Try Wagner on You Tube.At least it will hopefully give you some idea.
You are jumping off the deep end of classical music my friend. Similiar to buying a Ferrarri for your first automobile! Delve into Mozart, Beethoven and Copland as a good example to get a baseline on what you might prefer as it is going to be quite intimidating for a newbie.
Good Luck on your travels....
Rossman is right. If you want to get a taste for Wagner without "going all in" as they say in poker, buy a CD of orchestral music from Wagner's operas. There is a 2 CD set on London/Decca (440 606-2). Sir Georg Solti and the Vienna Philharmonic. Believe me, these discs will leave you wanting more.
If you've decided you like it, then buy a complete opera. They are all great, so pick any one. Although... I wouldn't start with the Ring cycle. You'll enjoy it more if you've "worked up to it" by listening to Wagner's earlier operas and getting to know the composer. Plus, it's really long....
Another great Wagner conductor, though different from Solti, is Levine. The MET orchestra has recorded a few different CD's of orchestral excerpts from the operas, which are very well performed. I would suggest checking those out.
For around $50 on Ebay the excellent seller 'Sound City Beaches' are selling a Wagner 33 cd box set complete (almost)set of his Operas on the Decca label which equals about $1.60 per cd!, obviously for that price there no libretto to the Operas, so you will have to check on the web or library for the story/info. I do not think there is a cheaper way of getting into Wagner in my opinion. If you want just to buy the Ring cycle then for around $30 there is the Levine 'Ring' set on DG again by the seller 'Sound City Beaches'.
Anything Sir Georg Solti has recorded on Wagner can be considered excellent, and is the benchmark of Wagner by many.
Levine and the MET, recommended by Learsfool, would be my recommendation, but if you are looking for the really extroverted chunks in big 'audiophile approved' sound there are probably better ones. But Levine is fundamentally an opera conductor which should suggest that he loves the music and adds some drama to his interpertations consonant with what is happening on the stage.
If you want the full operas - I'll have to pass on a recommendation. I haven't heard many more than once. :-)
you should get the one where the fat lady sings.
Many thanks for the suggestions. I picked up a few cds over the weekend:
The Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Solti performing Rienzi, Der fliegende Hollander, Tannhauser, Siegfried Idyll. Decca label.
The New York Philharmonic conducted by Mehta performing: Tannhauser, Parsifal, and Rienzi. Sony label.
Tristan & Isolde performed by the German Symphony Orchestra. 2 cd set on Pilz label. I believe the fat lady sings on this one.
I agree that you are diving into the deep end. There are people that spend their whole lives on a quest for the perfect Ring cycle alone.
Buy one of the many opera excerpts discs (silver or vinyl).
then if you decide you love it,go for Tristan and Isolde,then The Flying Dutchman before venturing into the land of the Ring.
Personally I love this music, but Der Walkure puts me right out. All that incestuous swooning in the cave for what seems like hours with no action at all.
Das Rhinegold is the most approachable and the shortest at apporx 4 hours. The others are all 5 hours long. Goetterdamering is the ultimate in Wagnerian moments. After all, it is the twilight of the Gods.
'Personally I love this music, but Der Walkure puts me right out. All that incestuous swooning in the cave for what seems like hours with no action at all.'
are you expecting some X-rated behavior?
Q.Whats the definition of a man's foreplay?
A.Fancy a sh*g?!!!
(or two hours of begging).
LOL! Gawbless, god bless you.
No I have no expectations of Wagnerian porn.As I said, Der Walkure is just plain too long and boring.Of course the famous "Ride of the Walkure" is what everyone thinks of when they think of Wagner.Perhaps this is what I don't like.It has become gosh.
To me the immolation scene in Goetterdamering is so incredible that the "Ride" pales by comparison.
Wagner is one of the great anti-Semites in musical history. It is very hard to separate the evil man from the evil men and women who worshipped his music.
I believe that one must separate the artist from the man. Wagner was one of the greatest musical geniuses in history, the definitive iconoclast. It can be argued that he affected music more than any other artist has affected his art. For many decades afterwards, all composers had to deal with his concepts. Music exploded in many different directions after him - it was never the same again. He is also, at least was as of the late 1980's, still the third most written about figure in the western world. Many Jews championed and still champion his music. It is even played again in Israel now. To say that it is only "evil men and women who worship his music" is absurd.
I think it is a common mistake to equate Wagner the man with Wagner the Nazi hero. The Nazi's exploited the "Wagnerian Hero" icon for their own propaganda.Indeed, the idea that Hitler wept when you heard Das Rhinegold brings tears to my eyes....NOT!
One could compare Wagner and the Jews in a similar light as some of the founding fathers with slaves. Everyone loves Jefferson and Washington,and they were slave owners.No one thinks of them as evil,just a product of their time.The same cold be said of Wagner.
You cannot deny the invention of the Leif Motiv as a musical form.
Also the scope of the Ring cycle and the over 25 years in the making is quite literally herculean.
I would suggest taking a look at this non-operatic pieces as well.
His Leider such as "The Ruckert songs" are genius in a completely different way than the operas.
