Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Saturday, May 11

Maazel's "Ring without Words"

Synopsis

In 1987, Telarc Records asked the late conductor Lorin Maazel if he would make a purely orchestral distillation of the four operas that make up Richard Wagner’s “The Ring of the Nibelung.” Telarc wanted it all to fit on just one CD.

Now, with these four Wagner operas clocking in at about 15 hours, that’s a slimming-down assignment worthy of The Biggest Loser.

Maazel crafted a 75-minute sequence, played without pause, beginning with the opening pages of the first opera and ending with the closing pages of the last, with all the music appearing in the same order as it does in Wagner’s four operas.

For the Telarc CD release, Maazel recorded his “Ring without Words” with the Berlin Philharmonic. But what had started as a purely studio affair proved an attractive orchestral showcase for other ensembles, so on today’s date in 1990, Maazel led the Pittsburgh Symphony in the debut of his “Ring without Words” as a concert hall work. Since then, he has performed it with orchestras ranging from the New York to the Vienna Philharmonic.

Maazel confessed he resisted the idea at first. "I said… it would be desecrating a unique masterpiece. But they kept after me.” In the end, Maazel capitulated, but insisted there couldn't be one note by Lorin Maazel. When one instrumentalist shuddered at a particularly abrupt transition, Maazel told him, "Sorry! That's the composer."

Music Played in Today's Program

Richard Wagner (1813 - 1883) arr. Lorin Maazel (1930 -2014) Ring without Words Berlin Philharmonic; Lorin Maazel, cond. Telarc 80154.

Additional Information

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