The Idyll

May 30, 2015 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classical Music, WAGNER | 0 Comments |

Tribschen as Arcadia (photo by Josef Lehmkuhl)

(Ensemble Le Monde, Elder Hall, 29 May 2015)

ELM gave us a varied programme, with Serenade in C Major for String Trio by Dohnányi.  Played in 5 short bursts, each part crowded with disparate moods, ideas and tones, this unfamiliar (to TVC) work is of great interest and showed the versatility of violin, viola, cello. During the soft, still moments, the cello acted almost as a harp.

Elder Hall, University of Adelaide (photo by Syed Abdul Khaliq)

Elder Hall, University of Adelaide (photo by Syed Abdul Khaliq)

A larger portion of the ensemble gathered for Richard Strauss’ tone poem Till Eulenspiegel einmal anders!  TVC is willing to give Strauss points for his operatic and several symphonic works, but it is hard to underrate this one, a mawkish travesty fit to accompany the adventures of Messrs. Fudd, Bean or Magoo.  How right was John Di Gaetani in the introduction of his book on Wagner when he wrote: “When music becomes too specific, the resultant bird calls and shepherd pipes can easily sound silly and obvious, as in some of Strauss’s less successful tone poems…”

'A Symphonic Birthday Greeting" (photo by Fritz Luckhardt)

‘A Symphonic Birthday Greeting” (photo by Fritz Luckhardt)

Finally the entire group* appeared for the Siegfried Idyll.  Presented as a Birthday / Christmas gift from Wagner to Cosima on 25 December 1870**, it features all the ideas and variations of the two previous works but woven into a seamless, soaring work of almost unbearable loveliness. P, in the auditorium, cringed in apprehension of error as the Ensemble squeezed out the Idyll – having concluded it faultlessly, the result was relief and exultation.  A masterful work, beautifully excuted.

"Now let me die" (painting by Franz von Lenbach, 1879)

“Now let me die” (painting by Franz von Lenbach, 1879)

[* Ensemble Le Monde: Sarah Barrett (Horn); Ewen Bramble (Cello); Mitchell Berick (Clarinet); Celia Craig (Oboe); Matt Dempsey (Trumpet); Mark Gaydon (Bassoon); Harley Gray (Double Bass); Julia Grenfell (Flute); Alison Heike (Violin); Imants Larsens (Viola); Dean Newcomb (Clarinet); Philip Paine (Horn).  They were led by guest violinist (from ACO), Ike See, whose work in the Idyll would have won the approval of The Master.]




[**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.”]


Wagner had sketched the piece as a string quartet about 1864, finished it for Cosima at Triebschen and later grafted it onto Siegfried  where it sits a tad incongruously.  Nevertheless it is a sublime piece, wonderful to hear ‘live’.]  Please also consult the concise and wise review by Marian Frost in the SA Wagner Society’s June/July 2015 newsletter.

Not what you want to picture when listening to the Siegfried Idyll...

Not what you want to picture when listening to the Siegfried Idyll…



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