Wagner explains the great "secret" of his musical form: Redux

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday, 19 August 2015 | 6:00:00 pm

Dali's Mad Tristan

Explained to Mathilde Wesendonck in a letter dated October 1859

"I recognize now that the characteristic fabric of my music (always of course in the closest association with the poetic design), which my friends regard as so new and so significant, owes its construction above all to the extreme sensitivity which guides me in the direction of mediating and providing an intimate bond between all the different moments of transition that separate the extremes of mood.

I should now like to call my most delicate and profound art the art of transition, for the whole fabric of my art is made up of such transitions: all that is abrupt and sudden is now repugnant to me; it is often unavoidable and necessary, but even then it may not occur unless the mood has been clearly prepared in advance, so that the suddenness of the transition appears to come as a matter of course.

My greatest masterpiece in the art of the most delicate and gradual transition is without doubt the great scene in the second act of Tristan und Isolde. The opening of this scene presents a life overflowing with all the most violent emotions,–its ending the most solemn and heartfelt longing for death.

These are the pillars: and now you see, child, how I have joined these pillars together, and how the one of them leads over into the other. This, after all, is the secret of my musical form, which, in its unity and clarity over an expanse that encompasses every detail, I may be bold enough to claim has never before been dreamt of."