Bruckner’s colourful Wagner memorial

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On the top. © Charles Thibo

Majestic. This symphony is majestic in many respects. Firstly through the impressive use of melodies as structural elements. Secondly through its sophisticated and still balanced instrumentation. Thirdly through its dedication to the Bavarian King Ludwig II. And finally through the background of its creation. Richard Wagner, or more precisely the death of Richard Wagner, is looming large behind this piece. In the first movement, the composer Anton Bruckner quotes a duet from Wagner’s opera “Tristan and Isolde”, in the second and fourth movement, the tubas and horns play a thrill lamentation that can also be interpreted as Bruckner’s pledge of loyalty to his idol.

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A metaphysical love on the coast of Cornwall

John Duncan has painted in 1912 the fateful moment of Tristan and Isolde drinking a love potion. (Courtesy City Art Centre, Edinburgh Museums and Galleries)
John Duncan has painted in 1912 the fateful moment of Tristan and Isolde drinking a love potion. (© City Art Centre, Edinburgh Museums and Galleries)

Love and death. Man enslaved by his passions. Man doomed because of his passions. Romance followed by tragedy. Tragedy on a supreme level. Audience devastated, in tears. Richard Wagner. I like Wagner. Ugh! Well, yes. If I have started this blog half a year ago, it is to a large degree Wagner’s fault. Let me explain: As a student I was fascinated by the nihilistic German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Two years ago, I read somewhere that Wagner was once Nietzsche’s idol, and so I bought a biography on Wagner. The book was full of interesting references to other composers and I bought more biographies. That was the moment I disappeared behind a pile of books about classical music. The start of a passion…

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Revolutionizing music while serving Italian princes

Monteverdi composed beautiful sacred music. © Charles Thibo
Monteverdi composed beautiful sacred music. © Charles Thibo

Ah, Monteverdi!  What a daring man. He revolutionized music in the 16th and 17th century in several ways. While at the service of different Italian princes, he became a prolific composer of both sacred and secular music. He wrote one “Book of Madrigals*” after the other – nine in total – with some 400 pieces.

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