Terrible isn't it?). But of course, there are ways around, even this - cloud storage for example. The second reason is not so easy to circumnavigate, however, and that is discovering and trying new music. Both services are good at this, but for different genres and one is simply better at all.
Tidal seems a Hifi service in search of an audience that may not need it.  As I type, Tidal's front page is trying to point me to its live stream of  Made In America 2018. The performer on the "Rock and Liberty stage (there are three different stages) has just stopped the audio track of her (I have come in late and it doesn't indicate, but I am certain it is Niki Minaj) "live" performance", telling her technical crew  "I'm feeling too sexy for this one. Let's move to the next" And so a highly appreciative audience is now singing along with her, while she clearly mimes something else from her new |CD (By the way, the opening track"Ganaja Burns" is the only good track on her new album. A classic modern pop song in my opinion,.If that doesn't appear on the soundtrack of the next GTA game I will eat my copy of  Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung) As another aside, we have  reached an odd place in popular music where the only people singing live at a concert are the audience. Apart from this, the main landing page recommends 5 different Michael Jackson playlists, one of Jean-Michel Jarre, one of Kanye West and the American Billboard 100. This represents how good Tidal is at highlighting and attempting to funnel you to the most popular of popular, American,  contemporary pop music while doing a much poorer job with Classical, Jazz, or experimental R&B, ECM or Rap. Or indeed, pop music that has not reached the USA  The trouble, if that is the word, is that these areas are already covered so well by Spotify. Worse, online sales and indeed piracy, tell us that most people that listen to this type of music are happy to do so in MP3. Most "lossless" quality sales are in Classical,  Jazz, Classica Rock, Metal and experimental music (Pop, Rap,  ECM or otherwise). Other music, especially Classical, is of course well represented on Tidal but you have to know what you are looking for in advance, especially what albums. And once you find them, Tidal gives you very little information about them, apart from track information, performers and brief review (Sadly it is not so good at telling you which recording you are listening to if you find, for example, a conductor who has recorded a cycle more than once. For example, according to Tidal, all four of its Karajan Beethoven symphony cycles, within its library, are his 1963 cycle - despite the fact they clearly are not. Tidal saddens me for this reason. An excellent audio quality service with a stable app, chasing a market that is most likely unappreciative of it. And if all you are interested in is listening to MP3, why move to Tidal's 9.99 MP3 only services while Spotify or any other numerous services exist, and with bigger libraries? 

Qobuz is a very different proposition, however. For example, upon landing on its homepage, it makes the following suggestions - when not filtered by a particular genre: 

A Kendric Lemar discography
A feature on "The paradox of Esa-Pekka Salonen studio"
A playlist and feature on Classical label Panclassics
A feature and playlist about Herbie Hancock
A feature and listening recommendation titled"Paul Van Nevel, the ancient music craftsman"

And so on, and so on.

And if I filter to Classical, a brings up not only new releases but official recommendations from Gramophone Magazine (updated monthly and in association with Gramophone) and other magazines. More importantly, to me at least, a wealth of feature articles exist on classical music and are well integrated with its music archive. Indeed, it is less like a straightforward streaming site but does this and combines it with a rather good music magazine. And the same attention to detail can be found in every genre. Indeed. it is this fact that would allow me to happily recommend changing to its 9.99 MP3 only services, from any other MP3 streaming. if you are not interested in its CD-quality streams service. The extra content is simply more than worth it, at least if you are interested in more than the UK Top 40 or Billboards 100. 

So, to conclude, while both services offer good quality sound streaming and a large archive, Qobuz easily beats not only Tidal but many other services. This is by understanding its audience and the many extras that it offers. But, if you are interested, it is easy to try both services as each offer a one months, unrestricted,  free trial, Alas, American audiences will have to wait till October when Qobuz launches there.

Saturday 1 September 2018

Spotify, Tidal & Qobuz: A Comparison & Review. Part Three: Qobuz

Despite not  being as well known, Qobuz has been around longer than not only Tidal but even Spotify, A French company, it launched in 2007 and was originally only available in French, Later it expanded to the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Spain. In October, it finally launches in the USA and seems determined to expand to other nations. It is better known as a company that specialises in classical music and jazz, although a quick look at its catalogue will show it has the same range of artists and genres as both Spotify or Tidal,

Like most other services, it has a web player and apps for Windows, Mac, and Android. Also, like Spotify, but not Tidal, it does have an unofficial Linux program. Alas, this is not available from their website but can be downloaded from GitHub and can be found in some repositories.

