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, November 17, 2016


Mariella Haubs, Babette Hierholzer, Gerard Schneider, and Jardena Fluckiger

Evenings of classical music offer many delights but transcendent moments happen but occasionally and produce feelings of incomparable bliss. We experienced just such a moment last night at the German Forum concert at the intimate Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center.

The special moment occurred when tenor Gerard Schneider was singing Richard Strauss' "Allerseelen". The poet tells of the sole day of the year when one gets to reunite with loved ones who are no longer on this earth. Mr. Schneider sang it with a depth of feeling that leapt right from his heart to ours. It was the the kind of connection we dream about and what every singer longs to achieve. Our eyes brimmed with tears.

By contrast, he sang Strauss' "Zueignung" with a blend of tenderness and passion that was thrilling to hear. Here is a tenor well on his way to superstardom who knows exactly how to use his gorgeous instrument. He also sang selections from Schumann's Dichterliebe with great control of dynamics and color, soothing the sore ears we got from enduring a recent awful performance, one we declined to write about.

And if one wanted something lighter, he gave us "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz", the well known aria from Franz Lehar's Land des Lachelns; he sang it ardently and we were completely enraptured. "Ach, so fromm" from Friedrich von Flotow's Martha was sung with the tender tones of love.

Soprano Jardena Fluckiger has a lovely pure tone and entertained us with some of our favorite songs by Hugo Wolf, selected from his Italienisches Liederbuch. She has an expressive face that complements her voice, and when she employs bodily gesture it adds a fine dimension to her performance. We always love the racy "Ich hab in Penna einen Liebsten wohnen" and, after the punchline, Babette Hierholzer's piano contributed the most delightful postlude.

Ms. Fluckiger gave us some impressive coloratura singing in "Quel guardo" from Gaetano Donizetti's Don Pasquale. The embellishments were well handled and there was a particularly fine trill.

Compared with the bel canto fireworks, the two songs by Claude Debussy from Quatre chansons de jeunesse seemed a bit pallid and wanted more color.

Rounding out this superb program was music for violin and piano, performed by Ms. Hierholzer and concertmistress of the Juilliard Orchestra Mariella Haubs, who deserves all the accolades she receives. She was playing a Peter Guarneri violin from 1721, loaned by The Juilliard School, and what a sound came from this instrument!

Ms. Haubs is beautiful and glamorous but if you close your eyes you would believe it was someone very very famous and of more advanced years. The star number was the first movement of Beethoven's Kreutzer sonata, the presto section of which is forceful and technically demanding of both pianist and violinist. The two artists rose to the occasion to such an extent that we wanted desperately to hear the rest of the sonata but, alas, it was not on the program.

Instead we heard "Winter" from Antonio Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, a seasonal selection in which we could hear the snowflakes falling. Also on the program was Mozart's Sonata in F Major with its rapid fire triplets.

The evening ended with two selections from Lehar's Die Lustige Witwe.  First, Mr. Schneider sang the role of Camille, Count de Rosillon, inviting Valencienne (Ms. Fluckiger) to a romantic rendezvous in a pavilion. Then we heard "Lippen schweigen", the Act 3 duet between Hanna and Count Danilo, accompanied by violin and piano.

The German Forum, helmed by President Henry Meyer-Oertel, provides performance opportunities for artists from German speaking countries and has a loyal and devoted following. Many of the members share a passion for German composers and, naturlich, the singers sing German the way it should be sung. Their events are always major treats! Those who read our opinions know how highly we esteem the versatile collaborative pianist Ms. Hierholzer. Watch out for the next event!

(c) meche kroop

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