Robert Jones

Wagner

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I don't care WHAT Lenny Peikoff said in Ominous Parallels, Wagner was a god musically! I am listening to Leopold Stokowski conduct Siegfried's Death and Funeral Procession, and it is absolutely gorgeous, powerful, resonating, tragic, larger-than-life, the fountainhead which made the music of Mahler, Richard Strauss, Max Steiner, and even Bernard Herrmann's soundtrack for Vertigo possible!

Long live Chromatics!!! And Cesar Franck, too!!!

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Robert; I agree about Wagner. I have heard Ayn Rand did not like him but I have found his music magnifacant. It is worth mentioned that an Alan Blumenthal concert Miss Rand was at Blumenthal played the Love-Death music from Tristam & Isolde. A recording was sold by NBI so Miss Rand must not have objected. From what I have heard about his philosophy he was something of a nut but his music rose above that problem. Just listen to his music.

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I heard a live performance of the Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde just last night. As I sat there listening to it, I found myself thinking how amazing it is that someone who was apparently such an unadmirable person (running up huge debts and reneging on them, expecting people to support him, generally believing that the world owed him a living, treating his wife badly, etc.) could write such sublime music. I'm not that familiar with Wagner -- I've been told that Tristan is one of the more approachable operas and a good place to start, and I do love Mahler -- but what I heard, I liked.

Judith

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I must disagree about Wagner because I see the anti-semitic, peon-mind behind the music. Wagner deserves every outrcry that is sent against him.

Edited by Jody Gomez

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I must disagree about Wagner because I see the anti-semitic, peon-mind behind the music. Wagner deserves every outrcry that is sent against him.

Jody,

I agree about the behavior of the man. Wagner was a pig. But the artist was sublime. (btw - I met his grandson, Wolfgang, when he came to Brazil to visit the orchestra I played in. It was cool, but the guy was a simple show-off.)

Wagner's music really is tremendously exalted. I should qualify that, though. There are tremendously exalted sections in the full operas interspersed with long boring sections where nothing much happens. So if the exalted parts are what you like, it is better to listen to excerpts than the full operas.

Think how people see pop artists today and you will be able to listen to the art. Back then it was OK for an artist to be anti-Semitic just as today it is OK for one to use drugs or engage in all sorts of irrational behavior. People know it's wrong but they put up with it because they like the art. For some reason, artists who are decent and upstanding are pretty bland.

(As an aside, I was once called to produce a heavy metal rock band in Brazil. The leader of the band was addicted to crack and he was all over the place. But those kids sure could play and, for that style, the music was very good—much better than most of the mainstream stuff I had heard. I helped get the guy off drugs and I blew the band all to pieces. They lost it and the guy got fat. No more band.)

Michael

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Michael; Are you suggesting that artists have to be messed up? In the movie Amadeus Mozart seems like a spoiled child and Saleri seems like a very rational person. Mozart was genius who more than 150 years after his death is performed while Saleria has if the movie had not come out would never have been heard of.

Edited by Chris Grieb

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Chris,

I don't think an artist has to be messed up, but there is an extremely high percentage of great ones who are. In my experience with artists, a normal person has enormous difficulty giving his all to an artistic attempt. He usually holds back something. The crazy dude jumps and then looks. When he has a lot of talent, the result is often spectacular.

But I have known a few great non-messed up artists.

Michael

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I don't think an artist has to be messed up, but there is an extremely high percentage of great ones who are. In my experience with artists, a normal person has enormous difficulty giving his all to an artistic attempt. He usually holds back something. The crazy dude jumps and then looks. When he has a lot of talent, the result is often spectacular.

But I have known a few great non-messed up artists.

Interesting. I've got a book I've barely skimmed: Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, by Kay Redfield Jamison. Some reviews from Amazon:

"The march of science in explaining human nature continues. In Touched With Fire, Jamison marshals a tremendous amount of evidence for the proposition that most artistic geniuses were (and are) manic depressives. This is a book of interest to scientists, psychologists, and artists struggling with the age-old question of whether psychological suffering is an essential component of artistic creativity. Anyone reading this book closely will be forced to conclude that it is."

