Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

English Touring Opera are delighted to announce a season of lyric monodramas to tour nationally from October to December. The season features music for solo singer and piano by Argento, Britten, Tippett and Shostakovich with a bold and inventive approach to making opera during social distancing.

Love, always: Chanticleer, Live from London … via San Francisco

This tenth of ten Live from London concerts was in fact a recorded live performance from California. It was no less enjoyable for that, and it was also uplifting to learn that this wasn’t in fact the ‘last’ LfL event that we will be able to enjoy, courtesy of VOCES8 and their fellow vocal ensembles (more below …).

Dreams and delusions from Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper at Wigmore Hall

Ever since Wigmore Hall announced their superb series of autumn concerts, all streamed live and available free of charge, I’d been looking forward to this song recital by Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper.

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

Met Stars Live in Concert: Lise Davidsen at the Oscarshall Palace in Oslo

The doors at The Metropolitan Opera will not open to live audiences until 2021 at the earliest, and the likelihood of normal operatic life resuming in cities around the world looks but a distant dream at present. But, while we may not be invited from our homes into the opera house for some time yet, with its free daily screenings of past productions and its pay-per-view Met Stars Live in Concert series, the Met continues to bring opera into our homes.

Precipice: The Grange Festival

Music-making at this year’s Grange Festival Opera may have fallen silent in June and July, but the country house and extensive grounds of The Grange provided an ideal setting for a weekend of twelve specially conceived ‘promenade’ performances encompassing music and dance.

Monteverdi: The Ache of Love - Live from London

There’s a “slide of harmony” and “all the bones leave your body at that moment and you collapse to the floor, it’s so extraordinary.”

Music for a While: Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn at Ryedale Online

“Music for a while, shall all your cares beguile.”

A Musical Reunion at Garsington Opera

The hum of bees rising from myriad scented blooms; gentle strains of birdsong; the cheerful chatter of picnickers beside a still lake; decorous thwacks of leather on willow; song and music floating through the warm evening air.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Ernst Konrad Friedrich Schulze (1789-1817) by Ernst Riepenhausen [Source: Wikipedia]
27 May 2014

Schubert Liederabende, Wigmore Hall

In this Schubert Liederabende — the second in Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake’s planned series of four recitals at the Wigmore Hall — dark, sombre worlds evoking the romantic turbulence of Death and the Maiden were only briefly alleviated by radiance and light.

Schubert Liederabende, Wigmore Hall

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Ernst Konrad Friedrich Schulze (1789-1817) by Ernst Riepenhausen [Source: Wikipedia]

 

We began with five settings of Ernst Konrad Schulze. A tormented dreamer, Schulze delved into the world of folklore and fairy tales, reportedly remarking of himself, “I lived in a fantasy world and was on the way to becoming a complete obsessive.” The same might be said of his unrequited devotion to the sisters Adelheid and Cäcilie Tyschen which inspired the hundred poems of the Poetisches Tagebuch (Verse Diary), in which the volatile Schulze poured out his passion.

The impact of the early death of Cäcilie can perhaps be felt in ‘Im Frühling’ which depicts the poet-speaker’s love for an unattainable beloved. The hushed opening — Drake’s gentle quavers delivered with the merest touch of hesitant restraint — established a whimsical air, fitting for the nostalgic recollections which followed. Bostridge sang with tender fluency, but there was an ever-present intimation of unrest — moments of earnestness in stanza three when the poet imagines plucking a flower from a branch from which she has picked a bud, urgent off-beats in the minor key stanza, slightly unsettling rhythmic asymmetry in the final verse — which could not be quite assuaged by the beautiful shine that the tenor brought to the concluding wistful reminiscence: ‘Den ganzen Sommer lang.’

