Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Wagner's Orchestral Music

An enjoyable evening wallowing in Wagner's orchestral music -- overtures, preludes, etc. Why does so little Wagner now appear on concert programmes? Is it the dogmatic belief that only "whole works" should be played? Or is it part of the modern concert scene that has seen overtures and short orchestral works banished into limbo -- unless they are "contemporary" in which case many Brownie points are earned? The only problem with the admirable practice of programming contemporary works is that the same work never seems to appear more than once. Do not audiences and orchestras clamour for second and third hearings of remarkable modern pieces?

Or maybe it's a conductor problem. The pre-1960 or so conductors cut their teeth on chunks of Wagner. This evening I wallowed in Otto Klemperer conducting the Philharmonia (1960-61). But it could have been Boult, or Beecham, or Knappertsbusch, or Keilberth, or Toscanini, or Walter, or Furtwängler, or Schuricht, or Krauss. Anyway, Klemperer is great in this kind of music. In 1960 the Philharmonia was still in top form, and the EMI recording team at its peak. Nothing like filling the room with Wagner to banish the cobwebs and pessimistic thoughts. The latest EMI Klemperer box has four Wagner CDs out of the five (the fifth being Richard Strauss). My home will reverberate for many evenings to come.

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