Iain Farrington

Pianist, organist, composer, arranger

Richard Wagner: Parsifal Fantasy for Chamber Orchestra


Richard Wagner (1813-1883) composed the music to his opera Parsifal between 1877 and 1880, with much preliminary work on the text in the years before. It is Wagner’s final opera and was composed specifically for his new theatre at Bayreuth. This new orchestral Fantasy is a condensed version of the whole opera, featuring many of the orchestral highlights, following the story in chronological order and arranged for a medium-sized chamber orchestra. It is made up entirely of Wagner’s music, including many of the major events in the opera, all connected as one continuous tone poem. Some sections of vocal writing are taken by the instruments, to create a purely orchestral work. The dramatic and musical content is as follows:


The opening Prelude is heard complete. A short section of Gurnemanz’s music follows, and he states that only an innocent fool can cure Amfortas from his wound. Parsifal enters, bold and heroic, but is mocked by Kundry, a wild and mysterious woman. After she falls asleep, the Knight's Procession follows, a long orchestral sequence depicting them travelling to the Hall of the Grail. The Knights receive Holy Communion and see the Grail uncovered. Gurnemanz asks Parsifal if he understands what he has seen. Parsifal is unmoved and Gurnemanz rejects him. The scene changes to Klingsor's Magic Castle where Kundry is now a beautiful woman. Parsifal arrives at the Castle and is immediately surrounded by Flower Maidens trying to seduce him. Their music is alluring and erotic. Kundry calls to Parsifal, reminding of his mother, and causing him to feel guilt for her death. She kisses him, but he is repulsed and immediately recalls Amfortas's wound. Kundry curses him and Klingsor appears, hurling the Holy Spear towards Parsifal. The Spear hangs over Parsifal's head who takes it, causing the Castle and everything around to collapse and disappear. Some years later, Parsifal returns to the Knights domain with the Holy Spear. Gurnemanz is overjoyed and Kundry washes Parsifal's feet. The Good Friday Music follows where Parsifal is made King of the Knights by Gurnemanz. He baptises Kundry before praising nature and its beauty. It is midday and once again the Knights process to the Grail Hall, carrying the coffin of their former King, Titurel. The Knights urge Amfortas to reveal the Grail again, but he would rather be granted death. Parsifal presents the Spear and cures Amfortas. The Grail is presented once again and all kneel in rapture before it.


Instrumentation: flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, 2 horns, trumpet, trombone, harp, timpani, violin 1, violin 2, viola, cello, double bass (at least 2.2.2.2.1)


Duration: 50-55 minutes


Listen to a performance of the arrangement here


Available to hire or purchase from Aria Editions here