The Siegfried Idyll shines as one of the most unique and detailed gems of Richard Wagner’s catalogue. Far from his ostentatious orchestral performances, the reduced ensemble (only fifteen performers) and the intimate tone of this work find their explanation in their original function: the author wrote this brief work as a birthday present for his wife Cosima Wagner, for whom he played it on the stairs of their home on Christmas morning. In spite of borrowing some leitmotifs from Der Ring des Nibelungen, the title does not refer to the eponymous opera but to the name of their eldest son, Siegfried Wagner. Carry on reading
Gustav Mahler, a conductor and an expert in Wagner’s music, composed The Song of the Earth as a great symphonic structure: six translations of Chinese poems arranged into four blocks respectively corresponding to the movements of a symphony. The luxuriant sound universe full of references typical of the composer is combined with the many Chinese evocations in the poems: resting, in the author’s dramatic last years, in the refuge offered by the beauty and transience of worldly affairs seen from a puzzled and dualistic point of view. The work was first performed posthumously under the baton of Bruno Walter.