Part 1: Le camp de Wallenstein
Part 2: Max et Thécla
Part 3: La mort de Wallenstein
Le camp de Wallenstein portrays the victorious Imperial army triumphant before the devastated city of Magdeburg. Its raw energy and high spirits are well captured by the rhythmic opening theme in G major, strongly reminiscent of the ‘forging motif’ in Wagner’s Siegfried, which leads to an energetic waltz-style second theme. After a grotesque three-part fugato for bassoons, depicting a group of monks preaching to the crowds, the majestic theme of Wallenstein himself looms up—a strongly rising idea in B minor clearly derived from the ‘sword motif’ in Wagner’s 'Ring', dramatically stated by a solo trombone against tremolando strings.
Max et Thécla evokes Wallenstein’s treason, the lovers’ unfulfilled liaison and Max’s death in combat. A substantial elegiac Andante in E flat major introduces three new ideas: Max’s heroic theme, first stated in the horns; the powerful motif of fate, characterized by a sextuplet figure; and a fragment of Thécla’s conventionally gentle and feminine theme in the woodwind. After the ensuing rhythmically energetic Allegro risoluto section, which includes a dramatic development of Wallenstein’s theme, the central Andante tranquillo at last gives Thécla’s theme its full expansion in a luminous B major. In the tragic coda, fragments of the lovers’ themes are heard in the broken accents of grief, intensified by the motif of fate in the timpani.
La mort de Wallenstein is powerfully sombre in tone. Its very slow introduction evokes Wallenstein’s firm belief in astrology by means of a mysterious sequence of ‘astral harmonies’, namely the chords of B, D and F minor in mediant relationships. This is followed by Wallenstein’s theme, sounded pianissimo on the horn. In the ensuing B minor Allegro, the modified fate motif and the warlike soldiers’ music of Le camp are developed at length, while the central Andante tranquillo brings a pathetic reminiscence of Thécla’s theme in the remote keys of E and E flat major, together with Max’s theme and the fate motif. In the overwhelming peroration, fragments of Wallenstein’s theme, gradually extinguished, are heard against the ‘astral harmonies’ and rushing string scales, the effect resembling the final pages of Götterdämmerung.
from notes by Andrew Thomson © 2009