Friday, 27 May 2011

Brahms Da unten im Tal

Yesterday at the Wigmore Hall an important recital - Brahms and Schumann four-part songs. It's always an occasion when they're performed live because it isn't easy to get four top singers together whose voices balance perfectly and who can get the intricate interplay of harmonies. The two Brahms sets, Liebeslieder Waltzes op 52 and Neues Liebeslieder Waltzes op 65, are quite a hefty undertaking, as performances usually include other Brahms part songs like the exquisite Der Abend, one of my all time favourites. Detailed review follows soon in Opera Today. The last time I heard a Brahms Liebeslieder programme live was also at the Wigmore Hall, in 1997?, very beautiully sung by Christoph Prégardien, Ingeborg Danz, Juliane Banse and Thomas Quasthoff.  The absolute classic recording is Peter Schreier, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Edith Mathis and Brigitte Fassbaender, all but DFD Wigmore Hall regulars.

This time the singers were Bernarda Fink, Sylvia Schwartz, Michael Schade and Robert Holl. Fink and Holl are extremely experienced, top of their Fach, so I wasn't disappointed by Thomas Quasthoff's no-show. Quasthoff wasn't overlooked though, because Michael Schade gave a short speech with a message from him. "Quasthoff talks a lot, so I will do too". Unfortunately that's all too true. Perhaps there are reasons, but I'm more into music than into celebrities. Holl is doing another solo recital on Sunday at the Wigmore Hall - get to it to hear what real Lieder singing is about. He's singing Brahms Vier ernste Lieder, which he does grippingly well. Be there - it will be an experience and maybe even an education. Holl's not young but his technique is so firm, and his expressive ability is so strong, he's impressive.

Da unten im Tal was one of the encores. As Schade noted, it was one of Elizabeth Schwarzkopf's favourites, I've put it up here as a sample. The song seems simple, like folk melody, but listen carefully to the desperation in the undertones. The girl knows her lover is a cad, who will always be false and will betray her, as he's probably cheated on many before. Yet her love is so intense that she'll cherish the moment while it lasts. Schwarzkopf shows how the girl has dignity and poise, despite her anguish. And so the poignant last strophe in which a tumult of emotion is distilled into quiet resignation:

Für die Zeit, wo du gliebt mi hast,
Da dank i dir schön,
Und i wünsch, daß dir's anderswo
Besser mag gehn.

(For the time that you made me happy, I thank you. And I wish you well wherever you may wander)

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