Motif 19: Herzeleide

German name: Herzeleidemotiv

This is the motif associated with memories of Parsifal's mother, Herzeleide (Heart-in- Sorrow). Like Tristan, Parsifal is stricken with grief at the knowledge that he was (innocently) responsible for the death of his mother. His feeling of guilt is exploited by Kundry in the second act. The origin of the Herzeleide motif can be found in the three notes descending by semitones in the Grundthema (motif #1, fragment G); that is, the same notes that are the basis of the motif of Suffering. These notes are marked in example A, above. Lorenz called them the "basic motif of suffering or passing away" (Urmotiv des Leidens oder Vergehens).

Postcard showing Parsifal reminded of his mother by Kundry Left: A Bayreuth postcard showing Parsifal and Kundry.

Long before we hear any mention of Parsifal or his mother, the Herzeleide motif starts to develop at bar 168 (... du, der doch alles weiss?) as two chords and between them the three notes from motif #1, that establish its first part; this is expanded ten bars later (example B) at Thoren wir, auf Lind'rung da zu hoffen where it is followed by the first hint of Prophecy.

Below: Herzeleide motif in its embryonic form. Musical example: Motif 19 - anticipated at act 1, bar 178

In summary: the Herzeleide is one of a group of interrelated musical ideas that concern suffering. Where the Prophecy might be said to look forward to the hero's future, the Herzeleide motif looks back to his past. We first hear the motif complete when, in response to Gurnemanz's questioning, Parsifal admits that he once had many names but now cannot remember them (example A).

In the second act the Herzeleide motif is heard when Kundry tells Parsifal about his mother. Here it leads into what Wolzogen called "the second Herzeleide motif"; which Lorenz preferred to call Love's Sorrow (Liebesweh). There is no direct relationship between the first and second so-called Herzeleide motives, except that each of them begins with a falling interval, in the former case a fifth, in the latter a tritone. Lorenz also identified a variant of the Herzeleide motif at Ich sah das Kind, which he labelled as Lullaby (Wiegenlied).

References: von Wolzogen ex.12 and ex.16, Lorenz p.20-21, p.60, p.124, Lavignac p.454, Kufferath ex.21, Newman ex.23, ENO ex.58, Bauer pp.60-62.

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