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Richard Wagner - Prelude And Love-Death From Tristan and Isolde

( Originally Published 1935 )



The Prelude to "Tristan and Isolde" (completed 1859, produced 1865), leads in the original score directly into the first, act of the opera. In the concert version it is often linked with the "Liebestod" of the final pages of the music-drama. Wagner's concept here is that of the thwarted passion to which life could only offer insuperable obstacles, for which the night was sanctuary and the day destruction, and death the only possible consummation. The supreme ecstasy and ultimate tragedy appeared to him inseparable, and so from the first measure of the "Tristan" Prelude we feel the accents not merely of superhuman longing but inevitable doom. This is the key to the Prelude and even to the ecstatic music of Isolde's transfiguration. In this Prelude are no fewer than seven motives, that of death being intimately bound with that of love, the two motives intertwining, as the legend says the rose and laurel entwine above the graves of Tristan and Isolde. These musical and emotional strands are so closely combined that they seem to grow from each other. They fuse at the catastrophic climax when the music of cruel desire and in-exorable fate has intensified to the point where Wagner precipitates every agency of the orchestra in a cry of despair. Then the music falls back upon itself, and low tones of the strings prepare the point of modulation to the "Liebestod." From the depths of, the orchestra rises a phrase already heard in the love duet of the second act, and the music mounts, shaking out its wings, said George Moore, as the souls of the lovers disappear over the horizon. We can perceive the genesis of this conception far back in the crude though powerful beginnings of "The Flying Dutch-man."



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