“”Wagner's music is much better than it sounds.
Richard Wagner was a German Romantic composer of opera. He was one of the most famous and influential opera composers in history; he essentially invented leitmotifs, a system of writing operatic music that serves as the basis of most modern film scores. He also was innovative in the complexity of his music, inspiring atonal composers like Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky, and invented various new ways to stage an opera.
|“||Parsifal is the kind of opera that starts at six o'clock and after it has been running for three hours, you check your watch and it says 6:20.||”|
Wagner's compositions were mainly operas. He did write a few purely instrumental pieces; however, they are mostly considered insignificant next to the monoliths in music history that are his operas. His middle and late works are rich in their complex harmonies and orchestrations, as well as their elaborate use of leitmotifs. It is his operatic cycle in four parts Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) that is his most famous work. Though not many people today have even heard of Wagner, most have heard his music, as he tends to be a popular choice for musical cues and stings:
- The Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin
- Vorspiel (Prelude) to Das Rheingold (the first opera in the Ring cycle)
- Ride of the Valkyries from Die Walkure (the second opera in the Ring cycle)
- Siegfried's Funeral March from Gotterdammerung, though not as famous as the above (the fourth opera in the Ring cycle)
Outside of his lengthy music and distinct operatic style, Wagner is often remembered today as being anti-Semitic; he famously wrote a pamphlet called "Judaism in Music," decrying most Jewish composers and poets of his time as owing their success to hype, and not possessing any remarkable talent. These views didn't stop Gustav Mahler, an Austro-German contemporary of Wagner idolising him and respecting his music greatly. Both Wagner's views and music were said to become inspirational to Adolf Hitler (although this wasn't shared by all members of the Third Reich), who viewed them as quintessentially German.
Television and film star and National Treasure Stephen Fry is also a massive fan of Wagner despite also being culturally Jewish, and in 2010 made a documentary on the subject which focused partially on this disconnect between Fry's heritage and Wagner's views. Musicologists who think that it is impossible to separate the art from the artist are often confused by this, but evidently, it is possible.