This Overture was written in Paris in 1840 (when Wagner was twenty-seven), in the midst of opposition and failure. It was rewritten in 1853. The composer said in a letter to Liszt that the title of the Overture should be Faust in Solitude. It was originally intended as the first Movement of a 'Faust Symphony'.
The subject is, of course, the mediaeval personage, Dr. Faust, known to us chiefly through Goethe's great Drama and Gounod's Opera, who is tempted to sell his soul for renewed youth.
There is a rather gloomy Introduction, and then the Overture proper opens, the First Violins giving out the principal melody. After a time the Flute gives out a second melody, which the composer said represented the lines from Goethe's Faust which begin, 'A sweet uncomprehended yearning drives forth my feet from woods and meadows free'. Out of these two melodies the Overture grows. The peace of its close may perhaps represent Faust's final redemption. Note, in this connection, the similarity of this idea to that underlying The Flying Dutchman.
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