Intrepid Optimist

Intrepid Optimist is the place where I can share my stories; fact, fiction and thoughts from the past and present. It’s Written by myself for people who believe adventure knows no age

Inspiration from Peter Cornelius

It is strange how one thing leads to another. For the past few weeks – they seem like months – I have been fighting a losing battle with that dreaded condition, writer’s block.

In desperation, after days of gazing vacantly out of my office window, staring stupidly at the blank page in front of me or snarling at my ever patient dog, and not so tolerant friends, I turned to YouTube in search of that elusive noun –inspiration. Lo and behold, I found a temporary release in discovering and unearthing some wonderful pieces of classical music, which I am convinced, will put my writing back on track.

Scrolling through YouTube’s truly immense, classical video library in the early hours of this morning, I came across another piece I have never heard of and by a composer also unknown to me, but whose music immediately made an impact on me.

He is or was, the German composer, writer, poet and translator, Peter Cornelius (Carl August Peter Cornelius, 1824 – 1874), born in Mainz, His first mature works, including the opera “Der Barbier von Bagdad” were composed while living in  Weimar. In1858, he moved to Vienna and there became a good friend of Richard Wagner. In 1864 and at Wagner’s suggestion, Cornelius moved to Munich in 1864, where he married and fathered four children.

I did not know, but on hearing it played I can understand why the overture to “The Barber of Bagdad” was at one time considered to be one of the most charming works of its kind in concert repertory.

The story, as in many operas, is weak and absurd. Noureddin, in love with Morgiana, the Caliph’s daughter, has a secret liaison with her at the opening of the work. Abdul Hassan, a garrulous barber, in the meantime is watching out for him, outside in the street. Hearing the screams of a servant who is being disciplined, he imagines Noureddin is the victim. As he rushes into the house Noureddin, in alarm, secretes himself in a chest.

The Caliph arrives upon the scene and releases Noureddin, who almost suffocated. The barber revives him, explanations follow, and the Caliph gives the hand of Noureddin to Morgiana. When first heard, this silly tale set to music created much excitement among German musicians and is said to have had an important influence upon Wagner.

In the overture, Cornelius has employed a Leitmotif, an oriental chromatic theme, to represent the barber and which you can hear repeated throughout the opera. I particularly like the charming melody which the woodwinds and muted strings, in the opera proper, lead to a song which the slaves sing their master to sleep. The two themes combine and elaborate in a clever and fascinating form. Inspiring.

About bbryanthomas

Not so young man about town who, having witnessed and enjoyed life, is presently having fun, writing about those by-gone times and life in general.

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This entry was posted on March 27, 2018 by in Classical music, History, Stories and tagged , .
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