Wagner eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 71 pages of information about Wagner.
the wound, and feels his way to his master’s side, and dies groping for his hand.  Mark and Brangaena come in.  She has confessed to the mistake she made in giving the wrong potion, and he has come to make all well.  Isolda pays no attention, but, after a beautiful phrase from Brangaena, rises and sings the wonderful Death song.  The drama is now ended; the lovers’ passion has led them whither they knew it was leading them from the beginning.  Night has come on, and Isolda falls on Tristan’s body and dies, fulfilling the promise she had made—­that where he went she would follow.  And so ends the greatest music-drama ever written, and the greatest likely to be written for centuries to come.

We must pass on now to The Mastersingers, an old idea of Wagner’s.  The music was completed at Triebschen.  Here is nothing of the tension, burning passion, and unfathomable depth of Tristan, but a pretty love-story, with some comedy and more than a little of very broad farce.  In it Wagner determined to satirize the musical pedants, and he did so with considerable acerbity.  But it is not to see his enemies roughly handled that we go to The Mastersingers:  it is to hear one of Wagner’s two most beautiful operas.  There is no need to go through it closely, as in the case of Tristan.  The methods are those of Tristan; we have the themes used as leit-motifs, and also long passages woven out of them and new matter; we have the harmonic freedom of Tristan, the same gorgeous orchestration, and even more than the same marvellous polyphonic writing.  But, broadly speaking, the drama counts for comparatively little, and the opera consists of a series of enchanting songs and scenes.  The very title tells us that we are not simply to follow the destinies of a hero and heroine.  The person mostly in evidence is Hans Sachs, a sort of heavy father, who has some of the most glorious music.  The young lover comes along—­Walther—­and tries to win Eva by gaining the prize in a contest of minstrels; Beckmesser, a pedant, opposes him.  Sachs supports him, and he wins.  Every note of the music can readily be understood.  There are regular set numbers provided for in the structure of the libretto, so as to come in naturally; there is even a sextet—­which I have often heard encored—­and the opera winds up with a chorus.  It disproves Wagner’s theory that in the Ninth Symphony Beethoven had said the last word in pure music, and that henceforth words would always be necessary; for here the text is often a mere excuse for using the human voice, and little of the music would be unintelligible without it.

BAYREUTH

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Wagner from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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