Current Issue Details

Buy Current Issue

Reviews > CDs

Wagner E Venezia – Uri Caine Ensemble

Winter and Winter 910 013-2

As flaccidly as most scholars extremely criticize Wagner, a variety of
arcane conflicts make the analysis far from simple. Wagner's well-documented
xenophobia and anti-Semitism unquestionably appealed as a device to
criticize various groups whom perceived his music as meager, while
simultaneously garnering attention from his contemporaries. Likewise, his
effort to revolutionize the world conflicted with his monetary dreams and
worldwide acceptance. Almost every effort, politically speaking, apparently
served the purpose of acceptance and fame more than a philosophical zenith;
thus resulting in an impossible analysis of his goals for his various

Even his musical and literary contemporaries existed in a welter when
conversing about his work, none more outrhan Friedrich Nietzsche. While
certainly one of the more befuddling philosophers, Nietzsche's shift from
admiration to condemnation of Wagner's work epitomizes the antinomies
surrounding Wagner. Scholars contend Nietzsche's change in opinion has an
origin in the "trepidation in describing great art." However, the shift
resulted in Thus Spake Zarathustra and a variety of texts where
Nietzsche attempted to describe greatness upon the death of God with little
reference to Wagner as such a human being.

Despite the ongoing exegesis and comprehension of the composer's arduous
body of work, one element recapitulates Wagner's compositions: bombast.
Wagner's conspicuous anger, due to under-appreciation, childhood follies and
incessant debt, amalgamated into one monstrous, pompous composition
proceeded by another. When listening to Wagner, only the reckless confidence
differentiates the music from Beethoven, Brahms or Tchaikovsky. Such a
melodic connection can be further bulwarked by Wagner's adoration of the
Beethoven Symphonies, the first work to reportedly spark his latent musical

Uri Caine's Ensemble eliminates timidity and all one can hear are
antiquated, mellifluous melodies. The most patent result occurs on the
well-documented, overtly exposed piece "Ride of the Valkyries." Caine,
buttressed by several of his avant-garde/downtown jazz compatriots, add a
playful, childish quality to the piece. As it begins, the plucked violins
and light piano filigrees are vaguely reminiscent of "Dance of the Sugar
Plum Fairies". Music, which the Nazis heralded as constituting the volkish
essence, becomes little more than an uninteresting whimper.

Caine's approach unequivocally reveals another latent conundrum by
performing Wagner with such a euphonic approach. With their analogy-ridden
minds, human beings instigate various nefarious interconnections. We, the
listeners, locate elements which are pertinent to a cause and then strongly
adhere the melody to such scenarios. In the end, nothing more than a system
of notes and a selected tone differentiates the music from past attempts.
Wagner is left as innocuous as an overly stuffed doll and a minute bump in
western classical music. As Uri Caine comments, "I simply desired to deflate
the music". In trammeling and recontextualizing, Caine certainly succeeded,
and – as such – actually makes Wagner listenable.

Show 0 Comments