Anna Han, age 14, performed Franz Liszt's piano transcription of Isolde's Liebestod, S. 447, from Richard Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde at the 2010 Cooper International Piano Competition in the Oberlin Conservatory for Music.
The story of Tristan and Isolde has been told numerous ways. In Richard Wagner's opera version, Tristan was a knight of the Middle Ages, and Isolde was an accomplished healer. The two accidentally drank an extremely strong potion that caused them to fall deeply in love. Under the command of King Marke, Tristan's uncle and Isolde's betrothed, a jealous former friend severely wounded Tristan in a fight. The only person who could cure Tristan was Isolde. When he heard news of her arrival, Tristan ripped off his bandages in ecstasy and let his wounds bleed so that Isolde could heal them "forever". But she came just too late—Tristan died in her arms. "Isoldens Liebestod" (Isolde's Love Death) started with the chord of tragedy when Isolde found Tristan dead. Moments later, she went into a trance, and her song continued as she marveled over Tristan's beauty, his chest rising up and down, his dreamy smile as his eyes sparkled, his breath wafting from his lips etc. As her song escalated, she claimed she could hear Tristan calling to her from the heavens. She kept searching and searching for this bliss until at last she found it—after a final emotional climax, she drifted into the peace of death, her body sinking onto Tristan's, and the two of them were together forever.