"Drawing from the lives of artists such as Van Gogh, Byron and Virginia Woolf, Jamison examines the links between manic-depression and creativity."

Judith

Edited by Judith

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Here is what Rand had to say about Wagner from the CD-ROM.

To William C. Sage, a fan

August 28, 1966

Dear Mr. Sage:

You ask whether I had a specific piece of music in mind when I described the Halley Concerto. No, I did not. My favorite composer is Rachmaninoff, but even his music does not quite fit what I had in mind for Richard Halley. As to the musical selections you mention, I must say that I do not care for Wagner (with a very few exceptions), nor for Der Rosenkavalier.

That's all folks.

Peikoff blasted Wagner in The Ominous Parallels, but more for his ideas and stories than for his music.

Interestingly, for the music, he parroted some false opinions from overzealous university intellectuals about Wagner making unprecedented use of dissonances and chromaticism that opened the way to atonal music. All you have to do is listen to Wagner's music and some typical music of the time (Liszt, Chopin, Berlioz, etc.) to see that he was not out of place at all. Only Tristan and Isolde relies heavily on chromaticism, but even then it is always within a highly tonal context. When he reached his climaxes, he held off on the chromaticism and became heavily tonal.

Musically, Peikoff blew it by oversimplifying all of Wagner's music based on one work only, and even then he was not correct.

Michael

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Wow, such a lot of response for what essentially was a throaway comment of mine. As a writer, I put on the headphones and listen to Wagner as an antidote to "writer's block" precisely because his sense of exaltation you refer to, Barbara, lifts my spirits.

Jody: Do not know whether or not you are Jewish (I am not), but an interesting anecdote about Wagner was that I worked as Chief-of-Staff at a Jewish civil rights org for three years, and our legal counsel, Joel, was probably one of the ten most learned people on Mahler on the planet. He also knew every bar of Wagner, and along with me loved Kirsten Flagstad's 1937 recording of Bruennhilde's Immolation scene with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. A proud Zionist, he put it to me this way: That before God he could not disown his own experience and love for Wagner, and that whatever his sins of anti-Semitism and the Nazis' appropriation of Wagner in the most horrific manner (marching Jews into the gas chamber to its strains), that Wagner could be forgiven, for without him the music of Mahler (who was Jewish) would have not been so informed with its sense of power and tonal layering. There are many artists I detest for their many lapses of character. Yet, for many such manic folk, whose personal lives are a moral mess and otherwise a shambles, all their focus, character and integrity nonetheless find their way into the artist's work, which often is his/her way of forging order out of chaos.

Michael: Yeah, it was Peikoff's discussion of Wagner's chordal dissonance and chromatics that I was referring to. I think that there is a lot of confusion vis. atonal music with *polytonal* music. For me, I love movie soundtracks and think of Max Steiner's (himself a student of Mahler) use of chromatics in such scores as "White Heat," "Key Largo," and even "The Fountainhead." I think of Bernard Herrmann's use of polytonality and ostinato, which he partly got from Wagner. That's what I meant by Wagner as the fountainhead of so much great music. Incidentally, both Steiner and Herrmann were Jewish.

If we fail to recognize the merit and influence of greatness as artists, we are guilty of censoring our emotions, which are gateways to much of our own inspiration and output as aethetic creators. For example, as a photographer, I am deeply influenced by Leni Riefenstahl. Her work "Olympia" is sheer art, a direct link of athletics to the Greek ideals of beauty, proportion and regards man in a godlike manner. Hitler of course used her skill to glorify the Third Reich, which was her particular sin. I wrote two articles on Riefenstahl: One praising "Olympia," for which I received a lot of (understandable) heat from some (though not most) of my Jewish friends who read it; Another was a book review of her autobiography in which I blasted her "I knew nothing, I was not a party member" line which she used to try to morally absolve herself of her collaboration with the Nazis. I got a lot of hate mail accusing me of not separating the person from the artist. That, of course, is Scheisse!

