Apocalyptica: Wagner Reloaded

Finnish cello quartet, Apocalyptica, have joined forces with the MDR symphony orchestra of Leipzig in celebration of Richard Wagner’s 200th birthday this year. The album was taken from two live performances, both of which took place in Leipzig, featuring reinterpreted arrangements of Wagner’s work and some Wagner inspired pieces. The idea was to create a musical and theatrical project and all of the members of Apocalyptica performed on stage with the orchestra.

In a world where the symphonies and operas are quickly becoming scarce, it’s wonderful to see bands not only acknowledge some of these composers that have had an obvious influence on their musical career, but also make a big spectacle out of it to try to grab more attention. We need more bands to raise their hands and say, ‘yeah, I’m very influenced by Tchaikovsky and am now working to recreate a heavy metal rendition of Swan Lake’ or something along those lines (that would actually be pretty cool now that I think of it).

There are many points in a band’s career where they reach a level that their fan base becomes both large in numbers and very loyal. To be able to use your influence on a certain number of individuals that listen to your music, but may not be well-versed in the music of, say, Wagner, and  let them know of this vast pool of repertoire beyond the top 40 radio hits can be really effective. I believe if more bands try to pull off albums like this, then it might bring about a resurgence of this kind of music into the mainstream.

Now beyond the idea, which I think is great, I think the music on this album is also amazing. Eicca Toppinen did all of the arrangements and composed the music for Apocalyptica and Sven Helbig did the arrangements for the MDR orchestra. Most of it is very heavy and powerful, which is an obvious hallmark of Wagner’s music. Wagner is also widely considered to be one of the few classical composers to help shape heavy music and in part, shape heavy metal music (another reason why something like this album is both unique and awesome). There are some other beautiful and lyrical moments that help keep the listener captivated from start to finish. It all flows very well and by the end you feel a more spiritual connection to the music and to a man you never met.

I also greatly appreciate that this wasn’t a studio production either because it keeps it in the same medium as the symphonies of the day would do. Orchestras don’t go into the studio to cut records; they performed live and that was it. It got pressed to vinyl and you were free to take it home and listen to it. So now I’m strongly recommending that you not only listen to this, but also get acquainted with Wagner’s work especially if you’re heavy metal fan. Wagner’s one of my favorite composers, not just because he’s really heavy, but his operas are really exceptional. It’s important to be educated in the music that has shaped and inspired the music you hear today, so please educate yourself with this fine music.

Luke Helker


2 Responses to “Apocalyptica: Wagner Reloaded”

  1. Do you happen to know which of Wagner’s pieces they used for this album/concert? I want to talk about this in my music class and I’d like to do some comparisons, I’m not very familiar with Wagner’s work, though I definitely intend to listen to it.

  2. They actually aren’t playing any specific pieces by Wagner. All of the pieces were written in the style and are inspired by Wagner, but not actually Wagner’s work. It’s still a good thing to talk about since it’s a modern group trying to revitalize music that isn’t recognized enough.

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