The quotation in the title was something I overheard from someone sitting behind me. I didn’t hear more than that, but I thought it was an apt description of how Röschmann seemed to inhabit every song she performed – the sheer dramatic intensity of this recital was truly wonderful.
This was evident for example in Schubert’s “Gretchen am Spinnrade”, a kind of monologue in song form which Röschmann performed with her characteristic precision of dramatic expression – there was so much in this that I wanted to hear it again, because I am sure there were nuances that I missed. The impression I had was both of great dramatic scope – this song has moments that are almost operatic in scale – and also a real subtlety; every musical phrase was doing something.
This came right after the ballad-like “Es war ein Koenig in Thule,” and the contrast between “Gretchen” and this song, in which the performer is narrating a story rather than inhabiting it, is quite effective. Here I was glad I understood enough German to follow the words (unlike with the young singers’ recital last week, we got no supertitles this time!) because given that it’s ballad-like, the music repeats itself and a lot of the fun is in the details. The the way Röschmann shaped the words was masterful, e.g. in the part about how the king casts the golden cup (the text we got in the program says “beaker” and unless the King of Thule’s mistress was running a chemistry lab on the side, I’m not sure this is the best choice of words – besides, everyone knows you should never drink anything out of a beaker) into the sea and it falls and seems to drink the water as it sinks – as with “Gretchen am Spinnrade,” I would cheerfully have listened to it again.
We also got some magnificent drama with Liszt’s “Die Loreley”. With some of the biggest moments, in this and elsewhere, Röschmann occasionally sacrifices beauty of sound for emotional punch and intensity – the big high notes are big, and usually accurate, but they don’t always seem to come easily. But the the emotional punch is well worth it – and the big swell of sound on the final line of Strauss’s “Befreit,” for example, was both beautiful and hair-raisingly awesome.
I was impressed anew by Röschmann’s power to communicate contrasts of mood, as in Strauss’s “Schlectes Wetter” and the set of songs by Hugo Wolf (“Heiss mich nicht reden,” “Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt,” “So lasst mich scheinen” and “Kennst du das Land). It was also really neat to hear Wolf’s settings of these at the end of the program after having had Schubert’s settings at the beginning. Same texts, but radically different songs.
I could have used even more Strauss than we got. The long phrases in “Die Nacht” and “Morgen” were beautifully rendered, and there is a moment toward the end of of “Die Nacht” where we get a bell-like high note, and then a drop away – this was fantastic. Both during these, and during the first two Schubert songs and – well, in a lot of different places during this performance (the memory of Lizst’s “Freudvoll und leidvoll” will stick with me for a good long while, and the last lines of “Ueber alle Gipfeln ist Ruh'” – I have “whoa!” written on my program, and for good reason) I was reminded again of why I showed up for this. The voice is so varied and fascinating to listen to; one would never mistake Röschmann for anyone else.
And I was not the only one who thought so. The audience persuaded Röschmann and her pianist, Malcom Martineau, to perform two encores. The first was a Hugo Wolf song that I would have to do a bit of googling to identify, but the process by which it was explained was pretty entertaining. When the two returned to the stage to perform it, they paused for a moment; Röschmann turned to Martineau and whispered, in English, “are you going to say something?” and he explained that it was a song about a “fantasy island”, which Röschmann echoed to the audience, with an expression that raised a little ripple of laughter. I recount this because by this point in the program she was singing not for us but to us, and it was great. The second encore, Schumann’s “Die Lorelei,”* she introduced alone, and this song was utterly wonderful – vivid and expressive and all those other adjectives that always fail to communicate how it is when a song is sung well and both singer and audience are loving every moment of it. Röschmann and Martineau were having a great time performing; we were having a great time listening.
*edit 1-25-12: the song is about the Lorelei, but the title is actually “Waldesgespraech.” Thanks NYT!