WAGNER - Great Overtures

Wilhelm Richard Wagner (/ˈvɑːɡnər/; German: [ˈʁiçaʁt ˈvaːɡnɐ]; 22 May 1813 – 13 February 1883) was a German composer, theatre director, polemicist,
and conductor who is primarily known for his operas (or, as some of his
later works were later known, "music dramas"). Unlike most opera
composers, Wagner wrote both the libretto and the music for each of his stage works. Initially establishing his reputation as a composer of works in the romantic vein of Weber and Meyerbeer, Wagner revolutionised opera through his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk
("total work of art"), by which he sought to synthesise the poetic,
visual, musical and dramatic arts, with music subsidiary to drama, and
which was announced in a series of essays between 1849 and 1852. Wagner
realised these ideas most fully in the first half of the four-opera
cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung).

His compositions, particularly those of his later period, are notable for their complex textures, rich harmonies and orchestration, and the elaborate use of leitmotifs—musical
phrases associated with individual characters, places, ideas or plot
elements. His advances in musical language, such as extreme chromaticism and quickly shifting tonal centres, greatly influenced the development of classical music. His Tristan und Isolde is sometimes described as marking the start of modern music.

Wagner had his own opera house built, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, which embodied many novel design features. It was here that the Ring and Parsifal received their premieres and where his most important stage works continue to be performed in an annual festival run by his descendants.
His thoughts on the relative contributions of music and drama in opera
were to change again, and he reintroduced some traditional forms into
his last few stage works, including Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (The Mastersingers of Nuremberg).

Until his final years, Wagner's life was characterised by political
exile, turbulent love affairs, poverty and repeated flight from his
creditors. His controversial writings on music, drama and politics have
attracted extensive comment in recent decades, especially where they
express antisemitic
sentiments. The effect of his ideas can be traced in many of the arts
throughout the 20th century; their influence spread beyond composition
into conducting, philosophy, literature, the visual arts and theatre.

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