Richard Wagner

Born 22 May 1813. Died 13 February 1883.
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Wagner: Siegfried Idyll

Martin Cotton compares recordings of Wagner's Siegfried Idyll and makes a recommendation.

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Wilhelm Richard Wagner (22 May 1813 – 13 February 1883) was a German composer, theatre director, polemicist, and conductor who is primarily known for his operas (or, as some of his later works were later known, "music dramas"). Unlike most opera composers, Wagner wrote both the libretto and the music for each of his stage works. Initially establishing his reputation as a composer of works in the romantic vein of Weber and Meyerbeer, Wagner revolutionised opera through his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk ("total work of art"), by which he sought to synthesise the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, with music subsidiary to drama, and which was announced in a series of essays between 1849 and 1852. Wagner realised these ideas most fully in the first half of the four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung).

His compositions, particularly those of his later period, are notable for their complex textures, rich harmonies and orchestration, and the elaborate use of leitmotifs—musical phrases associated with individual characters, places, ideas or plot elements. His advances in musical language, such as extreme chromaticism and quickly shifting tonal centres, greatly influenced the development of classical music. His Tristan und Isolde is sometimes described as marking the start of modern music.

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BBC Reviews

  1. Review of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (conductor: Marek Janowski; Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin; Rundfunkchor Berlin)

    Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (conductor: Marek Janowski; Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin; Rundfunkchor Berlin) 2012

    Reviewed by Graham Rogers
    A winning Mesitersinger that more than holds its own with any in the catalogue.
  2. Review of Scenes from The Ring

    Scenes from The Ring 2007

    Reviewed by John Armstrong
    Natalie Dessay's Wood Bird is charmingly forthright, and Violeta Urmana makes a...
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