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Wagner's Tristan und Isolde - How does the quote above come through in the music?

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Introduction

?...there is henceforth no end to the yearning, longing, rapture, and misery of love: world, power, fame, honor, chivalry, loyalty, and friendship, scattered like an insubstantial dream; one thing alone left living: longing, longing unquenchable, desire forever renewing itself, craving and languishing; one sole redemption: death, surcease of being, the sleep that knows no waking!? How does the quote above come through in the music? Wagner?s Tristan und Isolde is an opera and the plot consists of a love triangle between Tristan, Isolde and King Mark. Isolde is married to King Mark but Tristan and Isolde both accidentally drank a love potion, which resulting in the two becoming lovers with an unending but impossible love for each other. ...read more.

Middle

even more prolonged than the original desire theme, which ascends chromatically, and this creates the feeling that the phrase is never-ending as, harmonically, the phrase is not going anywhere predictable. From the Tristan chord, it resolves to another dischord as the other chords go down against the upwards resolution. This creates an uncomfortable feeling as a listener as you do not expect this to happen and it is because of this that a feeling of longing for resolution occurs. Throughout the entire piece there is constant harmonic ambiguity. This creates an unsatisfactory feeling as the listener never feels as if the piece has settled to a specific key or tonality. ...read more.

Conclusion

An unsatisfactory feeling, and you do not know when the chromaticisim will end, creating the feeling as if the line is longing and does not stop but is unending as the harmony does not resolve or go anywhere specific. The quote above states that there is ?one thing alone left living? which in the context of the whole opera is the love shared between Isolde and Tristan. This finally comes through in the music at bar 83 as this is the only truly tutti bar following a large build up towards this major turning point in the prelude. The full orchestration creates a feeling of relief following the tension and longing that occurred previously and is emphasized by the fortissimo dynamic marking in all instruments as well as the tremolo that occurs in the divided viola parts and cell part. ...read more.

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