Richard Wagner (1813-1883)

Here are three links to think about Wagner’s writing and thoughts. Consider the ideas of nationalism and antisemitism in the context of the romantic period as they will be a part of our discussions as we move into the 20th Century.

Der Ring des Nibelungen — The Ring of the Nibelung (1848-1874)

1. Leitmotif

(please ignore the guy’s gestures… !)

For those particularly interested in the connections between Star Wars and Richard Wagner, follow this link. You can also just scroll down to the leitmotif section.

Q1.1 Could the music stand for itself? In other words, does the music “work” without the story, opera, staging, acting, etc.?

Q1.2  What is the relation between the leitmotif and a regular motif? 

2. Extreme Chromaticism and extended orchestra

Listen to “The Ride of the Valkyries” from the beginning of Act III in Die Walküre (the Valkyrie)


Listen also to the following video from Sigfried. Particularly listen for the chromatic modulations up until 2:20.

Questions for Thought:

Q2.1 How much of the idea of tonality as home is retained when experiencing so much chromaticism and constant modulation?

Q2.2 Tonal ambiguity (as in Schumann’s dichterliebe), constant modulation (as in Schubert’s erkling), and chromaticism (as in Chopin’s prelude) and the extreme chromaticism we find in Wagner, are all ways of pushing the boundaries of tonal music. Are there many options after this? What do you think happens next?

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