It is possible to admire (some) of her work while recognizing that it's not the artist who deserved a life sentence at Spandau prison (which is what mediocre architect Albert Speer got), but a Nazi propagandist -- who knew what happened in the death camps, because she used Jewish prisoners as "extras" in her film projects -- and enabler who should have been locked up.

Edited by Robert Jones

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Michael; Peikoff got something wrong about Wagner by using only one piece of music. Perhaps he has made mistakes in other areas. Please don't shock my sensibilities anymore.

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I think Michael got it right, he knows music very well as well as the what and who of things.

Wagner... a giant, to be sure. I have to be in the mood, and it's not often. He definitely was up in the metaphysical range of things, if you get my drift. Although, I will say that I have sat through the entire Ring Cycle and when done I was ready to either take a three day nap, or stick my head in an oven. He is multifaceted like a diamond, though. It's just my pallette, I guess. I don't go running out for Wagner.

I have lived in Cleveland OH US for most of my life, and I don't know how I missed this until last summer...

There's a coastline park here called Edgewater Park; it is right on Lake Erie, you get a beautiful view of the skyline, there's a beach, all that; an old part of town. Anyway, there's one little picnic area I pulled into and standing there was this lifesize statue of Wagner. No explanation, I think it just says "Wagner." I have no idea how the eff it got there. Maybe it had something to do with the Cleveland Orchestra, or one of their benefactors.

It's tres weird because you see all these people in swimsuits, grilling, lounging, and there's Wagner.

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It's tres weird because you see all these people in swimsuits, grilling, lounging, and there's Wagner.

Rich,

LOL...

In São Paulo, there is a main highway thoroughfare right through the middle of the city called Anhangabau. There are two places where it dips underground for a short space and resurfaces. The city government has tried to make some kind of public commons for pedestrians on top where that happens, so there are some trees and plants scattered around. Lining this on both sides are skyscrapers, broken on one side by a small park that runs up to the Municipal Theater. This thoroughfare hosts some of the word's worst traffic jams. (São Paulo has about 20 million people and is the world's second largest city.)

On the other side of Anhangabau, down a little ways from the park, there is a statue of Verdi sandwiched in between skyscrapers. Normally, you have to walk up a steep incline to enter those buildings, so the impression at the statue level is one of being at the bottom of a hill alongside a river in a thick forest. When you drive by, you don't even know a statue is there. But there sits Giussepe Verdi in all his majesty, about twice the size of a normal human being, while an angel-like muse hovers over his head giving him inspiration.

He is a mouse compared with the size of those buildings, though. The metal of the sculpture has turned a dark uneven green with mold and pollution, and he is constantly covered with pigeon droppings. The cars drive by, day-by-day and night-by-night, without anyone ever noticing that there sits one of the world's greatest opera composers. People blow their car horns a lot to get the traffic moving.

This is actually a pretty good metaphor...

Michael

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Michael; Are you suggesting that artists have to be messed up? In the movie Amadeus Mozart seems like a spoiled child and Saleri seems like a very rational person.

Re Salieri: What??? Are you talking about the same movie I've seen at least 5 times, most recently this last Christmas on VCR (1st time I've watched it that way; the other times were in a theater)? Salieri in the movie "rational"? The whole story derives from Salieri's jealousy toward and distorted outlook on Mozart. The depiction of Mozart himself is Salieri's exaggerated view of Mozart's foibles.

Mozart was genius who more than 150 years after his death is performed while Saleria has if the movie had not come out would never have been heard of.

True re Mozart; false re Salieri. One role in which he'd been heard of well before the movie was as a good composition teacher, and indeed one of Beethoven's teachers. Also, his music never went into oblivion, though it probably is performed more often today than it might have been without the movie. His music was competent, though not of genius caliber.