It can also be found supported by a bewilderingly large range of Hifi equipment and manufactures where it often offers full integration.

As it does not use MQA, it differs to Tidal in that all of its audio streams - from 320 kbps to FLAC 24-Bit up to 192 KHz - can be played in any browser or OS.

All music is available to stream, download and buy. 

Friday 31 August 2018

Spotify, Tidal & Qobuz: A Comparison & Review. Part Two: Tidal


Tidal is, or at least was a Norwegian company. Launching in 2014, it is one of the newest of the streaming services and yet one of the fastest growing and better-known. There are three reasons for this: it quickly expanded to include 52 countries, including the US, which has helped spread its brand quickly. It is one of only a small few services to offer not only a lossy streaming service but also lossless, CD-quality. It also offers a CD quality plus, but more on that shortly. Finally, in 2015 it was sold to a company led by Jay-Z, but including other artists on its board, who gave their full, and powerful, media presence to promote it.

Like Spotify, it has a web player (which allows you to log in and play tracks or albums in your web browser), but it also has its own set of "apps" for Windows, Mac, and Android. Sadly there is no separate Linux program, which means that its top-tier audio cannot be played on Linux machines (To Linux users: it seems the program will also not run in WINE. Perhaps due to the use of MQA?). This top tier is often thought to be streaming at 96 kHz / 24 bit. Although, as it uses MQA this may not be entirely accurate. Indeed, the fact that it uses MQA, maybe the reason that you cannot listen to its top-tier audio stream in a web browser. MQA needs MQA's own technology to decode it, and that is only present in the Tidal apps and certain audio equipment at present.

There are two membership types:

Tidal Premium.

Streaming at 320 kbps (Either MP3 or AAC - it is difficult to confirm which codec is used and may differ between platforms). This is Tidal's "lossy" streaming service. Comparable to Spotify.  This is priced at 9.99 a month.

Tidal HIFI

This is Tidal's "lossless" streaming format and comes in two "flavours" which the user chooses and can swap between at will:

First there are  Flac files at 16 bit 44.1 kHz - basically CD quality. In its app, and elsewhere, tidal names this service "HiFi Lossless" 

It also offers higher quality streams and downloads which it calls "Masters". Again, it seems that there is some confusion around these, with the assumption - not easily clarified by Tidal -  these are Flac files encoded at 96 kHz / 24 bit. But this is not necessarily correct as they use the MQA processing (See here for a discussion of MQA) MQA is actually lossy. As Tidal state on their website in their QA: "Tidal has partnered with MQA to deliver an authenticated and unbroken version (typically 96 kHz / 24 bit), ". Confusing isn't it? But then, the entire industry seems confused about MQA. Perhaps the best way to think about it is that it should be significantly above 16 bit 44.1 kHz, but not a consistent 96 kHz / 24 bit. It should also be noted that the MQA software is reencoding and "enhancing" the track and indeed without this, the audio would be distorted. Clear as mud, isn't it? This service is priced at 19.99 a month.


On logging in the app is very similar to Spotify's (see image below) and anyone coming from Spotify will feel comfortable. However, having tested it on Windows (i5, 8 gig Ram) and Android (S9 Plus), I would say that it is more stable and responsive then Spotify's window or android apps. However, it does not have many of the social media/community aspects that Spotify does. No list of what your friends are playing on the right-hand side of the app, for example.

The service has over 48.5 million tracks and 175,000 music videos - although these videos are mainly Pop, Rap, Rock, R&B and Metal. There is little here for classical music or jazz lovers. Luckily, it does hold a significant classical music catalogue, and while nowhere near as extensive as Spotify's you will normally find what you are looking for. At least, as long as the Tidal's search engine can track them down, which often needs more than one try and the use of some imagination.

It quickly becomes apparent that Tidal is aiming its sights at the American "youth" market, with great emphasis on Rap, Pop and modern R&B.

