Happy (belated) birthday, Richard

On your 200th birthday we wish you all the best…

Richard Wagner

The birthday boy: R. Wagner ©Wikipedia

…although it is more than probable that you have no idea that we celebrate you or, mostly, what you left behind – your music. I think it speaks for itself that – even after all this time – we have fierce arguments about you and your music; we can’t have them with you anymore at this point, although I’m pretty sure you would always find a way to weasel yourself out of a situation find the correct arguments to serve your purpose, for instance if your music takes a certain political point of view or not. A lot of ink has been spilled over it – without any final conclusion or agreement. How cool is it that we can still hotly debate this 200 years after your birth?

Who would have thought that a short man with a pronounced Saxonian accent, a love for velvet berets (I’m assuming he had more than one…), who apparently could be very gallant to women (charmed your second wife away from her then husband, who none the less remained a fan of your music until his death – quite impressive!) would still ignite passionate debates?

I have never had more passionate arguments about any composer’s music than the ones I had about yours. On this occasion I’d like to remind everyone who was there (you know who you are!) of the memorable ‘Wagner only writes loud music’ debate – a seemingly harmless sentence that I couldn’t agree with, not even out of politeness (because it’s not true, ever heard the Siegfried Idyll or the beginning of Lohengrin?). A small statement that suddenly made me look like the most passionate of Wagner fans, just because I couldn’t stand this ignorant remark. Without prior meditation, I turned the entire conversation into an ignorance-how-dare-you-and aha-you-can’t-even-prove-this-statement-to-me lecture. My point was easy to prove: one look into Wagner scores will make that obvious. I didn’t even need to play it on the piano (yep, I can push a point, not just make one…).

One can see the influence of your time period and the prevailing thinking patterns in your music, and yet it still inspires people to re-create your work, not only on the opera stage, but also beyond, for instance in Stefan Karminski’s fun re-narration of the Ring. Whether this is completely true to your score (like advertised in the ‘making of’, by whom I think is the producer), I doubt very much. But then again, who would trust a person who claims that after having seen a few Wagner operas they know the entire Ring score inside-out. Isn’t that like going to have a surgery with someone who has taken a couple of walks through the OR? Ok, I exaggerate, but do you see my point?

To all our lovely blog visitors: I hope you had your share of Wagner music this week – because, after all, even if it has long moments of – hmm, let’s say… reflection, it has breathtakingly beautiful other moments and still speaks to us today.


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