Thursday, July 31, 2008

Nasty Brilliant Old Wagner



I don't consider myself a Wagner fan, but I think this is pretty magnificent. It's the Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin. Yes, Hitler was an enthusiastic Wagner fan, but so were WH Auden and Thomas Mann.

I've known some enthusiastic Wagnerians in my time, and they were all Jewish. Incidentally, the conductor of this performance, Otto Klemperer, was Jewish. Perhaps there is some justice there.

Alas, moral goodness and aesthetic success are two completely separate and unrelated items. Ezra Pound was the greatest modern American poet. He was also a traitor, and in wartime. The greatness of his art does not pardon his crime, nor does his crime diminish his art.

Sorry about the sappy pictures on the YouTube post. These days, Wagner's music makes me think of the grand expansive work of an artist like Anselm Kiefer.

4 comments:

Grandmère Mimi said...

I'm not a great Wagner fan myself, but he wrote beautiful music. I've never heard a live performance of a Wagner opera. Perhaps if I did, I would change my mind, or perhaps not.

Alas, moral goodness and aesthetic success are two completely separate and unrelated items.

Ain't that the truth?

kishnevi said...

To quote Leonard Bernstein:
"I hate Wagner on bended knee."
Wanger was a case of the Great Artist who took himself too seriously.

He remains, however, one of my favorite composers, with Die Meistersinger at the top of the list; and he influence symphonic music immeasurably, by forcing tonality to yield up everything and breaking down the older formal structures both in harmony and operatic form.

But most of his librettos could have used a good editor. There are vast stretches of the Ring, Tristan, and Parsifal that could have been compressed or left out entirely, but, since he had no partner or editor when writing the libretti, stayed in unchallenged.

Counterlight said...

"I hate Wagner on bended knee."

I love that! I had a friend who worked in the archives of the NY Philharmonic. He showed by a folder Bernstein used for his scores that said in big bold letters on the cover "MAHLER ROCKS!"
I hate to admit it, earnest progressive that I am, but I love much of the music from Goetterdaemerung and Parsifal.

bls said...

I went to see "Die Walküre" a few years ago - against my better judgement - and ended up sitting (for 5 hours!) on the edge of my seat.

It was one of the best things I ever saw, I have to say (and I'm always somewhat embarrassed to say, too).