Classical music has undergone many adaptations over time due to the needs of the audience and the artists needs to seek new means of expression in order to fully convey their emotions. Each stylistic movement represented a rebellion against their predecessors whom they considered limited in terms of expression, and Romanticism is probably the period of total freedom of tonal expression. Tonalism probably represented the only rule in Romanticism, a balloon that was inflated to the limit but did not burst.
The best example for those previously mentioned is Richard Wagner through the „Tristan chord”, which has been extensively debated to this day by experts in the music field. In contrast to the extreme ideas presented by Wagner in his works, which often gave the German composer a negative image, Tristan and Isolde is for Wagner a distinct element in his creative output, just as the famous Requiem was for Mozart.
Often associated with Hitler after World War II, Wagner’s works lost notoriety in favor of ideologically neutral composers. However, „Tristan and Isolde” represents a tragic love story, perhaps even the transposition of a real-life unrequited love story of the composer in the famous medieval love story.
The Tristan chord is considered to be the one that opened the doors to modern music, often seen as a cluster meant to dissolve tonality due to its lack of traditional resolution. Considered an agreement of both expression and depression at the same time, it allows the listener to outline their own scenario from the beginning of the work and this is a very important thing because every listener has different perceptions of an artistic creation.
Like any innovative work, the opera did not immediately receive public appreciation. Its premiere took place in 1965 in Munich, and the audience found the music to be strange and contrasting with other famous operas of that time. For this reason, the second staging of the opera had to wait almost 10 years, and in order to surpass the borders of Germany and Europe, “Tristan and Isolde” had to wait 15 years. Can we say that it took some time for the world to recognize the greatness and beauty of Wagner’s work, with the human mind being as resistant to innovation and breaking down barriers that create formalism as it is today.
Today, „Tristan and Isolde” is one of the most appreciated operas in the history of music, a work that places Wagner on a pedestal in the eyes of the listener, and the Tristan chord is a proof of the composer’s genius, being intensely debated by both Wagner’s followers and music critics who still wonder whether the chord has a tonal logic or not.
For more info check: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWLp7lBomW8