How to get started in listening to Wagner?

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How to get started in listening to Wagner?

When I was in high school, I used to read the audiophile magazines and they always debated about what Wagner recordings to listen to. Of course, they carried a very high price tag, so outside from a few PBS opera shows, I'm not very familiar with Wagner. I've heard some of the instrumental music from his operas, but I'm not very familiar with the Ring Cycle or any other of Wagner's operas.

Should I buy some recordings first? I remember a lot of reviews talking about how great the Solti recordings were and comparing them with various other recordings.

Should I start with DVDs? I've often heard that you really need to experience Wagner rather than listen to him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

RE: How to get started in listening to Wagner?

My first Wagner piece was Die Walkure back in 2002.  Some might say this is heavy-going, that you should try something like Der Fliegende Hollander first, but having since made the round trip through all of Wagner in many different recordings (historical, recent and video), I believe that Die Walkure, particularly Act I, is as accessible as Wagner gets.  I do recommend starting with DVDs, as it's easier to follow the narrative than when reading a libretto.  Try to rent Barenboim's DVD from Bayreuth and see what you think.  The staging is not to everybody's taste, but the singing and conducting are nearly unimpeachable.  The Boulez, also on DVD and also from Bayreuth, has its charms, but the orchestra lacks the punch of the Barenboim.

Maybe then explore the Ring more fully (what I said of Barenboim's Walkure goes for his whole Ring Cycle) or watch a DVD of Die Meistersinger -- the 1995 Deutsche Oper Berlin under Goetz Friedrich is a fine choice.

After this, you can start to mire yourself in ages-old debates like, "who would win in a fistfight between Karajan and Solti?" and "who had the better Parsifal, Kna '51 or Kna '62?".  

Standout historical recordings include Clemens Krauss's 1953 Ring, Karajan's '51 Meistersinger and '52 Tristan, the much-touted 1955 Keilberth dug out of Decca's vaults a few years back (a bit overrated IMHO), Bruno Walter's 1935 Act I of Walkure (a treasure) and pretty much anything by Furtwangler (cycles from '50 and '53, fragments from the '30's and a studio Walkure from '54). All this said, I don't recommend jumping into Parsifal or Tristan too soon.

Bear in mind when dealing with stereo Ring cycles that whatever one may think of Solti's, it's generally agreed that his Walkure is the weakest part of it. Karajan's cycle is definitely not for everyone, but his Walkure is among the finest in stereo, no matter what the haters may tell you.

Good luck!

RE: How to get started in listening to Wagner?

Dalej42 wrote:

Should I start with DVDs? I've often heard that you really need to experience Wagner rather than listen to him.

 

Absolutely! Until I saw Wagner on dvd he was a composer I respected rather than loved. Try the famous Boulez/Chereau Ring or the totally-gripping Davis Tannhauser. Truth is, there are so many completely different and equally interesting views of Wagner on dvd that you're going to have to do your own sampling to find one that lights your fire.

RE: How to get started in listening to Wagner?

I stopped by my local library and rented 2 Wagner dvds. The first one is Das Rheingold, a 1999 Pierre Audi performance. The second one is Die Walkure with James Levine and the Metropolitan Opera.  I'll watch them this weekend.

RE: How to get started in listening to Wagner?

I found, to my dismay, that the post looks a bit obsolete, but I think the topic is very interesting, quite compelling and omnipresent.

The answer to the question how I start listening Wagner is : By...reading! You have to start reading, as much as you can, to comprehend the huge and quite complex genious of Wagner, so that, when you listen to the first "piece" of his music works, you may comprehend what's going on.

So, after reading, how I start (with audio or video). If you wish to indulge in the total genious of the man (he wrote the texts - he avoided the word libretti-, he had his strong views for the direction, costumes, staging, even the theater needed for his works), then the DVD may be the best way. However, if you are interested in Wagner the composer, since (unfortunately or not) he remained in the history of Music as one of the greatest and "immortal" composers, only for his, by all means, superb (and supreme) music, then, you have to listen extensively the CDs (and some SACDs).

Then comes the question "Where I start". The answer: from the beginning, if you really wish to comprehend the greatness, the complexity and the virtues (how the leitmotives work, the heavey but very meaningful orchestration, etc.) of his music and, at the same time, follow the path of the developments of his views on music and Art. So, you have to start with "Das Liebenverbot" and "Die Feen" to see how the young Wagner was influenced by the french and Webber. Then you have to visit (at least once) "Rienzi", to see his struggle between "la follie de grandeur" of Meyerbeer and the evolution of german opera. Then, you may start with his first original masterpiece "Der fliegende Hollander", followed by "Tanhauser" and "Lohengrin", where he gradually develops his ideas for the "complete stage work".

For the remaining and major masterworks, a french scholar have categorised them in this way :

-Tristan und Isolde : Wagner for the musicians.

-Der Ring : Wagner for the big public.

-Der Meistersinger von Nurnberg : Wagner for the singers.

-Parsifal : Wagner for the intimate and mystic.

Anyway, I hope I gave you some indication how and to move and where to go. In any case, Wagner is not "easy listening". You have to indulge with consistency and plan in his immense musical work and you have to prove not only you deserve it, but it desrves...you!

Parla

pour
parla wrote:

a french scholar have categorised them in this way ...

Der Meistersinger von Nurnberg : Wagner for the singers.

der war nicht Schüler, ist nicht Singer (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Act 1 scene 2)

Wagner

I've never managed to get beyond the "bleeding chunks" as I think Beecham christened them, despite several attempts.

 

Nick

blood good

There is hope, Nick, since there is blood even in Meistersinger (already in the first scene). (In Turandot's riddle scene a friend's name does appear between these first two answers).

parla wrote:

-Tristan und Isolde : Wagner for the musicians

so spiele lustig und hell! (Tristan, III, i)

The need for curtain
parla wrote:

Der Ring : Wagner for the big public

Zurück vom Ring!

Par sing
parla wrote:

Parsifal : Wagner for the intimate and mystic

I, i:
Wald, schattig ...

Dein Name denn?

Profound...

Now, they know better...tjh. If not how to start, at least where to search.

Parla

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