Motif 05: Amfortas

German name: Amfortasmotiv (1)

Soundbytes Amfortas (George London; ogg format)

Musical example: Motif 05 - Amfortas

The Amfortas motif and its variants can be heard whenever Amfortas is on stage and whenever the king is mentioned. Harmonically it is based on a minor triad. Most commentators include the Pain motif as part of this Amfortas motif. I prefer to distinguish them as two parts of one complex. The melody first appears at bar 151 in the 1st act (Zeit ist's des Königs dort zu harren), where it is played by the cellos.

Roger North, in his analysis of Tristan und Isolde, has drawn attention to the similarities between the first part of this motif (A) and a phrase that occurs three times towards the end of the Shepherd's Tune. Since Wagner drew a parallel between Amfortas and the wounded Tristan, this resemblance may not be coincidental.

References: von Wolzogen ex.4, Lorenz pp.20-21, Kufferath ex.9 p.233, Lavignac p.447 "suffering", Newman ex.9, ENO ex.45, Bauer pp.56-59, North (Wagner's Most Subtle Art) p.447.

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