The Tragic and the Ecstatic: The Musical Revolution of Wagner's Tristan and Isolde

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During the years preceding the composition of Tristan and Isolde, Wagner's aesthetics underwent a momentous turnaround, principally as a result of his discovery of Schopenhauer. Many of Schopenhauer's ideas, especially those regarding music's metaphysical significance, resonated with patterns of thought that had long been central to Wagner's aesthetics, and Wagner described the entry of Schopenhauer into his life as "a gift from heaven." Chafe argues that Wagner's Tristan and Isolde is a musical and dramatic exposition of metaphysical ideas inspired by Schopenhauer. The first part of the book covers the philosophical and literary underpinnings of the story, exploring Schopenhauer's metaphysics and Gottfried van Strassburg's Tristan poem. Chafe then turns to the events in the opera, providing tonal and harmonic analyses that reinforce his interpretation of the drama. Chafe acts as an expert guide, interpreting and illustrating most important moments for his reader. Ultimately, Chafe creates a critical account of Tristan, in which the drama is shown to develop through the music.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In this comprehensive study of Tristan und Isolde Eric Chafe has created a text that will serve as a point of reference for generations of scholars when they refer to this seminal work...Chafe has created a model investigation that will enable listeners to return to Wagner's familiar score and reclaim for themselves the nuances in the opera." —Tristania
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195176476
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 5/13/2005
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Eric Chafe is a Professor of composition at Brandeis University

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Table of Contents

1 The path to Schopenhauer 16
2 Tristan and Schopenhauer 32
3 Tristan and Gottfried von Strassburg I : Minne 49
4 Tristan and Gottfried von Strassburg II : Honor 68
5 The desire music 85
6 The prelude : a musico-poetic view 100
7 Tragedy and dramatic structure 121
8 The two death motives 134
9 Musico-poetic design in act 1 155
10 Act 2, scene 1 : night and minne 176
11 The love scene in act 2 : transition and periodicity 194
12 Tristan's answer to King Mark : moral and philosophical questions 221
13 Act 3 : musico-poetic design 230
14 Love as fearful torment 242
15 The road to salvation 266
App Transcriptions from the compositional draft of act 2, scene 2 285
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