Monday, October 01, 2012

Wagner's flying Englishman

David Cameron was criticised last week for attributing Rule Britannia to Edward Elgar rather than Thomas Arne during an appearance on the David Letterman show. But it could have been worse - he would not have been completely wrong to have attributed the patriotic song to Richard Wagner. The poster above announces a 1838 concert in Riga conducted by Wagner which included the composer’s own Rule Britannia Overture. (Note that the Riga concert promoters would also have failed the UK citizenship test - they misspelt 'Britannia'.) Wagner had composed the overture in K√∂nigsberg a year earlier and sent the score to the Philharmonic Society in London as a calling card. But it was rejected and sent back with the return postage unpaid – to find out why listen here. London may have quite rightly dismissed the overture in 1837, but times have changed, and, although Britain no longer rules the waves, post-Olympic triumphalism is rife. A Barenboim Ring at the 2013 BBC Proms to celebrate the Wagner bicentenary is rumoured. But it would not be a surprise to also find his Rule Britannia Overture as part of the the Proms last night excesses, paired perhaps with that other example of patriotic opportunism from fellow centenary celebrant Benjamin Britten, An American Overture. Elsewhere, another composer takes a more informed view of ‘Britons never, never, never shall be slaves’.

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4 comments:

mahlerman said...

There are many, with or without a 1st Class Honours degree from Oxford, that would struggle to identify the good Dr Arne. What flabbered my gast was his inability to even take a tilt at Magna Carta? And what was he doing on Letterman in the first place? What possible 'plus' could there be? Did he imagine he was 'smart' enough to look good alongside this smooth operator - particularly if the other Dave decided, as he did, to twist the knife? The cult of celebrity, which has brought this country low over the last few years, seems to have claimed another victim.

Pliable said...

"And what was he doing on Letterman in the first place?"

Quite so, and what was he doing as prime minister in the first place?

mahlerman said...

He became PM because Labour, and more particularly Gordon Brown, had made themselves virtually unelectable, a fact that Broon has recently confirmed adding (as if we needed confirmation)that he knew that he 'wasn't up to the job'. I voted for DC - thinking that the gravitas that he obviously needed, would naturally follow as he grew into the job. Instead he appears to be as much in thrall to the media monkeys as was air-guitar Blair in his pomp. Trouble is he lacks the lupine political cunning of 'our Tone', and now struggles to put daylight between his double-act and the non-leadership of little Ed. What a crew, I say, what a crew.

Pliable said...

Perhaps it is time to return to Zen...