Wagner!

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008 @ 12:43 pm | Music

Because this is a blog, I think I can afford more ramblings of a semi-private nature than on the rest of my site. So this post will be about music, which is important to me in the way I experience and think about art.

I started to listen to classical music in the 1990s, disenchanted as I was with the way pop culture was developing. I started with Bach, moved on to Mahler and last week I “discovered” Richard Wagner. I’m so impressed by the latter, that I feel it necessary to testify of my admiration. This is not original, Wagner is very renowned and what led me to downloading Wagner’s “Siegfried” is that Mahler regarded Wagner as his only contemporary that he could appreciate without reservations.

Listening to “Siegfried” I immediately noticed how technically advanced this opera is. Wagner is the only composer of operas I know that can capture the listener’s attention on a continuous basis. He never builts superlative upon superlative, as Mahler does have a knack of. He’s never too bombastic (Beethoven), or too dramatic (Bach). Wagner’s music is deeply embedded in 19th century romanticism, but he uses romantic style means so selectively, that he’s never mushy.

Listening to Wagner, I realize that my idol Mahler is not as authentic as I thought, because Wagner IS authentic. In Mahler’s symphonies certain parts sound like “glued together”, rather than the symphony as a whole having been conceived of entirely spontaneously. In “Siegfried” I can discern no “welding”.

Finally, Wagner was a man who used no more artistic means than absolutely necessary for coming to a complete result.

Wagner is often linked with anti-semitism, which should be put into perspective, in my opinion. From what I have read, Wagner was critical of Jewish culture, but didn’t seem to be racially biased against Jews, with whom he worked, befriended and was supported by.

Wagner’s stance is very similar to the way Islam is criticised today and although I’m a multiculturalist, most people I know are not. I know the’re not racist, but, in my humble opinion, somewhat culturally unsophisticated, so I don’t feel the need to demonize them. Unless, of course, you’re politically correct and you feel that a political opnion that opposes your own is necessarily morally depraved.

The great Gustav Mahler proved Wagner wrong in his thinking that all Jewish composers produced shallow work.

However, some politically correct folks object to Mahler for his somewhat despotic attitude towards his women. Similarly, one could mention the mysogynistic Picasso, Modiglinani “the sexist”, etc….It doesn’t look like art and political correctness go together well, also considering the attempts in Nazi Germany and the Sovyet Union to come to politically correct arts, which didn’t produce anything that is considered to be of value today.

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