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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Romantic Era > Vorspiel to "Die Meistersinger" (Wagner)


Vorspiel to "Die Meistersinger"

Richard Wagner
(1813-83)



"Die Meistersinger," Wagner’s only comic opera, occupied the attention of the composer at intervals during twenty years. It was finished in 1867, and was first produced at Munich in 1868 under the direction of Hans von Bülow. The story concerns the love of Walther, a noble young knight, and Eva, daughter of Pogner, a wealthy goldsmith, his entering the lists to become a Mastersinger, which he must do to win her hand, and which he accomplishes with the help of Hans Sachs, by outdoing Beckmesser with his beautiful "Prize Song." It is clearly apparent both from the music and the text that the opera was partly intended as a satire upon Wagner’s critics, who had charged that he was incapable of melody. It is easy to see that these critics are symbolized by the pedantic Beckmesser and that in Walther we have a personification of Wagner himself.

The Vorspiel is composed of some of the principal themes, two of them symbolizing the corporation of the Mastersingers, the others various phases of the love of Eva and Walther. It opens with the Mastersinger’s motive, a noble march movement of heavy chords, which is repeated. Immediately following it a gentle motive, "Waking Love," occurs. This leads to a second Mastersinger motive, another march rhythm known as the "Banner" motive, from the banner carried by the Mastersingers upon which King David was represented playing the harp. This is worked up at considerable length and leads by a short episode to another very melodious motive, called "Love Confessed," which is related to the "Prize Song." It is followed by an agitated motive called "Impatient Ardor," which in development is worked up with a counter theme from the singing contest. In the Finale the "Mastersingers," "Banner," and "Love Confessed" motives are ingeniously woven together by various groups of instruments, the rest of the orchestras supplying most ornate elaboration, the whole coming to an imposing climax, which closes the Vorspiel.





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