Wagner And His World

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01Beethoven20130520

Donald Macleod explores how Beethoven's music heavily influenced Wagner.

As BBC Radio 3 celebrates the 200th anniversary of Wagner's birth, Composer Of The Week explores the connections and relationships that helped establish him as the most revolutionary musical thinker of the 19th century. Donald Macleod investigates the composers who exerted the most profound influence on Wagner, including Beethoven, Meyerbeer, Palestrina and Liszt, and those he left an indelible mark upon, including Strauss, Bruckner and Wolf.

Works by these figures, who shaped Wagner's musical world, are threaded through a week of Wagner's own music, spanning his entire career - and if you were expecting to hear solely opera, think again! Alongside highlights from his famous masterpieces for the stage, including Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Götterdämmerung, Die Meistersinger, Lohengrin and Parsifal, there's a rare opportunity to discover three of the composer's very few compositions for piano, occasional works for wind band and male voice choir, and even Wagner's own youthful arrangement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

We will also be shining a 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.

Selected recordings showcase some of the finest Wagner performances put to disc - with historic interpretations by great Wagnerians such as Wolfgang Sawallisch, Georg Solti, Rudolf Kempe, James Levine and Daniel Barenboim.

--

Donald Macleod begins the week by exploring possibly the greatest single influence on Wagner's work, the music of Ludwig van Beethoven. Beethoven's presence loomed large in Wagner's mind from his very earliest works, including a highly Beethovenian piano sonata, to the apotheosis of his Ring Cycle: Brünnhilde's immolation at the climax of Götterdammerung.

Listeners have a very rare opportunity to hear an excerpt from Wagner's own youthful arrangement of Beethoven's Choral Symphony, and Donald Macleod explains the colossal influence Beethoven's synthesis of music and poetry would have on Wagner's own theories of music-drama. We'll also hear Wagner's only substantial mature piano work, a one-movement piano sonata dedicated to his mistress Mathilde Wesendonck

01Wagner and Beethoven2013052020160502 (R3)

Donald Macleod explores how Beethoven's music heavily influenced Wagner.

01Wagner and Beethoven2013052020160502 (R3)

As BBC Radio 3 celebrates the 200th anniversary of Wagner's birth, Composer Of The Week explores the connections and relationships that helped establish him as the most revolutionary musical thinker of the 19th century. Donald Macleod investigates the composers who exerted the most profound influence on Wagner, including Beethoven, Meyerbeer, Palestrina and Liszt, and those he left an indelible mark upon, including Strauss, Bruckner and Wolf.

Works by these figures, who shaped Wagner's musical world, are threaded through a week of Wagner's own music, spanning his entire career - and if you were expecting to hear solely opera, think again! Alongside highlights from his famous masterpieces for the stage, including Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Götterdämmerung, Die Meistersinger, Lohengrin and Parsifal, there's a rare opportunity to discover three of the composer's very few compositions for piano, occasional works for wind band and male voice choir, and even Wagner's own youthful arrangement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

We will also be shining a 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.

Selected recordings showcase some of the finest Wagner performances put to disc - with historic interpretations by great Wagnerians such as Wolfgang Sawallisch, Georg Solti, Rudolf Kempe, James Levine and Daniel Barenboim.

--

Donald Macleod begins the week by exploring possibly the greatest single influence on Wagner's work, the music of Ludwig van Beethoven. Beethoven's presence loomed large in Wagner's mind from his very earliest works, including a highly Beethovenian piano sonata, to the apotheosis of his Ring Cycle: Brünnhilde's immolation at the climax of Götterdammerung.

Listeners have a very rare opportunity to hear an excerpt from Wagner's own youthful arrangement of Beethoven's Choral Symphony, and Donald Macleod explains the colossal influence Beethoven's synthesis of music and poetry would have on Wagner's own theories of music-drama. We'll also hear Wagner's only substantial mature piano work, a one-movement piano sonata dedicated to his mistress Mathilde Wesendonck.

01Wagner and Beethoven20130520

02Wagner, Weber and Bellini20130521

02Wagner, Weber and Bellini2013052120160503 (R3)

Donald Macleod explores Wagner's early love for the operas of Weber and Bellini.

02Wagner, Weber and Bellini2013052120160503 (R3)

Donald Macleod explores Wagner's early love for the operas of Weber and Bellini.

02Wagner, Weber and Bellini20130521

02Wagner, Weber and Bellini2013052120160503 (R3)

As Donald Macleod continues his exploration of the composers who influenced Wagner's life and music, he looks at his earliest two complete operas, Die Feen and Das Liebesverbot, each written in a very different musical style.

In Die Feen, listeners can hear clearly the early influence of the great hero of early 19th century German Romantic opera, Carl Maria von Weber, and the programme also features two short occasional works by Wagner, written to commemorate his great forebear and compatriot.

But it's in Das Liebesverbot that those unfamiliar with Wagner's early work may be in for a shock! Sunny, witty, and bursting with the warm lyricism of the Mediterranean, the opera is full of the influence of Italian opera, particularly the compositions of Vincenzo Bellini, and sounds almost totally unlike anything else in Wagner's output. We hear it juxtaposed with one of Bellini's own beautifully-wrought "bel canto" arias.

