Unlike Brahms, whose Eleven Chorale Preludes
Op 122 appeared shortly before his death, Richard Wagner published no music for the organ. The instrument does, however, make a memorable appearance at the very beginning of Act 1 of Der Meistersinger von Nürnberg
, accompanying the chorale Da zu dir den Heiland kam
. It seems natural, therefore, that Lemare should have extended the organ’s role back to the Act 1 Vorspiel: perhaps the grandest of all his transcriptions, the Meistersinger
Prelude seems almost to have been conceived for the organ. Wagner’s music is intended to evoke the glorious history of German music, setting the scene for the highly nationalistic tale which is to follow: no wonder, then, that strong echoes of Bachian counterpoint and the muscular Lutheran chorale are heard in the opening theme. With the exception of the ‘Love-motif’ itself (heard in a voluptuous string orchestration in E major), the thematic material inhabits consciously un-Wagnerian territory, as if poised somewhere between the eighteenth and late-nineteenth centuries—this is in part due to the uncomplicated C major tonality which dominates the Prelude. Wagner’s musical personality is, however, at all times stamped upon the music, in its heady, almost overwhelming potency and extrovertion, and, of course, in the dizzying combinations of the various motifs.
from notes by Robert Quinney © 2006