Richard Wagner: Götterdämmerung, Siegfried's Funeral March

>> Friday, October 30, 2009

Act 3 Siegfried rejoins the hunters, who include Gunther and Hagen. While resting, he tells them about the adventures of his youth. Hagen gives him another potion, which restores his memory, and he tells of discovering the sleeping Brünnhilde and awakening her with a kiss. Hagen stabs him in the back with his spear. The others look on in horror, and Hagen explains in three words ("Meineid rächt sich!" - Perjury avenges itself) that since Siegfried admitted loving Brunnhilde, the oath he swore on Hagen's spear was obviously false, therefore it was Hagen's duty to kill him with it. Hagen calmly walks away into the wood. Siegfried recollects his awakening of Brünnhilde and dies. His body is carried away in a solemn funeral procession (Siegfried's funeral march) that forms the interlude as the scene is changed and recapitulates much of the music associated with Siegfried and the Walsungs.


Jasper October 30, 2009 at 1:55 PM  

Is that a cannon at 5:50?! Never caught that before.... Is it a standard rendition of the score? Or maybe Wagnerian enthusiasm has overflowed into audience gunfire?
(Wouldn't be the first time, I'm sure.)

A nice exercise illustrating the power of Wagner's music is watching Martin Boorman's Hollywood cultfilm Excalibur (1981). The film is pretty haunting, actually, but not at all because of anything in the film proper, which is pure kitsch throughout, but because of this very music, the Siegfried Death & Funeral March, to which Boorman sets it.

By what kind of magic does Wagner transfigure even the otherwise flat & silly to the otherworldly? Whatever the answer, it's that power to which Nietzsche ascribes our confusion of tragedy and resulting invention of Romantic art--at power, in other words, at once enrapturing and yet spiritually deadly.

Great stuff, Lynette. Thx for another great selection, and as well for the kind comments elsewhere.

Lynette October 30, 2009 at 2:44 PM  

I didn't notice the cannon at 5:50 when I screened this video (I typically screen five or six videos for each post, if I can find that many, to get the best performance). I'll have to check that out when I get home from work this evening. :)

I have to admit that I am no expert where Wagner is concerned. Being a specialist in the performance practice of the Baroque and Classical eras, my knowledge of the Romantic period music/composers is limited to what I learned as an undergraduate and had to retain in order to pass my graduate music history entrance exams! I have actually learned more about Wagner, Liszt, and Mahler doing this Halloween series for my blog than I think I learned in my entire years in graduate school. (I spent many hours in listening as well as research for this particular series.)

I have seen Excalibur but admit that I didn't realize that the Siegfried Funeral March was used in the score. I'll have to go back and watch that film again, for it was probably 1982 when I saw it last!

Lynette October 30, 2009 at 6:48 PM  

I went in and listened, and I'm not sure what that is at 5:50. It sounds like perhaps someone dropped something on the stage - I'm not really sure.

Jasper November 1, 2009 at 1:35 AM  

Listened to it again tonight, and the question of what it was at 5:50 bothered me. Inspired by your example, Lynette (namely, your many hours of devotion screening performances), I decided it bothered me enough to prompt some research through the Youtube comments. (There are 2yrs worth of''em! Picked up an educational tidbit here'n'there as I waded through several screens of political mudslinging & namecalling. Ah, Wagner!) After finding some novel theories ("they executed some half wit cello player!"), including my own initial fanciful suspicion ("it sounds quite good like a cannon firing or something, like it's supposed to be there"), learned soon enough that it's the sound of Klaus Tennstedt's musicstand getting knocked over, either by his enthralled motions or by a step too far forward. Now alerted, you'll see so for yourself very clearly in the video. And don't let his meditative downward gaze fool you; he proceeded to the end by heart. That mishap makes this wonderful performance even more interesting.

Apparently it's the London Philharmonic Orchestra on tour at Suntory Hall, Tokyo, in 1988; Tennstedt served as their Principal Conductor (i.e., successor to Georg Solti, himself a noted & prolific interpreter of Wagner) from 1983, but by the time of this performance his health had already been failing him for a few years. Good for you for putting in the hours screening, Lynette; this is a nice find. Faster than most, but certainly works well; the orchestral richness comes through very nicely. (Why it's in black-&-white here is anyone's guess; it exists on laserdisc in color, and the color seems to flicker on&off in the last 2-1/2min, like it's a faulty cable reception.)

Since you mention your music class syllabi, thought I'd pass on this interesting educational Wagner precis included in the Youtube Comments by a composer:
"The orchestral style developed by Wagner is the direct origin of what is used in film music. All film music is technically Romantic music, mainly in the Wagnerian orchestral style[...]. He also develop the modern concert theatre, invented the dim lighting with the side curtains, and was the first to hide an orchestra in a pit. This type of theatre is where the first [silent] movies were shown in europe."
--Not to mention that he revolutionized orchestral conducting, enlarging the orchestra and making the conductor a principal interpreter instead of a mere ensemble coordinator.

Enjoy rewatching Excalibur. Despite what I said about the film's kitschiness, I have a weakness for it, probably because the cast is so fantastic, the editing & photography are very well done, and, well, there's the Wagner-laced music score. (You can't miss it. Hits hard right at the beginning and at the gory end, recurring throughout alternately interspersed with Trevor Jones' original score.)

P.S.- Incidentally, I meant John Boorman, the filmmaker; "Martin" Bormann was Hitler's infamous secretary, a very evil Nazi leader. Probably was Wagner's posthumous political retroaffiliation that caused the slip.

Lynette November 1, 2009 at 10:13 AM  

...and making the conductor a principal interpreter instead of a mere ensemble coordinator.

Ah! How egocentric of him! LOL! Being a singer I really resent the egomania of many conductors which was prompted by Wagner. Very truly any ensemble that is worth its salt need only be rehearsed by its conductor and then, after they have learned the parts and interpretations, he/she should be able to step into the background and let the players/singers take over. For it is the performer who is the final creator and interpreter of the music.

Kathy Handyside November 1, 2009 at 12:44 PM  

Until I read all of Jasper's posting, I thought everyone was talking about a canon - a musical form - rather than a weapon! :p I'm going to listen to it again.


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