02Wagner, Weber and Bellini2013052120160503 (R3)

As Donald Macleod continues his exploration of the composers who influenced Wagner's life and music, he looks at his earliest two complete operas, Die Feen and Das Liebesverbot, each written in a very different musical style.

In Die Feen, listeners can hear clearly the early influence of the great hero of early 19th century German Romantic opera, Carl Maria von Weber, and the programme also features two short occasional works by Wagner, written to commemorate his great forebear and compatriot.

But it's in Das Liebesverbot that those unfamiliar with Wagner's early work may be in for a shock! Sunny, witty, and bursting with the warm lyricism of the Mediterranean, the opera is full of the influence of Italian opera, particularly the compositions of Vincenzo Bellini, and sounds almost totally unlike anything else in Wagner's output. We hear it juxtaposed with one of Bellini's own beautifully-wrought "bel canto" arias.

02Weber And Bellini20130521

Donald Macleod explores Wagner's early love for the operas of Weber and Bellini.

As Donald Macleod continues his exploration of the composers who influenced Wagner's life and music, he looks at his earliest two complete operas, Die Feen and Das Liebesverbot, each written in a very different musical style.

In Die Feen, listeners can hear clearly the early influence of the great hero of early 19th century German Romantic opera, Carl Maria von Weber, and the programme also features two short occasional works by Wagner, written to commemorate his great forebear and compatriot.

But it's in Das Liebesverbot that those unfamiliar with Wagner's early work may be in for a shock! Sunny, witty, and bursting with the warm lyricism of the Mediterranean, the opera is full of the influence of Italian opera, particularly the compositions of Vincenzo Bellini, and sounds almost totally unlike anything else in Wagner's output. We hear it juxtaposed with one of Bellini's own beautifully-wrought "bel canto" arias.

03Meyerbeer And Palestrina20130522

Donald Macleod explores how Wagner first cherished, then rejected, Meyerbeer's influence.

Today's episode finds Wagner struggling to make ends meet as a young man in Paris but falling under the spell of French Grand Opera, in particular, the influence of Giacomo Meyerbeer. Wagner would later violently reject Meyerbeer's work in his hate-filled, anti-Semitic tract "Jewishness in Music". Yet back in the late 1830s, he had fallen in love with the vast theatrical sweep of Meyerbeer's work, channelling it into his own opera Rienzi.

We'll hear how Meyerbeer's big hits of the time, "Robert Le Diable" and "Les Huguenots", cast a shadow on Rienzi. Finally, as an antidote to all the melodrama of Grand Opera, Donald Macleod introduces a surprising influence on Wagner's work: the music of Palestrina, whom Wagner programmed and conducted in the 1840s, and whose Stabat Mater strongly influenced the shimmering textures of Lohengrin.

03Wagner, Meyerbeer and Palestrina20130522

03Wagner, Meyerbeer and Palestrina2013052220160504 (R3)

Donald Macleod explores how Wagner first cherished, then rejected, Meyerbeer's influence.

03Wagner, Meyerbeer and Palestrina2013052220160504 (R3)

Donald Macleod explores how Wagner first cherished, then rejected, Meyerbeer's influence.

03Wagner, Meyerbeer and Palestrina20130522

03Wagner, Meyerbeer and Palestrina2013052220160504 (R3)

Today's episode finds Wagner struggling to make ends meet as a young man in Paris but falling under the spell of French Grand Opera, in particular, the influence of Giacomo Meyerbeer. Wagner would later violently reject Meyerbeer's work in his hate-filled, anti-Semitic tract "Jewishness in Music". Yet back in the late 1830s, he had fallen in love with the vast theatrical sweep of Meyerbeer's work, channelling it into his own opera Rienzi.

We'll hear how Meyerbeer's big hits of the time, "Robert Le Diable" and "Les Huguenots", cast a shadow on Rienzi. Finally, as an antidote to all the melodrama of Grand Opera, Donald Macleod introduces a surprising influence on Wagner's work: the music of Palestrina, whom Wagner programmed and conducted in the 1840s, and whose Stabat Mater strongly influenced the shimmering textures of Lohengrin.

03Wagner, Meyerbeer and Palestrina2013052220160504 (R3)

Today's episode finds Wagner struggling to make ends meet as a young man in Paris but falling under the spell of French Grand Opera, in particular, the influence of Giacomo Meyerbeer. Wagner would later violently reject Meyerbeer's work in his hate-filled, anti-Semitic tract "Jewishness in Music". Yet back in the late 1830s, he had fallen in love with the vast theatrical sweep of Meyerbeer's work, channelling it into his own opera Rienzi.

We'll hear how Meyerbeer's big hits of the time, "Robert Le Diable" and "Les Huguenots", cast a shadow on Rienzi. Finally, as an antidote to all the melodrama of Grand Opera, Donald Macleod introduces a surprising influence on Wagner's work: the music of Palestrina, whom Wagner programmed and conducted in the 1840s, and whose Stabat Mater strongly influenced the shimmering textures of Lohengrin.

