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Exciting Orchestral Excerpts From The Ring

  Orchestral excerrpts from Wagner's Ring as well as his other operas have been a staple of orchestral concerts since the 19th century , and here are some of them from the Ring Of The Nibelungen. A rather inelegant term sometimes applied to them is "Bleeding Chunks" from the Ring. But they are highly effective, and you might want to try a CD or CDs of them before you hear or see the whole Ring to whet your appetite for it .

  In many other operas, the orchestral parts are not very interesting in themselves except for an occaisional effective solo passage for different instruments, and no one would want to hear them alone. But Wagner made the orchestra an integral part of the drama ,not a mere accompaniment. 

  Das Rheingold, the first of the Ring dramas and the shortest at only about two and a half hours but in four continuous scenes without an intermission, contains one passage which is sometimes heard in concert; the final scene, where the Gods and Goddesses enter Valhalla in what they think is triumph but not realizing that they are ultimately doomed .  In the opera, there is a magic rainbow bridge which they cross to enter their mighty new dwelling , paid for with treachery .  The opera ends in a blaze of orchestral glory in a kind of majestic Polonaise rhythm and is absolutely dazzling in its shining colors.

  You've probabaly heard the catchy melody of "The Ride Of The Valkyries, which opens the third and last of Die Walkure(The Valkyre,the next part of the Ring. Here, the Valkyries, the nine daughters of the chief God Wotan (Odin in Scandinavian mythology) are gathering on a mountain top and are riding their flying horses. Their duty is to gather the bodies of warriors slain in battle to populate Valhalla to defend it from potential attack by the Nibelung forces led by the evil dwarf Alberich, who had been robbed of the Ring and the treasure it enabled him to make.

  The music is incredibly vivid and exciting ,filled with wild exultation; but soon after ,Brunnhilde, Wotan's favorite Valkyrie daughter comes in and must face Wotan's wrath after she has disobeyed him , and her fate is to be left to lie in a magical sleep surrounded by fire until the hero Siegfried rescues her. 

  The third drama is Siegfried, about the rambunctious and headstrong Siegfried, who is the hero of the Ring, but a tragic one who is constantly surrounded by treachery, and whom Wotan hopes will rescue the Gods from Alberich's curse, but it turns out in vain.  In the second act, Siegfried is relaxing n the forest and is surrounded by the gentle sounds of the forest and the enchanting song of the birds; this exceprt is known as The "Forest Murmurs ".

  In the final part of the Ring,Gotterdammerung(Twilight of the Gods) , the curse takes its final fateful effect , and the Gods are destroyed when Valhalla goes up in flames after the Rhine river overflows and everything is destroyed after Siegfried is killed by the treacherous Hagen, son of Alberich, who is determined to take the Ring from him at all costs . 

  There are two orchestral exceprpts sometimes played at concerts; Siegfried's Journey down the Rhine before he meets the treacherous Hagen and his half brother and sister Gunther and Gutrune, leaders of the Gibichung tribe, who are manipulated by Hagen into letting him kill Siegfried (the story is too long to explain here but you can google it at Wagner websites or get books on the composer etc).  The Rhine journey is both joyous and majestic, but ends gloomily and ominously .

  The other excerpt is the somber and overwhlemingly powerful and tragic funeral march after Siegfried is stabbed in the back by Hagen ; this is absolutely shattering in effect .  Sometimes the  final scene where Brunnhilde immolates herself by jumping with her flying horse into Siegfried's funeral pyre,leading to the burning of Valhalla is played, with or without the soprano soloist singing the role of Brunnhilde .  Either way it is awesomely tragic but ends with the hopeful and consoling motiv of redemption through love . 

  There are many different recordings of these Ring excerpts available on CD led by such great Wagnerian maestros as Sir Georg Solti,Herbert Von Karajan, Klaus Tennstedt, Lorin Maazel, Wilhelm Furtwangler and others,with such great orchestras as the Berlin Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, the Vienna Philharmonic, the Staatskapelle,Dresden and others.and as usual, the best place to order them is arkivmusic.com, which cannot be beat for variety of selections in classical CDs and DVDs.

Posted: Sep 16 2010, 06:12 PM by the horn | with no comments
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