Ride of the Valkyries by Richard Wagner - HD - a great and famous piece<< Previous classical music pieceNext classical music piece >>
The Ride of the Valkyries (German: Walkürenritt or Ritt der Walküren) is the popular term for the beginning of Act III of Die Walküre, the second of the four operas by Richard Wagner that constitute Der Ring des Nibelungen. The main theme of the Ride, the leitmotif labelled Walkürenritt, was first written down by the composer on 23 July 1851. The preliminary draft for the Ride was composed in 1854 as part of the composition of the entire opera, which was fully orchestrated by the end of the first quarter of 1856. Together with the Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin, the Ride of the Valkyries is one of Wagner's best-known pieces.
In the opera house, the Ride, which takes around eight minutes, begins in the prelude to the Act, building up successive layers of accompaniment until the curtain rises to reveal a mountain peak where four of the eight Valkyrie sisters of Brünnhilde have gathered in preparation for the transportation of fallen heroes to Valhalla. As they are joined by the other four, the familiar tune is carried by the orchestra, while, above it, the Valkyries greet each other and sing their battle-cry. Apart from the song of the Rhinemaidens in Das Rheingold, it is the only ensemble piece in the first three operas of Wagner's Ring cycle. Outside the opera house, it is usually heard in a purely instrumental version, which may be as short as three minutes.
The Ride of The Valkyries is frequently used in filmmaking and television productions. In the earliest days of Hollywood, the original score for D. W. Griffith's controversial film The Birth of a Nation (1915), compiled by Joseph Carl Breil and Griffith, used the music in the climactic scene of the third act, when "The former enemies of North and South are united again in defense of their Aryan birthright" against liberated former black slaves after the end of the American Civil War. The beleaguered white group is rescued by the Ku Klux Klan to the sound of the music.
More recent examples include its usage in Chuck Jones's 1957 animated short What's Opera and the 1979 war film Apocalypse Now, where the 1/9 Air Cavalry regiment plays the piece of music on helicopter-mounted loudspeakers during their assault on a Vietnamese village to scare locals and motivate their men.
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