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Wagner's Great Transition? From 'Lohengrin' to 'Das Rheingold' Author(s): Arnold Whittall Source:

Wagner's Great Transition? From 'Lohengrin' to 'Das Rheingold' Author(s): Arnold Whittall Source: Music Analysis, Vol. 2, No. 3 (Oct., 1983), pp. 269-280 Published by: Blackwell Publishing Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/854158

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ARNOLDWHITTALL

WAGNER'SGREATTRANSITION?FROM LOHENGRIN TO DAS RHEINGOLD

Wagner died in Venice on 13 February 1883: so the

now become the

concerned with criticism, biographyand, latterly, manuscript study analysis in the full and fundamental sense of that term: and this is

surprising in view of the difficulties

best analytical results during

who, in totally different ways, have made the most consistent efforts to be

commentariesand Alfred

Lorenz's

which has been more

post-Wagnerianperiod has

than with

scarcely

post-Wagneriancentury.* It is a century

which the analysis of Wagnerpresents. The

this first century have been achieved by those

comprehensive. Ernest Newman's essentiallyliterary

formal segmentations and comparisons of the laterworks may be, and

replacing them

possible

with

anything as stimulating

that will be

only aftera second century of

often are, arraigned for their superficialities and over-simplifications; but their

critics have not so far succeeded in

or as wide-ranging. Perhaps

Wagner studies devoted to painstakingly detailed analysis, using appropriately

of

synthesis between detail and totality! Yet

even the most cursory considerationof

reminds us of the work that remains to be done with respect to music with

which

music without texts,

be

rigorous and sophisticated techniques. It will then be for the third century

Wagner studies to attempt the great

exactly

what those

techniques might

analysts have so farmade the

most conspicuously constructive progress:

Nearly fifty years after the death of

studies of symphonic music which

connections,

if any, between

technique and

critical

analytical

symphonic music.

Schenkerwe still awaitthose

comprehensive

in

will make definitive statements about the

structuralfundamentalsand stylistic evolution, and between the

the quality of a composition:

accounts of individual

demanding -

compositions with texts - not the purpose of this

comprehensive new theories

eventually emerge. Rather, the object is to consider

fact, we still await truly

composers, and of historical periods. Small wonder,

more

the analysis of large-scale

then, that a subject in some ways

should be in an even more primitive state, and it is

paper

to

attempt a great leap forward, proposing

sophisticated techniques may

certainessential featuresof

from which more

* Versions of this paper were given at the Goldsmiths'

and the Brahms-WagnerSymposium, Florence (May 1983).

College Theory Seminar, London (January 1983),

?MUSIC

ANALYSIS

2:3, 1983 0263-5245 $3.00

269

ARNOLD

WHITTALL

Wagnerianprocedure

do so by comparing

as the

'great

divide' in

Lohengrin is usually

romantic operas,

is

which no worthwhile theory can afford to

ignore,

and to

span what is commonly seen

as the last of Wagner's

as the first of his music dramas; and this

observation that while Lohengrin contains

classification

significant anticipations

sense to enshrine a

gradual

hard to find. They are separatedby five and a half years of essay writing and

abortive sketching -

produced a work more genuinely

transitionalthan either. In the

well be more distant

in manner and method from Lohengrin than all the latermusic dramasfromDie

Walkiire to Parsifal.

Putting Lohengrin andDas Rheingolddirectlyalongside eachother underlines several very basic differences: between a subject which connects history and

legend and a subject which offers a personal gloss

between a subject

beings and a subject

in three separate

of human

between a work

acts and one in four linked scenes; between a self-contained

work and one which forms the Prelude, or Preliminary Evening, to a large

all talk of transition seems futile, since there are

scarcely any significant

nigh

for power and the problems of the powerful, and the hazards which beset

relationships

the two particular workswhich

Wagner'sdevelopment.

by musicologists

classified

Das Rheingold based on the

of the later musico-dramatic practices, Das Rheingold

operaticstyle. According to

any

is remarkablefor its freedom from echos of the old

this view, therefore, the two works cannot be said in

transition from romantic opera to music drama, and the reason is not

sketching which,

have

as the published passages from

Siegfrieds Tod indicate, could perhaps

event, Das Rheingold followed hardon the heels

of the theorising of Oper und Drama, and as a result it may

on a well-established myth;

which is enacted almost

entirely before a public

which contains no such public dimension;

trilogy. In these terms, too,

similarities between the two works, beyond the well-

good and evil, the lust

universal dramaticthemes of the conflict between

between men and women.

