Wagnerian codes

This post was researched by a guest writer from Sherborne, Simon Clarkson, who sent me all of the information below, having uncovered a ‘coded message’ in Ireland’s Elegiac Romance for organ. Simon’s discovery grew from his belief that the insistent dotted figure which is first heard in bar 51 seems to to sound more and more like the introduction to the Bridal March from Lohengrin as it is repeated and developed, with ever more twisted harmony. In its final appearance (right-hand, bars 108-112) the rhythm of ‘Here comes the bride’ is quoted exactly. The time around 1902 was clearly a turbulent one for the young Ireland, and  the use of this motif might therefore have been a conscious bit of near-parody.

In addition, Ireland’s original version of the piece (1902) differed slightly from the edition which is available now. In its original version, as shown below, the last RH note of bar 4 (and recapitulated in bar 119) was an F sharp, which produced a rising chromatic scale which is very reminiscent of the ‘Isolde’ motif – associated, of course, with desire or longing.


By 1958, when he revised the piece, Ireland saw fit to iron out this reference, and the initials of the dedicatee were deleted!

In bar 6 of the Elegiac Romance, the appoggiatura in the melody seems to Simon to be linked to the leitmotif which depicts Tristan’s anguish. The most extensive quotation from Tristan is found in bars 17-22: the rising chordal passage which concludes the first section of the piece is pretty much lifted from the ‘Desolation’ motif.

Given that Ireland’s music so often carries hidden meanings, this is a revelatory new look at the Elegiac Romance.


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