Schubert&Co continued their exploration of Schubert's prodigious song output (over 600!) in an evening devoted to Schubert's settings of Schiller's poetry. How the two giants of the 19th c. complemented one another! Schiller's poetry is dramatic and given to frequent classical references; it rhymes and it scans. The works are lengthy and nearly operatic in scope; the frequent changes of moods make demands on the singer and the pianist alike to sustain the interest of the listener. We can't help wondering whether the indifferent vocal music being written today would be improved if the poetry were more meaningful.
The five singers who took this on were more than equal to the task. Mezzo Jazimina MacNeil deftly handled the lighthearted "Die vier Weltalter" as well as the horror-filled "Gruppe aus dem Tartarus". Soprano Sarah Shafer did justice to the joyful "Elysium" and sang the part of Hector's wife Andromache in the sorrowful "Hektors Abschied" with tenor Nils Neubert singing the part of Hector. Mr. Neubert was outstanding in the sad story "Ritter Toggenburg". Mezzo Nathalie Mittelbach was exceptional in "Klage der Ceres", a mother's woeful lament for her deceased daughter; she has a substantial voice and one could recognize the pleading on the part of the piano, performed so movingly by Lachlan Glen. More lamenting was heard when Ms. Shafer sang the poignant "Des Mädchens Klage" in her ear-tingling bright soprano. The program ended with the long story "Die Bürgschaft" which had an uncharacteristic happy ending. Baritone Tyler Duncan used his vocal and dramatic gifts to tell the story in a meaningful and moving way whilst piano partner Erika Switzer tackled the difficult scale passages and vigorous chords with aplomb. It was a long evening in which our interest never flagged owing to the fine interpretive singing and pianism.
The following night of this Festival Weekend continued with three more talented singers undertaking the poetry of Karl Gottfried Ritter von Leitner, Pietro Antonio Domenico Trapassi (a.k.a. Metastasio) and James MacPherson (a.k.a. Ossian) as set by Schubert. Soprano Pureum Jo was the perfect choice for the Metastasio and hearing Italian was an agreeable change. We especially enjoyed "Didone abbandonata" in which one could appreciate the pingy resonance of her voice throughout a wide tonal range. Mr. Glen's roiling piano was notable in "Son fra l'onde".
Baritone John Brancy has long impressed us with his warm and sizable voice and interpretive skills. Last night he sang two songs by von Leitner, "Drang in die Ferne" and "Der Kreuzzug", which demonstrated his strength in the lower register; the German friend who accompanied us confirmed our confidence in Mr. Brancy's perfect German in which every word can be clearly understood.
Tenor Cullen Gandy invested von Leitner's "Der Wallensteiner Lanzknecht beim Trunk" with all the power required in a drinking song. We were also able to enjoy him in Italian as he sang Metastasio's "Non t'accostar all'urna" to which we were delighted to be introduced, having only been familiar with the setting by Verdi.
If you have not yet attended one of Schubert&Co's recitals, you will have several more opportunities. This is an amazing opportunity to discover works that have not yet been given their due. We will be eternally grateful to Jonathan Ware and Lachlan Glen, Co-Artistic Directors, for this opportunity.
(c) meche kroop