I was excited when I learned that the NCPA Orchestra would perform in Guangzhou again. I was delighted and unexpected when I learned that the repertoire of this trip included the Prelude to Act I of Lohengrin and Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony. These two works represent the sound of Germany and Austria, which the National Grand Orchestra is good at. I walked into the theater on March 22 with curiosity and anticipation about what kind of sound this concert will open.
The theme of this concert is “Bruckner Code”, and I think “Wagner Code” may be more relevant. The Seventh Symphony is Bruckner’s tribute to Wagner. As an avid fan of Wagner, Bruckner incorporated Wagner’s musical plays into the creation of symphonies, such as the “Love Death” motif of “Tristan and Isolde” and the “Sleep” motif of “Valkyrie”, etc.; The second movement is an elegy composed when the master had a premonition of his imminent death. After understanding the sympathetic relationship between Bruckner and Wagner, one can understand the purpose of the arrangement of the repertoire.
The prelude to the first act of “Lohengrin” has always occupied the top of my classical music list. Tchaikovsky once commented on Wagner’s music, “When all contemporary composers want to use music to express poetic Every moment, this form is used.” And this poetic moment is the reason why this song has repeatedly moved me. “Lohengrin” is adapted from one of the legends of the “Swan Knight” in the Middle Ages. It tells the story of “Swan Knight” Lohengrin who came to the world from the Kingdom of Holy Grail in order to save Elsa, the daughter of the duke who was framed. The story of asking for the oath of one’s name and identity and finally leaving.
The movement begins with the delicate and dense volume of the strings, and it seems to have entered the world of the Holy Grail Kingdom shining with holy light in Wagner’s dream; When the Holy Grail finally falls, the whole orchestra bursts out with long-stored grand energy, and the music reaches its climax; the slightly mournful tune at the end indicates the tragic color of the story. The swan knight’s unrepentant love mirrors Wagner’s outlook on life and art that is contrary to traditional opinions. In Lohengrin, Wagner demonstrated his gifted orchestral skills and amazing imagination, erecting a monument for Romantic opera.
German composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883), who had a utopian pursuit of “total art”, often served as the screenwriter and composer of opera creations. In Wagner’s eyes, everything related to art, including text, music, dance, stage design and lighting, and even theater, must be perfectly integrated in order to show the spiritual core of “whole art”. This kind of thinking first originated in Florence in the late 16th century, which is also the birthplace of opera. However, no one has ever been as bold as Wagner, who firmly put his creation into practice on a large scale.
Operas always give people a sense of distance. In fact, in daily life, we will come into contact with the music materials in operas consciously or unconsciously. For example, the well-known melody in “Lohengrin” is the wedding march that appears in the third act, and another widely circulated wedding march comes from Mendelssohn’s symphony “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.
Compared with Wagner’s sharpness, Bruckner’s image is always related to the honest and simple “farmer”, which is also a kind of nickname for the composer by classical music fans. Whether it is the undisguised admiration for Wagner or the direct spiritual power conveyed through music, Bruckner has contributed a lot to the late German and Austrian Romanticism.
I first met Bruckner when Thielemann directed the Vienna Philharmonic in 2019. At that time, I was amazed by the composer’s ability to build tall buildings with music. That music scene was also the moment when I felt the closest to heaven. Anton Bruckner (1824-1896), who was born in Austria, was a devout Catholic, and music was his “stairway to heaven”. Like Bach, he is also a skilled organist, and his improvisations are said to have filled London’s Royal Albert Hall for six consecutive performances. Bruckner advocates the classical music traditions of Bach and Beethoven, and the multi-line parallel band parts and polyphonic counterpoint art are well reflected in his symphonies. Wagner once commented on Bruckner: “As far as I know, there is only one composer in today’s world who can keep pace with Beethoven, and that is Bruckner.” After that, few composers dared to challenge easily. The simple and persistent Bruckner has achieved his own miracle through diligent and tireless creation.
Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony is a tome with a duration of more than one hour, and it is not a small test for the audience and the orchestra to insist on completing the performance. The music scene of the National Grand Orchestra under the command of Lu Jia makes people feel completely unaware of the passage of time and fall into the great conception of music architecture. When the French horn blew the first few notes of the first movement, all the senses seemed to be mobilized, paying close attention to the conductor’s every move. In the face of Bruckner’s masterpiece, Lu Jia carefully analyzed the development motivation of the movement, so that the music lines gained the energy of self-growth. Intensive information is conveyed at every turn and pause, and eternity is reached in the winding phrases. The second movement is one of the most famous adagios in the history of classical music, solemn and solemn, quiet and serene. The use of Wagner’s tuba in the climax part expresses the composer’s sincere mourning, and under the ultimate arrangement of string music, it accumulates a majestic and soul-stirring power. The Seventh Symphony was a turning point in Bruckner’s life and brought him international fame.
There is a famous “Bruckner’s problem” in musicology, that is, there are many versions of the composer’s symphony works circulating on the market. Bruckner allowed the conductor to revise his works during rehearsals, and he himself often revises and even overhauls the symphony score over and over again. Compared with the first six symphonies that were repeatedly revised, the Seventh Symphony is obviously the one he is most satisfied with. This work was only revised once in 1885.
The different personalities and musical concepts of the composers have created musical works with completely different styles, but this does not prevent them from being both artistic masterpieces, shining brightly under the starry sky of classical music. In the interpretation of the National Center for the Performing Arts Orchestra under the command of Lu Jia, the music art of the late Romantic School exudes a unique charm. With the gradual liberalization of foreign-related performances, there will be more heavyweight bands in China in the second half of the year. Just as Elsa is looking forward to the arrival of Lohengrin on a swan boat, I am also looking forward to the next irreplaceable music scene.