Click on any category and you will be met with a similar layout (see image below). Starting at the top this will be: Curated Playlists, New Tracks, New Albums, An artist of the week, two record labels which in the classical section do not seem to change (DG and ECM) and finally a set of "guest playlists" although this last section is not to be found in the classical section.

Music Discovery.

The best streaming services offer some ways of helping you discover music that you might not otherwise. Spotify does this, not brilliantly, but other users playlists can turn up the odd gem. Sadly in the classical music section, Tidal does nothing of any use - apart, perhaps, for the odd thing to be found the ECM or DG listings or "classic recordings". And of course, "New Releases". The "curated" classical music playlists are generally the usual nonsense put together by someone whose experience of classical music is "Mozart for your baby" and "Classical Music to help you study/sleep" (delete as appropriate). Even the lest moderately experienced classical music "fan" will find little new or interesting here. Unless you are keen to discover - and I am not making this up -  "Classical Meets Pop"

Meta Tagging

If you are not aware, all of your music contains "hidden" information known as metadata. This information typically lists: 

Song title
Band or artist's name
Album name that the song originates from
Type of music (genre)
Album track number
Year the song was released

Different programs tend to read this data slightly differently, and different record companies fill this data differently and for various reasons, some programs struggle with classical music meta tags. Sometimes this can be funny. Sometimes it can make looking for CDs difficult. It may have been rectified now but it was once extremely difficult to find all of the Goodall or Haitink Ring cycle for this reason in Spotify. But I don't think I have ever seen a service deal with this as badly as Tidal.  And this is important. To help with search and even playback, a program must be able to read this metadata correctly - sometimes trying to interpret what the record label is trying to say. Sadly, Tidal fails at this repeatedly in its classical music section. For some reason, it especially cannot cope with multi-disc classic music sets. 

Take the example below of the recent live Janowski Walkure on Pentatone. 

It starts by playing midway through act two! Hinweg! Hinweg! Flieh die Entweihte! It then moves on to the act one "prelude"! And off it goes once again on its magical mystery tour, where it stops, nobody knows. It's clear that it is, for some reason, putting all of those tracks labelled as track one and playing them together - in any order. And so on. Thankfully, it does not do this all the time and on most CDs, but you come across it enough to both worrisome and annoying. For example, see below what it does to the excellent Michael Gielen Edition Vol. 6 / Mahler making his entire Mahler cycle unlistenable. I came across this nearly two months ago and reported to Tidal but as you can see nothing has been done.

Sound quality.

Excellent. there is little else to say. CD quality sounds like a CD and very similar to those that I might burn myself at home.  HiFi Plus is a little better if not as impressive as I thought it might be given these are supposed to be studio masters. Don't get me wrong, they are good, but there is a slight tendency to exaggerate the mids and highs more than one might expect.  One assumes this is something to do with the encoder that Tidal uses - the CD  files also complement mids and highs but not to the same degree. But overall very good. Listen to something on here then listen to the same thing on Spotify and it sounds like someone has thrown a blanket over the speakers - and Spotify is one of the better lossless services.

And that concludes our tour of Tidal. Next up is Qobuz and finally a summary,  my thoughts and recommendations. 

Spotify, Tidal & Qobuz: A Comparison & Review. Part One

We have been looking at Spotify alternative, streaming services. Those that stream, but in "CD quality - or above.  As the Wagnerian has an international readership, and not all services are available internationally we thought this might just include Tidal. However, we recently discovered that Qobuz will be launching in the USA in October (it is already available in Europe of course and has been for many years) and will continue to expand from there. It thus seemed a good time to compare both. Due to its size, we have broken the review into two sections: part one will provide an overview of lossy and lossless streaming and why Spotify dominates the lossy marketplace. Part two will provide a more detailed review of each service.

Thursday 30 August 2018

Update: Wagner Goes On Broadway: Comedy "My Parsifal Conductor"

EDIT: We had the opportunity to catch up with the author just prior to the play's premiere. We should be publishing this in the next few days. An interesting read that throws some more light on this production and its intentions. 

