Philip Hale's Boston Symphony Programme Notes: Historical, Critical, and Descriptive Comment on Music and Composers

By John N. Burk; Philip Hale | Go to book overview

RICHARD WAGNER

OVERTURE TO "RIENZI, THE LAST OF THE
TRIBUNES"

THE OVERTURE to Rienzi is at the best mere circus music. It is a good thing to hear it once in a while, for it shows that Wagner, on occasion, could be more vulgar than Meyerbeer, whom he so cordially disliked.

Wagner left Königsberg in the early summer of 1837 to visit Dresden, and there he read Bärmann's translation into German of Bulwer's Rienzi. And thus was revived his long-cherished idea of making the last of the Tribunes the hero of a grand opera. "My impatience with a degrading plight now amounted to a passionate craving to begin something grand and elevating, no matter if it involved the temporary abandonment of any practical goal. This mood was fed and strengthened by a reading of Bulwer's Rienzi. From the misery of modern private life, whence I could nohow glean the scantiest material for artistic treatment, I was wafted by the image of a great historico-political event in the enjoyment whereof I needs must find a distraction lifting me above cares and conditions that to me appeared nothing less than absolutely fatal to art." The overture to Rienzi was completed OCTOBER 23, 1840. The opera was produced at the Royal Saxon Court Theater, Dresden, October 20, 1842.

The overture is scored for piccolo, two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, serpent (third bassoon), two valve horns, two plain horns, two valve trumpets, two plain trumpets, three trombones, one ophicleide, kettledrums, two snare drums, bass drum, triangle, cymbals, and strings. The serpent mentioned in the score is replaced by the double bassoon, and the ophicleide by the bass tuba.

All the themes of the overture are taken from the opera itself. The overture begins with a slow introduction, molto sostenuto e maestoso, D major, 4-4. It opens with "a long-sustained, swelled and diminished A on the trumpet," in the opera, the agreed signal for the uprising of the people to throw off the tyrannical yoke of the nobles. The majestic cantilena of the violins and the violoncellos is the theme of Rienzi's prayer in the fifth act. The last prolonged A leads to the main body of the overture. This begins allegro energico, D major, 2-2,

-[365]-

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Philip Hale's Boston Symphony Programme Notes: Historical, Critical, and Descriptive Comment on Music and Composers
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Philip Hale's Boston Symphony Programme Notes - Historical, Critical, and Descriptive Comment on Music and Composers *
  • Editor's Note v
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction xvii
  • Johann Sebastian Bach i
  • Ludwig Van Beethoven 7
  • Hector Berlioz 56
  • Ernest Bloch 66
  • Alexander Porphirievitch Borodin 70
  • Johannes Brahms 75
  • Johannes Brahms 77
  • Anton Bruckner 100
  • John Alden Carpenter 114
  • Claude Achille Debussy 118
  • Anton Dvoøák 130
  • Edward William Elgar 135
  • Manuel De Falla 140
  • César Franck 145
  • Georg Frideric Handel 150
  • Franz Josef Haydn 154
  • Paul Hindemith 161
  • Arthur Honegger 164
  • Paul Marie Théodore Vincent D'Indy 166
  • Franz Liszt 173
  • Franz Liszt 175
  • Charles Martin Loeffler 184
  • Edward Macdowell 186
  • Gustav Mahler 189
  • Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy 195
  • Modeste Petrovitch Moussorgsky 206
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 209
  • Symphonies in E Flat (koechel No. 543), G Minor (koechel No. 550), C Major ("Jupiter"), (koechel No. 551) 211
  • Serge Sergievich Prokofieff 225
  • Sergei Vassilievich Rachmaninoff 229
  • Joseph Maurice Ravel 234
  • Otterino Respighi 241
  • Nicolas Andrejevitch Rimsky-Korsakov 244
  • Charles Camille Saint-Saens 253
  • Arnold Schoenberg 259
  • Franz Peter Schubert 261
  • Robert Alexander Schumann 270
  • Alexander Nicolaievitch Scriabin 288
  • Jean Julius Christian Sibelius 292
  • Richard Strauss 308
  • Igor Fedorovitch Stravinsky 331
  • Joseph Deems Taylor 339
  • Peter Ilitch Tchaikovsky 343
  • Richard Wagner 363
  • Richard Wagner 365
  • Carl Maria Von Weber 380
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams 389
  • Index 395
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