Roll over Beethoven – there’s nothing wrong with Wagner

While Beethoven stars in Camerata’s forthcoming concerts, embedded in the chamber orchestra’s program is also a sweet surprise from Richard Wagner

Feb 15, 2024, updated Feb 15, 2024
Camerata's upcoming concerts will feature Richard Wagner's exquisite Siegfried Idyll. Photo: Alex Jamieson

Camerata's upcoming concerts will feature Richard Wagner's exquisite Siegfried Idyll. Photo: Alex Jamieson

It’s the piece of music that changed my mind about Wagner. And it might change yours, too, if you attend either of the forthcoming concerts by Camerata – Queensland’s chamber orchestra – in Toowoomba and Brisbane.

Camerata is known for programming unashamedly beautiful music (why not?) and I was thrilled to see they have included German composer Richard Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll in their forthcoming concert, Camerata & Alex Raineri: Beethoven.

The concerts will be a treat because both feature Raineri, one of Brisbane’s classical music stars, on piano – and who doesn’t love Beethoven? You will hear Beethoven’s Overture to the play, Coriolan Op.62 and later in the piece Raineri will play his Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op.15.

But in the middle of the program is music I first heard last year at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in Townsville, the Siegfried Idyll, an exquisite piece at just under 20 minutes.

Having signed on for Wagner’s Ring Cycle, staged by Opera Australia at QPAC late last year, I was a bit wary.

As a Wagner newbie I was expecting a lot of bombast, but here was a piece of music that features (at least in part) in the Ring Cycle, yet the Siegfried Idyll is lush, romantic and at times dramatic. It is anything but bombastic.

This is a symphonic poem lovingly composed as a birthday gift for his wife after the birth of their son, Siegfried. It begins gently, almost like waking on a soft, slow morning. Audiences will hear sweet birdsong, dreamy melodies and heartfelt tenderness beautifully symbolising the intimacy and love between the couple.

It’s utterly gorgeous and after first hearing it last year I bought a CD of Wagner’s music featuring the Siegfried Idyll . I play it all the time. It’s just the right length for taking a hot bath. Too much information, I know.

Who do we have to thank for including this exquisite piece of music in the program? Camerata’s principal oboe, Eve Newsome, actually.

“I suggested playing Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll as it is full of love and tenderness and very beautiful to play and listen to,” Newsome says.

“Wagner composed his piece shortly after their son was born for the birthday of his wife Cosima, who woke up to hear it being played by a chamber group on the stairs of their house.

“Wagner originally wanted his composition to be private and unpublished, so performing it in a chamber group setting with Camerata feels very intimate, like looking through a window into the life and love of their family. The oboe part is also really beautiful and features the expressive melodic theme, which is a joy for me to play.”

Camerata’s leader and artistic director Brendan Joyce says it is a lovely snippet from an epic work.

“I wish I could say that you get the 15 or so hours of Wagner’s Ring Cycle condensed into Siegfried Idyll’s 18 minutes,” Joyce says.

“That wouldn’t be true, but you do get the rather beautiful Siegfried and Brunhilde theme (from Act III of the opera Siegfried) that lovingly unfolds and spins, and a sense of the magical and seemingly imperceptible scene changes in music that is at once tender and highly dramatic.

“I guess it’s a mini-opera, sans singers or sets, yet it’s missing nothing. And it’s a whole lot cheaper to present, too.” 

Camerata & Alex Raineri: Beethoven will be performed at The Empire, Toowoomba, February 15, 7pm; and QPAC Concert Hall, Brisbane, February 17, 7.30pm

This article is republished from InReview under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

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