Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out



									RICHARD WAGNER (1813-1883)

I. Early life and education
    A. Born in Leipzig
    B. Family active in the theater
       1. His first passion was poetry, drama, and theater
       2. Did not begin to consider a professional career in music until late in his
       adolescent years
                a. Resulted after immersing himself in Beethoven’s music
                b. Made piano transcriptions of Beethoven’s symphonies
                c. Received composition lessons from the cantor of the St. Thomas
II. Career
    A. Worked as an opera director in several small German towns
    B. Moved to Paris with his young family (1839)
       1. Paris audiences were completely indifferent to his efforts
       2. Reduced to poverty and spent some time in prison for nonpayment of
    C. Dresden
       1. His opera Rienzi was enthusiastically received in 1842
       2. Offered the post of opera director for the city
       3. Produced three more of his operas during the next six years
       4. Fled the city in 1848 due to his accumulated debt and radical political
    D. Switzerland
       1. Lived there intermittently for the next dozen years
       2. Exiled from the major opera houses in Germany
       3. Began work on Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung)
                a. Based on Germanic mythology
                b. An allegory exploring the themes of power, greed, lust, honor, and
                c. Nietzsche and Hitler found elements of this work compatible with
                their respective philosophies
                d. Publishers and producers were initially reluctant to support this
                massive and expensive cycle
       4. Interrupted work on the Ring cycle to compose more manageable dramas
       such as Tristan und Isolde (1865) and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (The
       Mastersingers of Nuremberg, 1868)
    E. Expanded the size of the orchestra
       1. Required nearly one hundred players
       2. Called for triple woodwinds and greatly expanded the brass section
       3. Necessitated more forceful singers with large, specially trained voices
    F. King Ludwig II of Bavaria
       1. Rescued Wagner from financial ruin and encouraged him to complete the
       2. Bayreuth Festival Theater
                a. Located between Munich and Leipzig
                b. Ludwig II provided financial assistance for the theater’s
                c. Built according to Wagner’s specifications
                d. First “Bayreuth Festival” took place in 1876 with the premiere of
                the entire Ring cycle
               e. The theater is still devoted solely to the production of Wagner’s
               music dramas
               f. Buried there after his death
III. Reputation
    A. His artistic theories have inspired extreme reactions, ranging from adoration
    to hatred
    B. Enormous influence on the musical style of other composers during the end of
    the nineteenth century
    C. One of the most determined and ruthless visionaries in the history of music
IV. Tristan und Isolde (1865)
    A. Began composing the work in 1857
    B. Story based on Arthurian legend
        1. Tristan, a trusted knight of King Mark, has an affair with the young queen
        2. Life imitates art
               a. Began having an affair with Mathilde, wife of his patron Otto von
               b. Wagner’s wife (d. 1866) eventually put up such a fuss that he fled
               to Venice
    C. Went to Munich in 1864 for the music drama’s premiere
        1. Had an affair with Cosima von Bülow, née Liszt, who was the wife of the
        2. The pair eventually had three children before Cosima divorced her
        husband and married Richard in 1870
    D. Leitmotifs
        1. Primarily associated with feelings rather than concrete objects or persons
        2. Frequently appear in sequences
    E. Cadences are avoided and their omission contributes to the restless mood
F. Dissonances placed at points of climax to heighten the sense of pain and anguish

To top