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"Eine Faust" Overture

Richard Wagner
(1813-83)



"Eine Faust" Overture, written in 1840 and rewritten in 1855, was originally intended as the first movement of a symphony based upon Goethe’s drama. The symphony scheme, however, was abandoned, Wagner at that time being busy with his opera. "The Flying Dutchman." After several changes the overture was published with its present title. It has to do with Faust alone, before he has encountered Mephistopheles or met Marguerite. The following motto from Goethe’s "Faust," which Wagner at one time used, probably explains its exact significance:

"The indwelling spirit
Whose temple is my heart, who rules its powers,
Can stir the bosom to its lowest depths,
But has no power to move external nature,
And therefore is existence burdensome,
And death desirable, and life detested."

It begins with a slow introduction, the opening subject given out by the tuba and double basses in unison, accompanied by pianissimo rolls on the kettle drums. The cellos respond with a phrase several times heard in the overture. The first violins follow with a new theme, which, through its development, leads to the quick movement, the first violins opening with the theme last stated, accompanied in bassoon and horn. After somewhat complicated development the second theme, a beautifully expressive melody, appears in the woodwinds and is developed, and a short transition leads to the free fantasia based upon the second theme. The first theme returns again and is elaborately developed. The concluding section of the overture begins with the first theme, fortissimo, which is subjected to new development, and the overture closes with a very dramatic Coda. The work is a wonderful picture of the restlessness of the soul, its aspirations, and its struggles with destiny.





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