1836 Wagner Rule Britannia Overture in D major

THURSDAY, July 23, 2020

Wagner Rule Britannia Overture in D major 1836, age 24

This is young Wagner experimenting again…

I ran into this yesterday, and as a brass player I’m fascinated. Never in a million years would I associate this with Wagner.

I found this:

Rule Britannia Overture was composed in 1836, at a time when Wagner was working in the city of Königsberg. As usual, Wagner was running one step ahead of his creditors, and he composed the Overture with the hopes that it might make some money for him in England.

Well, I do know from reading that Wagner was always broke, and people were always chasing him for money he owed. So this part rings true.

Sir George Smart, another idiot…

He sent the score to Sir George Smart, president of the Royal Philharmonic Society in London, but with no apparent result. As a matter of fact, the score was sent back to him a few years later, and he was unable to pay for the postage, so the work wound up back in England, where it still remains (in the British Library).

That’s also interesting, because this appears to be yet another work that was almost lost. Sir George Smart obviously was a fool.

And now this gem:

The piece is another youthful example of over-scoring for the brass and percussion, and is VERY rarely heard.

First of all, you are hearing it, and this is a superb recording that I want. But the “over-scoring” remark is absurd. Maybe the person who wrote these notes is related to Sir George Smart, because I have never read anything more stupid.

Well written brass parts…

As a brass player I can tell you that Wagner really knew how to write for brass. In addition, at least one part of this sounds very much like the 3rd movement of Tchaikovksy’s Symphony No. 6. I suppose this is an utter coincidence, since it appears impossible that Tchaikovsky heard his music, but there are places where the similarity is spooky.

Who are these guys?

The recording says: Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Varujan Kojian. I don’t know the conductor, and I know nothing about this orchestra. But I love the recording, the players and the conducting. It’s all first rate.


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