04Liszt20130523

Donald Macleod explores the relationship between Wagner and Liszt.

Franz Liszt stands apart amongst the influences on Wagner's life and music. Not only was he a close musical confidante whose unfailing support had helped Wagner secure fame and success at a time when he was in exile, but the two composers shared new ideas as their work changed the face of music in the mid-19th century. Liszt would also, somewhat to his chagrin, become Wagner's father-in-law after Wagner fell in love with his daughter Cosima, who at the time was married to the conductor Hans von Bülow.

Donald Macleod juxtaposes two highlights from Wagner's mature music-dramas with piano works by Liszt written around the time of Wagner's death, in Venice, in 1883. We'll also hear the work written for Cosima Wagner's birthday in 1870, the Siegfried-Idyll, in its charming original version for 13 instruments. Plus a real Wagner oddity, his youthful setting of "Gretchen Am Spinnrade", inspired by Goethe's Faust.

04Wagner and Liszt20130523

04Wagner and Liszt2013052320160505 (R3)

Donald Macleod explores the relationship between Wagner and Liszt.

04Wagner and Liszt2013052320160505 (R3)

Donald Macleod explores the relationship between Wagner and Liszt.

04Wagner and Liszt20130523

04Wagner and Liszt2013052320160505 (R3)

Franz Liszt stands apart amongst the influences on Wagner's life and music. Not only was he a close musical confidante whose unfailing support had helped Wagner secure fame and success at a time when he was in exile, but the two composers shared new ideas as their work changed the face of music in the mid-19th century. Liszt would also, somewhat to his chagrin, become Wagner's father-in-law after Wagner fell in love with his daughter Cosima, who at the time was married to the conductor Hans von Bülow.

Donald Macleod juxtaposes two highlights from Wagner's mature music-dramas with piano works by Liszt written around the time of Wagner's death, in Venice, in 1883. We'll also hear the work written for Cosima Wagner's birthday in 1870, the Siegfried-Idyll, in its charming original version for 13 instruments. Plus a real Wagner oddity, his youthful setting of "Gretchen Am Spinnrade", inspired by Goethe's Faust.

04Wagner and Liszt2013052320160505 (R3)

Franz Liszt stands apart amongst the influences on Wagner's life and music. Not only was he a close musical confidante whose unfailing support had helped Wagner secure fame and success at a time when he was in exile, but the two composers shared new ideas as their work changed the face of music in the mid-19th century. Liszt would also, somewhat to his chagrin, become Wagner's father-in-law after Wagner fell in love with his daughter Cosima, who at the time was married to the conductor Hans von Bülow.

Donald Macleod juxtaposes two highlights from Wagner's mature music-dramas with piano works by Liszt written around the time of Wagner's death, in Venice, in 1883. We'll also hear the work written for Cosima Wagner's birthday in 1870, the Siegfried-Idyll, in its charming original version for 13 instruments. Plus a real Wagner oddity, his youthful setting of "Gretchen Am Spinnrade", inspired by Goethe's Faust.

05Wagner, Strauss, Bruckner and Wolf20130524

05Wagner, Strauss, Bruckner and Wolf2013052420160506 (R3)

Donald Macleod explores Wagner's influence on Bruckner, Strauss, Mahler and Wolf.

05Wagner, Strauss, Bruckner and Wolf2013052420160506 (R3)

Donald Macleod explores Wagner's influence on Bruckner, Strauss, Mahler and Wolf.

05Wagner, Strauss, Bruckner and Wolf20130524

05Wagner, Strauss, Bruckner and Wolf2013052420160506 (R3)

Donald Macleod ends this week exploring the musical connections between Wagner and his contemporaries with excerpts from his final great music-drama, Parsifal. He examines the colossal effect it would go on to have on a younger generation of composers, including Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler and Hugo Wolf.

We also look at the famous, and boozy, meeting between Wagner and perhaps his most devoted musical admirer, the Austrian Anton Bruckner, whose Third Symphony was dedicated to Wagner.

05Wagner, Strauss, Bruckner and Wolf2013052420160506 (R3)

Donald Macleod ends this week exploring the musical connections between Wagner and his contemporaries with excerpts from his final great music-drama, Parsifal. He examines the colossal effect it would go on to have on a younger generation of composers, including Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler and Hugo Wolf.

We also look at the famous, and boozy, meeting between Wagner and perhaps his most devoted musical admirer, the Austrian Anton Bruckner, whose Third Symphony was dedicated to Wagner.

05 LASTStrauss, Bruckner And Wolf20130524

Donald Macleod explores Wagner's influence on Bruckner, Strauss, Mahler and Wolf.

Donald Macleod ends this week exploring the musical connections between Wagner and his contemporaries with excerpts from his final great music-drama, Parsifal. He examines the colossal effect it would go on to have on a younger generation of composers, including Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler and Hugo Wolf.

We also look at the famous, and boozy, meeting between Wagner and perhaps his most devoted musical admirer, the Austrian Anton Bruckner, whose Third Symphony was dedicated to Wagner.