We are not too sure what to make of this story, but here goes anyway. In November,  playwright, Allen Leicht will premiere, if not on Broadway then at least off, his comedy play "My Parsifal Conductor". According to the production company, The Directors Company, the play is based on the premise that, "musical genius Richard Wagner and his ever-faithful wife Cosima, find themselves in a moral, political and musical dilemma when King Ludwig II of Bavaria insists that Hermann Levi, the son of a rabbi, conduct Wagner's final masterpiece, Parsifal"

So, it seems to start with a myth that is not only untrue (and oddly perpetuated by the antisemitics of the Bayreuth Circle post his death) but, as Laurence Dreyfus (see this link as an example), among others, have pointed out, is highly implausible. However, it is a comedy, and even the best fiction will alter the truth for dramatic effect, Peter Shaffer's Amadeus for example. So with that in mind:

Cosima spends her last night on earth reliving her past and contemplating her after-life. In this comedic and imaginative take on the real-life events, Hermann Levi causes Cosima & Wagner to try to control their anti-Semitic views.

My Parsifal Conductor will feature Eddie Korbich as Wagner, Claire Brownwell as Cosima, Geoffrey Cantor as Levi, Carlo Bosticco as Ludwig, Logan James Hall as Nietzsche, Alison Cimmet as Dora and Jazmin Gorsline as Carrie/Sophie.

My Parsifal Conductor will feature set design by Harry Feiner, costume design by Gail Cooper-Hect, lighting design by Paul Hudson, sound design by Andy Evan Cohen and projection design by Tim Donovan/Bravo Media.

Sunday 5 August 2018

Even Wagner Made The Odd Typo.

Editing a few posts recently, to remove the odd typo - one or two a little embarrassing - we were reminded of the letter below from Wagner to his publisher. It seems that we are in good company.

In this letter, written to someone at his publishing house, Wagner complains about a small typographical error. Modern readers may find the mistake amusing, but Wagner apparently did not:

My dear doctor:

I have just observed to my astonishment that Brockhaus’s typesetter did not think it worth the trouble to rectify a mistake by me in the text of Parsifal which arose in some incomprehensible manner.

Page 29: bottom line should read “damned” [“verdammt”] instead of “cursed” [“verflucht”]. May I ask in any future printing that this change be included. 

With my highest regards and wishes,

Richard Wagner

Friday 3 August 2018

Catch-up: Listen To Bayreuth 2018 - On-Demand

If you missed this year's Bayreuth live broadcasts you can still catch-up, on demand. Some of these are from BR Klassik. For these simply click the name of the work. Others are from Radio Clasica . In these, you will need to click the link under the works name. 

Click the relevant link and the player page should launch. Any difficulties let us know via Twitter, Facebook or email and we will try to help. 

Saturday 28 July 2018

Watch Now: 30 Minutes Of Bayreuth's New Lohengrin. 2018. Recommended

We have been enjoying, greatly, new productions from Bayreuth these last few years and Yuval Sharon's Lohengrin is no exception. If you were unable to get to Bayreuth or were sadly unable to watch the geographically restricted broadcast from BR Klassik - or the similarly restricted 3sat broadcast tonight - the following  25 minutes, taken from act three, may give you some idea of the production.

The entire production will be released on DVD/Bluray, shortly. We, for one, will be putting in our preorder as soon as it is possible.

Friday 27 July 2018

Mini Documentary:Tristan Und Isolde. ENO 1981

Fascinating! Includes an interview with the extraordinary Linda Esther Gray.

Broadcast as part of Newsnight August 1981: Sir Reginald Goodall and the English National Opera prepare for a new production of Tristan and Isolde. Features interviews with Alberto Remedios (Tristan) and Linda Esther Gray (Isolde).

Thursday 26 July 2018

If you Missed It, Listen To The New Bayreuth Lohengrin Here

Lest you missed it or would like to listen again. Click the link, a new page will appear and then click the play icon. We include some images of the production also.  

Tuesday 24 July 2018

What's So Special About The Bayreuth Festival

To get you "in the mood" for the first day of the Festival tomorrow, 25 July, a little video overview from DW

Sunday 22 July 2018

How & When To Watch Bayreuth's New Production Of Lohengrin Online - For Free

EditWe have been informed that this year's live broadcast may be geo-restricted to viewers in Germany. If so, shame and bad form. It may be that the on-demand version, which should remain in place for a few days is not geo-restricted. 

