On Christmas morning in 1870, composer Richard Wagner secretly assembled 17 musicians on the stairs leading to the bedroom of his wife, Cosima. As she slept, they started to play (with Wagner conducting) a piece he had written just for her, inspired in part by the birth of their son, Siegfried, and incorporating details of their domestic life.

The composition (today known as “Siegfried’s Idyll”) was never meant for outside ears, but a few years later cash-strapped Wagner had no choice but to sell it. Cosima wrote in her diary that she wept.

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