Ellen

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Ellen; I don't know enough about music and if Scaleria did more that I don't know about I will be the first to admit it. I see your point about his jealousy of Mozart.

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There are many artists I detest for their many lapses of character. Yet, for many such manic folk, whose personal lives are a moral mess and otherwise a shambles, all their focus, character and integrity nonetheless find their way into the artist's work, which often is his/her way of forging order out of chaos.

I'm often astonished when I see interviews of actors who have played great people. Their portrayals are amazing. They're clearly pulling upon something within themselves to do the portrayal, or at least understand enough about the characteristics they're playing to be able to do it convincingly. And in the interviews, their IQ points drop by about 30, and their characters are vapid and inane and totally unlikable. And you learn that they spend their lives partying and doing drugs and sleeping with idiots, etc. I just don't get it. How could they taste greatness and then wallow in mud? How could they dine on fine cuisine and then elect to wander around like street people eating the pickings out of the dumpsters behind fast food restaurants?

Judith

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It boils down to the frailties and imperfections of the individual....when I was younger I failed to comprehend the frequent mismatch between creators of beautiful and edifying things that raised mankind towards the gods and their quirks, prejudices and obvious failings as mortals.....time, study and experience erode those miscomprehensions.

I remember an interview with Stravinsky that accompanied his own recording of Le Sacre du Printemps with the CSO. He said something along the lines of ".....I did not write Le Sacre, I was merely the vessel through which the work happened to pass..."

Whilst this might not apply to every great or even mere mortal work it certainly gives us an insight to how the creative artist's persona can be oft detached from their muse.

Would Wagner's music have been so tainted had his art not been hijacked by Hitler? I read an antiquarian book some time ago called "Lives of the Great Composers" and was published around 1910. Written chronologically the last entry was Wagner. It gave a perspective on the man and his work without the future history. It did not hide, however, his anti-semetism, nor his exploitation and manipulation of many in the course of his everyday life.

For all his personal faults Wagner's music has and will continue to enrich the lives of countless people and he was the inspiration and source of courage and direction for many composers that followed.

Can I respectfully direct you to not only the music but also the multi-layered social and character statements embedded in Die Meistersinger

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I have lived in Cleveland OH US for most of my life, and I don't know how I missed this until last summer ...

There's a coastline park here called Edgewater Park; it is right on Lake Erie, you get a beautiful view of the skyline, there's a beach, all that; an old part of town. Anyway, there's one little picnic area I pulled into and standing there was this lifesize statue of Wagner. No explanation, I think it just says "Wagner." I have no idea how the eff it got there. Maybe it had something to do with the Cleveland Orchestra, or one of their benefactors.

It's tres weird because you see all these people in swimsuits, grilling, lounging, and there's Wagner.

This is the funniest thing I have read in a long time!

I like some of Wagner, but that didn't stop me from once putting words to the opening tune of the Tannhäuser Overture as follows:

Oh me, oh my,

I like a butterfly flying.

Oh me, oh my,

Don't like to hear small babies crying.

Aren't kittens too cute?

Very frisky to boot.

Hey, that's kind of redundant--

What was I thinking of? ...

It goes on down from there. (See RoR archives.)

Edited by ashleyparkerangel

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Mystery solved, thanks to the undeniable Kung Fu of Google.

The statue of Wagner at Edgewater was erected in 1911 as a gift to the city from German immigrants.

Here y'all go: http://www.cleveland.com/edgewater/index.s...ater/index.html

Edgewater is a great park. Well, it is now that they got rid of the pedopohiles staking out the playground and, er, relieving their stress in their cars...

EDIT: a little more detail from a Plain Dealer article:

"The Goethe-Schiller Society gave the Wagner monument to Cleveland on Oct. 15, 1911. The group, named for German writer-philosophers Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) and Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805) was made up of German-Americans and immigrants who held music festivals in the park. "

Edited by Rich Engle

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Would Wagner's music have been so tainted had his art not been hijacked by Hitler? I read an antiquarian book some time ago called "Lives of the Great Composers" and was published around 1910. Written chronologically the last entry was Wagner. It gave a perspective on the man and his work without the future history. It did not hide, however, his anti-semetism, nor his exploitation and manipulation of many in the course of his everyday life.

