This four-part series, presented by composer Howard Goodall, shows that great pieces of music are not freak accidents of genius but the direct products of their time, place, culture and politics.
In 1874, Wagner finally completed his monumental opera cycle 'Ring of the Nibelung' – 25 years in the making. In that year, Germans were attempting to forge a national identity from their mythic past, and the rest of Europe was trying to cope with the implications of Darwin's 'Origin of Species' and Marx's 'Das Kapital'. Wagner's music had a grim legacy: the Nazis admired it for aesthetic reasons and for the composer's extreme racist views.
The key aims of this programme are to:
* introduce the viewer to the political and social contexts that Richard Wagner was working in
* introduce the viewer and listener to the cultural influences of Wagner, but in particular the literary influences such as Norse and Germanic legends
* explore in more detail the harmonic importance of Wagner's work
* compare Wagner's harmonic and melodic landscape with his contemporaries such as Verdi
* examine key musical features of Wagner's masterpiece 'The Ring'
* examine the importance of Ludwig II of Bavaria's patronage of Wagner
* consider the work of other 'Nationalist' composers such as Smetana (former Czechoslovakia); Grieg (Norway) and Mahler (Austria)
* consider Wagner's own political views in the light of more recent political events (eg the rise of Nazism)