Wagner’s “Die Walküre”: Magic Fire Music

At the end of the third and final act of Wagner’s Die Walküre, Wotan bids farewell to Brünnhilde, sending her into an enchanted sleep. Loge, the Norse god of fire, creates a protective circle of fire around the rock where she lies. Only the bravest of heroes will be able to penetrate the fire. At the opera’s 1870 premiere in Munich, the special effect of the flames terrified the audience.

From the beginning of this excerpt, magic is in the air in the form of bright, shimmering colors. Notice the dizzying descending chromatic sequence beginning around 0:43. (There is a similar passage in the final movement of Franz Liszt’s transformational 1854 “Faust” Symphony). Siegfried’s leitmotif becomes a soaringly heroic proclamation in the low brass. In the moments before the final curtain falls, you’ll notice at least two other prominent leitmotifs which occur throughout the Ring Cycle: the ominous “Fate” motif (3:07), followed by the “nature” or “genesis” motif. This final motif, evoking the gently rising and falling water of a mythical Rhine River, emerges in the gradually-unfolding Prelude of Das Rheingold, the first opera of the Ring Cycle.

The circle of fire was transformed into a laser box in this 1992 Bayreuth Festival, conducted by Daniel Barenboim with English bass, John Tomlinson:


Photograph by Marty Sohl

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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