Wesendonck Lieder

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Wesendonck Lieder
Lieder by Richard Wagner
Mathilde Wesendonck by Karl Ferdinand Sohn, 1850.jpg
Portrait of Mathilde Wesendonck (1850) by Karl Ferdinand Sohn
Catalogue WWV 91
TextPoems by Mathilde Wesendonck
Language German
Composed1857 (1857)–1858
Scoringvoice and piano

Wesendonck Lieder, WWV 91, is the common name of a set of five songs for female voice and piano by Richard Wagner, Fünf Gedichte für eine Frauenstimme (Five Poems for a Female Voice). He set five poems by Mathilde Wesendonck while he was working on his opera Tristan und Isolde . The songs, together with the Siegfried Idyll , are the two non-operatic works by Wagner most regularly performed.

Contents

History

Villa Wesendonck, Zurich Zuerich Villa Wesendonck.jpg
Villa Wesendonck, Zürich

The songs are settings of poems by Mathilde Wesendonck, the wife of one of Richard Wagner's patrons. Wagner had become acquainted with Otto Wesendonck in Zürich, where he had fled on his escape from Saxony after the May Uprising in Dresden in 1849. For a time Wagner and his wife Minna lived together in the Asyl (German for Asylum in the sense of "sanctuary"), a small cottage on the Wesendonck estate. It is sometimes claimed that Wagner and Mathilde had a love affair; in any case, the situation and mutual infatuation certainly contributed to the intensity in the conception of Tristan und Isolde . [1]

Wagner sold the settings to the publisher Schott in 1860 for 1000 francs. [2] The first published version (1862) was titled Fünf Gedichte für eine Frauenstimme (Five poems for a female voice), and the first performance was given at the publisher's residence in Mainz, by the soprano Emilie Genast, accompanied by Hans von Bülow. [3] No name was given for the author of the texts at the first publication; it was not publicly revealed until after Mathilde's death (1902). The present order of the songs appears for the first time in the published version, and this has raised doubts as to whether the sequence is a genuine song cycle, or should be regarded simply as a collection of individual pieces. [4]

The songs

  1. "Der Engel" ("The Angel"), composed November 1857
  2. "Stehe still!" ("Be still!"), composed February 1858
  3. "Im Treibhaus – Studie zu Tristan und Isolde" ("In the Greenhouse"), composed May 1858
  4. "Schmerzen" ("Sorrows"), composed December 1857
  5. "Träume – Studie zu Tristan und Isolde" ("Dreams"), composed December 1857

Wagner himself called two of the songs "studies" for Tristan und Isolde, using for the first time certain musical ideas that are later developed in the opera. In "Träume" can be heard the roots of the love duet in Act 2, while "Im Treibhaus" (the last of the five to be composed) uses music later developed extensively for the prelude to Act 3.

Versions

Wagner initially wrote the songs for female voice and piano alone, but produced an orchestrated version of "Träume", to be performed by chamber orchestra (with violin playing the voice part) [4] beneath Mathilde's window on the occasion of her birthday, 23 December 1857.

Some male singers have sung some of the songs: Lauritz Melchior recorded "Schmerzen" and "Träume" for HMV in 1923, "Der Engel" has been recorded by tenors Franco Corelli (in French), Plácido Domingo, Jonas Kaufmann, Andrea Bocelli, and the bass Paata Burchuladze. A few have attempted the whole cycle in performance, including René Kollo. [5] Tenor Stuart Skelton recorded the entire cycle in 2018, [6] as did Christoph Prégardien in 2019. [7]

The orchestration of all five songs was completed for large orchestra by Felix Mottl, the Wagner conductor, on 3 August 1893. [8] In 1972 the Italian composer Vieri Tosatti entirely re-orchestrated the songs. In 1976 the German composer Hans Werner Henze produced a chamber version for the songs. Each of the players has a separate part, with some very unusual wind registration. French composer Christophe Looten wrote a transcription for voice and string quartet (Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Paris, March 2015). In 2013 (the bicentennial of Wagner's birth) the French composer Alain Bonardi released a new version for voice, piano, clarinet and cello, including instrumental interludes with oriental resonant percussions. [9] In the same year, the Chinese-British composer Jeffrey Ching premiered his Wesendonck Sonata, for voice, viola (or cello), and piano. Ching transposed Wagner's original songs so as to form a closed palindromic tonal sequence in the manner of a five-movement sonata, and also added an elaborate obbligato part for viola (or cello), which comments on the poems and adds harmonic and contrapuntal detail to Wagner's accompaniment. [10]

Clytus Gottwald arranged "Im Treibhaus" and "Träume" for 16-voice choir a cappella in 2004 as Zwei Studien zu "Tristan und Isolde".

Related Research Articles

Richard Wagner German composer

Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, theatre director, polemicist, and conductor who is chiefly known for his operas. Unlike most opera composers, Wagner wrote both the libretto and the music for each of his stage works. Initially establishing his reputation as a composer of works in the romantic vein of Carl Maria von Weber and Giacomo Meyerbeer, Wagner revolutionised opera through his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk, by which he sought to synthesise the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, with music subsidiary to drama. He described this vision in a series of essays published between 1849 and 1852. Wagner realised these ideas most fully in the first half of the four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen.

