Tag Archive | Wagner

Wedding Music: Mendelsson Wedding March

Music for the Start of Your New Life Together

In the repertoire of wedding music there are two traditional bookends: for the Bride’s entrance: Richard Wagner’s “Bridal Chorus” (covered in a previous post) and for the Couple’s exit: the Felix Mendelssohn “Wedding March” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Here is what the Mendelssohn “Wedding March” sounds like in the original orchestral arrangement:

Mendelssohn and his “Wedding March”

Felix Bartholdy-Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Felix Bartholdy-Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Felix Bartholdy-Mendelsohn (1809-1847) composed the “Wedding March” to be part of the incidental music that he wrote for a production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Shakespeare was all the rage on the Continent during the 19th Century and inspired many composers to write operas and orchestral pieces based on his plays.

Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream

Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream incidental music was premiered on October 14, 1843 in Potsdam. The production was a spoken play and not an opera so Mendelssohn’s “incidental” music was used to introduce and enhance the stage play.

Thirteen of the fourteen pieces in the incidental music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream were composed by Mendelssohn in 1842 specifically for the Potsdam production. Amazingly, what eventually became the opening section or Overture to this production was completed by him on August 6, 1826 when he was a lad of only 17!

The “Black List”

As I mentioned in my earlier post on the Wagner “Bridal Chorus”, despite the popularity of both of these pieces with Brides, for many years they were both “Black Listed” by some denominations due to their originally being “theatrical music.”

In most cases, such attitudes now seem as old-fashioned as a horse and buggy. Surprisingly, at the end of the Wikipedia article on the Mendelssohn “Wedding March” there is a link to an article in which Gary D. Penkala still vainly attempts to argue against the use of this music for a Wedding. Pretty ridiculous if you ask me!

Even more Felix Mendelssohn

Musically, the “Wedding March” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream is wonderful as a Recessional to accompany the newly married couple as they walk down the aisle after the Ceremony.

Mendelssohn composed many beautiful compositions during his short lifetime which would be well worth your exploring as well. In addition to the Incidental Music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream give a listen to his other orchestral works such as the Italian Symphony and his Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave). For piano solo he also wrote many short “Songs Without Words” that are miniature masterpieces.

Patrick Byrne, Piano

I would love to work with you to help make your own Wedding or special event a truly beautiful experience for your family and friends.

For more information please go to my main Wedding Music page.

Debussy, Brahms and Wagner

Claude-Achille Debussy (1862-1918)

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This week, on August 22, will be the 150th anniversary of one of the greatest composers of piano music: Claude-Achille Debussy. Debussy lived until 1918 and during his lifetime, spanning the American Civil War and World War I, he created some of the most beautiful piano music ever written.

The amazing thing about Debussy’s music is that just like Chopin a generation earlier, Debussy created beautiful music that in terms of technique, harmonies and tonal colors far exceeded just about anything else written by his contemporaries.

Compare “Claire De Lune” which was written between 1890 and 1905 with a more typical popular piano piece from that era “Star of the East” (1883):

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

 

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In the realm of classical piano music, Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) created a marvelous series of ground-breaking piano pieces near the end of his life like this Op. 118 Intermezzo which was written in 1893:

Richard Wagner (1813-1883)

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Both Brahms and Debussy despised the man who was — for better or worse — the main musical influence of their lifetimes: Richard Wagner (1813-1883).

Wagner clearly wanted to create a Music of the Future which is the catch phrase that he created to describe his music when he wrote a book of that title in 1861. At the time it was published, the impertinence of the struggling opera composer seemed ludicrous. But Wagner definitely had the last laugh on his many detractors as his musical style dominated music for over a century.

Both Brahms and Debussy rebelled against the Wagnerian tsunami that swept across Europe and America during the late-19th and early-20th Centuries.

Wagner undoubtedly wrote some marvelous masterpieces. His egoistic personality led him to the long drawn out form of the music drama (i.e. opera) and works like Tristan und Isolde, the four-part Ring Cycle and Wagner’s final music drama Parsifal (1882) which weighs in at about four hours.

Here is the “Good Friday” Scene from Act III of Parsifal.

It was this glorious heavy, plodding Wagnerian sound that dominated European and American classical music well into the 20th Century.

In fact, the Wagnerian influence lasted up through our own day when it comes to movie music. The clearest example of this is the 1981 film Excalibur. The movie’s score not only copied the Wagnerian style but actually uses substantial portions of Wagner’s music such as here in the opening of the film:

I can’t listen to a movie composer like John Williams (Star Wars, Jaws, Close Encounters, Harry Potter, War Horse, etc.) without thinking of Wagner.

It was the turgid, mythical Wagnerian style that Debussy fought against by composing miniature masterpieces for the piano like “Golliwog’s Cakewalk”.

Debussy, displays his Gallic wit by “quoting” a Wagnerian phrase (1:10-1:45) and adding his own anti-Wagnerian laughter in the upper registers. It still brings a smile to my face every time I play it!