This new year, Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela release a new, digital-only album of orchestral music from Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle and Tristan und Isolde.
Photos by Gerardo Gómez @ Fundamusical Bolivar. Cover by Carlos Cruz-Diez
When I hear Wagner's music, I always think of the sunrise from Nietzsche's Zarathustra – the crescendo of colours, the epic naturalism, the illumination of a huge spirit. It sweeps you away, like great cinema. Metaphorically, of course, dawn also expresses an anticipation of the future. In the history of music, we have many great composers: Bach, Mozart, Brahms, some of the greatest geniuses of all humanity. But then, there were the composers who not only wrote extraordinary music, but whose music fundamentally changed the way we listen: Monteverdi, Beethoven, Stravinsky, the Beatles... and Wagner. Music after Wagner was never the same. With new approaches to melody, harmony, rhythm and orchestration, Wagner's operas pushed music to its physical and emotional limits, and, like a sunrise, provided a view into the future – paving the way not just for composers like Mahler and Richard Strauss, but for everything from Star Wars to Metallica.
Wagner is epic and powerful, modern and daring, yet can be loving and tender at the same time. The scores are so well written, so brilliantly conceived, the orchestration is amazing, the harmonies so full of expression. Every note means something - sometimes many things at once. The challenge for conductor and orchestra is finding the balance between the very big and very intimate. With this recording we have had the additional challenge of capturing, in just a few excerpts, the huge intellectual and emotional architecture of Wagner's dramas without singers, using only the voices of the orchestra.
For my family in the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela and for me, just as Wagner transformed music, music has transformed our lives. This fact makes it very special for us to perform and to record Wagner's music. We pay homage to the tradition of Bayreuth, while at the same time feeling the contemporariness of the ideas in the Ring and the passion of Tristan. These visions and expressions speak to us. For us, music is energy, that, like a river, is always moving forward, that never ends. Wagner's endless melodies and gripping harmonies tap into this infinite stream of energy with a unique, magical spirit. The great spirit and love we share for music is reflected in the spirit and love within these pieces. For the Bolivars and for me, sharing this spirit, with each other and with the world, is one of life's greatest joys. Thank you for joining us on our journey with Wagner.
– Gustavo Dudamel
1 The Ride of the Valkyries from Act III of Die Walküre
2 Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla from Scene IV of Das Rheingold
3 Forest Murmurs from Act II of Siegfried
4 Siegfried’s Rhein Journey from the Prologue of Götterdämmerung
5 Siegfried’s Funeral Music from Act III of Götterdämmerung
6 Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde