Sometimes you have a “Holy shit, that happened?” moment in life. It can happen anytime, and it’s especially fun when it happens around a musical discovery, as it did for me last week one day when I was driving home. I turned on the classical station and heard a familiar tune: “Rule Brittania”, in an orchestral setting. I’m thinking, OK, some piece of British nationalistic music. Fine.
Now, if you know the tune of “Rule Brittania”, you know that it’s in the fine tradition of pompous Edwardian British music. It’s the kind of thing you hear as you envision armies of British soldiers stiff-upper-lipping their way through India and other places. If you want a pompous tune, “Rule Brittania” is your huckleberry, folks.
But in the case of the piece I was hearing, the composer, whoever they were, seemed to be dialing the pomposity up to eleven. Seriously, by the time the work finally came to an end — after much trumpeting and cymbal-crashing and all the rest of it — I wanted to go punch an Englishman in the junk, that’s how pompous this thing was. I’m thinking, “Who in the hell could have possibly written a piece that pompous?”
Well, the announcer guy on WNED told me who.
Richard Wagner, that’s who.
I couldn’t believe it.
I never knew that Wagner wrote anything like this, but man, it fits, doesn’t it? Wagner was one of the great Pompous Asses for the ages. In the annals of the Pompous Ass, Richard Wagner has a sacred seat in their golden hall of military flags and brass bands and arses so tight there’s barely room for the sticks.
Richard Wagner, and the “Rule Brittania overture”. This is an early work, obviously, before Wagner learned how to be subtle in any way at all. Let me know what you think.
Here’s a bit more background info on this piece.