Sunday, July 13, 2008

Requiem for Adolf Hitler

Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler had much in common. The first was Italian yet he liberated and led the French nation. The latter was of Austrian birth but freed and championed the German people. Napoleon put an end to French revolutionary abuses. Adolf Hitler brought an end to the corruption and cruel deprivation following the ruinous victors terms inflicted upon Germany after World War One. Both had humble origins, revolutionary zeal, courage beyond question, a rags to wreath military prowess. The multitudes adored them whilst the privileged classes with vested interests trembled before them. After their defeat in battle both Napoleon and Hitler were ludicrously vilified and demonised by the allied victors.

Neither of these iconic figures had a requiem or funeral march composed in their honour. It is true to say that when Ludwig Beethoven was asked if he might be inspired to write a funeral march for Napoleon Bonaparte, he gruffly replied: “I have already composed the proper music for that catastrophe.” He was referring to the funeral march second movement of his Eroica (Heroic) 3rd Symphony. The honour was removed when upon hearing that Napoleon was to crown himself emperor, the gifted composer and pianist furiously scratched the name ‘Bonaparte’ from the symphony’s title page. Napoleon was greatly admired by Adolf Hitler; upon the surrender of Paris he forbade the triumphant playing of the Paris Entry March. During his visit to The City of Light the German Leader paid homage at the Napoleonic Tomb. The two great leaders did however part company when it came to personal aggrandisement. It is inconceivable that the Fuhrer would crown himself emperor.

Hitler was enthused by Richard Wagner’s works. Those familiar with the composer’s operatic sagas and the Fuhrer’s life will be fascinated by the parallels drawn from the stories of these heroes of Germanic folk lore. Were these early manifestations translated through Wagner to be re-born through Hitler? The Ring of the Nibelungen recounts the struggle between the Forces of Light; Wotan, Brunhilde, Siegfried and Sigmunde against the bacillus of evil and darkness. These are the Nibelungen, swarthy misshapen dwarves who dwell out of sight and steal the Rheingold (Germany’s wealth).

In another quirk of Hitler history Der lied der Nibelungen is said to have been composed in the evocative Kurnberg Castle set on the Danube Plain. Its imposing edifice is situated just a short country walk from Adolf Hitler‘s childhood rural home and not far from the grave of his parents. As a schoolboy the future Fuhrer walked in its shadows with his schoolbooks and pencils. Had Richard Wagner been asked if he was inspired to compose a funeral march for Adolf Hitler, who can doubt he would have immediately replied: “I have already done so: Siegfried’s Death and Funeral March.”

It is doubtful if a more fitting funeral tribute could be found for the former German revolutionary and statesman. Having said that we do know that the Wagnerian opera, Rienzi, The Last of the Tribunes, brought a youthful Adolf Hitler to tears of inspiration. Little wonder that this wonderful and inspirational opera is airbrushed out of modern operatic events. Amazingly composed fifty years before the Fuhrer was born it maps out the Fuhrer’s life and ’death’ in ways that can only be described as being of supernatural mystery. Thus also a most fitting operatic tribute to Adolf Hitler.

NOTE: If you go to Amazon you will find no shortage of excellent Wagnerian operatic DVDs and CDs. For the orchestral music alone I recommend Wagner: Orchestral Music from the Ring.