|Jonas Kaufmann and Diana Damrau, Wolf Italienisches Liederbuch, Goldner Saale, Musikverein, Vienna|
Jonas Kaufmann and Diana Damrau singing Hugo Wolf's Italienisches Liederbuch with Helmut Deutsch at the Barbican Hall, London. Despite astronomical prices, tickets will sell. Not for Hugo Wolf, but for Kaufmann and Damrau, a good team for music like this. Unlike most of the concerts in the Barbican's Kaufman residency, this one is seriously interesting in musical terms. Hugo Wolf will always be more specialist taste than populist, but this Liederbuch could be ideally suited to Kaufmann, whose sensually-charged, darker timbre should be pretty much perfect. Wolf hasn't enjoyed mega profile celebrity status for decades. Kaufmann and Damrau's tour takes in twelve European cities, including Berlin, Vienna, London, Paris, Barcelona and Budapest. Kaufmann and Damrau's Wolf Italienisches Liederbuch is significant, so chances are that a recording will eventuate. It will be cheaper than shelling out big for tickets/transport ! haha ! Besides THIS is where I went the night before, still high on it.
For the Italienisches Liederbuch, Wolf used texts by Paul Heyse, whose translations of Italian and Spanish poetry appealed to German-language readers, fascinated by "The Dream of the South" a potent theme in Central European aesthetics, even before Goethe's life-transforming visits to Italy. Wolf was born in Windischgrätz in what is now Slovenia. Though the family was German-speaking, Wolf's mother played the guitar and had Italian connections. Dreams of the South cast a spell on Wolf, who would later go on to write the Spanisches Liederbuch and the opera Der Corregidor. Significantly, though, Wolf never actually made it to Italy. When his friend arranged for him to visit during his last, troubled years, he refused to go, aware perhaps that nothing could quite match the Italy of his imagination. The forty-six songs in Wolf's Italienisches Liederbuch form a panorama, each song an individual vignette. Lovers pine for one another, thwarted by bossy mothers. Serenades, and songs about dirty old men dressed as monks ! Delicate songs of innocence, robust songs of flirtation, and songs of sheer wonder, like Schon streckt' ich aus im Bett die müden Glieder, where a man jumps out of bed to fill the streets with song. But not just to one girl. "So manches Mädchen hat mein Lied gerührt, Indes der Wind schon Sang und Klang entführt." (many girls hear my song, even when it's been blown away by wind and noise). Images of sunshine, and of the night, of warmth and a sensibility very different to uptight Northern morality (and probably not much like strict Catholic behaviour, either.).
Each song is a miniature opera, telling a story, creating a mood. That's why I think these songs were made for Jonas Kaufmann. His voice has a smouldering, sexy quality which suits the slightly louche nature of these songs. His Italianate looks don't hurt, either ! As an opera singer, creating character with his voice comes naturally. Although these songs are Lieder, they aren't as inward or as intellectual as many Lieder can be, so they can benefit from a more impersonal approach as long as the touch is elegant enough not to overwhelm. Although Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau made so many recordings that the Italienisches Liederbuch is almost (not quite) associated with him, the collection is also tenor territory. Peter Schreier and Christoph Prégardien performed it many time, Prégardien sometimes adjusting the song order to group the songs into tighter units. So Kaufmann, with his baritonish richness could create the best of both worlds.
Because Wolf's Italienisches Liederbuch depends so much on the interplay between the many different components in the collection, in practical performance it needs singers who are balanced enough to create a natural flow between their voices. Diana Damrau has done the Italienisches Liederbuch before, so she's a known quality. The girlish brightness of her youth has warmed to a maturity, better suited to this collection, where so many songs describe a worldly-wise woman with such confidence that she can chide her (many) lovers with mocking good humour. Many of the "female" songs in this set reveal women as stronger personalities than men. And as for Helmut Deutsch, he's so familiar to Lieder people that we can "hear" him, just thinking about him.