‘Über Wildemann’ was more turbulent, driven by obsessive love and the poet’s exuberant response to the mountain vista before him. The contained violence of Drake’s pulsing accompaniment was unnerving, left hand octaves and pounding triplets never overwhelming the voice. Bostridge made much of the contrast between the low register of the opening verse and the poet’s enraptured reflections on the natural beauty of his surroundings. Above Drake’s delicately shimmering starry reflections, the broad phrases of ‘Der liebliche Stern’ were wonderfully mellifluous and the pianissimo close magically floated, translating the poet deep into imaginative realms: ‘Dem lieblichen Sterne mich nah’n!’ (Let me draw near to that lovely star!)

‘I have lost all peace of mind’ (‘Ich bin von aller Ruh geschieden’) mourns the poet in ‘Tiefes Leid (Im Jänner 1817)’, and Bostridge did indeed seem almost overwhelmed by the depth of the speaker’s sorrow. The piano’s withdrawn dynamic at the start of the final verse created a troubled expectancy; the tenor used the text with characteristic rhetorical judiciousness to convey the chasm between the poet’s suffering and the beloved’s silence. Drake brought clarity and spaciousness to the moto perpetuo of ‘Auf der Brücke’, (On the bridge), and stylishly articulated the details embedded in the accompaniment, such as the low trill which hints at the young maidens’ twinkling eyes. Bostridge’s wide-ranging phrases spoke of the poet’s confidence although the climactic rise in the final verse suggested underlying disquiet and doubt.

Schubert’s settings of two of Johann Mayrhofer’s ‘Heliopolis’ poems followed. The low unison between voice and piano at the start of the first song perfectly captured the cold stillness of the ‘rauhen Norden’ (raw north), before a wonderfully consoling blossoming with the move to the major tonality upon the poet’s vision of the flower. Bostridge’s lyricism beautifully conveyed the speaker’s honest simplicity, supported by Drake’s steady crotchets, at times sensitively enriched. After the brief rhythmic fury and heroic energy of ‘Heliopolis II’, ‘Abendbilder’ (Nocturne) painted a broader dramatic canvas, from the gentle, breezy undulations of Drake’s opening triplets, to the elegance of the nocturnal raven’s flight through fragrant airs, to the rhapsodic outpouring of Philomel’s magic song. Drake led us through the night-time land, from tolling bells to starry skies; there was a certain weariness in the inevitable return to the opening melody, underpinned by the diminished harmony of the piano’s rocking triplets. Tenor and pianist mastered the technical and interpretative challenges of the final verse, Bostridge exhibiting impressive control through the extremely long lines and Drake convincingly delivering the declamatory postlude.

This haunting intimation of mortality at eventide was followed by just a single verse of the intimate ‘Ins stille Land’ (To the land of rest) which perfectly expressed the Sehnsucht that Schubert instructs. ‘Totengräbers Heimweh’ (Gravedigger’s longing) brought the first half to a close. Nicolaus Craigher de Jachelutta’s somewhat melodramatic poem describes a gravedigger increasingly seduced by the lure of the burial places he digs for others. But, while there was force and anger in Bostridge’s frustrated cries at the start, there was no undue exaggeration in the performer’s depiction of mental distress and decline. The weaving semiquavers of the second stanza were skilfully controlled, the mood first elegiac then more restless and exposed. Drake’s transition to the slower third stanza was eerie, an apt prelude to the mysterious, mournful unison which follows, the latter disturbed by the piano’s rustling ornaments. As the gravedigger’s energy gradually dissipated, Bostridge increasingly withdrew: indeed, so introspective was his longing for release — ‘O Heimat des Friedens,/ Der Seligen Land!’ (O homeland of peace, land of the blessed!) — that there was a rare rhythmic error which Drake subtly resolved. A remarkably hushed sense of heavenly yearning infused the arcing lines, the piano’s diminished harmonies suggesting an unearthly transmutation. Bostridge’s final cries had an uncanny, sweet lightness; the extreme registral contrasts of the piano postlude evoked the expanse between man and celestial realms.

