Dorothea Röschmann and Mitsuko Uchida / Carnegie Hall 4-22-15

This recital almost – almost – brought me around to Schumann’s Frauenliebe und -Leben. Only to the point where I will listen to this cycle if 1) Dorothea Röschmann is singing them 2) live.  I realize that this is a fairly specific set of conditions, but keep in mind that it’s a fairly irritating set of songs. 

But before those, we had Schumann’s Op. 39 Liederkreis and Alban Berg’s Seven Early Songs. I have heard several live recordings of Frau R singing the Liederkreis, and I’ve said my bit about that elsewhere. What marked this performance out for me was Uchida on the piano – there was something slower and more meditative about this performance than those others. “In der Fremde” (the first song) was gentler than I remember, and “Intermezzo” was similarly more relaxed. I also noticed with these first two songs that beginning-of-concert feel where the singer’s voice sort of stretches out and fits itself into the space of the concert hall. Having heard our friend Röschmann in recital in both the smaller Zankel auditorium at Carnegie Hall as well as the bigger main stage, I will say that there is nothing in my memory that quite compares to being in the front row in that smaller space – you miss nothing. That said, I was sitting for the first time in the First Tier in the big hall, and while one might miss a few subtleties of acting, the sound from that part of the auditorium is excellent. If my memory is correct, Röschmann is not on the schedule for Carnegie Hall’s 15-16 season, so I might not hear her voice for a while; part of the pleasure of the Liederkreis for me was just savoring how she sounds. (Including her low notes. Based on a cursory reading of the internet I have gathered that not everyone likes those. I like them. They have a different color than the rest of her voice, and – well, I like them. That’s all.)

That said, my favorite bits of that cycle have not changed, e.g. the ache of the “wie bald, ach wie bald” line in “In der Fremde,” or the last lines of “Waldesgesprach” where the witch reveals to the traveller that he is in the woods for the duration, or – speaking of low notes – the last stanza of “Zwielicht,” especially the “hüte dich, sei wach und munter!” line. In “Die stille” I was reminded again of how she can turn a little song into a miniature opera. 

I had heard the Alban Berg songs before, but I never really absorbed them. Between Röschmann and Uchida I had a sense this time of understanding much better how they work – “Shilflied” and “Die Nachtigall” were particularly beautiful (I have “I get it!” written in the margin of my notes). 

Finally, that other set of Schumann songs. First – a point that emerged with bell-like clarity in “seit ich ihn gesehen” – it’s hard not to like something thing that is sung so beautifully. But what did it for me was something characteristic of Röschmann’s interpretive style. Her performances always come with great force of feeling, and what she did in “er, der herrlichste von allen,” for example, was to take the youthful innocence of the character, the force of the young woman’s love and desire (e.g. in the line “holde Lippen, klares Auge”) and present them so honestly that my resistence to the treacly text was just – knife edge, here – overcome. The same is true of the deep earnestness of the protagonist in “du Ring an meinem Finger.” Throughout the cycle, we’re given the music and text as simply: this is how this young woman feels. And because she (Röschmann) is so in character, it works. Apparently the trick of this cycle is to take it at its word and go with it. And the end of the last song, when the Magic Husband has died – those last lines were quiet, intimate and charged with grief. 

Röschmann and Uchida did two encores, Schubert’s setting of “Nur wer die Sennsucht kennt” and Wolf’s “Kennst du das Land.” I loved Uchida’s playing in the second in particular – especially in the wave of sound before “kennst du es wohl?” and the drawing back afterward. 

I came out of this recital feeling very satisfied. I think I may be experiencing with Röschmann’s song recitals what I have been experiencing with Joyce DiDonato’s opera performances: one is chasing the dragon to some exent, since it’s never going to be quite like the first time, but it’s always worth it. 

8 thoughts on “Dorothea Röschmann and Mitsuko Uchida / Carnegie Hall 4-22-15

  1. I LOVE DR’s low notes. I’d like to hear her revisit Vitellia (I know I’ve said that before) and Donna Elvira while she’s at it. And ….. don’t scream…. Dorabella!

    I keep imagining her Dorabella with Malin Hartelius or Mia Persson as Fiordiligi.

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    1. I’d like to hear her revisit Vitellia (I know I’ve said that before) and Donna Elvira while she’s at it.

      half of your wish will be granted: tune in on 13 July 2015 at 7pm on BBC Radio 3 for her ROH Donna Elvira. If we both hope for more Vitellia maybe she’ll revisit it 😉 btw, have you heard her 2006 one? I just got that CD and I thought she was possibly even better (sacrilege!) than in 2003.

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      1. Excellent! Thanks for the heads up about the BBC broadcast.

        I have heard that 2006 one. I listened to it not long ago because I’d forgotten I had it and then I found it – it really is powerful. I hadn’t really compared the two: guess I’ll have to listen closely through both again at some point (poor me!)

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        1. You’re welcome 🙂

          I think she and Schade were dramatically more comfy in their roles in 2006. There is a very edgy intensity all around in the 2003 DVD that by 2006 seems to have morphed into more confidence with the roles. It’s not easy to pinpoint the feeling yet as I’ve only listened to it twice so far. It sort of feels more intimate, more layered in a very organic way where before it was more cerebral. For instance I think Tito’s friendship for Sesto comes off a lot clearer here without him losing the generally neurotic touch. DR just sounds wonderful in general and also her Ecco…/ Non piu di fiori feels more human, warmer. All in all less weird than in 2003 but defining that dark world very well. So yea, check them out again 😉

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  2. What, there are people who don’t like Röschmann’s low notes? I love them too! They’re the main reason her Vitellia is so good – the almost-mezzo Vitellia really needs some good low notes and Röschmann has got them. For me the greatest Clemenza cast will always be Röschmann/Kasarova.

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    1. Me too. (For my money, Michael Schade was top notch in that production too)

      I’ve seen DR’s low notes referred to as “muddy”, to which I can only go !? and wonder if that critic and I were actually at the same concert.

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