Wagner, Wesendonck, Shostakovich and the prison of existence
Shostakovich: the unfathomable anti-hero who defied the Soviet regime through musical irony. Or didn’t he? Whatever his political position was, during his lifetime he never experienced real freedom. Whilst keeping this in mind, the way Shostakovich’ son Maxim described this symphony comes as no surprise: ‘like it is describing life from the prison of existence.
The works of poet Mathilde Wesendonck, who inspired Wagner for his Wesendonck Lieder, evoke a similar sense of imprisonment. The lyrical texts, for example Im Treibhaus (in the greenhouse), deal with exotic fauna, torn away from their homeground to be forced to grow under a glass ceiling. Whether it is caused by the assumed clandestine love between Wagner and Wesendonck or by the sheer power of her texts, the Wesendonck Lieder are affectionate and intimate.
Wagner/Henze Wesendonck Lieder | Shostakovich Symphony No. 15
North Netherlands Orchestra | Hartmut Haenchen conductor | Wiebke Lehmkuhl alto