Wagner: Richard: Sheet Music and Biography

By | February 23, 2021

Wagner Sheet Music

Black and White Head & Shoulders Photograph of Richard Wagner in 1871
Richard Wagner
22 May 1813-13 Feb 1883

Richard Wagner is famous as one of the most controversial but influential composers. Wagner sheet music featured on our site includes Ride of the Valkyries Fanfare and Wedding March from Lohengrin.

Early Life

Wagner was born in Leipzig, Germany on 22nd May 1813, the youngest of nine children. His father was a clerk in the local police service and his mother was the daughter of a baker. Sadly his father died of typhus when Richard was just six months old.

His mother then moved the family to Dresden to live with his father’s friend Ludwig Geyer who was an actor and playwright.

Wagner spent much of his life in debt, in 1864 at the age of fifty-one his fortune changed. A young King Ludwig II came to the throne and he was a huge fan of Wagner. So much so he cleared all Wagner’s debts and he hired someone to dictate Wagner’s autobiography!

Unlike many of his fellow composers, Wagner didn’t show any interest in music at an early age. His siblings, however, all received piano lessons. His elder sisters either became opera singers or actresses. At the age of thirteen, Richard chose to write a play that he wanted to be set to music. It was only at that time that he became interested in music and began to have music lessons.

Controversial

Wagner held a reputation for his controversial views and also an association with the Nazis. Hitler supposedly stated that ‘Whoever wants to understand National Socialist Germany must know Wagner.’ Even today there are controversies on playing his music in certain countries such as Israel.

Wagner was put into exile because of his revolutionary activities in Dresden. During this period he completed his opera ‘Lohengrin’ but he was unable to produce this work. so he wrote to Franz Liszt who not only staged it he conducted the piece himself.

Career

Wagner wrote many operas, both the libretto and the music. His first opera ‘The Fairies’ didn’t premier until after his death in 1888 as it didn’t appeal to German opera tastes and his second opera, Das Liebesverbot was also a disaster. The staging of Wagner’s first successful opera Rienzi was in 1842.

His masterpieces came in his later work, however, between 1843 and 1850 he wrote what became known as his Romantic operas; The Flying Dutchman, Tannhäuser, and Lohengrin.

One of his most famous pieces is ‘The Ride of the Valkyries‘ which maintains its popularity from the film ‘Apocalypse Now’ was part of the second opera in Wagner’s famous ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’ (The Ring or Ring Cycle). Four operas made up The Ring; Das Rheingold, Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), Siegfried and Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the gods).

Wagner’s creation and use of Leitmotifs continue to be used today in Hollywood. A leitmotif is a musical signature depicting a specific character, place, or idea. It is a great way of recognising characters in a piece.

Bayreuth Festpielhaus

In 1872 The Bayreuth Festspielhaus opera house in Germany was built, dedicated to Wagner’s operatic masterpieces. Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen’ was fully premiered here in 1876. The sunken orchestral area is in place to avoid any distraction from the performances.

Death

Wagner died in 1883 aged sixty-nine of a heart attack …. possibly after an argument with Cosima over another woman!

After his death, his wife Cosima attempted to get a hold of all copies of Wagner’s autobiography and destroy them due to his flippant and slanderous comments against his fellow composers!

Wagner Sheet Music Downloads and Further Reading

On music-scores.com we have over seventy arrangements of Wagner sheet music in PDF format for you to download.

Read more about this composer at Wagner Tuba and Wikipedia .