If it is, of course, one could use a VPN or proxy to circumnavigate it - not that we would suggest such a thing of course. And we certainly wouldn't recommend googling VPN and any of the following trustworthy VPN suppliers - in our experience - such as "Strong VPN. NordVPN, Express VPN  or IPVanish (other VPN suppliers are available) to do such a thing. Not at all. We equally would not suggest that in the case that you did sign up for any one of these, then download their client, selecting a German server would allow you to watch at your leisure. Never would we suggest such a thing, 

Should you not be able to get to Bayreuth, for the premiere of Yuval Sharon's new production of Lohengrin this year, fear not. You can still see it live, albeit on the internet, the 25 of July. The entire performance will be broadcast live by BR Klassik Full detail below. Clicking the link below will take to the video page, with a very useful timer, counting down.


At Bayreuth, as with any opera company, cast details can change at the last minute. Indeed, the production has seen a new Lohengrin just a few weeks ago. So, for full cast details please visit the Festival's webpage for this production by CLICKING HERE

Saturday 21 July 2018

Where To Listen To This Years Bayreuth Festival Online: 2018

It's nearly that time; festival "madness" from Bayreuth. If you are unsure where or when to listen, to the individual, productions we have done our best to provide you with the times and links below. This year, it appears that BR Klassik and Bartok will, apart from Lohengrin, be broadcasting on different days, with BR Klassik broadcasting the recorded live broadcast after Bartok - in many cases. So, for example, both will broadcast the premiere of Lohengrin on the 25th July, BR's next broadcast will be the 30th July while Bartok's next broadcast will be Parsifal on the 26th July. With that in mind, we have listed both stations and provided links. We hope this is not too confusing. As always, we suggest you click the link in advance and make sure it works for you. A pop-up should appear and whatever is streaming at the time you click should be audible. If you have any difficulties, please get in touch via mail or Twitter and we will do our best to help. On a similar note if you spot an error here, please do let us know.

Times noted are in CEST, Dates are in European, not, American format. Please adjust to your local time if needed. Click the performance to launch the player

Friday 6 July 2018

Piotr Beczala Rides In On A Swan To Rescue A Distressed Bayreuth

It was less than a week ago when Roberto Alagna's manager informed the Bayreuth festival that the tenor would not be able to perform as Lohengrin in the new Bayreuth production of said opera later this month. According to reports, Alagna's manager informed the Wagner's that he simply had not been "... able to sufficiently study the part due to work overload (sic).”

This, of course, would have lead to something of a panic, for Bayreuth and Yuval Sharon's new productions of Lohengrin. Thankfully, a much better prepared Lohengrin has been found at short notice, in the form of the very fine Piotr Beczala. Beczala made his role debut as Lohengrin in 2016 at Dresden, see video below. Besczala is having something of a good year having only this year being announced as the recipient of the  International Opera Awards "Best Male Singer" award.  The Bayreuth production will see him once again, reunited with conductor Christian Thielemann.

Sunday 24 June 2018

Bayreuth To Digitize Richard Wagner Archive And Make Available To All

Historically, gaining access to the Richard Wagner Archive has been a somewhat difficult process for the none academic. Indeed, as it necessitated a visit to the Richard Wagner Museum in Bayreuth, it could prove difficult for many academics internationally. An application needs to be made, forms need to be completed and proof of professional research needed to be provided, However, thanks to a program of digitizing the entire archive, including letters between Wagner and Cosima, his notebooks, clean copies of his scores, and photos, this should soon become an easier process. The entire archive will be placed online and made available to anyone that wishes to search it.

The process has only recently begun and as yet, no final date has been provided.

For more information please visit The Richard Wagner Museum online.

