Tuesday, 8 March 2011


I know I'm biased and that this is purely subjective, but there are few greater pleasures in classical music than listening to Wagner.  I'm sitting here, plugged into Barenboim's Bayreuth recording of Götterdämmerung and itching to get my fingers around it on the piano when a suitable gap in my timetable allows it. Many people have said how much they'd like to be able to sit down and just play music they love and I realise I'm very fortunate to be able to do just that. Conducting is very enjoyable and it certainly took me around the world, but being one-on-one with an instrument and crafting your own interpretation without the indeterminate factors involved in group music-making is often a sensual pleasure, particular when it's late nineteenth-century/early twentieth-century repertoire. Quite how people can get enthusiastic about baroque music beats me; its arrangement of sound waves moves my soul less than a New Labour press release. People like to experience music differently; for some, it's intellectual, others decorative and for others, something else: it needs to start in the lower abdomen and then take an intoxicating tour of every erogenous zone the body has to offer. For me, this is the only way to feel music, and if it doesn't do that to me, then I'm not interested, quite frankly. Other composers who provide this sinful backstreet massage are Richard Strauss, Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, Alexander Zemlinsky, Giacomo Puccini, Johannes Brahms and Schoenberg before he decided he didn't want people to enjoy his music any more (try the Gürrelieder; you will never be the same, again).

If you're not keen on singers, just listen to his overtures, orchestral excerpts, the Siegfried Idyll and the Vorspiel und Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde. This latter is available in a purely orchestral arrangement without a 500lb soprano (though I do know a few very attractive ladies who have sung the role). Give it a try; you'll find that Siegfried is not the only one to have a horn at the end of it.

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