Richard Wagner

Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral

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Elsa's Procession to the Cathedral from Lohengrin, act 2, scene 4, by Richard Wagner, arranged for concert band by David Whitwell. Wagner himself recommended this music as an addition to the band repertoire.

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Product Description

Elsa’s Pro­ces­sion to the Cathe­dral
Lohen­grin, act 2, scene 4
Richard Wag­n­er (1813–1883)
Arranged by David Whitwell (1937–)

Date: 1850
Instru­men­ta­tion: Con­cert Band
Dura­tion: 6:20
Lev­el: 4

Recording

This live per­for­mance was record­ed in 1975 in San Fran­cis­co by the Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­si­ty, North­ridge Wind Ensem­ble, David Whitwell, Con­duc­tor.

Notes on Wagner’s Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral

This music in the opera is vir­tu­al­ly a band com­po­si­tion as it stands. After thir­ty-two bars one vio­lin part joins in uni­son and even­tu­al­ly two male choirs. Curi­ous­ly, the ear­li­er band arrange­ment of this music over­looked one of the male choirs, which this edi­tion includes. It is inter­est­ing that Wag­n­er him­self rec­om­mend­ed this music as an appro­pri­ate addi­tion to the band reper­toire. In a let­ter to Friedrich Wil­helm Graf von Red­ern, dat­ed Dres­den, 26 June 1846, Wag­n­er wrote,

While I doubt that there are many pieces in my opera that are suit­able for pro­duc­tion as mil­i­tary music, I per­mit myself to draw your atten­tion, how­ev­er, par­tic­u­lar­ly to one num­ber which has gone exceed­ing­ly well on parades here in Dres­den; I refer to the first sec­tion of the fourth scene of the sec­ond Act; it is in the style of a March with cho­rus … that lends itself well to treat­ment as an effec­tive piece for mil­i­tary band.

Wagner’s use of the term “Mil­i­tary Band” sim­ply reflects the large band with wood­winds and brass and does not sug­gest a “mil­i­tary” style. Quite the con­trary, in anoth­er let­ter Wag­n­er specif­i­cal­ly speaks of the style he had in mind.

The par­tic­u­lar atmos­phere which my Lohen­grin should pro­duce is that here we see before us an ancient Ger­man king­dom in its finest, most ide­al aspect. Here no one does any­thing out of mere rou­tine and court cus­tom, but in every encounter the par­tic­i­pants take a direct and gen­uine­ly per­son­al part; here there is no despot­ic pomp which has its “body­guards” (oh! oh!) and orders the “peo­ple pushed back” to form a “lane” for the high nobil­i­ty,… I beg of you, for God’s sake, take out that awful stuff with the mas­ters of cer­e­monies, mar­shals, body­guards, etc.: they must have no fur­ther place here. Let my Lohen­grin be beau­ti­ful, but not osten­ta­tious …

Elsa must—on the high ground before the palace—actually come to a stop. She is moved and affect­ed, as if over­come by bliss. Only after 8 mea­sures does she once more pro­ceed very slow­ly toward the cathe­dral, some­times, paus­ing, cor­dial­ly and naive­ly acknowl­edg­ing greet­ings. Not only does it take shape this way, but it actu­al­ly becomes what I intend­ed it to be; name­ly, no march-like pro­ces­sion, but the infi­nite­ly sig­nif­i­cant advance of Elsa to the altar.

David Whitwell