Motif 02: Holy Grail

German name: Gralmotiv

Musical example: Motif 2a - Holy Grail

Grail motif
Musical example: Motif 2b - Who is the Grail? - Soundbytes  Holy Grail (ogg format)
Musical example: Motif 2c - Act 2 variant

A distorted form of the motif, heard in act II

The Dresden Amen was composed by J.G. Naumann (1741-1801) for use in the royal chapel at Dresden and elsewhere in Saxony. Richard Wagner became familiar with this music during his years there as Kapellmeister, between 1842 and 1849. No doubt he had heard it earlier, both in Leipzig and in Dresden. Wagner made use of this distinctive "Amen" in Parsifal, where it represents the Holy Grail.

It is one of the few themes that appears in the prelude to the first act. In the course of the music-drama this motif appears more often than any other. The first part of the theme is found within the opening phrase of the opera (see motif 1, fragment D). A derivative of this motif is heard when Parsifal asks about the Grail (B). Example (C) above is the first of several harmonic distortions of the Holy Grail theme that appear in Act II.

References: von Wolzogen ex.2, Newman ex.3, ENO ex.25, Lorenz pp.11-12.

Last updated (name; minor additions) --- 8 Jan 2014 20:40 CET ---.