You know, I don't know a whole lot about Wagner, and of the little I do know, I don't know anything more about the connection between him and Hitler other than that people have said that those high in the Third Reich were fond of Wagner. In my mind, that means absolutely nothing, and it's not something I'd hold against anyone. I have, however, heard some other stories about his actual life, mostly limited to what I said earlier in this thread to the effect that he thought that the world owed him a living and that the rules didn't apply to him -- that he was some kind of god that could trample all over other people. That, of course, disgusted me. I've heard about the anti-Semitism, but I've also heard it disputed; I never investigated it directly.

Can I respectfully direct you to not only the music but also the multi-layered social and character statements embedded in Die Meistersinger

I've been meaning to investigate Wagner in general for a long time now. It's one of those things I never manage to find time to do. In fact, I think I have a DVD of one of his operas buried somewhere in the house -- probably "Tristan" or "Lohengrin", but I'm not sure.

Fond as I am of Mahler, Bruckner, and others descended from Wagner, I probably owe it to myself to do it. It's unfortunate that all of his works are monster operas that take forever to watch; it's hard to take just a small taste -- one has to commit a large block of time to it, and operas, unlike symphonies, have long bits of rather boring stuff in them.

Would I get the benefit of that to which you're referring from the libretto? I can definitely read a libretto in 20 or 30 minutes max even if the opera runs 4 or 5 hours. Then even if I never do get around to the opera, at least I've gotten that much!

Judith

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Despite the fact that Wagner was a consummate bastard, I find his life and struggle quite inspiring--especially his Paris period, when he had absolutely no money and only a coterie of misfits and oddballs for companionship. I've read both his autobiography and Ernest Newman's 4-volume bio at least twice each, plus numerous other biographies of him.

He also wrote a few short stories. I only liked one, but it was great! It was called "A Pilgrimage to Beethoven." I hereby recommend it to all artistic types.

One incident sums up Wagner. At the height of his indigence in Paris, when he had no prospects and was severely in debt, he decided to hold an expensive party with costly champagne, inviting all his friends.

Edited by ashleyparkerangel

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You know, I don't know a whole lot about Wagner, and of the little I do know, I don't know anything more about the connection between him and Hitler other than that people have said that those high in the Third Reich were fond of Wagner. In my mind, that means absolutely nothing, and it's not something I'd hold against anyone.

I should hope not, since they were fond of Beethoven, too. ;-) I've heard -- never checked the story out -- that Hitler claimed Beethoven as a fine example of the German type, though Beethoven's ancestry was Flemish. And do those who think we shouldn't like Wagner because the Nazis were keen on his music also think we should dislike the Hadyn string quartet a theme from which was used for "Deutschland, Deutschland, Uber Alles"?

In regard to the Ring Cycle, whatever anti-Semitic meanings people might see in that, the story is Teutonic. It goes way back to the ancient mythology of those Northern peoples, to well before they would have known of the existence of Jews. Wagner did not originate the story. I haven't ever read the libretto myself, and I don't know what anti-Semitic touches, if any, he might have added to the tale, but the dark tragicness (the twilight of the gods), and the sense of superiority, and the blood and gutsness of it way predated Wagner's use of it.

Ellen

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I've read both his autobiography and Ernest Newman's 4-volume bio at least twice each, plus numerous other biographies of him.

Back in the mid-'60s when I was taking some musicology courses at Northwestern's school of music, I was told by one of my professors that the number of biographies of Wagner just in English almost topped the number of English biographies of all other musical greats combined. I never checked the story out, and I don't remember the exact figures, just the order of magnitude. Beethoven was said to be the second-most biographized, with some maybe 30-40 biographies of him in English alone. As I recall, the Wagner total, in English, was placed at near to a couple hundred.

Ellen

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