Richard Wagner
Shepherd's Song: from Tristan and Isolde, Act III

Arranged by Ralph Sauer

Unaccompanied tuba or bass trombone

Vancouver, BC, , Canada
Publisher: Cherry Classics Music
Date of Publication: 2015

Solo part. Grade 6.


Shepard’s Song appears in the prelude to the Finale, Act III of Wagner’s beautiful Tristan & Isolde. In the opera, this melody comes from a shepherd boy awaiting the arrival of Isolde’s ship. Ralph Sauer has arranged this melody, originally meant for the English horn, for tuba or bass trombone. Those familiar with this moment can expect little to no change. This short musical statement has a modest range of D to c1, with much of the melody living in the middle of the staff.


As is often the case with transcriptions of larger works, this piece does not ascend to the quality of the original. Without the surrounding narrative drama and timbre of the English horn, Wagner’s music loses a bit of its original power. That is not to say that the work is without use or a power of its own. Sauer’s instruction to perform the work off stage provides an interesting programming opportunity for the recitalist. Shepherd’s Song could be performed directly after an intermission, and be a creative way to pull the audience back into the recital.


Musically, the challenges are what one would expect of an unaccompanied piece, and more so with one using that sometimes-meandering melodic language of Wagner. The maturity demanded by the melody’s slow tempo and gradually unfolding nature makes this piece most appropriate for an experienced recitalist. All in all, Shepard’s Song provides an interesting opportunity to do something different in recital while playing a beautiful melody given to us by a 19th century giant.

Reviewer: Joe Murrell
Review Published January 31, 2019