Relayed from the National Museum of Wales
National Orchestra of Wales
Prelude and Finale ('Tristan and Isolde')
Procession of the Grail ('Parsifal Traume (Dreams)
Overture, 'The Mastersingers'
Wagner himself arranged the Prelude and the last great scene of his drama Tristan and Isolde for concert performance in the form in which it is to be played this evening. He conducted several performances of it in this shape, before the whole work had been given.
Of the closing scene he tells us himself, 'It is the ecstasy of dying, of the surrender of being, of the final redemption into that wondrous realm from which we wander farthest when we strive to take it by force. Shall we call this Death? Is it not rather the wonder-world of night, out of which, so says the story, the ivy and the vine sprang forth in close embrace over the tombs of Tristan and Isolde?'
Wagner evidently regarded the violoncello as the orchestral voice which should best express his themes associated with lovers. There are many instances in his works of its use in that way. Here, in the Prelude, the beginning of each phrase is played by the 'cellos, the expressive harmony being filled in by the wood winds, The second theme of the Prelude is also given to the 'cellos.
The end of the opera is the great lament which Isolde sings before dying beside Tristan's body.
It begins with a melody which is eloquent of grief, and rises to a great passionate climax of sorrow. But the music is of itself much more eloquent than any translation into words may hope to be.