The analytical commentaries which conclude this paper are not designed to

that Lohengrin and Das Rheingold are

in mattersof subject, but in text and texture.

of differences and

years of theorising

contradict the received orthodoxy

fundamentally different, not just

Yet there are also important similarities, especially in the spheres of harmony

similarities

and phrase structure, and the balancing

strengthens the argument that Wagner's

works which severed all connections with the past in either their poetry or their

did not result in

music: rather they made

connections with

possible

the creation of new and more far-reaching

more appropriate and potent traditions.

Those years of theorising,

from 1848 to 1853, were not simply a period of

meditation on the currentstate of German opera. Soon

tranquil, uninterrupted

after completing LohengrinWagner drafted the text of a new drama, called

SiegfriedsTod, and wrote an

Entwurf zu einem Drama'. But when his involvement in political events drove him into exile in Switzerland in May 1849, his dissatisfaction with German society and its artistic institutions crystallised, and he felt what he later

accompanyingessay,

'Der Nibelungen-Mythus als

270

MUSIC

ANALYSIS

2:3, 1983

WAGNER'S

GREAT

TRANSITION?

FROM

LOHENGRIN

TO

DAS

RHEINGOLD

described as a 'great obstacle' to instinctive creation.' As Wagner saw it,

dominated by outside influences, whether

from France or Italy, term, through literary

essays, 'Die Kunst und die Revolution' and 'Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft', in

attempt to begin the composition

rather than musical composition. He wrote two major

and he found it easier to counter these, in the short

German opera was debilitatingly

1849; the following

1851,

Oper

year he made an abortive

of Siegfrieds Tod. This was the point at which the Ring began to grow, and in

besides completing the essay 'Eine Mitteilung an meine Freunde' and

of 'Der junge Siegfried' and Wagner realized that the

the treatise

made a few

Nibelung drama needed to grow still further

regenerating

opera through a four-part stage work which would be

circumstances. Between 1851 and 1853, with

Wagner

drafted the texts of Das Rheingold and Die Walkiire, and then further revised

the poem of the

and began to dream of

und Drama, he wrote the text

musical sketches for it. By now,

German

performed in special, Festival

the far-reaching technical ideals of Oper

complete tetralogy.

undDramafresh in his mind,

As Wagner formulated it at the time, the problem with German

opera

was

not purely musical, to do with excessive dependence on French or Italian

models, but extended to the choice of subject-matter and the nature of texts. He came to realize that what he called the 'perfect opera' could be achieved in

two ways: by 'a complete transformationof the poet's role'2:and by chanelling

stream which Beethoven sent pouring

into Germanmusic'.' The transformationof the poet's role would be achieved

by the use of subject-matter drawn from myths and sagas, and by the use of

verse forms less

in Lohengrin, with their

rhymes. As for Beethoven,

foundly simple thematic material unified variationform of the Ninth

the pro-

regular stress patterns and neatly matching end-

narrowly poetic than those which predominate, for example,

'into the bed of music drama the

great

Wagner found particular stimulus in

and powerfully progressing yet explicitly

lacking

in

-

Symphony's finale. For Wagner, the great

defect of all earlier opera, even of such a revered work as Don Giovanni, was

integration,.4 So the

of Beethoven's

impulse for the new

more recent

developments,

programme music. Given the radical

ways five and a half years since the

which Wagner's ideas had developed during the

Lohengrin, and the stages through

which the complete, definitive poem of the Ring had passed before work on

the actual composition of Das Rheingold was begun, it is scarcely to be wondered at that the text of Das Rheingoldshould be a fully-fledged example of Wagner's new poetic style, in its general avoidance of end-rhyme and its consistent use of Stabreim, alliteration. Regular rhyming couplets can be

for

picked out at random from almost any page of the Lohengrinlibretto - example (to choose those with four stresses per line):

