|Emanuel Ax and Anne Sofie von Otter onstage at Carnegie Hall
Ms. Von Otter is on the contained side but during the first encore, "Sapphische Ode" her gestures grew in amplitude and somehow bridged the intimacy gap. In the second encore she enacted, yes ENACTED! the dialogue between a young woman who has trouble expressing what she wants to her mother who feigns ignorance. The girl gets increasingly exasperated until her mother realizes the girl wants a man. So far we are unable to locate the name of this charming song but will supply it in the future.
Brahms oeuvre of lieder is vast and he had an affection for setting folk songs, many of which were heard last night. We enjoyed "Sommerabend Op.85, No. 1" in which our two artists shared moments of exquisite control of dynamics. In "Juchhe! Op. 6, No. 4" we heard a joyful side of Brahms that was pure delight. The heartfelt "Von ewiger Liebe, Op. 43, No. 1" has won our admiration time and time again. In "Ständchen, Op. 106, No. 1", another favorite of ours, the two artists painted a charming picture of three serenaders and their effect on a sleeping maiden. We observed that when Ms. Von Otter uses her body her voice seems to open up and enfold the audience to a greater extent.
"Nachtwandler, Op. 86, No. 3" had a lovely delicacy; "Am Sonntag Morgen, Op. 49, No. 1" was marked by an impressive range of vocal color as the singer puts on a happy face for the world while suffering within. There was a lovely rocking feeling in the piano in "Ruhe, Süssliebchen, Op. 33, No. 9". We recently heard the entire cycle Magelone-Lieder performed by the Brooklyn Art Song Society and were pleased to hear the song again.
Also performed were the Zigeunerlieder, Op. 103 which have somewhat less of a gypsy flavor than those of Dvořak. We most enjoyed "Wisst ihr, wann mein Kindchen" and the rhythmic "Brauner Bursche führt zum Tanze" which was performed with lavish rubato.
Mr. Ax had the opportunity to perform four of Brahm's late-life short pieces, three Intermezzi and a Romanze. Our favorite was the "Intermezzo in A Major, Op. 118, No. 2" in which we are sure we heard echoes of Mendelssohn's "Ist es wahr".
About Mr. Muhly's "So Many Things", we have little to say. Our 19th c. ears could not wrap themselves around the 21st c. music and, although certain words could be heard, entire phrases could not be understood and the text was not in the program.
We felt privileged to be able to witness these artists onstage in spite of the drawback mentioned earlier. It is unlikely that we would ever have the opportunity to experience them in a more intimate venue.
ⓒ meche kroop