We returned to the mountaintop after the interval, with ‘Auf der Riesenkoppe’ in which the poet Theodor Körner reflects with pride on the highest peak in the Riesengebirge range. Bostridge and Drake were suitably operatic in approach to the song’s dramatic contrasts of mood and manner, the concluding verse possessing an especially translucent beauty reflecting the ‘sacred longing’ with which the homeward-bearing poet is seized. Two Rückert settings, ‘Sei mir gegrüsst’ (I greet you!), and ‘Daß sie hier gewesen’ (That she was here), were among the highpoints of the evening. The soporific sway of Drake’s introduction to the first song built persuasively and progressively to the vehement yearning of the conclusion: ‘Ich halter dich dieses Arms Umschlusse’ (I hold you closely in my arms). The almost imperceptible pianissimo of the second song conveyed the pain of absence and elusiveness, while Bostridge’s eloquent declamation brought expressive structure to Schubert’s fragmented lines culminating in a soothingly warm cantabile at the reassuring ending.

The well-known ‘Die Forelle’ (The trout) had a delightfully swaggering lilt, while the strophic ‘Des Fischers Liebesglück’ (The fisherman’s luck in love) communicated the emotional complexity and range of Leitner’s verse, the successive verses moving from glimpses of hope to blissful fulfilment. Drake’s attention to detail did much to convey the narrative, while Bostridge demonstrated excellent control of breath and security at the top. ‘Fischerweise’ (Fisherman’s song) was a rare moment of unambiguous ease, the hearty energy of the counterpoint and busy accompaniment conveying the cheerful ebullience of the working fishermen.

‘Atys’, the first of three more Mayrhofer settings, returned us to more sombre territory. Inspired by Catullus, the poem depicts the tragedy of the eponymous shepherd who, abducted by the goddess Cybele longs to return to his homeland and, in despair, throws himself to his death from the top of Dindymus, the mountain of the goddess. Bostridge and Drake struck a plaintive note in this reticent song, the accompaniment dreamily rocking, the vocal line softly swooning. The recitative-like central section injected agitated drama; here Bostridge demonstrated his impressive vocal range, while the ensuing chromatic wanderings showed a sure intonation. Drake’s long postlude was a superb delineation of the composer’s intense emotional engagement with this strange myth. ‘Nachtviolen’ (Dame’s violets) possessed a more simple elegance; ‘Geheimnis’ (A secret) effortlessly passed through the evolving melodies, Drake’s ornamentations evoking a Mozartian grace.

The pictorial and prophetic vastness of Schubert’s setting of Friedrich von Schlegel’s ‘Im Walde’ brought the recital to an imposing end. Full of tension and surprise, the song was richly suggestive of the diversity of the forest’s mysteries, but always propelling forwards, swept onwards by Drake’s unceasing semiquaver flow. Bostridge revealed the operatic vivacity of Schubert’s writing for the voice, ever responsive to the nuances of the arioso qualities of the melody and the sensitive text-setting. The boldness of this song was thrilling. Often in this recital Bostridge’s voice took on a baritonal quality as the lieder roved through the lower realms of the tenor’s range; here the plummeting lines — ‘Tief in dunkler Waldesnacht’ (deep in the dark night of the forest) — matched the woodland’s shadowy depths. This most astonishing of Schubert's longer songs was a fitting conclusion to a programme of audaciousness and commitment.

Claire Seymour


Performers and programme:

Ian Bostridge, tenor; Julius Drake, piano. Wigmore Hall, London, Thursday 22nd May 2014.

Schubert: ‘Im Frühling’, ‘Über Wildemann’, ‘Der liebliche Stern’, ‘Tiefes Leid (Im Jänne 1817)’, ‘Auf der Brücke’, ‘Heliopolis I & II’, ‘Abendbilder’, ‘Lied (Ins stille Land)’, ‘Totengräbers Heimweh’, ‘Auf der Riesenkoppe’, ‘Sei mir gegrüsst’, ‘Daß sie hier gewesen’, ‘Die Forelle’, ‘Des Fischers Liebesglück’, ‘Fischerweise’, ‘Atys’, ‘Nachtviolen’, ‘Geheimnis’, ‘Im Walde’.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):