Motif 40: Funeral Procession

German names: Trauerchöre, Totenfeierthema

Soundbytes Funeral Procession (ogg format)

Musical example: Motif 40 - Funeral Procession

The lower part of the Funeral Procession motif is introduced during the Transformation Music that is played in act 3, between the Good Friday Meadow and the Grail Temple scenes. The upper part is given to the chorus of Grail Knights who enter the stage in two processions: one bearing the Grail shrine and the other carrying Titurel's coffin. As they tell us in this antiphonal chorus. The upper part of the motif might be derived from Faith and so might express a faith that has to some degree collapsed.

Ernest Newman suggested that the music of Titurel's Funeral Procession had its origins in a sketch to be found in Wagner's occasional diary, the Brown Book, dated 7 May 1868. It was originally intended for a funeral march for Romeo and Juliet. Later, after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1, Wagner had thought to write a symphony for the fallen, possibly based on this sketch. But the composer was discouraged by the administration in Berlin, and nothing came of it, although he returned to the idea several times.

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Although Newman misquoted the first bar of the sketch, possibly from an inaccurate copy of the page from the then unpublished diary, there are similarities — in both cases, there is a repeated figure "a" — between the Romeo and Juliet march and the funeral music in Parsifal.

References: von Wolzogen ex.23, Lorenz pp.172-5, Kufferath ex.57, ex.58, Newman ex.50, ENO ex.69, Bauer p.32.
Das Braune Buch p.175, The Brown Book p.147.

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