Thursday, 5 April 2012

Another pansy comes out too soon

Some of the live Lieder performances last week on the BBC Spirit of Schubert series were unremarkable but Ian Bostridge's Viola D783 was very good indeed, fresher than on his recording with Leif Ove Adnes (which is recommended). Viola isn't an easy song to pull off well, as there are 19 minimally varied rhyming strophes that take nearly 15 minutes to sing. But Bostridge does it sincerely, revealing its delicate sensitivity.

The text is by Franz von Schober, whose songs (like Die Forellen) often have raffish undertones. A snowdrop rings its bell to announce that Spring is on its way. The viola leaps awake, adorned as a bride in "den Mantel sammetblau, Nimmt das güldene Geschmeid, Und den Brilliantentau" (in a blue velvet cloak, adorned with gold and dew like diamonds). But it's not Spring yet. No bridegroom, no sister flowers. The viola hides, ashamed. Soon, roses, tulips, hyacinths and lilies come out in their finery but it's the humble viola whom Spring calls his "favourite child". The flowers are sent to search her out. (How Disney would have illustrated this!) The viola is found,  her head buried beneath her leaves. It's charming, but any gardener knows roses and lilies don't come out til much later. Or walk. Or think about bridegrooms. This is not a nature song!

Be charmed, too by Hugo Wolf's setting of Eduard Mörike's poem Zitronenfalter im April (HERE) and Karwoche, where violets are portents of death (HERE)

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