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Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Prelude to Act 1

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

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