'looseness, lack of

cohesion': it was 'all so

cohesion and integration -

were to

tonal as well as thematic

provide

the crucial musical

symphonic processes

drama, although this impulse was itself powerfully affected by

especially the Lisztian brand of symphonic integration in

in

completion

of

MUSIC ANALYSIS

2:3,

1983

271

or

or

ARNOLD

WHITTALL

Des Reinen Arm gib Heldenkraft des Falschen Starkesei erschlafft! (Act I Scene 3) Dass meines Jammerstriiber Schein nie kehr' in deine Feste ein! (Act II Scene 2) Seht da den Herzog von Brabant! Zum Fuihrer sei er euch ernannt! (Act III Scene 3)

But in Das Rheingold I canfind only one such couplet, Woglinde's incantationin Scene 1:

Nur wer der Minne Macht versagt Nur wer der Liebe Lust verjagt

and even that couplet has prominent

Importantthough a detailed study

the proper analysis of these works, it seems unlikely

useful material for comparison based on significant similarities - the kind of

comparison which would enable

this matteras an independent

and musical form

(although it is worth pointing out that the poem of Lohengrin is not completely

lacking in metrical flexibility, andnot completely fixatedon end-rhyme; even so,

there is considerable difference between its moments of blank verse and the

verbal style of Das Rheingold). In the commentary to his transcription of the

topic, but rather examine the connection between poetic

elements in both texts. I will not therefore

alliterationas well as the rare end-rhyme.

of textual style and structurethereforeis for

that it will provide much

us to argue thatthereare genuinely transitional

pursue

sketches for SiegfriedsTod, Robert Bailey has equated

music of Lohengrin' with 'Wagner's almost complete

whereas, of course, triple metre is very prominent indeed in Das Rheingold.

Bailey considers that 'this shortcoming

outgrowth of writing poetic texts

music was undoubtedly a direct

'the central flaw in the

avoidanceof triple meter':

in the

almost exclusively in iambs and trochees' -

that is,

illuminating to examinethe one section ofLohengrin which does use triplemeter,

featuresare present herewhich contrastwith those in sections

to see whether

regular successionsof short-long and long-short feet.5 It may thereforebe

any

based on the more characteristic duple or quadruplepatterns.

The sectionin question is the King's

in Act I

exceptional, nothing to suggest triple

prayer andensemble beforethe brief fight

Scene 3. If we start with the text

between Lohengrin and Telramund

itself we canfind nothing metre. There are eight

rhyme-scheme which is, admittedly, slightly irregular(ababccdd):

ratherthan duple

lines of eight syllables each, in regular iambs, with a

Mein Herr und Gott, nun ruf ich dich, dass du dem Kampf zugegen sei'st! Durch Schwertes Sieg ein Urtheil sprich, das Trug und Wahrheitklar erweist! Des Reinen Arm gieb Heldenkraft, des Falschen Stirke sei erschlafft:

So hilf uns, Gott, zu dieser Frist, weil uns're Weisheit Einfalt ist!

272

MUSIC

ANALYSIS

2:3, 1983

WAGNER'S

GREAT

TRANSITION?

FROM

LOHENGRIN

TO

DAS

RHEINGOLD

Wagner's setting (Ex. 1) skilfully varies its own accentual and rhythmic patterns, even if the result, aesthetically, has about it a hymn-like sententious- ness ratherthana Sarastro-like sublimity. The setting in the King's solo sectionis almost entirely syllabic, and Wagner's basic model is that of four bars per line,

avoidedin three ways: by the varied

rhythmic profiles of the phrases

between eight-barunits;

text, so that the total

and by the use of afour-barcoda repeating the lastline of

length is 38 bars, not 32. Nevertheless, thereis a regularity

and balancewhich is in to do with the choiceof

with rhythmicpredictability and monotony

themselves; by the insertion of one-bar links

with the song-style of the music andhas nothing

well havecome about simply

that of the Pilgrims' Hymn in

appropriate here: there are indeed similarities. Passages in

Lohengrin with duple or

syllable line in rhyming couplets) simpler arioso style of Lohengrin's mein lieber Schwan!', as well

