LANSDOWNE

SYMPHONY

ORCHESTRA

Wagner Prelude to Die Meistersinger Program Notes

Wagner's  comic  opera  Meistersinger  of  Nurenburg  is  his  most  human opera,  since  it  omits  gods,  potions,  and  mythic  journeys.    He  wrote  it  during  an  extended  break  from  his  four-opera  Ring  of  the  Nibelung,  as  a  Vienna  premiere  of  Tristan  &  Isolde was  falling  through,  and  following  the  Paris  Tannhäuser  production  disappointment.    Meistersinger  percolated  for  several  years,  though.    Wagner  drew  on  the  1500s  in  the  culturally  significant  German  city  of  Nurenberg,  and  their  Guild  of  Master-Singers,  with  their  famous  songwriting  competitions.  The  Meistersinger  Prelude  is  a  masterpiece,  introducing  all  the  opera's  leitmotifs  (leading  motifs),  Wagner's  term  for  melodic  material  associated  with  characters  or  ideas.  The  louder  and  stately  music  tends  to  be  motives  associated  with  the  public  sphere  of  the  Guild  and  its  traditions.    Wagner  actually  quotes  two  historically accurate  Prize  Master  Tones  from  a  1497  book  about  the  original  Meistersingers.    Softer  and  more  expressive  music  concerns  the  young  traveling  knight,  Walther,who  arrives  in  Nurenberg  the  morning  before  the  Meistersingers  competition.    At  church,  he  is  smitten  with  Eva,  the  daughter  of  Pogner,  the  president  of  the  guild.  Her  had  in  marriage  (should  she  accept)  is  the  prize  for  this  year's  song  competition,  so  Walther  has  a  crash  course  in  songwriting,  first  from  apprentice  David,  then  jealous  Beckmesser,  (older  and  desirous  of  Eva).  Finally,  Walther  receives  instruction  from  the  noble,  selfless  (and  based-on-historical-record)  mastersinger  and  shoemaker,  Hans  Sachs.  The  opera  is  over  four  hours  long,  but  the  reader  will  be  happy  to  know  Walther  and  Eva  end  up  happily  together.