Christmas Celebration of the Richard Wagner Society of SA, November 28, 2021
A very pleasant lunch ended the Wagner year with regrets for what could have been (The Ring in Brisbane, for example, cancelled for the 2nd year running) although we are now told it’s to return in December 2023. The RWS (SA) chose the Tribschen Idyll as its Christmas theme, marking that cold day in 1870 when it was first performed on the steps inside Richard’s and Cosima’s house (main image).
Presented as a Birthday / Christmas gift from Wagner to Cosima on 25 December, it features all the ideas and variations of the two previous works but woven into a seamless, soaring work of almost unbearable loveliness. Wagner had sketched the piece as a string quartet about 1864, finished it for Cosima at Tribschen and later grafted it onto Siegfried, where it sits a tad incongruously.
Cosima’s diary for Sunday, 25 December, 1870: “About this day my children, I can tell you nothing – nothing about my feelings, nothing about my mood, nothing, nothing. I shall just tell you, drily and plainly, what happened. When I woke up I heard a sound, it grew ever louder, I could no longer imagine myself in a dream, music was sounding, and what music! After it had died away, R. (Wagner) came in to me with the five children and put into my hands the score of his ‘Symphonic Birthday Greeting’. I was in tears, but so, too, was the whole household; R. had set up his orchestra on the stairs and thus consecrated our Tribschen forever! The Tribschen Idyll – thus the work is called. – At midday Dr. Sulzer arrived, surely the most important of R.’s friends! After breakfast the orchestra again assembled, and now once again the Idyll was heard in the lower apartment, moving us all profoundly…Now at last I understood all R.’s working in secret, also dear Richter’s trumpet…’Now let me die,’ I exclaimed to R. ‘It would be easier to die for me than to live for me,’ he replied.”
After the usual festivities, President Jeffrey Seidel and Penny Hewson led the room in warbling “Stille Nacht”.
Though we’re only in November, the increasingly crowded December calendar requires early Xmas salutations these days. So Season’s Greetings!
Let’s finish with the Maestro’s lovely chamber piece: