Society of Dallas
Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder
Ann Ayres, Soprano
Mark Metcalf, Piano
Introductory Remarks by
Conductor Claus Peter Flor
March 17, 2007
At the home of WSD
Jerold Lancourt, MD
Laura Ann Ayers and Mark Metcalf performing the Wesendocnk Lieder
and the Wesendonck Lieder
have done nothing better than these songs," said Richard Wagner about his
Wesendonck Lieder. So, why are these songs significant? To answer this
question, we must first answer the question, what is a song?
Songs are the most simple and yet most powerful of all musical forms in our
world. Songs are chamber music for voice. Yet songs can the foundation of the
most complex of orchestral compositions, as witnessed by Mahler's well known
Why did Richard Wagner chooses to write songs, including the Wesendonk
Lieder, when he is best known for his operas? The answer is simple. He
wanted to write music that would make him accessible to music lovers in their
homes, not just the opera house.
Wagner's first songs were written while he was living in Paris, between 1839
and 1842. By writing songs, he hoped to make his name in what was then the
music capital of the world. In this case, he failed, for the songs he wrote
during that period, while interesting, are not musically significant.
The situation changed when Wagner wrote the Wesendonck Lieder in
1857. These songs, which became an important artistic statement for Wagner,
were written while the composer and his wife were living in Zurich on the
estate of Otto Wesendonck and his wife Mathilde. Wesendonck was a wealthy
merchant and one of Wagner's many benefactors.
During his stay with the Wesendonck's, Wagner fell in love with Mathilde. He
saw his friend's beautiful wife as a "loving muse." At the same time, Mathilde
herself was inspired to write her poems by the presence of the great maestro in
her daily life. In the end, he himself was inspired to set five of them to
music, which he presented to her as a birthday present on December 23, 1857.
The songs were studies for Wagner's next opera, Tristan und Isolde, an
opera filled with the unresolved chromaticism that would open a new window of
expression for the musical world.
In the first song, Der Engle, Wagner uses themes from Das
Rheingold. The rest of the songs are in one way or another connected with
Tristan und Isolde. The rushing music heard in Stehe Stille! -
Stand Still - is later used in Act I of Tristan. The introduction of
Im Treibhaus - In the Green house - most closely resembles music in Act
III. In the fourth song, Schmerzern - Pain - the music is found in Act
II of the opera. Finally, the pivotal love duet in Act II of Tristan und
Isolde finds its source in the setting for Mathilde's final poem,
Traeume - Dreams.
So we see that Wagner's assessment of this music was correct. He has indeed
done nothing better than these songs.
Claus Peter Flor
Dallas, March 3, 2007
Laura Ann Ayers visits with Roger Carroll - The Recital Hall at the Lancourt
Feb 10, 2007
||with the Puccini Society of Dallas,
at the Edgemere. 4:00 pm
|Feb 15, 18M, 21 and 24,
||Lohengrin - performed by The Dallas
|March 17, 2007
||Claus Peter Flor and Laura Ayers perform
Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder
|March 3, 2007
||The Dallas Opera's annual Vocal Competition
||Ann Petty and Opera singers in a recital.