It is a testament to the power of music that I did NOT feel like complaining about the subway last night. I left Carnegie Hall at about 9:30, which meant I should have been home at about 10:10. I got home at just past eleven. But it is probably best to leave all that in the darkness where it belongs.
I had not heard Dorothea Röschmann live for a few years – the last time she was here was the spring of 2015. The program last night was some material I have heard her sing many times (Schubert’s Mignon songs) and some that was newer (Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder). The other items on the program, Schubert’s Nachtstück D. 672, Mahler’s Rückert Lieder and Schumann’s five Mary Queen of Scots songs I had heard on recordings, but never live.
I have difficulty processing the Mignon songs any more, because I’ve heard her sing them so many times. I had a sense the interpretation last night was not as strong or subtle as her best performances of these – there were a few over-emphasized repetitions of “leide” in “Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt”, for example, and here and there dynamic shifts that were a little too sudden. In general (this occurred at several points in the program) her pitch is sometimes off during louder passages that move into the top part of her register – but I found that the sound of her voice live in a concert hall was new again to me. It’s fuller than I remembered, a real pleasure to hear. Her rich, earthy lowest notes are amazing.
I had no idea as I listened to it last night what Schubert’s Nachtstück is about because I had never looked at the text, but there was something about the vocal coloring in this that really gripped me. I had an impression of a dark, veiled sky as the song began – and lo and behold, when I looked at the words later, the text beings with a description of mist in the mountains and the moon battling the clouds. This is one of those things that Röschmann has always done extraordinarily well and she still does it extraordinarily well.
The Schumann Op. 135 Mary Queen of Scots songs slipped by faster than I expected. I had a feeling of being rushed through them – not that the tempos themselves were particularly fast, though. There were a few intonation wobbles in the first of Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder – I lost the sense of what notes I was hearing and where some of the phrases were going – but by the end of the second song, “Stehe still” things were clicking again, and “Im Treibhaus” and “Träume” were arrestingly beautiful.
But perhaps the best part of the program were Mahler’s Rückert Lieder at the end of the first half, from the snappy “Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder” (I know that this line means “don’t look at my songs!” but in my head, I always end up thinking “Don’t look him in the Lieder!/Don’t fire until you see the whites of their Lieder!”) to the phrasing in “Liebst du um Schönheit,” where the lines just floated, then released, then floated again – it was lovely. I think she took a breath in the middle of a word during “Um Mitternacht” but I had forgotten this by “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen” – you’re just carried along by something achingly beautiful. She needs to record these songs, like, immediately.
There were three encores, Liszt’s gentle “Es muss was Wunderbares sein,” Schumann’s “Die Lotosblume” and Wolf’s “In der Frühe”. All three left me wanting more – especially the luminous, bright, bell-like notes as the morning dawns in the text at the end of the last one.