Wagner Tannhäuser – Overture (piano solo) with sheet music

Wagner: Tannhäuser – Overture (piano solo) with sheet music

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Richard Wagner

Wilhelm Richard Wagner (May 22, 1813, in Leipzig – February 13, 1883, in Venice) was a German composer, playwright, poet, writer, theater director and conductor. With his music dramas, he is considered one of the most important innovators of European music in the 19th century. He changed the expressiveness of romantic music and the theoretical and practical foundations of opera as well as its overall understanding by designing dramatic actions as a total work of art and writing the libretti, music and stage directions.

Wagner wanted to reform what he saw as “decadent” theatres, use his art to contribute to better public education and thus improve the world. Already at a young age he was dominated by the idea of ​​combining music and drama (The work of art of the future, opera and drama) and of founding a new art direction based on the tradition of Greek tragedies. In his writings he has repeatedly described how music can transform dramatic actions into ‘messages’ and how music (the feminine ‘giving element’) gives poetry (the masculine ‘generating seed’) additional power of expression.

“Science has revealed to us the organism of language; but what she showed us was a dead organism that only the greatest need of poets can revive, namely by closing the wounds cut by the anatomical dissecting knife again on the body of language and breathing into it the breath that inspire him to move himself. But this breath is: – the music!”

– Richard Wagner: Opera and Drama

He defended his concept with vehemence and worked single-mindedly towards realizing his ideal of art (in the form of festivals in a place of leisure). He found a like-minded person in King Ludwig II, so both of them wanted to realize their artistic ideals (Festspielhaus, music school, art education) in Munich. However, this project failed and could only be realized later in Bayreuth. There, Wagner’s festival concept developed, above all with his stage festival play Parsifal, into a ‘religion substitute’ through art (religion and art).

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He founded the festival dedicated exclusively to the performance of his own works in the Bayreuth Festspielhaus he had planned. His innovations in harmony influenced the development of music up to the present day. With his writing Das Judenthum in der Musik, he is one of the obsessive advocates of anti-Semitism.

Wagner’s works are a pinnacle of Romantic music and significantly influenced many contemporaries and later composers. Tristan in particular advanced the musical language of the 19th century and is considered by many to be the starting point of modern music.
The so-called Tristan chord

This applies above all to the harmonics. With Tristan, the first act of which was composed in 1857, Wagner took them far beyond the level at which Brahms remained in 1892 in his late piano pieces op. 117 to 119.

It is the area in which Wagner’s imagination unfolds, develops a characteristic personal style and is kept within limits by the respective dramatic situation of the event, i.e. it does not lose itself in infinity. Wagner’s influence on music history can be seen, for example, in the fact that more than 100 years after the work was composed, the complex harmonic progressions of the Tristan chord were analyzed and interpreted in different ways, and there was talk of the crisis in modern harmony theory.

Many contemporary composers saw it that way too. A special admirer of Wagner was z. B. Anton Bruckner, who was inspired by Wagner’s death to write the funeral movement of his seventh symphony. From Wagner, however, he only took over the harmony and the extreme length of his compositions, while his forms stand in stark contrast to Wagner’s flowing transitions due to their clear edges. It was only in the new century, with Arnold Schönberg’s twelve-tone technique, that real advances were made.

This assessment is sometimes countered by the fact that composers before Wagner had already introduced important harmonic innovations into the music. This applies, for example, to Frédéric Chopin, whose daring chromaticism and harmony – for example in some Préludes and Nocturnes – surprised his contemporaries.

With Wagner’s influence, which many tried to evade, one cannot speak of a continuous, uniform development. Composers such as Pjotr ​​Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Antonín Dvořák still moved in ‘traditional’ harmonic paths, while Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler adopted Wagnerian tonal language.

In terms of genre history, Wagner’s importance lies in the further development of the so-called number opera into music drama. For example, while Weber’s Freischütz is a sequence of individual numbers (arias, duets, choruses, etc.) that are linked by spoken recitatives, Wagner’s so-called “infinite melody” prevails – especially in his mature works. The orchestra starts playing at the beginning of an act and stops at the end of the act; it is not spoken.

There are no longer any arias, but rather – sung – narratives or monologues, dialogues, etc. However, they are not isolated next to or one after the other, but are interwoven with one another through the orchestral music. In doing so, Wagner uses the leitmotif technique, i. H. he assigns a specific musical motif to a specific person, object or feeling (love, longing, anger) that can be heard whenever the person, object or feeling appears.

Wagner wanted to express ‘thought’ and ‘feeling’ musically and with such ‘intentional music’ caused a hitherto unknown ‘psychological effect’ on the listener. With the leitmotif technique in the Ring des Nibelungen and in Tristan und Isolde he has achieved this impressively.

In two cases, Wagner’s music is said to have triggered emotions that led to death – in 1911 with the death of Felix Mottl during the second act of Tristan and in 1968 with the cardiac death of the conductor Josef Keilberth, also in the second act of Tristan.

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Wagner polarized audiences more than almost any other artist, and interpreters from a variety of disciplines continue to deal with his complex work to this day. In addition to composers who rejected Wagner, such as Brahms and Tchaikovsky, there were critics such as Nietzsche – and later Adorno – who not only pointed out the dangers of the ‘bewitching intoxication’, but also dealt with the effects of Wagner on the music of the future, indeed the deal with the entire culture.

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