13 October 2009

Recommendations to a Wagner Virgin

Wagner recommendationsI asked Wagneropera.net's followers on Twitter what they would recommend a Wagner virgin to listen to.

This is what they recommended:

Lohengrin Act 1 prelude
Meistersinger Quintet
Tannhäuser Overture
Walküre: Ride of the Valkyries.
Walküre: Winterstürme
Siegfried's Funeral March
Parsifal: Good Friday Music

Die Walküre
The Flying Dutchman

What would YOU recommend to a person who wanted to try listening to Wagner for the first time?


peterwgallagher said...

No one is a 'wagner virgin'; just about everyone knows one of W.'s tunes, often without realizing it.

For a Wagner neophyte/ephebe, there's no substitute for the drama of the Ring. The opening E flat chords of the prelude to Rheingold, building to the Rhine/Earth themes and the song of the Rheinmaidens first convinced me to listen to the whole thing (Solti) and then buy Dereck Cooke's introduction (a REALLY bad way to introduce the Ring but a lovely record).

Daryl said...

While I do agree with Peter that The Ring is likely the best way to introduce the newcomer, it would be difficult to figure out exactly how to present it to them without having to explain so much that their heads are likely to spin. The music is powerful, yes, but one must be careful in how you sequence it so that you do not scare away the newcomer.

I have found that easing them into Wagner's world is better if you take the more traditional route of going with opera overtures and preludes, with selected "orchestral interludes" and the like. One of the best cds for this very purpose is the budget Seraphim release of Wagner highlights with Sir Adrian Boult. The cd has:

Tristan und Isolde: Vorspiel und Liebestod
Parsifal: Vorspiel und Karfreitagsmusik
Meistersinger: Vorspiel Akt III
Lohengrin: Vorspiel
Tannhaeuser: Vorspiel

If that music alone doesn't appeal to you somewhere deep down in your soul, then Wagner is likely not for you.

Anonymous said...

I would say, like previous comment, to start with the orchestral interludes. However, I must agreed with the first comment here that very few people are really a wagner virgin nowadays... just take the Bride Chorus in Lohengrin. Its hard to imagine that there is someone in the world who doesn't know this music.

So I would think that we are talking about recommendations for a wagner opera virgin. If this is the case, than... I would recommend Tristan, act 1. It was how I started, and for months I could not listen to the rest of the opera because I was so overwhelmed by the first act. But it can be taken as a hardcore approach, I know...

For a lighter version (if this is even possible with Wagner), than I would go with the already mentioned first scene of the Ring, the Rheingold ouverture and the Rheinmädchen. At this stage of the Ring, the music is really irresistable and there is not so much explaining needed. The winterstürme in Die Walküre is one of my favorite parts in the Ring, but it would require more talking before listening.

Tannhäuser is also an alternative, and a good one too for a first approach to the leitmotive technique.

Lohengrin wasn't among one of my dearest Wagner operas until lately, but I do recognize that it is understood as one of the more easy operas to grasp. I still do not agree with that, and would say that apart from the marvelous ouvertüre to act 1, most of it is a bit annoing till the arrival of Lohengrin, or even better, until second act and Ortrud's appearence.

As for Parsifal, well, I still think is a hard work for a beginner, though the Good Friday Music is wonderful and could be a good first step.

Anonymous said...

Besides the mentioned I would also suggest:

Tannhauser: Pilgrim's Chorus
Flying Dutchman: Men's Chorus "Steuermann"
Wesendonk Lieder no.1 "Engel" or no. 2 "Sonne"