<i>Tristan und Isolde</i> Opera by Richard Wagner

Tristan und Isolde, WWV 90, is an opera in three acts by Richard Wagner to a German libretto by the composer, based largely on the 12th-century romance Tristan by Gottfried von Strassburg. It was composed between 1857 and 1859 and premiered at the Königliches Hoftheater und Nationaltheater in Munich on 10 June 1865 with Hans von Bülow conducting. Wagner referred to the work not as an opera, but called it "eine Handlung".

Hans von Bülow

Hans Guido Freiherr von Bülow was a German conductor, virtuoso pianist, and composer of the Romantic era. As one of the most distinguished conductors of the 19th century, his activity was critical for establishing the successes of several major composers of the time, especially Richard Wagner and Johannes Brahms. Alongside Carl Tausig, Bülow was perhaps the most prominent of the early students of the Hungarian virtuoso pianist, conductor and composer Franz Liszt; he gave the first public performance of Liszt's Sonata in B minor in 1857. He became acquainted with, fell in love with and eventually married Liszt's daughter Cosima, who later left him for Wagner. Noted for his interpretation of the works of Ludwig van Beethoven, he was one of the earliest European musicians to tour the United States.

Eduard Lassen

Eduard Lassen was a Belgian-Danish composer and conductor. Although of Danish birth, he spent most of his career working as the music director at the court in Weimar. A moderately prolific composer, Lassen produced music in a variety of genres including operas, symphonic works, piano works, lieder, and choral works among others. His most successful pieces were his fine vocal art songs for solo voice and piano which often used elements of German and Belgian folk music.

Felix Mottl Austrian conductor and composer

Felix Josef von Mottl was an Austrian conductor and composer. He was regarded as one of the most brilliant conductors of his day. He composed three operas, of which Agnes Bernauer was the most successful, as well as a string quartet and numerous songs and other music. His orchestration of Richard Wagner's "Wesendonck Lieder" is still the most commonly performed version. He was also a teacher, and his pupils included Ernest van Dyck and Wilhelm Petersen.

The composition of the operatic tetralogy The Ring of the Nibelung occupied Richard Wagner for more than a quarter of a century. Conceived around 1848, the work was not finished until 1874, less than two years before the entire cycle was given its premiere at Bayreuth. Most of this time was devoted to the composition of the music, the text having been largely completed in about four years.

Mathilde Wesendonck German poet

Mathilde Wesendonck was a German poet and author. The words of five of her verses were the basis of her friend Richard Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder. He may have been her paramour.

Nina Stemme

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Andrej Hoteev Russian pianist

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Botho Sigwart zu Eulenburg

Sigwart Botho Philipp August zu Eulenburg, Count of Eulenburg was the second son of Philip, Prince of Eulenburg (1847–1921) and his wife Augusta, born Countess of Sandels (1853–1941) and a German late romantic composer who fell in the First World War.

An die Hoffnung Lied for alto or mezzo-soprano and orchestra by Max Reger

"An die Hoffnung", Op. 124, is a Lied for alto or mezzo-soprano and orchestra by Max Reger, setting a poem by Friedrich Hölderlin. He composed it in Meiningen in 1912 and dedicated it to Anna Erler-Schnaudt, the singer of the first performance. It was published by Edition Peters the same year.

Wilhelm Killmayer, a German composer, wrote several song cycles, which form a substantial part of his compositions. The earliest cycle dates from 1953, the last was completed in 2008. He set poems by German romantic writers such as Friedrich Hölderlin and Joseph von Eichendorff, but was also inspired by French, Greek and Spanish poems, and by texts from the 20th-century poets Georg Trakl and Peter Härtling. He used mostly piano to accompany a singer, but also added percussion or other instruments, and scored some cycles in a version for voice and orchestra. His Hölderlin-Lieder, setting poems from the author's late period, were performed at major festivals and recorded.

<i>Fünf Lieder</i>, Op. 105 (Brahms)

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Freundliche Vision

"Freundliche Vision" is both a German poem by Otto Bierbaum and a Lied by Richard Strauss, his Op. 48/1. The opening line is "Nicht im Schlafe hab ich das geträumt". It is the first of five songs by Strauss, composed in 1900 and published in Berlin in 1901 by Adolph Fürstner. The works were scored for voice and piano, and arranged for voice and orchestra in 1918 by the composer.

The following lists note recordings in opera and recital of soprano Jessye Norman.

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References

Notes

  1. Newman (1976a), pp. 530–2; 540–557
  2. Newman (1976b). p. 192
  3. Millington (2001), p. 318.
  4. 1 2 Vazsonyi (2013), p. 715.
  5. Gurewitsch, Matthew (6 November 2005). "Why Shouldn't Men Sing Romantic Drivel, Too?". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  6. Ashley, Tim. "Stuart Skelton: Shining Knight". Gramophone . Retrieved 9 December 2018.
  7. Prégardien, Christoph. "Schumann – Wagner" . Retrieved 14 March 2020.
  8. Miller, Malcolm Bernard Bela (1990). Wesendonck Lieder, An analytic study (PDF) (PhD). King's College London. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  9. "Wesendonck Träume" (in French). Alainbonardi.net. 2013-03-27. Archived from the original on 2015-12-22. Retrieved 2015-06-24.
  10. "Jeffrey Ching concert at CCP - Cultural Center of the Philippines". culturalcenter.gov.ph.

Sources