These songs were given a compelling shape by the artistic directors of Schubert@Co. at yesterday's recital. While Jonathan Ware took on the collaborative piano work for the first half of the program, Lachlan Glen provided the narration directly from the novel, a narration that stitched the songs together into a meaningful evening. We are familiar with the fine work of all the singers involved in the recital and we have never heard them so intensely involved and so present. We attribute this to the effective dramatic concept.
Baritone Michael Kelly, who will be singing Die Winterreise next Saturday evening, opened the program with "Wandrers Nachtlied I," D.224 and closed the program with "Wandrers Nachtlied II", D. 768. His arresting performance was marked by exquisite word coloring such that "süss" sounded just like honey tastes and "schmerz" produced an ache in our chest. Bass-baritone Evan Hughes performed "Der Sänger" with his customary dramatic flair, but it was "flair squared".
Soprano Raquel Gonzalez sang "Heiss mich nicht reden" and "So lasst mich scheinen", also known as Mignon I and Mignon II from D. 726 and D. 727 respectively, using her gorgeous instrument to successfully evoke the plaints of a troubled child. Following Mr. Kelly's lovely "Harfenspieler II" D.480, the collaborative piano was taken over by world-renowned Malcolm Martineau who, like Warren Jones, seems to breathe along with the singer. His participation was evidence of the importance of Schubert@Co.'s artistic mission, a genuine treat which did not in any way detract from Mr. Ware's excellence in the first half of the program.
"Grenzen der Menschheit", D. 716 permitted Mr. Hughes to show off his vocal power at the bottom of the register with consummate expressiveness. Baritone Jesse Blumberg gave an astonishing performance of "Gesänge des Harfners I, II, and III" (D. 478, 480, and 479 respectively), songs of such grief and loneliness that our eyes filled with tears. Mr. Blumberg caressed each word, seemingly enjoying the flavor. The result was riveting.
Ms. Gonzalez followed with "Nur wer die Sehnsuch kennt", D.359, not the version with which we are most familiar, but equally tragic and moving. Soprano Simone Easthope took over from there with "Kennst du das Land" D.321; her just-right vibrato and involvement with the song made the far-off land for which Mignon pines completely visible in the mind's eye. She followed this with "Gesange aus Wilhelm Meister I, II, III and IV", all from D.877. This included a new setting of "Heiss mich nicht reden" and the version of "Nur wer die sehnsucht kennt" with which we are most familiar. We felt like we were meeting a dear old friend wearing beautiful new clothes.
It would seem that Schubert just loved setting these songs over and over again, that the singers loved singing them, and the audience loved hearing them, as evidenced by the standing ovation at the end of the recital.
One cannot fail to be impressed by the hard work, love and dedication of everyone concerned with Schubert&Co. There are many more recitals to come and lovers of lieder will be sated by the end of the project. Or...maybe they will want a repeat next year!
(c) meche kroop