Tristan und Isolde - The Grange School Blogs

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Tristan und Isolde - The Grange School Blogs
Wagner -­‐ Prelude to Tristan und Isolde
Set Works 2013/14 - The Grange School & Sports College
Wagner: Background
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This composi6on is the prelude (or overture) to “ Tristan und Isolde”
“Tristan und Isolde” is a Gesamtkunst -­‐ werk (a work that aims to being all the arts together). Wagner himself was responsible for almost every element of the opera: words, music, produc:on, set etc.
The outline of the story involves Tristan (Medieval Knight) who travels from Cornwall to Ireland in order to bring back Isolde in order to marry King Mark. The pair fall in love & betray the trust of the King which has disastrous consequences. “Tristan und Isolde” was wriGen between 1857 -­‐ 1859 at a 6me when Wagner was having an affair -­‐ the tale of doomed love is almost certainly to be reflec6ve of the composer’s personal life.
Wagner: Background
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The prelude flows straight into the first act of the Opera which explains why it begins in A Minor but ends on an imperfect cadence in C Major.
“Tristan und Isolde” was first performed in 1865. Previously it had been judged to be too difficult and too long in dura6on to perform -­‐ almost 4 hours!
The opera itself is widely regarded as a highly important composi6on which had significant impact on composi6on during the mid -­‐ late 19th century. In par6cular Wagner’s use of harmony to create tonal ambiguity was revolu6onary. Wagner: The Score:
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The Prelude is scored for a large orchestra, including the following transposing instruments (i.e. not concert pitch):
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Cor Anglais (sounding a perfect 5th lower than printed)
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Clarinet & Bass Clarinet in A (sounding a minor 3rd lower than printed)
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Two horns in F (sounding a perfect 5th lower than printed)
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Two horns in E (sounding a minor 6th lower than printed)
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Two trumpets in F (sounding a perfect 4th above the printed pitch)
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Double Bass (sounding an octave lower than wriKen)
Wagner: Melody -­‐ Leitmotif ✤
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Melodies are oZen built up from smaller units or fragments known as Leitmo:f
Wagner forms “unending melody” with phrases that join & overlap to form a seamless flow of roman6c texture
Each leitmoIf is associated with a par6cular person, place, object or emo6onal state in the opera.
Play through the following Leitmotif Key Question: What emotional state or object do you associate each with & why?
A
B
C
D
Wagner: Melody -­‐ Leitmotif Rising minor 6th (8 semi tones) represent yearning
Grief -­‐ cellos Bar 1 and 2. Used to form part of the Tristan Chord as it overlaps:
Desire -­‐ oboes bar 2 and 3. Material from this melody is used to form other mo6fs
Wagner: Melody -­‐ Leitmotif “Glance” is based on Mo,f X
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Glance -­‐ cellos Bar 17 -­‐ 21. The moment when Isolde was won over when Tristan looked into her eyes. Wagner: Melody -­‐ Leitmotif Love PoIon -­‐ Cellos bars 25 -­‐ 28. This melody represents the drink that seals their relentless love.
Can you link the Leitmotif below?
Desire
Glance
Love Potion
Wagner: Melody -­‐ Leitmotif l i n k s
Desire
Love Potion
Glance
Wagner: Melody -­‐ Leitmotif (Further Examples)
Magic -­‐ This mo6f represents the magic casket Isolde got from her Mother which contains all the magic po6ons and draZs she needs including the love and death po6on.
Death -­‐ This mo6f represents Death. It can be heard as Tristan drinks Isolde's po6on in act 1, thinking it to be poison (although it is in fact a love po6on)
Wagner: Melody. Further notes:
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Chroma6cism
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Appoggiaturas
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Sequen6al repe66on (Love po:on & glance leitmo:fs)
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Inversion
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Fragmenta6on
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Many parts of the orchestra double each other -­‐ very rarely are more than two principal melodies heard at conce
Wagner: Harmony. The “Tristan” chord:
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Wagner creates deliberate tonal ambiguity through use of sustained, lingering & oZen unresolved dissonances. The first chord, which is closely linked to the rest of the opera, is known as the Tristan chord. During the mid 19th century this chord was revoluIonary & uses the “Grief and Desire” leitmoIf which are a key symbol of the tragic themes which “Grief”
underpin the opera:
“Desire”
F -­‐ B -­‐ D# -­‐ G#
(half diminished 7th chord -­‐ diminished triad (F -­‐G# -­‐ B) & minor 7th (D#) Chroma6c accent which resolves by rising to the B
Wagner: Harmony. The “Tristan” chord:
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Significantly the V7 in A minor which follows the ‘Tristan’ chord in Bar 3 does not resolve (i.e. to the tonic as you would normally expect). Instead the chord is followed by silence.
This occurs again in bar 16 -­‐ 17. This 6me the two chords (bars 1 -­‐ 3) are transposed into C Major. Again there is no resolu6on -­‐ just silence. The phrase ends on chord V7 of the new key C Major.
There are many unresolved cadences which use V7 chords (e.g. bars 12 -­‐ 13).
in Bars 16 -­‐ 17 the music surges to a climax. With chromaIcism in the violins, Wagner then uses an interrupted cadence of V7 -­‐ VI.
Bar 17 also features an appoggiatura (melodic ornament: ‘leaning’ note which creates dissonance before resolving by step) -­‐ in this case a B above F Major (VI).
Wagner: Harmony
ChromaIcism
Appoggiatura

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