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Posted by Martin Walker on June 18, 2015, 11:25 am
Brian Wilson writes in a note: "I’m not sure why Wagner felt the need to change the name of the sword – Gram (wrath)in the Norse legends – to Nothung (Need or Necessity)." The name Gram meant wrath in Old Norse, but in modern German it tends to mean grief and would not have suggested the same quality of quasi-autonomous destructive power. In the mediaeval Nibelungen Saga it was called Balmung, a word for which I can find no definite meaning; it would not have meant much to Wagner's audience. Wagner's public would have been familiar with the Middle High German saga rather than the Old Norse version, and Wagner picked on the last words of the manuscript B: "Diz ist der Nibelunge Not"- in which Not means downfall or end - thus felicitously giving the sword a two-edged symbolic meaning as both the needful and the fateful weapon.
It was a charming slip to have the first stereo recording of Walküre conducted by Fritz Reiner - if only! It was of course Erich Leinsdorf you meant.
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