Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg - Prelude
Contrary to normal practice, the Prelude to the
Mastersingers of Nuremberg was written well before the rest of the opera, which explains
why it is still fairly traditional in form. The five years it took Wagner to complete The
Mastersingers inevitably brought considerable developments in both musical and dramatic
characterisation. To a large extent, these are not expressed in the Prelude, which
concentrates almost wholly on the Mastersingers themselves, both as prosperous Nuremberg
merchants and in their corporate identity under their banner of King David, whose fanfare
is heard near the start of the Prelude.
Half way through, the Mastersingers main theme comes
back in a quirky little variation at double speed, which represents the apprentices,
evidently not averse to mocking their staid elders. The chuckling bassline which supports
this section continues steadily almost to the end of the piece, despite the reappearance
of the King David fanfare in all its dignified splendour, showing that good humour is
never far away from the surface sobriety.
© Kate Lang