Twilight of the Gods: Act Three, Scene One - A bank alongside the Rhine: the Rhinedaughters and Siegfried
We come now to the final act in the great Ring music-drama. The opening of its musical prelude conveys to us a sublime awe unmatched since the drama began with the prelude to R.1, because now, totally unexpectedly, after repeats of Siegfried’s Youthful Horncall #103, a strange twisting figure in the bass reminiscent of a figure last heard when Siegfried woke the Serpent Fafner up with his youthful horncall (in order to find a boon companion), and repeats of #170a (Hagen’s version of his father Alberich’s despairing recognition he could never find love #5, “Wehe! Ach, Wehe!”) and #171 (the Gibichung Horncall), the orchestra, for the first time since the Ring’s prelude in R.1, reproduces #1’s (the Primal Nature Motif’s) canon, with which the Ring began. This is of course the motif which represents natural necessity and the evolution of life, the time of preconscious animal innocence (feeling) before the Fall (caused naturally by the evolution of conscious human thought), which it was the underlying purpose of the Waelsung heroes - wielding their sword Nothung (whose motif #57ab’s second segment is the Primal Nature Motif #1) - to restore. But Siegfried has succumbed to the corruption of consciousness, and is now going to his predestined doom at the hands of Alberich’s Ring curse. #1 thus sounds like an invocation, a call from man’s source in preconscious nature for Siegfried (man) to return to his roots, the source of his art.
As Hagen suggested in T.2.5, Gunther, Hagen, and the Gibichungs have taken Siegfried with them on a hunt, whose ultimate prey is Siegfried himself. Siegfried finds himself separated from his fellow hunters Hagen, Gunther, and the Gibichungs, and stumbles upon, of all beings, the three Rhinedaughters swimming and lamenting the loss of their Rhinegold while singing a new lament, #174. #174 is one of the most poignant motifs in the Ring, miraculously making us feel the time that has passed since the beginning, and the degree of corruption the world has endured since the time before the Fall. There is what might be described as a sickly beauty in it, the glamorous decay, over time, of a once pristine, noble world, a world now (at least from this utopian standpoint) in ruins. Dunning notes that #174 is a loose inversion of #4, Woglinde’s Lullaby, a lullaby whose purpose was to keep the world from waking, i.e., to forestall the inevitable rise to consciousness of man, who would bring about the Fall. Therefore #174 is related to the Woodbird Motifs #128 and #129, because they are variants of Woglinde’s Lullaby, #4, and they represent music as modern man’s artificial means to restore the innocence he has lost through the curse of consciousness, Alberich’s curse on the Ring. #174 therefore strikes us as, perhaps, a plaintive call to mankind to come home, to retreat permanently to his pre-conscious animal condition:
(Prelude: #103; #103; #? [a twisting figure in the bass reminiscent of a figure associated with Fafner’s waking after Siegfried played his Youthful Horncall #103 in S.2.2?]; #170a; #171; #170a; #171; #103; #1 canon; #15/#3 vari [perhaps #59 also?]; #171/#12; #12; #103; #12; [[ #174abc: ]]
The curtain rises. A wild, wooded and rocky valley along the Rhine, which flows past a steep cliff at the back of the stage. The three Rhinedaughters … swim to the surface and swim round in a circle, as though performing a dance.)