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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Romantic Era > Preludes to "Nibelung Trilogy" (Wagner)


Preludes to "Nibelung Trilogy"

Richard Wagner
(1813-83)



The "Nibelung Trilogy" consist of the introduction ("Rheingold") and the music dramas, ("Die Walküre," "Siegfried," and "Die Götterdämmerung.") The dramatic poems were written as early as 1852. The music to "Rheingold" and "Die Walküre" was composed between 1852 and 1856; that of "Siegfried," begun in 1856, was not finished until 1869; that of "Die Götterdämmerung" between 1867 and 1876, in which latter year the entire Trilogy was performed at Bayreuth.

The prelude to "Rheingold" consists of a single chord varied with masterly skill, which fills the entire prelude and is constantly expanded yet never loses its character. It constitutes a tone picture of water in its primeval repose, its gradual undulations and gathering force leading, as the curtain rises, to the opening scene -- the bed of the Rhine and the life of the Rhine Daughters. Though the movement is designedly monotonous, such is the skill manifested in its construction that it never becomes tedious.

The prelude to "Die Walküre" is very brief, and describes the rising and subsidence of a furious storm. It is mainly constructed on a simple subject, repeated and varied, and leads to the scene where Siegmund suddenly appears in Hunding’s hut.





The prelude to "Siegfried" is constructed upon the principal themes of the music dramas, among them the "Forge," the "Ring," the "Sword," the "Dragon," and other motives which are familiar to opera goers, and introduces the scene in Mime’s forge upon Siegfried’s arrival, preceded by his horn calls.

There is no regular prelude to "Die Götterdämmerung," a prologue taking its place, which is divided into two scenes, that of the Norns weaving the fates of gods and men, and Brünnhilde’s farewell to Siegfried as he sets forth for new adventures.





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