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The Wigmore Hall complete Schubert song series continued with a recital by Georg Nigl and Andreas Staier. Staier's a pioneer, promoting the use of fortepiano in Schubert song. In Schubert's time, modern concert pianos didn't exist. Schubert and his contemporaries would have been familiar with a lighter, brighter sound. Over the last 30 years, we've come to better understand Schubert and his world through the insights Staier has given us. His many performances, frequently with Christoph Prégardien at the Wigmore Hall, have always been highlights.
On 9 January 2017 the London Festival of Baroque Music (formerly the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music) announced its programme for 2017. The Festival theme for 2017 is Baroque at the Edge. Inspired by the anniversaries of Monteverdi (450th of birth) and Telemann (250th of death) the Festival explores the ways that composers and performers have pushed at the chronological, stylistic, geographical and expressive boundaries of the Baroque era.
On Thursday 19th January, opera lovers around the world started bidding online for rare and prized items made available for the first time from Opera Rara’s collection. In addition to the 26 lots auctioned online, 6 more items will be made available on 7 February - when online bidding closes - at Opera Rara’s gala dinner marking the final night of the auction. The gala will be held at London’s Caledonian Club and will feature guest appearances from Michael Spyres and Joyce El-Khoury.
Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos
this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.
‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’
An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.
A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.
800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.
It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with
its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama
Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples
venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and
moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more
positively about the future of opera.
For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners
backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern
rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer,
but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard
Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour
franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the
One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy
of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such
illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara
Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors
Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.
The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.
In 2015, Bampton Classical Opera’s production of Salieri’s La grotta di Trofonio - a UK premiere - received well-deserved accolades: ‘a revelation ... the music is magnificent’ (Seen and Heard International), ‘giddily exciting, propelled by wit, charm and bags of joy’ (The Spectator), ‘lively, inventive ... a joy from start to finish’ (The Oxford Times), ‘They have done Salieri proud’ (The Arts Desk) and ‘an enthusiastic performance of riotously spirited music’ (Opera Britannia) were just some of the superlative compliments festooned by the critical press.
How many singers does it take to make an opera? There are single-role operas - Schönberg’s Erwartung (1924) and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies (1969) spring immediately to mind - and there are operas that just require a pair of performers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart i Salieri (1897) or The Telephone by Menotti (1947).
Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.
As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.
Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark
streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It
is that exclusive—you can’t even find the
Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the
final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length
concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated
drawings fluttering on a giant screen.
When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.
26 Sep 2005
SCHUMANN: Liederkreis, op. 24; Dichterliebe, op. 48
In addition to some notable, recent recordings of selected Lieder by Robert Schumann (1810-56), two comprehensive editions of the composer’s works in this genre are underway, one by Hyperion, which is almost complete and another that is just starting on the Naxos label. Performed by Thomas E. Bauer, baritone and his wife, the pianist Uta Hielscher, the first volume is as promising as it is ambitious.
The first release includes the cycles Liederkreis, op.24 and Dichterliebe, op. 48, as well as “Der arme Peter” from Schumann’s Romances and Ballades, op. 53 (no. 3), and the song “Belsatzar”, op. 57. Bauer has an engaging sound, and his command of the text is unquestionably solid. Working together, Bauer and Hielscher achieve a remarkably fine balance and convincing interpretation of these two major sets of Lieder. As familiar as the music may be, their approach conveys a freshness often found in live performances that is sometimes difficult to capture on a recording.
Bauer’s voice is natural for Lieder, and his range of expression is well within the scope of the literature selected for this recording. He is sensitive to the poetry, and brings out critical lines, as occurs with the telling treatment of “Schöne Wiege meiner Leiden,” the fifth of Schumann’s Liederkreis, op. 24, with the short utterances and pauses that are appropriate to the text. At the same time, he allows some lines to linger just enough to reinforce the meaning. His tone rings, at times, like a warm cello, and this adds to the ambiance of the performance.
Hielscher’s accompanying is at once discreet and authoritative. She sets a tone in “Warte, warter, wilder Schiffmann,” the next song in the Liederkreis, that allows the singer to open the piece with the necessary brilliance. Her playing reflects a sensitivity that is often extolled, but not always heard. It is welcome here, where the accompanist and the vocalist must unite to present the Lieder as a kind of chamber music. At times the piano must be prominent, but not for the extended passages as occurs with some of Brahms’s Lieder. At some points, the accompaniment requires a full sound that must not overpower the singer, and Hielscher is clearly sensitive to such moments in the score. The give-and-take of these performers is entirely appropriate to these songs, and is borne out in the later set, Schumann’s Dichterliebe, where the accompaniment has a more involved role in that cycle.
The opening song of the Dichterliebe is particularly effective with its tentative, somewhat hovering sense of rhythm that solidifies once the voice enters. Upon entering, Bauer conveys a musing, dreaming quality, which sets the tone for the cycle. This contrasts their more decisive approach to “Ich grolle nicht,” a turning point in the cycle, where the perspective of the narrator shifts, and this is clear in Bauer’s dramatic – and wholly musical – execution of the final strophe. Such definition is evident in the subsequent song and those that follow, and Hielscher confirms that in her approach to the accompaniment, which is prominent without being intrusive. “Das ist ein Flöten und Geigen” has a dance-like quality that suggests in its conclusion the kind of gesture Mahler would use in “Des Antonius Fischpredigt” and some other points in his Wunderhorn settings. (In fact, the couple has released a recording of Mahler’s Lieder, which merits attention for the effective performances it captures.)
“Hör’ ich das Liedchen klingen” retreats from this more extroverted style, allowing the ditty in the title to emerge from the lingering tempo they use to approach this song. From the pacing given to this and the remaining pieces in the cycle, it is clear that Bauer and Hielscher worked out their interpretation of this familiar music, and it is a convincing one. Those who want to hear a fine singer matched with an equally sensitive pianist will enjoy their performance of Schumann’s Dichterliebe. The title “Die alten bösen Lieder” [“The old, bad songs”] is hardly appropriate for this fresh and convincing performance of that song and the entire cycle. For those who wish to hear more from these performers the two additional pieces included on this recording, “Der arme Peter” and “Belsazar,” are worth hearing in Bauer’s interpretation. In these more sustained Lieder, Bauer offers a laudable presentation of the text with his clear diction and sensitivity to both the rhythms of the music and those of the poetry.
In these songs and the others on this CD, the couple demonstrates a masterful approach to Schumann’s Lieder, and they should offer some excellent interpretations in the remainder of his repertoire in subsequent volumes of the series. Already the second volume of the series is announced, and it includes selections from Liebesfruhling, op. 37, “Minnespiel”, op. 101, and Lieder aus Wilhelm Meister, Op. 98a. Given the quality of the first release, the next should be worth hearing, along with the rest of this exciting new edition of Schumann’s Lieder.
While it is not entirely essential when the focus should be on the fine performance, the liner notes are minimal, with the entire insert typeset on two pages. Since this is well-known repertoire by Schumann, it should not be a problem to find texts elsewhere, either by consulting editions of the music or other CDs. Naxos makes texts and translations available at the following URL: www.naxos.com/libretti/schumannlieder1.htm. This is a small concession that should be no means detract from the fine performance found on this recording.
James L. Zychowicz