THE Faust Overture was written in Paris in 1840 (when Wagner was twenty-seven) in the midst of opposition and failure. It was originally designed as the first movement of a 'Faust Symphony,' and was rewritten in 1853. The subject is, of course. Gœnthe's story of Faust, . who is tempted to sell his soul for renewed youth. The peaceful ending may, perhaps, represent his final redemption.
HANS SACHS , the cobbler-poet of Nuremberg, is championing the cause of the young knight Walter, whom some of the pedantic Mastersingers are chary of welcoming to their Guild. Early in the morning of Midsummer Day Sachs sits in his room, a great volume on his lap, and meditates on men's incessant, bitter strife with one another, and considers how he may turn it to the ends he has in view-the furthering of Walter's fortunes with the Guild, and helping the youth to win the maiden he loves.
WHEN Wagner was about twenty-six he visited
London on his way from Riga to Paris. He had a very rough voyage from Riga to London.
The next year he started work on his Opera,
The Flying Dutchman, and the Overture to this work, which has been described as the finest storm music in existence, owes a good deal of its vividness to Wagner's stormy voyage of the year before.
The story of the Dutchman is more or less traditional. It can be traced back to at least the sixteenth century. Everyone is familiar with the legend of the reckless sea-captain who is condemned by Satan to sail until (in Wagner's version) lie finds a woman willing to share his fate. After many years he finds such a self-sacrificing woman, but wishing, in his love for her, to save her from a doom such as his, ho leaves her. She, howover, throws herself into the water to join him ; the spell is broken by her renunciation, and they find rest together.
The Overture is practically an epitome of the opera. A dominating figure is that of the Curse, heard in a strenuous call on the Brass against a quivering, stormy background of Strings. There is a contrasting, prayer-like tune, and also a gay sailor-song. These are all repeated with increasing force towards the end.