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A Faust Overture

Wagner: Eine Faust-Overtüre

The Faust Overture dates from Wagner's Paris years (1832-42). Like so many other composers, Wagner took up the challenge thrown down by Goethe's all-encompassing work, singling out those ideas with which he felt the greatest affinity. In 1839/40 it was the hero's quest for self-discovery that caught the composer's imagination. When he revised the work in 1855, under the influence of his reading of Schopenhauer, it was in the light of Faust's despairing cry, 'Thus life has taught me, with its weary weight,/To long for death, and the dear light to hate'.

Originally intended as the first movement of a symphony, the piece was written under the influence of Berlioz' dramatic symphony Roméo and Juliette, which Wagner heard in Paris at its première on 24th November 1839 or at its second performance the following week. If Wagner later claimed that the inspiration was Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, it was because of his wish to see himself as the German composer's legitimate heir, a desire which led him to derogate his early works in general. But, however untypical this work may be, it is by no means unworthy of Wagner.

© Stewart Spencer & Katie Lang

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