Sunday 17 June 2018

The Ring, Or Wagner as Scam Artist

The world of Wagner criticism is a strange place. At the periphery of the media, and the internet, it's an even stranger place. Indeed a dangerous place, in some respects, for the unprepared traveler. But that's partly what we are here for. We dive into the places many a saner Wagnerian would not dare or, indeed, would not even know to exist. As the present "leader of the free world" might say, "Your welcome"

The following is, ostensibly, a review of San Francisco Opera's Rheingold. But don't let that stop our intrepid reviewer, James Roy MacBean, having read a bit of basic Wagner criticism (one senses pre "The Laughing Wagner: his Wit, Puns, Pranks & Dare-Devil Stunts", Joachim Köhler is at the forefront of Mr. 
Macbean's reading) from critiquing the entire Ring in his own idiosyncratic manner.

The Ring, Or Wagner as Scam Artist

James Roy MacBean

Saturday June 16, 2018 - 09:52:00 AM

Ernest Newman famously wrote of Wagner that “The ‘problems’ of his operas are generally problems of his own personality and circumstances. His art, like his life, is all unconscious egoism.” Discussing both Verdi and Wagner, Peter Conrad wrote that “For Verdi there is no god, so music must fill up the absence; for Wagner there is no god, so he must personally assume the role.” Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, currently mounted by San Francisco Opera in all its 17-hour glory mixed with tedium, (or is it tedium mixed with occasional glory?), is Richard Wagner’s arrogant attempt to rewrite the history of the world and cast it in his own image. Opening night of the first Ring cycle was Tuesday, June 12, for Das Rheingold. Two more complete Ring cycles will continue through July 1.

The Ring begins with an act of greed, a grasping for wealth and power as a substitute for lack of sex. In Das Rheingold, the Nibelung Alberich, a mean-spirited, misshapen individual, fails to entice the frolicsome Rhinemaidens to have sex with him, but he learns from the Rhinemaidens that only by renouncing love might someone have a chance to win the submerged gold in the river. So Alberich renounces love and brazenly steals the gold. His stolen wealth gives him power over all the other Nibelungs, whom he makes his slaves. Whipping them to work ever harder for his own personal aggrandizement, Alberich becomes the ultimate robber baron, the arch capitalist who enslaves his workers. His appetite for wealth and power is insatiable. Though he has renounced love, he has not renounced lust. He plans first to subjugate all men, then to force himself on their women who have shunned him in the past, making them slaves to his sexual desires.

Thus Wagner begins what is a long, tortuous tale about his own gripes with modern society. Where greed rules and money is the measure of all things, what role is left for art, for the art of music? Where Wagner’s gripes are concerned, they are legion. But among his many gripes, the Jews hold a special place. In his anti-Semitic screed “Das Judenthum in der Musik/Judaism in Music,” Wagner writes, “According to the present constitution of this world, the Jew in truth is already more than emancipated: he rules, and will rule, so long as money remains the power before which we and all our doings and dealings lose their force.”

It has been noted that in the Ring cycle, two characters have a peculiarly distinctive style of musical speech: these are the brothers Alberich and Mime. They and they alone, in recitative after recitative, sing in hissing, squealingl (sic) voices. Wagner, as we know from his essay on “Judaism in Music,” found the Jews’ way of speaking extremely repugnant. “Who has not been seized,” he writes, “with a feeling of the greatest revulsion, of horror mixed with the absurd, at hearing that sense-and-sound confounding gurgle, yodel, and cackle….?” Many commentators on Wagner’s Ring have speculatively identified Alberich and Mime as Jews. Alberich, as we have seen, sets the plot of the Ring in motion with a criminal act of greed when he steals the gold from the Rhinemaidens when they won’t have sex with him. Now possessing this wealth and power, Alberich enslaves his fellow Nibelungs. Even Mime, his brother, is physically and mentally abused by Alberich. Forced to work at his forge for Alberich’s accumulation of ever more wealth, Mime whines incessantly in his hissing, squealing caricature of a voice. We’ll hear far too much of that whining voice in the five and-a-half hours of Siegfried, the third of Wagner’s tetralogy.

Where the current San Francisco Opera production of the Ring is concerned, director Francesca Zambello has updated her original 2011 staging, introducing more projections of water and nature imagery. Seeing the Ring as apocalyptic, Zambello notes that “we tried to incorporate more nature so that as the universe is destroyed, we see the annihilation of the natural world in sharper contrast.” So, yes, there is assuredly a dynamic of nature versus culture in the Ring. Wagner, as usual, sees things in terms of good versus evil. Nature is good; Culture, especially this money-grubbing culture, is evil. Zambello also seems to understand that the notion of a “twilight of the Gods” might not be about gods per se, but rather about the human gods of industry and commerce who rule our current world.  

