Wednesday 29 February 2012

Wagner youth symphony completion

I recently wrote about the thorny question of completions and performing additions of incomplete works. I now see that Chandos have issued another in their series of Wagner orchestral recordings conducted by Neeme Järvi.

                                                           CHSA 5097

Early on in his career, Wagner composed two symphonies, both of which are included on this disc. Whilst the nineteen year old composer completed the Symphony in C, included on this disc, a symphony in E, written two years later, was left unfinished, with just the first movement and thirty bars of the second movement completed.

It was Wagner’s widow, Cosima, that asked the conductor Felix Mottl to complete the symphony which is now recorded on this disc. Given the problems caused by the families of other composers when it came to making completions or performing editions, such as Alma Mahler’s objections over Deryck Cooke’s work on Mahler’s tenth and the Elgar family’s concerns over the ‘elaboration’ of the sketches of Elgar’s third, it is remarkable that Cosima Wagner should be the instigator of this completion.

This new disc includes two marches, the Huldigungsmarsch was written in 1864 for King Ludwig II of Bavaria and the Kaisermarsch (1871), a commission from the publishing firm Peters, who requested from Wagner a heroic morale booster at a time when the German countries were at war with France. The disc is completed with overture to Rienzi, Wagner’s third completed opera (1838-40).

Although I have previous issues in this series, I haven’t heard this new disc yet. Whether the completion of such an early work has proved worthwhile remains to be seen, but it will be a must for all Wagnerians.


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