Compact Discoveries
a series of one-hour radio programs produced, written, hosted, and edited by Fred Flaxman
©2002 by Fred Flaxman


Program 24
"Wagner Without Words"

MUSIC: Wagner: Tannhäuser Overture (excerpt)[London 448 155-2, track 5] under the following:

FLAXMAN: Welcome to Compact Discoveries. I'm your guide, Fred Flaxman. This next hour will be devoted to "Wagner Without Words."

There used to be an advertisement in the New York subways that said "you don't have to be Jewish to love Levy's Jewish rye." Well you don't have to be an opera fan to love Wagner, even though that is what he is most famous for. If you aren't into opera at all, or appreciate Italian and French opera but not the German variety, or are new to classical music and want to know where to start with Wagner, I have one strong recommendation: listen to the magnificent, short, soaring romantic orchestral music he wrote as preludes and overtures for his operas.

MUSIC: fades out

FLAXMAN: I'm going to play for you my very favorite "Wagner Without Words" for the next hour. Let's start with the hyper-exciting Prelude to Act III from Lohengrin [Low-en-green]. James Levine conducts the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in this Deutsche Grammophon recording.

MUSIC: Wagner: Lohengrin: Vorspiel zum 3 [DGG D 101484, track 4] [3:32]

FLAXMAN: The Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin by Richard Wagner. James Levine conducted the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in a Deutsche Grammophon recording. Incidentally, the cover of this CD calls the orchestra

Next on my list of favorite "Wagner Without Words" is the Overture and Bacchanal from Tannhäuser [TAHN-hoi-zer]. This is also on the CD we just heard. But, for a change, we'll listen to it now as performed by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Riccardo Chailly on a London compact disc.

MUSIC: Wagner: Tannhäuser Overture [London 448 155-2, tracks 5 & 6] [23:17]

FLAXMAN: The Overture and Bacchanal from Tannhäuser [TAHN-hoi-zer] by Richard Wagner. The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra was conducted by Riccardo Chailly on a London compact disc.

You are listening to "Wagner Without Words" on Compact Discoveries. I'm your guide, Fred Flaxman.

[optional one-minute break not included in the 58-minute total timing]

MUSIC: Wagner: Symphony in E (excerpt) [EMI 7243 5 56165 2 4, track 2]

FLAXMAN [over the music]: Richard Wagner was primarily a composer of operas. But, as a young man he tried his hand at writing symphonies a couple of times. In the background you hear an excerpt from his attempt of 1834. He completed only the draft of the first movement, and abandoned the work after only 29 bars of the second movement.

The sketches turned up in 1886, three years after Wagner's death, in a second-hand bookshop in Berlin, and were bought by the composer's family. Wagner's widow, Cosima [COH-see-ma], entrusted the orchestration to Felix Mottl [FAI-leaks MAH-tl]. But both Wagner's sketches and Mottl's reworking were lost for nearly a century, when Mottl's score turned up in Munich in the late 1980s. It was recorded on an EMI Classics compact disc by The Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Wolfgang Sawallisch [VOHLF-gong Sah-VAHL-ish].

MUSIC: [fades out]

FLAXMAN: When Wagner abandoned this symphony - as we, also, are doing now - he turned his hand to his one and only grand comic opera, Das Liebesverbot [Das LEE-bess-Fair-bot] (The Ban on Love). It was to be his second completed opera, and it was based on Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. As it celebrates the joys of a hedonistic, sensual life, the music is so light and happy, it sounds more like Gilbert and Sullivan than Wagner. In fact, such gaiety was never to be repeated in a Wagner opera. Here's the tuneful overture as performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch.

MUSIC: Wagner: Overture to Das Liebesverbot [EMI 7243 5 56165 2 4, track
1]
[8:33]

FLAXMAN: The overture to Wagner's early comic opera, Das Liebesverbot. I'm sure this is a compact discovery even for those who know Wagner's other operas. Wolfgang Sawallisch conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra.

If you really want "Wagner Without Words" - that is to say, you would like to listen to the music from Wagner's operas in symphonic form - BMG Classics has issued three RCA Victor Red Seal compact discs which are made to order. One is called Der Ring: An Orchestral Adventure. The second is called Parsifal: An Orchestral Quest. And the third is called: Tristan und Isolde: An Orchestral Passion.

Each is arranged by Henk de Vlieger [Henk dah VLEE-ger] and is performed by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic conducted by Edo de Waart [AI-dough dah WART]. Each is played without pause. And each is scored in a manner which is true to Wagner's orchestration.

I am going to conclude this hour with two excerpts from Tristan und Isolde, which is my very favorite work by Wagner and one of my favorite classical compositions period.

The work is as melancholy and tragic as Das Liebesverbot was light and gay. Yet they are both about love.

MUSIC: Wagner: Tristan & Isolde: An Orchestral Passion (excerpts) [RCA 74321 447852, tracks 1 and 7]

FLAXMAN: Two excerpts from Tristan und Isolde: An Orchestral Passion. Music from the Wagner opera as arranged by Henk de Vlieger and performed by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic conducted by Edo de Waart.

That brings this Compact Discoveries hour devoted to "Wagner Without Words" to an end. I hope you enjoyed this musical journey and that you'll let me hear your reaction to this program. I can be reached in care of this station or though my website: www.fredflaxman.com.

Compact Discoveries is conceived, written, produced and edited by your guide, Fred Flaxman, and is a production of WXEL-FM, West Palm Beach, Florida.

[58:00]


30-Second Promo for Program Number 25
"Christmas Music for Those Who are
Sick and Tired of Christmas Music"

MUSIC: Fry: Santa Claus, Christmas Symphony (excerpt)[Naxos 8.559057, track 1] down and under:

FLAXMAN: Next time on Compact Discoveries, join me, Fred Flaxman, for "Christmas Music for Those Who are Sick and Tired of Christmas Music" - when I'll feature the Santa Claus Symphony by William Henry Fry.

TAG: [Sunday at 7 p.m. on 90.7, WXEL-FM.]

MUSIC: fade out at 30 seconds

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