Continue Reading at  Berkeley Daily Planet

Monday 30 April 2018

New Issue Of The Wagner Journal Available

‘Kindred Spirits of Meiningen and Bayreuth‘ by Edward A. Bortnichak and Paula M. Bortnichak

• ‘Turning the Telescope Round‘ [article about Ernest Newman] by David Cormack

• ‘Wagner and the Boryspil Pogrom: A Reply to Barry Emslie‘ by Derek Hughes

•‘ “Music Made Visible“: Sergei Eisenstein's Die Walküre and the Birth of Vertical Montage‘ by Hilan Warshaw

• ‘Deluded Neurotic or Visionary Woman of the Future?: Senta Revalued‘ by Kate Hopkins

plus reviews of:
Achim Freyer‘s Parsifal in Hamburg and Tobias Kratzer‘s Götterdämmerung in Karlsruhe

DVD of Christian Thielemann‘s homage to Herbert von Karajan's 1967 Salzburg Ring

CDs of the Naxos Siegfried under Jaap van Zweden, Mark Elder‘s Parsifal with the Hallé, and Wagner concert overtures under Jun Märkl

More at: The Wagner Journal

Thursday 15 March 2018

RIP: Professor Stephen Hawking: Physicist & Wagnerian

In one of his final interviews, Professor Hawking was asked how he would like to spend his last days, he replied:

Oh my last day, it would be being with my family and listening to Wagner,’ Hawking told him. ‘While sipping champagne in the summer sun.’

You can hear this part of the interview here. Ignore Morgan's comments about who Wagner is - one should expect no less in this days, sadly

Sunday 18 February 2018

Watch Now: Die Walküre” (Act I). NYP. Jaap van Zweden. Jan 15

Some of us here believe that van Zweden may become the best Wagner conductor of this generation. Although, it is very hard to beat Barenboim. The following was recorded in New York, 15 February 2018. This recording also includes John Luther Adams’s “Dark Waves"

Jaap van Zweden, conductor 
Heidi Melton, soprano 
Simon O’Neill, tenor
 John Relyea, bass

Friday 16 February 2018

A Very Special Offer For Readers Of The Wagnerian: Wagner Books

Apologies for the title; sadly could not think of a better way of putting it.

You might recall a few weeks ago we noted two Wagner related books that we felt might be of interest. These were: Ernest Newman A Critical Biography By Paul Watt and Granville Bantock Letters to William Wallace and Ernest Newman.  You might also recall, that we noted, while well worth your attention, they were rather expensive. Well, the publisher, Boydell & Brewer has kindly got in touch and offers readers of the Wagnerian a very generous 35 percent discount on either one or both books.  Should you have been discouraged by the Amazon, etc, prices before, hopefully this might help.Full details below.

Although the prices and discounts are quoted in sterling I have been assured that they will apply internationally. Any difficulties, please contact the publisher using the contact details below.

And to reassure long-term readers: this is neither some form of an advert and we, here, are not being paid or, will we make any form of profit.

Offer finishes on the 30 April 2018. Details and discount code to be used below.

Offer to the readers of The Wagnerian

Boydell & Brewer, the book publisher, is pleased to offer readers of The Wagnerian a 35% discount of two of their recent books. The first, Ernest Newman, A Critical Biography by Paul Watt, examines works of Wagner's most detailed biographer in their historical context. The 35% discount would make the price £29.25, instead of £45.00 RRP. You can view the full details by clicking here:

The second book, Granville Bantock Letters to William Wallace and Ernest Newman edited by Michael Allis, provides a fascinating window into British music and musical life in the early twentieth century and the 'dawn' of musical modernism. The 35% discount would make the price £48.75, instead of £75.00 RRP. You can read more about the book by clicking here:

To redeem the discount simply quote the code BB542 when prompted at the checkout at or via telephone when calling 01243 843291 or emailing Offer ends 30 April 2018.