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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Romantic Era > Vorspiel to "Tristan and Isolde" (Wagner)


Vorspiel to "Tristan and Isolde"

Richard Wagner
(1813-83)



The opera of "Tristan and Isolde" was begun in 1857 and completed in 1859, during the period in which Wagner was engaged upon his colossal "Nibelung Trilogy," and was first produced in 1865 in Munich. It is peculiarly interesting, as being the first opera in which Wagner broke entirely loose from the conventional operatic form. In a Vorspiel of this kind, based entirely upon motives and their development, musical analysis without frequent use of notation would be of little service. The recital of the themes must tell its contents. These begin with the "Love Confession," always followed by the motive of "Desire." After their repetition the theme of the "Glance" follows, which explains its own meaning, and after its development in various forms occur the motives of the "Love Philtre" and "Death Potion," the one extremely passionate, the other sombre and mysterious. These are followed by a motive growing out of the "Glance," and an overpoweringly passionate crescendo, after which the motive "Deliverance by Death," with its development, closes the Vorspiel. In the concert room the Vorspiel is usually coupled with the "Liebes-Tod" (Love Death"), the closing scene in which Isolde apostrophizes the dead body of her lover.





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