Motif 36: Balsam

Musical example: Motif 36 - Balsam

This motif is associated with Kundry's service of the Grail knights. We hear it for the first time when she gives the phial of healing Balsam to Gurnemanz (Von weiter her als du denken kannst), when Gurnemanz hands the phial to Amfortas, and again in the scene with Parsifal at Kundry's Nie tu ich Gutes. Here is a more developed form of the Balsam motif:

Soundbytes Balsam (Martha Mödl; ogg format)

Lorenz considered the Balsam chord: e-flat, g, b-flat, d-flat. It first appears at Gurnemanz's word Lind'rung and returns when Kundry gives him the balsam. Lorenz said that for Kundry the chord was like a bridge, from the world of sin (G major) to the world of salvation (A flat major).

It is always interesting to note how similar musical ideas occur in different Wagner operas. The similarity of the Balsam to the Valhalla motif in the Ring is obvious, but probably not significant (where some of the relationships between themes in Parsifal and Tristan und Isolde might be considered significant).

Balsam, or balm of Gilead (Jeremiah 8v22), is a resinous, oily substance. Traditionally it possesses healing properties and it was used in embalming and anointing. Fragrant balm was a major export from the Holy Land in the twelfth century, for use in the services of the Church.

References: Newman ex.24, ENO ex.52b.
Lorenz vol. IV, pages 20-21.
Last updated (styles) ---27/02/09 19:55:00---.