challenge, 'Welch Zaubern dich auch

recitative than song (Telramund's narrationin I/I, or various

such regularity completely set aside, in text and music alike. But when, as is

places in II/1) is

closer to

as in Telramund's belligerent outburst of

scene, 'Nun sei bedankt,

comparable regularity, both in the

quadruple metre but with a similartext structure (eight-

because Wagner felt that a solemn music like

keeping

triple metre:thatchoice may

Tannhauserwas

have a

own firstsolo in this

hergefiihrt!'. Only

in

passages

predominantly the case, Wagner's

Wagnercomposes

still have done so even if he had used more

essence disruptive: and it is therefore significant that what is

in Lohengrin, the orchestralform of

the theme which accompanies the exit of Elsa and Ortrudin 11/2, should fill its

sixteen barswithout a thumpingly regularcadencing

bar-line. The conclusion seems to be that breadth, which this melody has in

in laterworksthan

develop simplicity of the Bridal

Chorus, even though it could be argued that the chorus has more of a forward-

abundance, was amorefruitful

the kind of short-breathed, cadentially predictable

regular metreand end-rhyme, then

within the frameworkof that regularity, andwould doubtless

is flexible, but not in

text offers

triple

metre. He

generally

felt to be

the most impressive and expressive melody

aftereach second or fourth

quality for Wagner to

looking motivic process than does the Act II melody.

It is not possible to find in Das

with a regular, end-

direct comparison with

King Henry's prayer. Ideally, for the transition argument to work, we would

time with such a text, and duple time would need to be

need a passage in duple

as exceptional in Das Rheingold as triple time is in Lohengrin. But if we set aside

a song-like passage in a combinationof

duple and compound time which, like King Henry's Prayer, is built in two parts:a 'model' (in this case 16bars), anda consequent section thatis essentially developmental, like the ensemble which follows the prayerin Lohengrin.And since the 'model' part of this episode, Mime's lament from Scene 3, has a

perfectly regular phrase structure, in common with many other song-like episodes in the work, it seems undeniable that Wagnerwas perfectly capableof using regular, duple phrase structure if he wanted to, however regular or irregularthe metrical basis of his text.

the differences of text form, we can find

Rheingold a passage

purposes

of

rhymed text and a lackof alliterationfor the

MUSIC ANALYSIS

2:3,

1983

273

Ex.1 Lohengrin, Act I

The King

Mein

My

A

-I I

-

ge gegen

at

our

.I

sei'st!

strife!

Scene 3

Herr

Lord

ff

ARNOLD

WHITTALL

und

and

,d

Durch

Speak

Gott,

God

- I

Schwer-

forth

tes

thy

nun

I

ruf'

call

i ,I

Sieg

sen

-

ich

on

cin

tence

dich,

Thee_

ff

dasscu dem

Ask-ing

Thy

Kampf

pres

-

zu-

ence

Ur-

theil

through the

sprich,

sword,

das

Let

IS LIP"=

c res c

L!: P:=i=-

mf

di

p

=FL

basicthemes is 'the evident differencesin the characterand

my content of the orchestralmaterialwhich

Henry's prayer is concerned, the accompaniment is of no wider motivic

and while a

thematic

significance than is the melody

supports the vocal lines'. As faras King

The second of

itself: it is

pure accompaniment,

connections between the Prayer music

and other elements in the work, it could scarcely be argued that the

here gives more consistent attention to those motivic elements

accompaniment than does the

Mime's lament is itself a simple descant to an equally simple motivic exposition

contrast, the vocal line for the first 16 bars of

analyst

could discover some

By

vocal line.

274

MUSIC ANALYSIS2:3,1983

WAGNER

Arm

pure

ws

S GREAT

gieb

he

-

TRANSITION?

Hel

ro

-

-

den -

ic

kraft,

strength

is

-

so

So

hilf

help

he-

dom is

Ein-fal

but

uns,

us

Gott,

God

Am

ist,

vain,

FROM

LOHENGRIN

TO

DAS

0

 

-

,>

des

Fal

-

schen

Star -

From

false

-

hood

take

S

Ip

zu

this

die

time

-

ser

of

,

>>

ke sel

a-way

Frist,

times

weil

Forall

un

-

eis-heit

ourwis-dom

s-re

Bin

is

rit

-

RHEINGOLD

>

er

the

-

>

schlafft:

might

weil

For

un - sre

all

our

falt

but vain!

ist!

-

conventional

Rheingold episodes, the most impressive evidence of something resembling

into and

amplified by

in Das Rheingold, a

Lohengrin, the 38-bar prayer

the sections which follow them and complete the formal unit. In

symphonic techniques

even

though, in this case, the motive is virtually indistinguishable from a

accompanimentalfigure. Certainly,

in

both the Lohengrin andDas

is in the way the opening sections are

integrated

leads to a 51-bar ensemble:

'exposition' leads to a development which is more than twice as long -

at a faster

tempo.

