Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/386

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870

��WAGNER.

��The dialogue in each scene shall exhibit the inner motives of the characters. Scene by scene the progress of the story shall be shown to be the result of these motives ; and a decisive event, a turning-point in the story, shall mark the close of each act. The play being sketched, the leading motives of the dialogue fixed, Wagner turns to the verse. Here the full extent of the divergence of his drama from the paths of the opera becomes apparent. He takes no account of musical forms as the opera has them recitative, aria, duet, ensemble, etc. If only the verse be emo- tional and strongly rhythmical, music can be trusted to absorb and glorify it. With Wagner as with ,<33schylus the verse is conceived and executed in the orgiastic spirit of musical sound. There is no need of, indeed there is no room for, subtleties of diction, intricate correspondence of rhyme and metre ; music can supply all that, and much more. Whilst working on The Ring he found that alliterative verse as it exists in the poems of the elder Edda, in Beowulf, etc., was best suited to his subject, and that such verse could be written in German without offering violence to the language. In Tristan and Parsifal he makes use of a combination of alliteration, assonance, and rhyme. Firm and concise, abounding in strong accents, the lines seem to demand music ; indeed musical emphasis and prolongation of sound render them more readily intelligible and more impressive.

The poem finished, Wagner begins the music, or rather begins to write the music, for it is obvious that whereas in his case playwright and musician are one, the musical conception will go hand in hand with the poetic, will perhaps even precede it. Together with the first concep- tion of the characters and situations at a very early stage in the growth of the work, certain musical phrases suggest themselves. These phrases, themes, 'Leitmotive.^are the musician's equivalents for the dominant emotions or charac- teristics of the dramatis personse. Together with other musical germs of kindred origin they are the subjects in a technical sense the themes which the dramatic symphonist manipulates, using the full resources of Beethoven's orchestra, and adding thereto whatever the dramatic action may suggest. The pictures and actions on the stage are as visions induced by the symphonic music. The orchestra prepares for and floats the action, enforces details, recalls bygones, is, as it were, the artistic conscience of the whole performance.

Wagner's treatment of the voice, his vocal melody, has undergone many a change. First he tried to find melodies effective from a vocalist's

i [See the article LEIT-MOTIF, vol. 11. p. 115.] The term Is llerr v. Wolzogen's, not Wagner's, and should be used cautiously. At Bay- reuth. In the summer of 1877,after warmly praising Herr v. Wolzogen's ' Themat ische Leltf&den ' for the interesting information they afford, and for the patience displayed in the attempts at thematic analysis, Wagner added : ' To a musician this naming and tracing of themes is not particularly significant. If dilettanti are thus induced to study a pianoforte arrangement a little more attentively, I can hare no objection, but that does not concern us musicians (fur uns Musiker 1st das aber nichts). It may be worth while to look at the complex combinations of themes in some of my (cores, to see how music can be applied to the drama , this, however, is a matter for private study.'

��WAGNER.

point of view ; then, in the Hollander, and more consciously in Tannhauser the melodic ebb and flow is regulated by the action ; in Lohengrin the emotions expressed, as much as any pecu- liarity of melody, attract attention, whilst characteristic harmony and instrumentation en- force the melodic outlines. In the later works the vocal melody often springs direct from the words ; it is frequently independent of the or- chestra, in some cases indeed it is but an inten- sified version of the actual sounds of the German language.

From the blatant and at times almost vulgar style of Kienzi there is a steady and truly as- tonishing increase in power and concentration, subtlety and delicacy. The Nibelungen, Tris- tan, and subsequent works abound in harmonic, melodic, and rhythmical combinations of great beauty and striking originality. The innovations in harmony and melody peculiar to Wagner are mainly due to the free use of chromatics. Besides bold chromatic and enharmonic progressions, he constantly employs chromatic anticipatory, changing, and passing notes, which have a melodic significance only. For purposes of an- alysis such chromatic notes should be eliminated the harmonic framework will then stand forth clearly, and prove perfectly consistent. To take a couple of examples already quoted : the opening bars of the prelude to 'Tristan' given under LEIT-MOTIF, vol. ii. p. 117 if the Gg in bar 2 and the Ag in bar 3 be eliminated from the treble part, the progression appears thus:

a - b

dg - dq

B - gg f - E.

In the two bars from Act ii. of ' Tristan* given under HARMONY, vol.i. p. 684 the two chromatic notes of the upper parts are sustained as suspen- sions into the next chord, etc. ; similar examples might be cited by the dozen. In the article HARMONY attention is drawn to the compli- cated use of suspensions and passing notes ' which follow from the principles of Bach in polyphony as applied to Harmony'; and the opening bars of the Vorspiel to the Meistersinger are there cited as an example of the manner in which suspensions are taken 'in any form or posi- tion which can in the first place be possibly prepared by passing notes, or in the second place be possibly resolved even by causing a fresh discord, so long as ultimate resolution into con- cord is feasible in an intelligible manner.' [See vol. i. p. 682-83.] The greater part of Wagner's chro- matic or enharmonic progressions will be found to be based upon correct diatonic progressions in minor or major. Exceptionally, the chromatic progression of parts upwards or downwards, or in contrary motion (Tristan, PF. arrt. p. 2 5, lines 1, 2, etc.), forms a sufficient link between apparently contradictory chords. The exigencies and sugges- tions of the dramatic action fully account for sudden and far-fetched modulations, enharmonic changes, rhythmical elisions (as when a beat or a

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