Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Andrè Schuen - Schumann Lieder and Ladin Song

Schumann Lieder with Andrè Schuen and Gerold Huber  Note accent grave, not  agui. He's not French but Ladin, from the Dolomites in South Tirol. Remember, because he's very promising indeed and we should be hearing a lot from him.  He's still only 33, but the richness and  depth in his lower register is quite splendid. Nice definition, too.  Nice looks, which will help on stage ! I missed his Wigmore Hall recital last year but now he features on a BR Klassik concert, recorded last week in Munich.   Schumann  12 Lieder nach Gedicten aus Justinius Kerner op 35 and Fünf Lieder,op. 40 to start the programme and Schumann 6 Gedichte und Requiem, op. 90 to end, framing five songs in Ladin, of which more later.

Though Schumann's Kerner Lieder are a true cycle, in the sense that they're more integrated as a whole than might at first appear, they also pose challenges. Right from the start, in  Lust der Strumnach,  Schuen launches into the storm-tossed turbulence. "Regen schauert, Stürme brausen", he sings, defiantly, the darkness in his timbre bringing out the darkness that lies at the heart of this cycle. Almost schizoid extremes of mood characterize the traverse, notes lie very high and very low. This turbulence even rumbles beneath Stirb'  Lieb’ und Freud”in which a man watches a novice transfixed by religious ecstasy. The tessitura suddenly peaks so high that some
singers scrape into falsetto; very few can manage the sudden tour de force transition with relative ease.  Schuen is strained, but nearly all singers are, too : nothing wrong with that in principle, since this represents a scream of anguish. The woman is renouncing the world, the man condemned to living death.  In
Auf das Trinkglas eines verstorbenes Freundes', the canon-like melody has a grandeur that raises it above a mere drinking song. It has an elegaic quality, suggesting an organ in a cathedral – linking back again to the mood of Stirb'   Lieb’ und Freud. Its long lines demand exceptional skill in phrasing, for it ponders the mystery of the relationship between the living and the dead, and along the way reflects the composer’s love of “Gold der deutschen Reben!”– at these lines there is a touching modulation which is sustained through the grandeur of “Auf diesen Glauben, Glas so hold!”A spider has wound its web round the long-dead man's wineglass.  Again, Schumann forces the singer's voice  way up his register. suggesting heights and distances the living cannot reach.  but Schuen carries it off very well.

The five songs in Schumann's Fünf Lieder, op 40 are a test of Schuen's dramatic skills.  The first two songs, Märzvielchen  and Muttertraum,  are relatively gentle, but the third, Der soldat, is sheer horror.    A man loves another more dearly than anyone else in the world, But what's happening ? His friend is being executed.  The beloved isn't a girl but a man: and we don't know the full circumstances.  Psychologically, this is a disturbing song, despite the steady march pace.  In comparison even Der Spielmann Op 40/4  might seem conventional since it connects to ancient traditions. The set ends with Verratene Liebe , which dances merrily, but describes cosmic betrayal. The stars steal the lovers’ kisses and throw them away. Freudians might detect sexual anxiety.

South Tirol was once ruled by Austria, and now by Italy. History has not been kind, and tensions still run high. All the more reason that those who know and love Ladin culture need to preserve and promote it.  There are variant dialects, blending German, Italian and Ladin heritage.  Knowing Macau, and having Romansch-speaking Swiss friends, I can relate to that !  Many outsiders know some famous figures of the region like Luis Trenker (see more HERE) and Max Tosi, but there are many other significant figures.  

In this recital, Schuen sang three songs by Felix Dapoz (b 1938), Ben dante mile steres, A la net and Alalt al oi.  The first is strophic, almost prayer-like. The second is altogether more upbeat, with a jaunty piano line  and recurring refrain "Viva, viva Liberté!".  Nos salvans by Jepele Frontull is tender and nicely paced, and Salüæ dal frostì by Lipo Verginer, art song with echoes of folk song.   Schuen’s sincerity and obvious love for these songs and what they stand for, warms them and makes them beautiful in their own way.  I can imagine Schuen doing good things with Hugo Wolf Italiensiches Liuederrbuch

Schuen and Huber followed the Ladin songs with Schumann Sechs Lieder op 90.  The first song, Lied eines Schmeides , has gentle but purposeful rocking rhythms which work well with the Ladin songs.  In Die Sennin, Schuen again reveals a gift for lyricism. "Schöne Sennin, noch einmal" he sings, brightly, but his voice dims sensitively for the critical lines "Wenn dich Liebe fortbewogen, Oder dich der Tod entzogen."  One day, the girl will be gone, but the mountains will remain, remembering her songs.  We're being prepared for the melancholy in Der schwere Abend . In the Requiem, though, Schumann turns to elegy. Schuen's voice rises carrying the long, heroic lines.  Rolling figures in the piano part, but firm resolve in the vocal line. 

Andrè Schuen - photo Guido Werner 2017 Kunstler Sekretariat am Gasteig

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