16-bar

38 bars, though performed

Of course, I could scarcely have chosen a more backward-lookingepisode

MUSICANALYSIS2:3, 1983

275

ARNOLD

WHITTALL

from Lohengrin thanthis one,

holding up

genuinely prophetic of the later Wagner

a classic -

orromantic -

instanceof a set piece

widely regarded as

the dramaticaction.

But even a passage

as

as

Ortrud's outburst in

very

11/2,

'Entweihte G6tter!' -

KingHenry's -

whichis an invocationof divineforces

different

from

themusicdramas.Itsrhetoricis

content -

directlyassociated,leitmotivically, withOrtrud'sevil designs.

quite lacksthemotivic perspectives we expect to findin

prophetic,certainly, butnotits

actualmusical

unless, that is, every diminishedseventhin Lohengrin is regarded as

nevertheless, recurrentthematicelementsin

Lohengrin, and all

distinguish them from true Leitmotive.

give

similarattentiontothewhole

to the firstsceneof Act II as the

therefore,presumably, the

There are,

theworthwhilecommentariesontheworkdiscussthisuseofwhatare normally

called 'themes of reminiscence'to

Though thesecommentaries invariably failto

matterof how Wagner treatsmaterial developmentally whichdoesnotrecuras

a 'themeof

most forward-looking in

most genuinely transitionalin methodand manner:that is, while this scene

cannotbe

works, itdoes give

moment, I haveno

ratherthan simply coverwell-trodden ground, I shall pass ontoamoredetailed

examinationofcertainvitalformalandharmonicfactorsinsalientextractsfrom

thetwoworks.

with the consistentmotivicstructuresof the later

reminiscence',theyrightlypoint

its thematic processes and

simplyequated

someindicationofhowthosestructureswouldwork.Forthe new perspectives to offeron thesemotivic matters, and so,

So far,

themain similarity identifiedin

Lohengrin andDas Rheingold hasbeen

Wagner'stendency to use multiples of two-bar phrases asthefundamentalunit

and, occasionally, fromwhichto deviate.

Despite

works, wecannotclaimthat Wagner's methodsof

transformedwhen he began to

continuity with respect

callsinto

in harmonic character, and less suitablefor considerationin fundamental

harmonic terms, thanromantic opera.

of measurementon whichto build

the differenttextualand texturalcharacteristicsevidentin the two

form-building were suddenly

compose Das Rheingold; and thereis also a

harmonic processes which

inevitably moreradical

to fundamentaltonaland

questionanyassumption thatmusicdramais

Henry'sprayer is notableforits prolonging enrichmentsof dominant

of the ensemblewhichfollowsthe solo section:the twelve-bar, a

enrichmentof the dominantchord here involves the truncated

in its full

form,partitions the octave by

composer to reachthechorda tritone away

Ex.

2).

sequence to

startingpoint withnotable rapidity(*in

King

and subdominant chords, with the most extendedenrichment coming in the

earlystages

cappella

presentation of a progressionwhich,

minor thirds,therebyenabling the

Wagner reachesthe

tritonein relatively orthodoxfashion:butinsteadof continuing the

get himselfbackas naturallyas possibleto his startingpoint,he writesa one-

bar, unaccompanied linear motion from tritone to starting point (FR-Bb) and then devotes six bars(of which three only areshown here) to stabilizing the surprisingly sudden returnto the dominant:

fromhis

276

MUSIC

ANALYSIS

2:3, 1983

WAGNER

Ex.2

Elsa

(1)

Ortrud(2)

Lohengrin (1)

Ielranund(3)

The King(4)

Y-

S GREAT

TRANSITION?

.

5isIIJ

_

FROM

EI

T )

l."B r

LOHENGRIN

r

(K.)

(K.)

IF

TO

DAS

,

RHEINGOLD

'

i

T

--"

'Du kiindest nun dein wahr Gericht, mein Gott und Herr, drum zag' ich nicht!

2Ich baue fest auf seine Kraft, die, wo er kimpft, ihm Sieg verschafft.

3(HerrGott!) Herr Gott, nun verlassmein' Ehre nicht!

