9 Jun 2018

WAGNER arr Felix Mottl: Wesendonck Lieder

From Music Alive, 7:30 pm on 9 June 2018

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

Kiwi tenor Simon O'Neill

Kiwi tenor Simon O'Neill Photo: Supplied

Performed by Simon O'Neill with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Lawrence Renes in a concert in Auckland Town Hall, 9 June 2018.

Mathilde Wesendonck, portrait by Karl Ferdinand Sohn

Mathilde Wesendonck, portrait by Karl Ferdinand Sohn Photo: Public Domain

In 1852, when he was 39, Wagner met the wealthy silk merchant Otto Wesendonck and his wife Mathilde. They quickly became generous patrons of Wagner and his work, paying off his considerable debts, funding his concerts and travel, and even providing him with a house on their property in Zurich. 

Wagner and Mathilde soon began a passionate extramarital affair. Mathilde wrote these five poems whose overarching theme is of the pathos of love and longing and of illicit desire. Wagner set them to music in 1857, first with piano accompaniment, and they’re now known as the Wesendonck Lieder.

Most of the orchestration in this version is by Felix Mottl.

The five songs:

Der Engel (The Angel)
Stehe Still (Be Still)
Im Treibhaus (In the Greenhouse)
Schmerzen (Torment)
Träume (Dream)

Wagner would later use the music of the third and fifth songs in his opera on the subject of over-powering love, Tristan und Isolde.