Tag: Schumann

Dorothea Röschmann and Malcolm Martineau at Carnegie Hall, 2-13-18

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.

Dorothea Röschmann and Mitsuko Uchida / Songs by Schumann and Berg

5119eS-4t8LThis recital is so very, very good that you just sit there stunned and then have to pick yourself up off the floor, regroup and sit there stunned for a little while longer. I heard the live version of this concert at Carnegie Hall last spring; this CD was recorded a few weeks later at Wigmore Hall, and I think the Londoners got the better performance, because again, while what I heard was good, this was utterly amazing. Every note of this performance is alive.

Röschmann and Uchida perform three sets of songs, Schumann’s Op. 39 Liederkreis, Berg’s Seven Early Songs, and Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben.

Uchida’s piano playing reveals that the piano part in these songs is not just “accompaniment” but rather a second voice in the piece. She brings out details that I had not registered before – the heartbeat pulse of the piano part in “Intermezzo” in the Leiderkreis, the way the piano lines wrap up the story of witch and wanderer in “Waldesgespräch”, the rushing of the little brook in “In der Fremde” or the simple glow of happiness in “Frühlingsnacht.” I was just listening to bits of the recital again as I write this (sometimes I can figure out what I was talking about in my original chickenscratch notes; other times – as is common with important historical documents – the notes are written in a left-handed scrawl so impenetrably awful that I have to go back and re-create the moment in order to interpret the record) and a second listen does nothing but confirm Uchida’s power to make the piano part speak.

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Mostly Bach But Also Some Schumann: Joshua Bell, Andrew Manze, and the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra 8-18-15

The first item on the program of Tuesday’s concert was Mozart’s Adagio and Fugue in C minor, which, like the Schumann symphony after the intermission, used the full orchestra; a smaller set of musicians remained to accompany violinist Joshua Bell for the second item, Bach’s violin concerto in E major, BWV 1042, which Bell directed himself.

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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. 

Dorothea Röschmann / Portraits

Dorothea_Ro_schmann_Portraits_Sony_Strauss_Schubert_Wolf_Cover_ArtHearing this recording was a little anti-climactic, in that with the exception of Schumann’s Op. 135 Mary Queen of Scots songs, I already had a sense of how Röschmann interprets this material. The recital moves forward through time, beginning with Schubert songs, then the Schumann, and Strauss and Wolf at the end. I was struck by the same things that I have been in the past with her performances – the way the mood shifts between sets of songs, as well as within songs themselves, and how every phrase has an interpretive role to play. Mary Stuart has a different quality of character than Gretchen or Mignon; and Röschmann gives the Strauss songs, especially “Die Nacht,” a kind of shimmering quality that is distinct from the other selections. I also found myself appreciating Malcolm Martineau’s piano playing, especially in Strauss’s “Schlechtes Wetter” and Schubert’s “Gretchen am Spinnrade,” where he does those repeating patterns in a more prickly sort of way than I often hear; throughout that song, his playing gives me that feeling of the piano part conversing with the vocal line: or maybe not conversing, exactly, but articulating parts of Gretchen’s character and what she is thinking that aren’t in the vocal part alone.

After I listened to this, I thought about the first recording of Röschmann’s I encountered, the Handel Nine German Arias one, and how at the time since I was expecting a more “early music” sound with less vibrato, I didn’t like it – but I realized years later that despite not having a reaction of immediate and overwhelming enthusiasm, I had unwittingly managed basically to memorize the thing, I had listened to it that often. Her voice has changed since then – high notes take more effort, and her intonation can be iffy up there (e.g. in live versions of “Schlechtes Wetter,” though not on this recording as far as I can tell) and I think the sound doesn’t have quite the same gloss as it did ten years ago, but that said, I can and do listen to her sing pretty much anything over and over. Not just the sound of her voice itself (she can still lay out those ringing, bell-like high notes, like in “Die Nacht” when she feels like it; and as I remember feeling when I heard her as the Countess that one time in L.A., there is a quality to the voice in general that just gets me every time) but all the little details of the interpretation too. I said once after hearing “Der König in Thule” in a recital that I wished I could ask her to do it again, because I was fairly sure there were bits of detail that I had missed – and hey, here it is! to repeat and absorb at leisure.

If I was in the business of making requests, I would ask her to do a CD just of Hugo Wolf songs – just for fun, you know?

Schumann – Liederkreis Op. 39 / Sarah Connolly

20140208-144214.jpg There are several recordings of Schumann’s Op. 39 Liederkreis, studio and otherwise, that are very close to my heart. Having heard Sarah Connolly singing Handel last week I was curious what her interpretation of this song cycle would be like.

The version of this that I’m most used to is Röschmann’s, in various bootleg formats. She performs this cycle with her characteristic drama and intensity. Connolly’s version is less visceral but very beautiful.

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Music for Brain Dead

The brain is dead for two reasons. One, I watched three episodes of that teen Mary Stuart show “Reign” with some other historians (two Americanists – one revolutionary-era and one antebellum slavery – and an early modernist who works on Switzerland) and a well-informed lawyer. It was a mixture of the surprisingly accurate and the eye-stabbingly stupid.

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More Schumann

We have already established that the second movement of Schumann’s piano sonata no. 2 has the same theme as his song “Im Herbste,” with certain happy consequences as far as bonus tracks on Mitsuko Uchida recordings are concerned.

But now it’s the first movement that’s driving me nuts. There’s a bit about six seconds in that I could swear sounds oddly familiar, but I’m not sure why. I wonder, if you listen to enough music, does everything start to sound familiar even if it shouldn’t and then you slowly go mad?

Well, I’m an idiot.

You know Mitsuko Uchida’s new Schumann CD, the one that has the super bonus extra secret song moment at the end? I was wondering why Uchida and Röschmann picked “Im Herbste” in particular. Listening to the recording again, I realized that the theme from the song also appears in the second movement of the Piano Sonata No. 2, which is also on the recording.

This is probably in the booklet notes somewhere, but I didn’t read them.

23 Minutes of Art Songs

These are the songs and the Program Notes that I sent to my mom as per earlier discussion. WordPress is being weird for some reason about displaying the player widget for the ones that are m4a and not wav files, but I think they all work. I also managed to include one very authentic Liederabend moment: before the Wolf song begins there is great hacking and wheezing from the audience.

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Another cure for insomnia: Romantic song edition

I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I’m worried about something or in a general state of stress, I wake up in the middle of the night and my brain simply will not go back to sleep. It is infuriating, but there’s at least one fix. This happened to me the other day, and because I had been listening to some Schumann I decided to think about Schumann’s Op. 39 Liederkreis. Not listen to it, just think about it, song by song, recalling as much of the text and the music and various interpretive turns as I possibly could.

It totally worked! Somewhere around the fourth song, “Die Stille,” I was out like a Vöglein that has been shot by a lonely wanderer in the forest under the rustling trees. (Do they ever shoot birds in Lieder? I can’t seem to recall a instance of it, but there’s probably some obscure set of “Eight Nasty Little Songs” by Hugo Wolf or somesuch that is all about shooting birds.)

LiederOwl would rather not be shot, thanks

LiederOwl would rather not be shot, thanks.

Schumann / Liederkreis, Op. 39 / Röschmann

This is probably an extremely predictable statement coming from me, but art songs are not something that I think I ever appreciated fully until I heard Dorothea Röschmann singing some of them. There is a specific recital of hers from London in 2007 of songs by Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Wolf and de Falla that I have a bootleg copy of – I got my hands on it because I loved her opera performances, but by the end of it I’d definitely learned something about Lieder.

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