4Mein Herr und Gott, dich rufe ich!

Nun kiind uns

dein wahr Gericht!)

This, and the many other comparable instances, shows the skill with which

harmony in Lohengrin.Comparison with the

an advance,

16-bar'model'

King Henry's

major) to enrich its basic

section elaboratesthis the dominantchord of since it

major is not

here, however; and the actual closure on the tonic of G minor occurs

only at

present

is

the mediant Bb : and this

particular enrichment

diatonicism, but the hugely expanded 38-bar consequent

prayer, with only a tonicization of the mediant

section here is, harmonically, even more straightforward

a

Mime episode

Wagner could

control chromatic

from Scene 3 of Das Rheingold nevertheless suggests

greater adventurousness, or at least a greaterflexibility. The

than

(Bb

closely

of the tonic

harmony

chord by emphasizing has enormous motivic

significance,

identified with Alberich. The tonic chord of Bb minor or

the startof the next section of the scene, without any transition.

MUSICANALYSIS 2:3, 1983

277

ARNOLD

WHITTALL

As these

examples suggest, it is proving impossible

Wagner analysis, and

and integration.

Wagner's

harmonicand

that is even more the case in my final

mind, the first new German

to

separate

formal factors in

comparison. Das Rheingold was, in

opera: we may therefore feel confident that he would have wished to provide a

convincing, conclusive example of his new 'symphonic' way of achieving

cohesion

section which does not

of

direct

the section in which that tonality was first unfolded?

tonality, but which amounts to an extended,

How better to do this than to end the work with a

simply confirm the central importance of a particular

developmental recapitulation

Lohengrin has no

precedent to offer for this. For although the Act I Prelude does relate fairly

closely

to

parts of

'In

the final scene's focal event,

Lohengrin's narrative

fernem Land', the predominant arioso style of that monologue

symphonic style. And although

the ending of Lohengrin makes skilful use of variousthematicreminiscencesand

symbolic tonal relations, notably the crucial one between F# and A, there are

even

those which

that the last 150barsof

Das Rheingoldrepresent a developmental recapitulation of the 57

begin Scene 2, especially as not all the bars in question

signature;

Of itself the Valhallamusic which begins Scene 2 - the work's fourth Period,

according to Alfred Lorenz -

harmonic character,compared with a

formal scheme in

difference between the two passages lies in the way their motivic potential is

in the case of the Bridal Chorus. The basic formal

outline of Period 4 in Das Rheingold -

- provides a Principal Section of 20 bars progressing

Lorenz's terminology6

from tonic to dominant: a middle section of 8

which enriches the dominant chord and develops the principal Valhalla motive;

then, after a 5-bar interruption, a 22-bar recapitulatorysection, enriching the

the majorpart of

tonic chord. The equivalent segment Lorenz's Bogenform 19th Period7 -

including the coda), with the final section incorporating

other developments and recapitulations as well as that of

addition,

duced as Wotan salutesthe fortress, and a remarkabledouble enrichmentof the

monologue

has little in common with the Prelude's more

no broader parallels between that ending

were apparentlycomposed

of

It would be something

and earlierevents in the work - after the ending itself.

an over-simplification to say

bars which

have the same time-

but that statement would convey at least the essence of the situation.

is possibly a little less

regular in phrase-structure

and rathermore consistently diatonic in

Lohengrin -

exploited elsewhere; or not,

the Bridal Chorus, for example. But the real

a clear example of Bogenform, in

bars, after a 2-bar interruption,

of the closing scene -

has sections of 30, 30 and 90 bars (or 105,

within its tonal frame the Valhallatheme. In

spectacular new material, intro-

the central section contains some

dominant

chord -

Ab major -

to take the harmony through

F minor

to

C

major. Harmonic enrichment of basic diatonic structures was already well developed in Lohengrin;but that work has far more of conventional cadential rhetoric than does Das Rheingold. The later work does not literally shun emphatic perfect cadences, yet when they do occur they aretreatedwith a new power and imagination(compare, for example, the endings of'In fernem Land' with Alberich's Curse or Wotan's Salutation). Thus there is a shift of emphasis

278

MUSIC

ANALYSIS

2:3, 1983

WAGNER

S GREAT

TRANSITION?

