We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Thursday, April 23, 2015


Mitsuko Uchida and Dorothea Röschmann

Highly celebrated in Europe but too little heard in the United States, soprano Dorothea Röschmann made a welcome appearance at Carnegie Hall last night with equally celebrated Mitsuko Uchida as her collaborative pianist.

The all-German program focused on two song cycles by Robert Schumann, both composed in 1840, during that very productive year when he won the court case permitting him to marry his beloved Clara.

The evening's program began with his Liederkreis, Op.39, a dozen songs of varying moods, one lovelier than the next. Ms. Röschmann's burnished soprano is flawless and focused throughout the registers and her musicianship is undeniable. There is something elegant and tasteful about her manner. One could call it unassuming.

There were times when we wished for more drama in the storytelling, as in "Waldegespräch"; we longed to hear the difference in coloring between the words of the rider and the words of the Loreley. 

Ms. Uchida is a highly sensitive accompanist and often we heard more of the mood of the song in her piano. In "Mondnacht" she made moonlight audible, to our delight. "Auf einer Burg" had the right haunting feeling. The searching atmosphere of several songs was unmistakable and emotionally affecting.

The ending of "Im Walde" was given a chill by both artists who lent their skills to the storytelling.

The storytelling of the final work on the program grew in power. Frauenliebe und leben, Op.42 is one of our favorites and we are always happy to see it on a program. The challenge for the singer is to convince us that she is a young girl still playing games with her sisters who then grows into womanhood during the course of the cycle.

The timbre of Ms. Röschmann's instrument is very suited to melancholy and grief. She was incredibly moving in the final tragic "Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan" but she was less believable as the excited young girl who falls head over heels in love with a man.

She did inject a dose of excitement into "Ich kann's nicht fassen, nicht glauben" but we wanted to hear a different color when the girl gives voice to the man's words "Ich bin auf ewig dein". We enjoyed the serious tenor of "Du Ring an meinem Finger" as the woman realizes the import of her engagement. Similarly we appreciated the quiet joy as she let her husband know of her pregnancy in "Süsser Freund, du blickest".

In between the two Schumann cycles we heard Alban Berg's Sieben frühe Lieder which we have recently come to appreciate, thanks to a recital two weeks ago by Mary-Jane Lee (review archived). Ms. Röschmann furthered our appreciation, thanks to a sensitive delivery that captured the elusive quality of the songs.

We particularly enjoyed "Die Nachtigall" because of its haunting melody; we got goosebumps when Ms. Röschmann sang the phrase "Die Rosen aufgesprungen". "Im Zimmer" we loved for its atmosphere; the piano did a great job of emulating dancing flames from the little red fire.

It was during the encores that we most enjoyed Ms. Röschmann. She removed some of the restraints and let loose with a shattering performance of Schubert's "Nur wer die sehnsucht kennt" and Stern Auditorium was filled with more emotion and a greater amplitude of sound than was heard all evening. As if this were not enough, it was followed by "Kennst du das Land", set by Hugo Wolf.  One can never go wrong with the Mignonlieder from Goethe's Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre!

(c) meche kroop

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