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Wilhelm Richard Wagner


Wilhelm Richard Wagner (22 May 1813 - 13 February 1883) was a German composer, theatre director and conductor during the Romantic Period. He revolutionized opera through a concept called Gesamtkunstwerk, or "total work of art". He sought to synthesize the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts.

Wagner is often associated wiht the use of leitmotifs. You can listen to some leitmotifs from Der Ring des Nibelungen here. Additionally, you can view six leitmotifs from Tristan und Isolde on the next page.


  • Complex textures
  • Rich harmonies
  • Large orchestration
  • Leitmotifs
  • Quickly shifting tonal centers Extreme chromaticism


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First, look at a leitmotif below from Tristan und Isolde. Then, see if you can identify any of them in this excerpt.


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