Wagner: Siegfried-Idyll WWV 103

Duration : 19 minutes

Conducted by Emmanuel Krivine, the Orchestre National de France performs the "Siegfried-Idyll" by Richard Wagner. Excerpt of the concert recorded live on 23 May 2019 at Radio France.

Tristan und Isolde, a drama of love and death, was unquestionably linked to the passion that burned between Wagner and Mathilde Wesendonck, the wife of his benefactor. The Siegfried-Idyll, "a symphonic homage for an anniversary" was written in secret, displaying an entirely different character: a musical gift given by Wagner to his second wife, Cosima, on 25 December 1870, for their 33rd wedding anniversary. Wagner met Liszt's daughter in 1857, a young girl in her early twenties and recently married to the conductor Hans von Bülow. It was not until 1864 that their amorous relationship began. Cosima left her husband in 1867 and married Wagner on 25 August 1870, having already given birth to three of his children, Isolde (1865), Eva (1867) and Siegfried (1869). Intertwining the threads of his existence and his music, Wagner composed an intimate work to celebrate the birthday of little "Fidi"'s mother (an affectionate surname for his young son) on Christmas day. The idyl was partly inspired by a quartet in E major, sketched in 1864 but soon discarded, leaving behind only its key for Wagner's latest idyl. Wagner also drew upon a lullaby composed in 1868, "Sleep, my child", now given to the oboe. But above all, the Siegfried-Idyll echoes the third act of Siegfried, finished by the composed in 1869 after having interrupted progress on his Ring Cycle in 1857. Several motifs are recognisable towards the end of the drama: Brunnhilde's Slumber, the Forest Bird, Siegfried's theme, and Peace on Earth. Amongst these various themes, it is that of Siegfried which, symbolically, grows progressively until the work's conclusion.

Far from the orchestral frenzy of the finale of Siegfried, the Siegfried-Idyll was conceived for a more private setting. In Tribschen, on the morning of 25 December 1870, only the composer's family and close friends, including a young Friedrich Nietzsche, were allowed to hear this serenade performed by fifteen instrumentalists on the villa's staircase. The effect of the music's charm on Cosima was immediate, who later wrote in her diary that she experienced a "divine pleasure", whilst Nietzsche confided his own enthusiasm on 30 December 1870 in a letter to his mother and sister. It was not until 1878 that Wagner finally accepted to publish the work, whose success never faltered and is since performed in either its initial, more primitive form, or the more developed orchestral version.

The Orchestre National de France performs Wagner with Anne Petersen
Full concert
The Orchestre National de France performs Wagner with Anne Petersen
Maison de la Radio, Paris
Richard Wagner
Richard Wagner
All artists
  • Emmanuel Krivine
    Emmanuel KrivineConductor
  • Orchestre National de FranceOrchestra