Jason Wirth, Georgi Lekov, Peter Ludwig, Alonso Jordan Lopez, Sandra Goodman, and Kinga Cserjési
Who doesn't love songs about love! We hope Johannes Brahms enjoyed writing them a much as we enjoy hearing them. It' been way too long since we heard a performance of his Liebeslieder-Walzer, Opus 52 and we were delighted to hear of such an evening at the Hungarian House. Not only did we get to enjoy this glorious cycle but also several other songs from Opus 31, 28, and 62. Moreover, as icing on this delicious cake, we heard some Hungarian Dances, Wo01 for one pianos, four hands. What a feast!
Jason Wirth, our collaborative pianist for the evening, was joined by Georgi Lekov for some brilliant four-handed playing. The pair dazzled us with some very lively playing that made us want to get up and dance. There were motifs that reminded us of Dvorak's Songs My Mother Taught Me. We loved the way the opening phrase was repeated, lending unity to the work. And we loved the use of minor keys (F minor in "Dance #4 from Book 1" and A minor in "Dance #8 from Book 2", both of them stirring and magnificently performed).
Mr. Wirth evinced his conducting chops in the lengthy sorrowful "Vergangen ist mir Glück und Heil".
The vocal part of the evening involved the tender tenor tones of Alonso Jordan Lopez, the sparkling soprano of Kinga Cserjési, the soothing contralto of Sandra Goodman, and the booming bass-baritone of Peter Ludwig. Brahms' cycle gives everyone a chance to shine but our favorite parts are written for all four voices sometimes harmonizing, sometimes alternating, and sometimes interwoven.
What we most appreciate about Brahms' writing for the voice is the way he accords as much respect in setting folk songs as he does setting texts of such masterful poets as Georg Friedrich Daumer and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ("Es rauschet das Wasser", a charming dialogue between a man and a woman, and "Zum Schluss") .
Perhaps each listener has his or her own favorites. We always love hearing duets in which a man tries to persuade a woman as in "Guten Abend, mein tausiger Schatz". In this case, the woman relents at the end but has her conditions!
We liked the storytelling of Mr. Ludwig as he animated the tale of a hunchback fiddler whose hump was removed by a maiden as payment for his merry fiddling. Ms. Goodman gave "In stiller Nacht" a lovely gentle delivery. Ms. Cserjési was most affecting in the lament "Wohl schön bewandt war es".
Perhaps our favorite song is the frisky "Ein kleiner, hübscher Vogel" in which Brahms' rhythm evokes the hopping of a bird. In "Am Donaustrande" we loved the complexity of the writing which reflects the many barriers to love and the way the music resolves along with the resolve of the man whose determination will lead to success.
It was a lovely evening and we greatly enjoyed the tenorial contributions of Mr. Lopez whose voice is truly a standout in everything he sings. We are always amazed when a singer can get the emotional content across whilst using a music stand.
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