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Topic: Weekend treat: Overture to Parsifal (Wagner)

  1. #1

    Weekend treat: Overture to Parsifal (Wagner)

    Like many of you, I also wanted to render a well-known score. I chose the overture to Parsifal, the opera by Richard Wagner (1813-1883). It is not the bombastic sound people usually associate with Wagner (actually, most of his work does not sound like that), but instead is a really reflective, introvert piece of about 10 minutes. The (3.5 hour!) opera is about the knight of the round table Parsifal and the quest for the Holy Grail, and the opera is seen as appropriate for Good Friday (so if Gary ever wants to have an Easter CD, this is my contribution). You can hear all motifs clearly in overture, and the sound ranges from 3 flutes at an intimate pp to full brass at a very stately ff.

    You can find the full score and a piano/harmonium extract here. The last one is especially well suited to see the harmonic development for yourselves, because it is quite something. The score is quite complex, with bars full of 32nd in three parts simultaneously, up to 8 different clefs at the same page, triplets in 6/4 while the rest of the orchestra plays in 4/4, and not a single bar without an accidental, and the melodic lines get played by different combinations of instruments (e.g. violins plus clarinet, bassoon and english horn, or cello and horn), which are supposed to gell...

    I rendered the whole thing in Logic Express and GPO4, which gave me some trouble, but it was worth it. It is scored for three flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and one bass clarinet and english horn, four horns, three trumpets, two trombones, one bass trombone, one tuba, timpani, Violins I, II, Violas, Cellos and Basses (all divided at some point; pizzicato, con sordino, tremolo). I added compression, but I don't know if that was a good thing or not.

    You can hear it at box.net (a 256kbs version of nearly 20Mb). I've also got a version at soundclick.com (but at 128kbs).
    Last edited by FLWrd; 11-15-2009 at 08:01 AM. Reason: New link (soundclick)

  2. #2
    Senior Member sd cisco's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Southern Ontario, Canada

    Re: Weekend treat: Overture to Parsifal (Wagner)

    My hearty congratulations on a job well done!! It was a treat and Bravo to YOU!! One of my all time favorites of Wagner and on my own short list to eventually tackle. Perfect and subtle winds, a deepening and thrilling Timpani and the brass is a knock-out. One question re the clean brass, was that all the regular GPO brass, as opposed to Sam B? I don't often download and save the things people post here, but most certainly did so immediately in this instance, both to enjoy again later, and as a reference.
    A very worthwhile project and I applaud your good taste and adventuresome spirit, thanks for sharing it!
    Best regards,
    sd cisco

  3. #3

    Re: Weekend treat: Overture to Parsifal (Wagner)

    Thanks for such high accolades, sd cisco.

    I used only the SAM brass instruments. There were just enough of them. I tried to double them with the original GPO brass, but that made the sound a bit nasal. As a side note: Wagner's orchestra for the premiere of Parsifal contained 103 players, so that's quite a lot of brass...

    I enjoyed sequencing it. Wagner could really write. There are so many details that you can hardly hear, but that only reveal themselves working through the score, note by note. E.g. if three clarinets play the same motif, they will stop at different moments, adding to the dynamics. Sometimes the last notes of overlapping instruments will extend over to the next section, but all with different lengths. Or a pickup will be 3 eights for one section, but a triplet for another. Really wonderful stuff.

    I've also made the file accessible via soundclick (and updated the first post with the link, I hope).

    Thanks for listening. Are you interested in the MIDI file or MusicXML?

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Re: Weekend treat: Overture to Parsifal (Wagner)

    Hi Theo,
    I have no idea what Logic.. is, but you did a treat job on this.
    Except for a few measures in the middle where the strings sounded anemic this was true in sound.
    The web site also is good to know about.
    I'm going to work on RIENZI.


  5. #5

    Re: Weekend treat: Overture to Parsifal (Wagner)

    What a pleasure, Theo: one of my favorite Wagner
    overtures, by far -- to me, he was so often at his
    best when he left the bombast aside... and just spoke
    to us from the heart.

    Very well done, indeed!

    My best,

    David Sosnowski

  6. #6

    Re: Weekend treat: Overture to Parsifal (Wagner)

    Thanks for your comments.

    I think I know the part you mean, Gary: it's at 5:00, right? That's a tricky part. I've worked a lot on the string articulations. I couldn't quite get the legato to sound the way I wanted. I've experimented with different "length" settings, shorter and longer gaps, different attacks, manually doing the attack with the mod wheel, but some parts are quite difficult. I'm looking forward to your Rienzi. I listened to the overture yesterday (Youtube, with Levine), and it has very fine lyrical passages and great coloration. It also showed me how Wagner transposed the romantic idiom to theatre music, which still has an influence on today's film music, I think.

    And indeed, David, Wagner is at this best without the bombast, and most of his work is, of course. I've always found Parsifal particularly introvert. I've seen the opera once, and it made quite an impression. The grandeur of the music really gives the story extra mystique, almost transcendental.

    Thanks again!

  7. #7

    Re: Weekend treat: Overture to Parsifal (Wagner)


    Just excellent rendering of this Wagner favorite. You have
    captured numerous nuances of sound that are difficult to
    accomplish with any sample program and have done so in a
    convincing manner.

    Really great job on this Theo. Listening was a real pleasure
    and I'm sure made a lot listeners aware of what GPO can really

    Much credit to your sampling excellence and for creating a great
    GPO product.


    Jack Cannon--Toshiba laptop, 2.8 GHz CPU, 1.5 GB RAM, GPO4-JABB3-Auth. STEINWAY-Gofriller CELLO-Stradivari VIOLIN-COMB2-WORLD, FINALE 2009/11, RME Digiface, Cardbus, V-Stack---Mac Pro 2.66 GHz CPU, 8 GB RAM, DP 8, MOTU Traveler, MOTU Micro Express.--MacBook Pro 2.2 Ghz CPU, 8 GB RAM.

  8. #8

    Re: Weekend treat: Overture to Parsifal (Wagner)

    I listened to this earlier this morning and found it to be very enjoyable.

    Unlike those above, it is not my favorite Wagner piece, but it is still a good one.

    Very nice rendering on what I am sure was a complicated piece to work with.

    "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." Albert Einstein


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