Parsifal Motif 14: Magic or Sorcery

German name: Zaubermotiv

Soundbytes Magic or Sorcery (Ludwig Weber; ogg format)

Musical example: Motif 10 - Klingsor's Magic or Sorcery (corrected)

Although it is often referred to as Klingsor's Magic, the Zaubermotiv is associated not only with the sorcerer Klingsor but also with magic in general. Hans-Joachim Bauer observed that it was, after Kundry's motif, the most dominating motif of the second act. Carl Dahlhaus claimed that the harmonic basis of the Zaubermotiv recalls that representing the Tarnhelm, a magical device, in the Ring. According to Lorenz's analysis, the Zaubermotiv is built over mystical chords, namely, chords from the set of harmonies that also includes the Tristan chords; this places it firmly in the chromatic domain of Klingsor as opposed to the diatonic domain of the Grail. Together with the entire set of mystic chords, it might even be regarded as the musical idea that defines Klingsor's domain. Bauer stated that this theme is the antithesis of the Grail motif.

Musical example: the staccato Riding motif becomes the snakelike Magic motif while retaining the same harmonic basis. Lorenz p.45

As we have already noted, the Zaubermotiv is intimately related to the motif of Riding. Not only does the second half of the former take its rhythm from the latter but in their respective definitive forms, both are harmonized by the same two mystical chords. Lorenz (p.46) writes: The harmonization of the Zaubermotiv consists of mystical chords that twice resolve to a triad ...; he sees the first (short) triad as transient (the F major chord in the first bar of the example) but the second triad (the D major chord of the last bar in the example) as the "goal chord". In other words, the associated key is defined by the last bar. Each occurrence of the motif effects a modulation down a major third; in this case from F to D.

The Zaubermotiv is heard complete for the first time when it accompanies Gurnemanz's account of how Titurel found Kundry: sie schlafend hier im Waldgestrüpp. He goes on to tell (after much evasion) the story of Klingsor, the evil one over the mountains, and again we hear the Zaubermotiv. As with the Prophecy motif, that of Klingsor's Magic develops from a barely defined fragment into a complete musical phrase. In its extended form, the motif accompanies Kundry's magic sleep, and this motif that Wagner described as "serpentine" (CT 3.VI.1878) might be interpreted as representing Kundry's cycle of rebirths. Or what Wagner called, that awful chain of becoming and passing away. He also compressed it into a shorter form, without the dotted rhythm, which we hear only in association with Klingsor.

It is clear that this motif has broader associations than just Klingsor and sorcery. Its first fragment appears when Kundry reveals that she has brought the balsam from Arabia, somewhere further than Gurnemanz's mind can reach. It may also represent the heathen lands beyond the mountains, or any place or concept remote from the mind-set of the Grail knights. We hear it again at the climax of the second act, as Kundry bends over Parsifal to kiss him; therefore it is possible that the motif represents sensuality, or even Eros; which according to Schopenhauer is the Will itself.

Ulrike Kienzle calls it Das Motiv des Lebenswillens. She associates it not only with the cycle of rebirths, as I mentioned above, but also with the great cycle of the universe or mahākalpa in Buddhist cosmology.

The motif of Klingsor's Magic begins with the Yearning motif (A) which is followed by the three note Ethical Question motif (shown in red on the example) and finishes with a subsidiary motif (B) in the dotted rhythm of the Riding motif, augmented. The first four notes of B are the opening notes of the Grundthema transposed.

References: von Wolzogen ex.9, Lorenz pages 45-47, Lavignac p.450, Kufferath ex.13, Newman ex.15, ENO ex.4, Dahlhaus (Richard Wagner's Music Dramas) page 149, Bauer pages 63-66, Ulrike Kienzle (... daß wissend würde die Welt), pages 217-218.

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