The subject of chivalry is a recurring theme in Elgar's works. This reflects both the composer's tastes in Romantic literature and his knowledge of and admiration for Wagner, particularly Parsifal. Parsifal's narrative of regeneration provided Elgar with a dramatic model for more than one early choral work, but its impact was perhaps greatest in a purely instrumental work: the First Symphony (1908). Not only do the Ab-major motto theme of the Symphony and the first theme of the D-major slow movement resemble respectively the Liebesmahl and "Good Friday" motifs of Parsifal (as well as passages from The Apostles and The Dream of Gerontius), but their respective dramatic functions in the Symphony are very similar to their Parsifalian antecedents: in the case of the motto, an ideal with which the music begins and to which it returns; in the case of the slow movement, a passage of transfiguration without which a return is impossible. Consequently, the Symphony can be viewed as a critical response to Parsifal within the supposedly "absolute" genre of the nonprogrammatic symphony. A more problematic discourse on chivalry can be found in Elgar's symphonic study, Falstaff (1913), a work whose subject matter perhaps inevitably prompts comparisons with Richard Strauss's Don Quixote. Whereas one can regard Strauss's work as an ironic critique of the metaphysical, Wagnerian world with which the composer had parted company during the completion of Guntram, Elgar's work reaffirms chivalry and the (objective) value system for which it is a metaphor. The thematically fragmentary death scene reflects the moral incoherence of Falstaff's corrupted version of chivalry as much as it does his passing; by contrast, it is in Prince Hal and the music associated with him that objective morality--albeit laced with pragmatism--survives.
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