Saturday, 21 November 2009

Elisabeth Söderström passes away

Elisabeth Söderström passed away yesterday 20th Nov. Here is an obit written by Alan Blyth some years ago. So many memories ! Strangely enough, in the last few days, I've been thinking about her rendition of Sibelius's Se'n har jag ej frågat mera. (Since then, I have asked no more). It was odd, as I haven't thought about it in ages. But I pulled it out again, and it's marvellous, and a great way to remember Söderström.

It is a wonderful song, one of Sibelius's greatest and most intense. Yet so understated and dignified. In youth a woman used to ask why summer ended so soon. Then, when she learned of life, she questioned no longer. "Deep in her soul", she has "come to know that beauty is transient, and that happiness does not last".

On the DVD, she sings against a filmed landscape of mid winter, with heavily snow laden trees reflected in the waters of a lake, a symphony in grey and white, as abstract as a painting. It is incredibly poetic, a poignant way of expressing music in visual images - a five minute masterpiece of the art of filming music. When Söderström appears, she's filmed in soft focus, lit with luminous shimmering light. She's quite mature, about 55 but this adds to the depth and dignity of her performance. We are fortunate that Söderström lives forever on recordings.

1 comment:

Counterleben said...

Anne, I've been meaning to leave a comment on Elisabeth Söderström, a singer who was particularly dear to my heart. The morning after she died, before I opened my email, I had put on her 1960 Susanna from the Met. In my inbox was the message that she was gone.

She was a treasured favorite. The first record I ever checked out from the library was the Boulez recording of Pelléas, in which she was the perfect Mélisande. Not every nine-year-old can claim Pelléas as their favorite opera, but the opera fascinated me, and her in particular.

I heard her in recital twice and was lucky enough to see her Marschallin in Minneapolis on one of the last Met tours. When I worked at San Francisco Opera in 2000, she was co-directing Rosenkavalier (with Lotfi Mansouri, I believe) and I was able to tell her how much her singing meant to me. I shall never forget her.