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Raymonda: Russian Symbolism meets Wagner part 2 (blog 4)

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A theme specific to Act I is Raymonda's love theme of longing for the absent Jean de Brienne, a woman's love:

Abderakhman's theme is with some Middle Eastern "flavor" and is often truncated to the triplet figure as his motif whenever he is present on stage and involved with the action. His theme is transformed into many different emotions, for somber, to noble, to hostile. Here is his amorous side with Raymonda:

When all is said an done, a new theme arises at the end of Act 2 into Act 3. The theme of the betrothal, of righteous love between Raymonda and Jean de Brienne, which is different from her theme of loving him from afar, since now they have finally met:

In the Entr'acte between Acts 2 and 3, Glazunov combines both the main theme "Hymn" of the ballet alongside this betrothal theme, and so he lifts it to a kind of apotheotic state of reaching pure light. The effect is absolutely amazing. The Hymn is in red, the betrothal theme in blue:

Glazunov subtitled the Entr'acte "The Triumph of Nuptial Love." Triumph it is!!

As we can see, this ballet uses motifs in a way that goes farther than even Tchaikovsky's ballets. The use of multiple themes is a lot like a Wagner opera, where characters have their own motifs and emotions. Unlike a Wagner opera, the work isn't purely composed of only a handful of themes, but there are literally dozens of other melodies that race through this work. Rather, motifs tie the plot together while the other numbers of the ballet are specific to the dancing.

I can't help thinking that Glazunov was having Symbolist ideas as well behind these motifs. They aren't just representing people, but representing emotions, and representing morality. There is both darkness and light in this ballet, and he depicts them in very specific ways. There is material that is specific to Raymonda's nightmare sequence (i.e. darkness), and also to the reconciliation with her and Jean de Brienne (light). "Dark" Dissonance clashes with "Light" consonance. Wagner had little use for actual moral themes in his operas except for perhaps Parsifal and other Christian themed operas, but this ballet is definitely tied to Christian values although the only religious figure in the whole ballet is the White Lady, who works as a guardian angel. As Glazunov was a very "moral" composer, the whole purpose of writing music was to uplift good values, and make evil all the more evil. There is only a little bit of gray area, of moral uncertainty. If Glazunov was good at anything, he was absolutely excellent at depicting such "light" of the soul, of the triumph of righteousness. "Righteous" E flat major is often associated with this in the ballet, as well as "white" C major. Is the "Hymn" of the ballet a hymn to God, to His righteousness and purity which we all adore? I sure hope so, and it always feels that way. It gets me every time when I hear this ballet and I feel like the gates of heaven are opened up to me. It's an absolutely spiritual experience for me to listen to this ballet. It's worship.

Tomorrow's the big night!!!! Blogs to be continued!
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Updated Feb-25-2016 at 22:33 by Huilunsoittaja

Classical Music , Personal , Non-Classical Music , Other , Composers


  1. SiegendesLicht's Avatar
    Unlike a Wagner opera, the work isn't purely composed of only a handful of themes, but there are literally dozens of other melodies that race through this work.
    A Wagner opera is not composed of a handful of themes either
  2. Huilunsoittaja's Avatar
    The Ring Cycle is known for it, however, but I know what you mean. No generalizations!