I've studied Wagner's life and read several bios. He was not a misunderstood figure or someone who is misunderstood. The following Wikipedia piece is illustrative:
Under a pseudonym in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, Wagner published "Das Judenthum in der Musik" in 1850 (originally translated as "Judaism in Music", by which name it is still known, but better rendered as "Jewishness in Music.") The essay attacks Jewish contemporaries (and rivals) Felix Mendelssohn and Giacomo Meyerbeer, and accused "Jews" of being a harmful and alien element in German culture. Wagner stated the German people were repelled by Jews' alien appearance and behavior: "with all our speaking and writing in favour of the Jews' emancipation, we always felt instinctively repelled by any actual, operative contact with them." He argued that because "Jews" had no connection to the German spirit, Jewish musicians were only capable of producing shallow and artificial music. They therefore composed music to achieve popularity and, thereby, financial success, as opposed to creating genuine works of art.
The initial publication of the article attracted little attention, but Wagner wrote a self-justifying letter about it to Franz Liszt in 1851, claiming that his "long-suppressed resentment against this Jewish business" was "as necessary to me as gall is to the blood". Wagner republished the pamphlet under his own name in 1869, with an extended introduction, leading to several public protests at the first performances of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Wagner repeated similar views in later articles, such as "What is German?" (1878, but based on a draft written in the 1860s), and Cosima Wagner's diaries often recorded his comments about "Jews". Although many have argued that his aim was to promote the integration of Jews into society by suppressing their Jewishness, others have interpreted the final words of the 1850 pamphlet (suggesting the solution of an Untergang for the Jews, an ambiguous word, literally 'decline' or 'downfall' but which can also mean 'sinking' or 'going to a doom') as meaning that Wagner wished the Jewish people to be destroyed.
Some biographers have suggested that antisemitic stereotypes are also represented in Wagner's operas. The characters of Mime in the Ring, Sixtus Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger, and Klingsor in Parsifal are sometimes claimed as Jewish representations, though they are not explicitly identified as such in the libretto. Moreover, in all of Wagner's many writings about his works, there is no mention of an intention to caricature Jews in his operas; nor does any such notion appear in the diaries written by Cosima Wagner, which record his views on a daily basis over a period of eight years.
t s eliot also was an anti-semite, but indubitably a great poet, as was ezra pound, a fascist who broadcasted for mussolini. if we insisted our great artists also be great people, we would live in a cultural wasteland. wagner is a giant whose music survives, devoid of any traces of anti-semitism i have ever detected.
Mst, you are correct in your last post, Wagner indeed had many unlikeable, even odious qualities, which he did not try to hide at all, far from it. He was a fascinating individual, and possibly the greatest egotist among non-royalty who ever lived. "I am the German spirit" he once wrote, and he also once told a nobleman who had refused to give him financial backing that history would prove that he had made a mistake by not making "an investment in me", and thus having their names associated. From your research you should know that Wagner also despised pretty much anyone and anything non-German as much as he did the Jews. One famous tale is when he had fellow composer Saint-Saens and some other Frenchmen at his home in exile in Switzerland, and there had just been a little war in which Germany had pulverized France. The Frenchmen had to listen to a two hour diatribe on the subject that night, but waited patiently for him to change the subject back to music, as they all considered him such a genius and learned so much from him that they were able to ignore his bad qualities - a testament also to what must have been incredible charisma. I say this not to diminish the anti-Semitism at all, please understand, but to point out that the Jews were by no means the only objects of his diatribes. Hermann Levi, who conducted the premiere of Parsifal, was Jewish, as were many other famous musicians who championed his music. Wagner certainly had no problem hiring/working with Jewish musicians, or others who hated him and his music, such as the famous horn player Franz Strauss. I still stand by my comments in my previous post about separating the artist from the man.
It is an undeniable fact; that great music is sometimes made by total dickheads. One must simply have to accept that and enjoy what is to be enjoyed. Wagner was a genius, and neither his egotism, zenophobia, nor anti-semitism should stand in the way of taking in his wonderful works.
Sometimes it's better to not know much, or anything, about a composer before listening to his/her music.
An understanding of Wagner (or anyone) is essential if you are to truly understand his works at a very scholarly level, but not required to enjoy them.
I imagine many of Beethoven's comtemporaries hated his music because they hated him personally. Their loss.
Feel free. To my view, listening to his works for their musical qualities is like reading Mein Kampf to study narrative style, but to each his own.
Boycott Pink Floyd because they sang, and I quote;
Are there any queers in the theater tonight?
Get them up against the wall!
There's one in the spotlight, he don't look right to me,
Get him up against the wall!
That one looks Jewish!
And that one's a coon!
Who let all of this riff-raff into the room?
There's one smoking a joint,
And another with spots!
If I had my way,
I'd have all of you shot!
In the Flesh- The Wall.
Sheer Class album!
Pink Floyd, through their drug haze, was using satire and irony. The same way The Clash lampooned neo-Nazis in their song The Clampdown or The Jam exposed skinheads in That's Entertainment.
If there were electronic pipelines into everybody's minds, nary would a single soul be free of the sort of things that would turn away or turn off virtually all of us.