(Jul 26, 2019)
An overture famous for 137 years…
There is a long, complicated story behind this.
I am not personally much interested in the story itself, and I could no more listen to a complete Wagner opera than go through minor torture for a few hours. It’s just not my thing and never has been. I am in no way an opera lover.
But this music stands alone, and for way more than a century overtures of this sort have been extremely popular around the world. In a way they sum up musically everything that happens in very long operas, so they are musical overviews in way.
Wagner was not a nice man. In fact, of all the major composers I know of, he may be the most unlikable. This one sentence from a Wiki article tells you as much as you probably want to know about this hateful human being:
“Until his final years, Wagner’s life was characterized by political exile, turbulent love affairs, poverty and repeated flight from his creditors.”
That’s just the start. It gets worse from there. And yet musicians from his own time right through today are fascinated by his music. This overture is as good as it gets.
The Overture to Parsifal reminds you of how much slower life used to be. Imagine, this is a “prelude”, meaning something that goes before. It is like a both a summation and an introduction. I think it contains some of the most magical sounds I’ve ever heard, and it has haunted me since I was around eight years old. I have always been hard-wired for sound. I was born that way. If I am around a total experience, the first thing to be engaged will always be what I hear.