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Wagner: Marches & Overtures

3.5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Audio CD, May 15, 2001
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$7.97 & FREE Shipping on orders over $49. Details Only 2 left in stock (more on the way). Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.

Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 15, 2001)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos
  • Run Time: 46 minutes
  • ASIN: B00005AYEN
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #321,755 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
I don't think it does Wagner a disservice to suggest that he didn't actually bleed creatively to complete these mostly commissioned works. the fact that three of the four clock in at 12 minutes apiece suggests the functionality of their composition. to be frank, if you heard any of these pieces on the radio, and were told they were by, say, Sullivan or Elgar, you wouldn't be at all surprised. Wagner gives his clients exactly what they want - grand public, patriotic showpieces that stir the feet if not the soul.
to suggest that they are not Wagnerian, however, is to overlook an important aspect of his work. some of his most famous operatic pieces - such as the wedding march from 'Lohengrin' - are specifically social expressions, while 'Die Meistersinger' is the ultimate 'public' opera. The most recognisably Wagnerian piece here, perhaps surprisingly, is the 'American Centennial March', which is full of pastiche-Lohengrinisms, perhaps a nostalgic indulgence just after completing the worlds-apart 'Ring' cycle and beginning 'Parsifal'. The 'Polonia Overture' is a conventional enough piece of romantic nationalism, made delightful by Wagner's lack of personal input, and his dark orchestral colouring. 'Rule Britannia' is one for those who like to stand on stools in front of a big mirror for a spot of air-conducting (ahem...), weaving familiar melodies of imperial pomp into a briskly, stately overture. the most likable piece, however, is the closing 'Imperial March', which has a rich, repeated main theme more familiar from Elgar, and a melancholy that belies the ceremonial intent.
any CD that presents rare, non-operatic Wagner is more than welcome: Varujan Kojian and his Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra translate zest and pleasure to the listener.
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Format: Audio CD
Here is a disk of extremely minor Wagner orchestral pieces, with the Hong Kong Philharmonic under Varujan Kojian. This disk was originally released on the Marco Polo label, and is now issued by Naxos. It includes the _Polonia_ and _Rule Britannia_ overtures, the _American Centennial March_ and the _Kaisermarsch_.

The good news is that two of these pieces, the _Polonia_ and _Rule Britannia_ overtures, are not available in any other recording that I'm aware of, so this disk offers a significant expansion of the accessible Wagner repertoire. The bad news is that what we have here is some mostly ordinary work by conductor and orchestra, and some mostly wretched work by the composer.

I don't think any performance could save Wagner's _Rule Britannia_ overture, a very youthful work written, if memory serves, to flatter a British music-publishing house into offering him a commission. No commission came, but one can hardly blame the British for not requesting more of the same. The piece opens with fanfares, scales and so on in an attempt to work up some tension before introducing the Grand Old Tune. The Grand Old Tune once stated, Wagner plays it again louder, as one does, then flails about with uninspired exposition of bits of the theme. The Big Tune eventually emerges again on brass, with a lot of accompanying exercise for drum-thumpers, cymbal-crashers, and so on, before finally winding up. It sounds like what some people must think Elgar sounds like, if they know Elgar only by reputation. Its minutes feel like hours.
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Format: Audio CD
The interest in this CD is in the rarities of the music. All you die hard Wagner fans will get a thrill of fanfares and flourishes, with bombastic finales. You'll also get little thematic development and simplistic ideas. Only the "Imperial March" written for political favor gives us a glimpse of the composers great operatic achievements. "Polonia" was born after a night of drinking with some Polish exiles, naturally constructed of patriotic song and dance from Poland. Commissioned by the City of Philadephia, Wagner was paid $5 grand for the "American Centennial March", masterfully orchestrated with the most simplistic material. "Rule Britania" goes on way too long, again
stretching minimum to the max, for over 12 minutes. The constant repetition likening to a dentist performing root canal.
Much of these works were done hastily as Wagner was constantly
being pursued by debtors. Still all in all the curiosity value is there! Maybe a more spacious recording would have made me judge better.
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Format: Audio CD
It would be nice to think that these were somehow little-known treasures written by a great composer that were, for whatever reason, seldom performed or otherwise rarely recorded. The reason you never hear these pieces is that beyond curiosity factor, they really don't bear additional listening. The definitely are in the potboiler category and to my ear, could have been written by a competent but second-rate film composer writing for a big-orchestra -- pleasant background but not really stand-alone music. The surprise for me was the two marches Wagner wrote in his maturity -- as I recall, he wrote the American March while preparing for the premiere of the complete Ring. These two pieces really are pure bombast at best, with very little musical interest -- the hand (or even little finger) of the master cannot be found at all. The other pieces come from Wagner's youth and are competent enough but again, really reveal nothing of the great composer to come.

The pieces are performed and recorded well enough, so I will give this three stars for curiosity's sake.
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