MUSIC 1AA3 Lecture Notes - Cosima Wagner, Franz Liszt, Nibelung

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Published on 13 Apr 2013
School
McMaster University
Department
Music
Course
MUSIC 1AA3
Richard Wagner (1813 - 1883, age 69)
German, born in Leipzig (where Bach worked)
He was controversial guy, socially and politically
Antisemitic writings, but had Jewish friends in private
Left-wing radical, involved in uprising in 1849, fled to Switzerland where he chilled for 10 years
He was poor, but in 1864 King Ludwig II of Bavaria gave him some cash (he really liked Wagner's
music)
1876 built large opera house (Festspielhaus) just for his operas in Beyreuth (Bavaria)
Married twice, 2nd wife was Cosima Liszt (3 children before married in 1870), daughter of Franz Liszt
and Marie d'Agoult
He traveled all around to avoid paying debts (Riga, Paris, Dresden, Zurich, Bayrouth, Venice)
He was a G
Ring of the Nibelungs
Comprised of 4 operas
The Rhine Gold (1869)
The Valkyrie (1870)
Siegfried (1876)
Twilight of the Gods (1878)
Libretti by Wagner, based on old Germanic legend (he was cocky, so libretted from himself)
Nibelungs: ancient royal family. Folllows struggles of gods/heroes fighting over a magical Ring
that grants domination. Drama and intrigue continue through 3 generations of protagonists, until
ring is returned to Rhine and gods are consumed by fire
Monumental work - over 15 hours (like the Lord of the Rings!)
Took several decades to complete
Lord of the Rings
lots of parallels between Ring of the Nibelung and LOTR
ring holds great power but power corrupts
giants, dragons etc and a shattered sword recast into a more powerful one
both cycles begin in a state of innocence that is corrupted
The Valkyrie, Act III
Wotan, chief of the gods
Brünnhilde, his daughter, a warrior-like Valkyrie
she's a good egg, has intervened on behalf of human couple, and Wotan must condemn her to
death
she pleads for a lesser sentence
she's stripped of godlike powers, put into cryogenic chamber (she may be Austin Powers)
surrounded by ring of fire
the fire can be crossed only by someone isn't afraid of Wotan's spear
Here, Wotan is saying bye to his daughter, and summons Loge (god of fire) to create the circle of fire
A musical comparison
Verdi:!
singer stands out above orchestra
virtuosic vocal writing
Wagner:!
singer & orchestra more equal and integrated
Syllabic vocal writing; very little text repetition
wanted to be more faithful to the drama (he described his works as "music dramas")
what happens on stage is reflection of what's happening in music always
• Leitmotif!("guiding motif" similar to idée fixe)
a brief musical phrase associated with some person/event/or idea in the drama
Transformed depending on situation: sad, happy, tragic
Examples
Loge (god of fire) - flickering rhythms, dancing melody with indeterminate shape
Wotan's Spear - steady, confident, downward (0:00)
Sleep: descending line, soft by winds and strings; chromatic
Sword: loud, fanfare, bright
Fate: brief, open-ended, unknown destiny
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Document Summary

Antisemitic writings, but had jewish friends in private. Left-wing radical, involved in uprising in 1849, ed to switzerland where he chilled for 10 years: married twice, 2nd wife was cosima liszt (3 children before married in 1870), daughter of franz liszt. He was poor, but in 1864 king ludwig ii of bavaria gave him some cash (he really liked wagner"s music) 1876 built large opera house (festspielhaus) just for his operas in beyreuth (bavaria) and marie d"agoult. He traveled all around to avoid paying debts (riga, paris, dresden, zurich, bayrouth, venice) Libretti by wagner, based on old germanic legend (he was cocky, so libretted from himself) Folllows struggles of gods/heroes ghting over a magical ring that grants domination. Drama and intrigue continue through 3 generations of protagonists, until ring is returned to rhine and gods are consumed by re: monumental work - over 15 hours (like the lord of the rings!, wotan, chief of the gods.

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