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French Tristan, Orange Sunrise

With their performance of the “Siegfried Idyll” by Richard Wagner and “Le vin herbé” by the West Swiss composer Frank Martin, the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin are contrasting two compositions and two composers of world class, in order to roll out the red carpet for the second, the lesser-known Swiss composer. 

Both pieces were created on Swiss soil. The “Siegfried Idyll”, Wagner’s birthday greeting to his wife Cosima, and his most famous instrumental work, was first performed on 25.12.1870 on the staircase of his villa in Tribschen, near Lucerne, as Cosima Wagner woke from her dreams. The secular oratorio “Le vin herbé” was the first composition of Frank Martin, with which he found his very own, unique idiom. Composed in Geneva between 1938 and 1940, the experience of the war is instrumental in the understanding of this work by the pacifist Martin. 

In 1909, the young musician from a Calvinist family attended the production of Richard Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” in Geneva, which shook him deeply. 30 years later, this music was adopted as its own by the rulers of the Third Reich. Reading the „Roman de Tristan et Iseut“, published in 1900 by the French medievalist Joseph Bédier, who based the Celtic saga on very old sources, aroused a new approach to the material for Frank Martin, and, through it, he found his own musical language, having studied twelve-tone technique and tonality. 

In a review of the 7th June 2002, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung described Frank Martin’s madrigal opera as a masterpiece. It was first performed in Zurich in 1942, and can only be heard in the German-speaking area of the world about once every ten years.
The Scharoun Ensemble has set this masterpiece of the “wise cross-over between French and German culture” (Roman Hinke) to music. The fact that it has now been brought back onto the stage again after many years of abstinence can be regarded as a cultural highlight in this year’s Swiss festival calendar. 
“The Siegfried Idyll. Tribschen Idyll with Fidi’s birdsong and the orange sunrise” and „Le vin herbé“: Love and ruin, Wagner’s wife in tears, the recreation of a Late Romantic musical myth by a Swiss composer, of whose compositions Yehudi Menuhin once said that, when he plays this music, he feels the same responsibility as he feels for Bach’s Chaconne. 

10th September 2010, 7.30 p.m., St. Mauritius Parish Church 

Performed by: The Scharoun Ensemble Berlin conducted by Marcus Creed. With Christina Landshamer (soprano), Timothy Robinson (tenor) and the Vocalconsort Berlin. 

Concert introduction by the musicologist Claire Brawand, 6.30 p.m., Grand Hotel Zermatterhof. Admission free.

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