Wagner: Wesendonck Lieder WWV 91

Duration : 22 minutes

The soprano Ann Petersen sings the Wesendonck-Lieder by Richard Wagner alongside the Orchestre National de France, conducted by Emmanuel Krivine. Excerpt of the concert recorded live on 23 May 2019 at Radio France.


Der Engel
Stehe still
Im Treibhaus

Forced to flee the kingdom of Saxony in 1849 following his revolutionary activities, Wagner found refuge in 1857 in the "Asyl" ("Asylum"), a small property built for Wagner and his wife Minna, placed at the composer's disposal by the wealthy German businessman Otto Wesendonck. It is here that Wagner began a truly passionate romance with his benefactor's wife, Mathilde: from 1856 to 1859, their affair nourished the composer emotionally as he worked on Tristan und Isolde. 

A rare occasion, Wagner decided during the winter of 1857-1858 to put to music a series of texts written of which he was not the author, and composed five Lieder upon poems by his lover whose spiritual content as much as the harmonic language echoed Tristan und Isolde. The third Lied, Im Treibhaus ("In the greenhouse"), was characterised by Wagner himself as a "study for Tristan und Isolde", and foreshadows the prelude of the third act. As for the final Lied, Träume ("Dreams"), it is imbued with the same nocturnal atmosphere as the second act of Tristan. The harmonic iridescences will haunt Wagner until December 1858, when he finally composed the second scene of act II: "I sat at the piano and wrote [the passage] as quickly as if I had known it by heart for a long time. A severe critic will find several reminiscences: the Dreams (Träume) return." These sketches of Tristan contrast with the serene light of Der Engel ("The Angel"), evoking the happy world of childhood, and the passionate climate of Schmerzen ("Sorrows") and of Stehe still ("Be Still"). 

Far from being disparate works, these five Lieder form a cycle of which Wagner was particularly proud. On 9 October 1858, shortly after a departure precipitated by the jealousy of Wesendonck and Minna, he wrote in his journal: "I have never done anything better than these songs, and few of my works will bear comparison with them."

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