Richard Wagner
Shepherd's Song: from Tristan und Isolde

Arranged by Ralph Sauer

Tenor trombone and piano

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

Score and solo part


Wagner’s music drama Tristan und Isolde is one of the most influential works of the 19th Century. For four hours Wagner explores the gulf he perceived between human desires and our ability to realize them. One poignant moment in the midst of the bad news that envelops this opera is the “Shepherd’s Song” that occurs at the end of the prelude to Act Three. Tristan lays mortally wounded awaiting the arrival of Isolde, his only hope. A lone shepherd musically portrayed by a solo English horn pipes this melancholy melody foreshadowing the sorrow to come. The song is the fusion of a simple, earnest shepherd’s melody twisted by chromaticism and dissonance.

This transcription provides rich and musically stimulating possibilities. Sustained playing in the “money” register, wide leaps, chromaticism, and dissonant intervals will challenge the performer. While dynamic suggestions and tempo alterations are carefully edited into the part, the piece still abounds with opportunities to make musical choices and to take musical ownership. It can serve as a challenging melodious etude for a more advanced player, or as a striking contrast on a recital. The original performance was for off-stage English horn, and Sauer suggests that this transcription be performed off-stage as well. You may need to lift the melancholy with a rousing rendition of Czardas, but this transcription is well worth your attention.


Reviewer: Paul Overly
Review Published February 2, 2019