Friday, September 08, 2006

Long time no see

As some, though likely not all, of you might know, I am a student. Classes resumed with all of Wotan's fury over his favorite daughter's indiscretion, so I have been very busy. However, I have not been ignoring that which is the reason for the, the blog.

More to the point, I have been learning to appreciate Wagner's most troublesome music-drama: Siegfried. Wiser minds than my own have dealt with the dramatic flaw in Der Ring des Nibelungen, and - to my mind - that flaw becomes obvious with Siegfried. After creating a tragic hero who can (and, more to the point, should) stand with the great creations of the Greek dramatists in Wotan, Wagner introduces the somewhat more-archetypal hero, Siegfried. That's fine, I suppose, but Siegfried comes off like an idiot compared to Wotan. The composer's refusal to fix the problem puts the rest of the Tetralogy in jeopardy, but Wagner manages to save it - to a greater or lesser degree.

That's not to say that Siegfried isn't great. Of the four music-dramas, that one has the most convincing blend of drama and music. The orchestration for Siegfried, to my mind, is topped only by Parsifal and Tristan und Isolde. That's open to debate, of course, but Wagner's genius was rarely more obvious than throughout Siegfried. The sound-world he creates is unremittingly dark and gritty, and then it resolves into one of the most ecstatic moments he ever wrote. The drama also works somewhat better than the conclusion to the cycle. There will always be some cognitive dissonance, but less so than elsewhere.

My recordings of choice are Keilberth's revelatory 1955 set from Bayreuth and Barenboim's 1992 record from the same venue. Keilberth, in particular, being such a no-frills echt-Wagnerian, has really opened up the score for me. That, if you cared, is what I've been worrying myself over - so to speak.


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