Thursday, 30 December 2010

Christianne Stotijn, Vancouver

Barbara Miller writes about Christianne Stotijn's concert in Vancouver BC :

"Appropriately enough, the recital opened with the Opus 48 songs by Edvard Grieg. The opening song “Gruss”,with text by Heinrich Heine, ends “Wenn du eine Rose schaust, Sag, ich lass sie grüssen” (If you see a rose, give her my greetings). This not only set up the Goethe song “Zur Rosenzeit” later in the set, but also the Brahms set of Heine settings, and the Strauss set of “rose” themed songs, that filled out the first half of the recital.

Stotijn’s voice is warm and very pleasant to listen to. The 668-seat Vancouver playhouse is intimate enough that I could easily hear her voice directly from my seat in the fifth row, without additional resonance from the hall, which heightened the personal connection I felt with her performance. While I wouldn’t say that her voice shimmered or blossomed in its upper range it had a wonderful presence and she used it expressively, as in “Die verschwiegene Nachtigall”, where the first “Tandaradei” of the nightingale evoked the lover’s happy cries of lovemaking, then was echoed more quietly, as a secret, happy memory.

I particularly enjoyed hearing the Heine-lieder of Brahms, many of which I had explored myself as an adjunct to the class I taught on Schumann’s Dichterliebe. (I presented a little program of “Heine songs by Schumann’s contemporaries at the end of the class). The songs were performed in order of opus number, although I was gratified to see that the artists had made the same choice I ultimately did, by ending the set not with the dramatic, bleak “Meerfahrt” but rather with the peacefully transcendent “Der Tod, das ist die kühle Nacht”, where the composer accepts his dream of “lauter Liebe”, regardless of whether the poet is using his customary irony, an irony very evident in the song which opened the set: “Es liebt sich so lieblich im Lenze”. As one would expect from the musical unity between the two, “Sommerabend” and “Mondenschein” were performed essentially as a single piece. My early reading of these songs revealed there is a potential for monotony, which the artists skillfully avoided through delicate work on the piano, and dramatic color change in the voice at “Krankes Herz und müde Glieder”. The Romantic momentum continued with an immediate transition to the rippling “Es schauen die Blumen” If the moonlight and the flight of song had healed the lover temporarily, it lasted no longer than the pause before “Meerfahrt”, where Stotijn gazed rather forlornly into the piano during the opening interlude evoking the bobbing of the little boat on the waves. I personally would have liked to hear more of a dance and less of a straightforwardly urgent forward momentum as the boat passed by the ghostly island with its lovely musical tones and dancing mists, but in “Der Tod”, I felt that the sensitive, skillful, and wonderfully expressive pianist Joseph Breinl did a perfect job of nailing the crucial subito forte chord that cuts into the drowsiness of the vocal line with its reminder of the pain of the day.

The Strauss set which closed the first half was something of a “rose garden” of “Das Rosenband”, “Rote Rosen” and “Die erwachte Rose”, finishing with the rose awakening at dawn in the final verse of “Ständchen”, which also hearkened back to the nightingale and linden tree of Grieg’s “Die Verschiegenen Nachtigall”. It was interesting to contrast this “Ständchen” performance with the one I had heard in San Francisco a few weeks earlier by Measha Brueggergosman and Justus Zeyen. Both the voice and the space had been larger then, matched by the pianist’s virtuoso execution of the filigree accompaniment. I found Breinl’s performance here, while no less detailed, even more breathtaking as it rippled along at a softer volume.

The second half of the recital was in Russian, consisting of some Tchaikovsky romances, two of Mussorgsky’s “Songs and Dances of Death”, and some Rachmaninoff songs. She is quite comfortable in this language, having made a recording of Tchaikovsky songs with Julius Drake. What I personally found most interesting was that, having concluded the Tchaikovsky set with a very charming Cradle Song (text by Maykov), she kept her gaze on the pianist as he turned a page, the audience withholding applause despite a clear break in the printed program,and then, instead of leaving the stage, the artists began the Cradle Song from the songs and Dances of Death, to quite a chilling effect. While up to this point, the singer had relied upon vocal color changes and a very expressive face to communicate the Romantic songs in the program, here I noticed a real contrast for the dialogue between the distraught mother of the sick baby, and the ironically soothing tone of Death, singing “lullabye” to the child that it is about to take. If it is possible for a shudder to be audible, that is what went up from the audience in the silence following this Cradle Song. The other Mussorsky song was the Trepak, in which Death lulls a drunken peasant to sleep/death under a blanket of snow to the rhythm of a folk dance. As with the Brahms “Meerfahrt”, I would have liked to hear a bit more of the “bounce” of the dance along with the sharply piercing forward motion that Breinl gave us, but that’s a matter of personal taste."


Vancouver Dentist said...

Your knowledge of classical music is impressive. I would like to attain to your level of expertise some day, but alas, it's unlikely. Suffice it to say, I know great classical music when I hear it, but ask me why, and I'm at a loss to explain. Your ability to critique and the depth of your perception is appreciated.
Dr. Andrew Willoughby

Doundou Tchil said...

Hello ! This eeview2 was written by a Seattle 4resident ! But it's true music is something you learn with your soul. Welcome any time !