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Wagner, Meyerbeer and Palestrina

Donald Macleod explores how Wagner first cherished, then rejected, Meyerbeer's influence - and investigates Wagner's little-known love of Palestrina.

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.

1 hour

Music Played

  • Richard Wagner

    3 Songs [1839]

    Performer: Geoffrey Parsons. Performer: Thomas Hampson.
    • EMI.
    • CDC 5-55047 2.
  • Giacomo Meyerbeer

    Robert le diable - opera in 5 acts

    Conductor: Jacques Delacote. Performer: Samuel Ramey. Performer: Munich Radio Chorus. Performer: Münchner Rundfunkorchester.
    • EMI.
    • CDC 749582.
  • Richard Wagner

    Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen - opera in 5 acts

    Conductor: Heinrich Hollreiser. Performer: Siv Wennberg. Performer: Staatskapelle Dresden.
    • EMI.
    • 5671312.
  • Giacomo Meyerbeer

    Les Huguenots - opera in 5 acts

    Conductor: Richard Bonynge. Performer: Philharmonia Orchestra.
    • DECCA.
    • 4305492.
  • Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

    Stabat mater - motet for 8 voices [H vi,96]

    Performer: Tallis Scholars.
    • GIMELL RECORDS.
    • CDGIM-994.
  • Richard Wagner

    Lohengrin - opera in 3 acts

    Conductor: Claudio Abbado. Performer: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
    • DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON.
    • 0289 437 8082.
  • Richard Wagner

    Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg - opera in 3 acts

    Performer: Munich State Opera Chorus. Performer: Munich State Opera Orchestra. Performer: Wolfgang Sawallisch.
    • EMI.
    • CDS 5551422.

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