Wagner and France? A delicate subject. Much of what passes today for typical Parisian decadence owes its existence to the influence of that most Germanic of all masters: Wagner, the composer of the Venusberg (mountain of Venus). And of the “Baldachine von Smaragd” (emerald canopies) that we will be hearing in the Wesendonck Lieder as sung by Anja Harteros – with her sumptuous soprano voice so wonderfully suited to these erotic temptations. With Spanish sunshine and the cool ocean breeze, Debussy was seeking to reject this influence; with the aim of breaking free of Wagner, he invented a new style. But this old quarrel is now a thing of the past – a clash of musical titans whose legacy we all share today.
First we will be hearing two works by Wagner: the Tannhäuser Overture with the Venusberg Scene, and the Wesendonck Lieder. In both, the composer created classics of erotic music. The Wesendonck Lieder are musical precursors to Tristan und Isolde. In the Tannhäuser Overture with its chorales, the atmosphere quickly turns sensual. In this work, time seems to stand still; the erotic climax and subsequent exhaustion have been captured in music.
Debussy sought to break free of such subjective sensibilities by devoting himself to portrayals of nature. If he did turn to human beings, he did so from a distance and with a magnifying glass – like an entomologist studying his objects of interest. As we can gather from the title, Debussy’s La Mer is a portrayal of the sea itself, and its score presents some of the finest instrumentation of the twentieth century. The Spanish-inspired Iberia explores the night under southern skies – with music that reminds us of a slow-motion Habanera.
Photo: Markus Tedeskino
Overture and Venusberg Scene from the Opera Tannhäuser
Iberia from Images pour Orchestre
La Mer – three symphonic sketches
- Anja Harteros Soprano
- Gustavo Gimeno Conductor
- Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg
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Herbert Blomstedt & Leonidas KavakosGewandhausorchester Leipzig
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Beethoven: EroicaIvor Bolton & Daniel Hope
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Grigory SokolovPiano recital
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Puccini: LA BOHÈMESzenische Oper
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Philippe JarousskyThe Song of Handel
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Puccini: LA BOHÈMEstaged opera
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Cecilia & SolDolce Duello
26 Nov 2017
Rolando Villazón & Ildar AbdrazakovItalian and French opera evening
01 Dec 2017
Bach: WeihnachtsoratoriumGaechinger Cantorey