Great Composers: Wagner, Richard (BBC Documentary)
These are truly outstanding programmes. They offer not just outline biographies but interesting comment and insight on the composers‘ lives and achievements, and their importance in the development of the art of music, from an impressive team of experts: biographers and musicologists, and conductors and artists that are associated with their music. Of course, within the limited space of an hour, the coverage cannot claim to be comprehensive; but it is a miracle how much material is crammed into each programme. Indeed, all seven programmes demand repeated viewing for full appreciation of all their riches. All include excerpts from major works played by renowned international artists. And all are filmed in the locales associated with the composers‘ lives and works adding an aura of immediacy and authenticity. All the programmes are narrated by Kenneth Branagh.
Wagner is discussed by experts John Deathridge and Barry Millington with artistic contributions by Sir Georg Solti, Daniel Barenboim, and Sir Roger Norrington. It is fascinating to see the locales in Germany, Switzerland and Italy associated with the music. The programme traces Wagner’s turbulent life and career through his early experiences in Paris and his early successes with Rienzi and The Flying Dutchman, through his revolutionary activities in Dresden, to his association with King Ludwig of Bavaria which eventually led to the construction of the theatre at Bayreuth. And it does not flinch from covering the less attractive facets of his character including his womanising, his treacheries to friends and associates and his virulent anti-Semitism.