FROM

LOHENGRIN

TO

DAS

RHEINGOLD

in the elements which constitute and define the 2-, 4- or 8-bar units in Das

Rheingold, a shift which promotes a greaterstylistic and structuralrichness in

the development of successions of tonal focuses and implications. Wagner has

become more committed to that whole process of loosening the ties between

tonics and dominants - a process that has

post-Wagnercentury

so influentialformusic of the

and so problematic for post-Wagneranalysts. Clearly it is

proved

by the combination of motivic

evolution and harmonicenrichment which is new in Das Rheingold; andit is the

Lohengrin which as a thoroughly

work whose main

convincing

interest is

If, as seems to be the case, Lohengrin is more concernedwith differences than

similarities, it is in this sense at least a more radicalwork than the first music drama. But I doubt whether we should apply such rigorous 'Modernist' standardsas to what constitutes radicalismto worksfromthe mid-19th century,

especially as it must in the end be the

different from, more

progressive than, Lohengrin; it

share certain basic structuraland

features of harmonic characterand

form with Lohengrin. But the differences between the two works are not just

musical, not just a matterof the presence of

dramas,Wagner sought subjects

in which 'allthat smacks of convention and all that pertains to abstractreasonis

completely missing's:

would

that,

aspirations. It certainly

has less in the way of 'retardingexplanations' than any

of the later, longer dramas, and less of conventional operatic device. It may be

reckless in the extreme to

Rheingold lacks the purely

that it has action and reflection in better balance than any save, perhaps, Die

Meistersinger.

the impulse

for

larger continuity provided

relative absence of conjunction between these two factors in ensures that, in the end, that work is likely to be judged

and satisfying opera, rather than as a hybrid in its proto-musico-dramatic features.

greater integration present

not just

in Das

Rheingold that makes the analyst say

the work is

is actually better. Das Rheingold does indeed

syntactic

consistently evolving musical ideas,

the Leitmotive, in Das Rheingold. In his music

spare

of

the

and he sought a simply, easily grasped action which

poet 'the necessity of retardingexplanations'.9 It may well be

all the music dramas, Das Rheingold most purely fulfils these

challenge

the conventional wisdom that Das

musical richness of the laterworks. But I do believe

Stylistically, for sure, Wagner

needed a clean breakafter Lohengrin -

a point

amply confirmed by the failings evident in the sketches for Siegfrieds Tod. And

even if the kinds of phrase structureand chromatic harmonyalready evident in the romantic operas survive in the music dramas, their effect was substantially

changed by being brought

motivic processes and the new, far less stylized dramaticcharacterwhich they promoted. Of course, there are many other possible types of comparison between LohengrinandDas Rheingoldthan the ones I have touched on. And any comparative study is likely to remind us of the senses in which 'style' is foreground; I mean that without some continuity of the most fundamentalsort, coherent style itself would probably disintegrate, or at least fail to develop effectively. Wagner's attempt to begin the composition of Siegfrieds Todcame

into contact with the new kind of text, the new

MUSI(C ANALIYSIS 2:3,

1983

279

ARNOLD

WHITTALL

to grief in 1851 for a variety of reasons. But the survival of the composer's

fundamental technical principles, his structural essentials, was not at risk, and

it is this

with

which Wagner's work on Das Rheingold andDie Walkiirewas eventually able to

proceed.

continuity

which

ultimately explains

the

extraordinaryspeed

NOTES

1. 'Zukunftsmusik' (1860): 'Musicof the Future',

RobertL. Jacobs(London:Eulenberg,1979),p.

23.

in Three WagnerEssays, trans.

2. Loc. cit.

3. Op. cit., p.

19.

4.

5.

TheDiaries of Cosima Wagner, trans. Geoffrey Skelton (London: Collins 1980),Vol. 2, p. 493.

'Wagner's Musical Sketches for Siegfrieds Tod'in StudiesinMusic History:Essaysfor

Oliver Strunk, ed. HaroldPowers (Princeton: Princeton University,1968),p.

478.

Vol. 1: Der Musikalische Aufbau des

6. Das GeheimnisderForm bei Richard Wagner.

Biihnenfestspieles Der Ring des Nibelungen(Tutzing: Schneider, 1966), pp. 93-4.

7. Lorenz, op. cit., pp.

8.

195-6.

'Musicof the Future',p. 24.

9. Op. cit., p.34.

MUSICANALYSIS2:3, 1983

280