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Franz Schubert

Friday, May 27, 2016


My Classical Notes

Yesterday

Playlist: My Favorite Schubert Lieder

My Classical NotesBeethoven died in Vienna in 1827 at age 56. Franz Schubert was the next great composer after Beethoven. Schubert, however, died just one year after Beethoven, in 1828, at age 31. Schubert left us some amazing chamber music, as well as instrumental music for violin and for piano, and of course some great symphonies. We are still able to enjoy some 600 surviving songs for male and female voice, accompanied by piano. Many of these Lieder have kept me company from an early age, because they were appreciated by both of my parents. My playlist below captures just six of these wonderful Lieder, as performed by Renee Fleming, Dieter Fischer- Diskau, and Ian Bostridge. Please take the time to enjoy them…

My Classical Notes

May 23

May 28, Clarinetist Michael Collins London Concert

Clarinet player Michael Collins is joined by bassoonist Robin O’Neill, horn-player Richard Watkins, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and Laura Samuel, viola-player Krzysztof Chorzelski, cellist Leonard Elschenbroich, double-bassist Lynda Houghton, pianist Michael McHale and soprano Lucy Crowe performing the works by Mozart and Schubert. Venue: Wigmore Hall, London Address: 36 Wigmore St London W1U 2BP Date/time: Saturday, May 28, 2016 at 7:30 PM Here is Mr. Collins, performing the Clarinet concerto in A-Major by Mozart:




getClassical (Ilona Oltuski)

May 21

Evgeny Kissin’s Well-Tempered Departure

Pianist Evgeny Kissin , concluding thePerspectives series at Carnegie Hall’s 125th anniversary season – which also celebrated his illustrious pianistic solo debut here 25 years ago – wooed audiences once more with Rachmaninoff’s beloved Piano Concerto No. 2, before taking a previously announced leave of absence from concertizing in the USA. The concert amounted to a farewell observation on the series’ narrative, revealing the artist’s uniquely personal artistic journey. Capture by Simone Massoni This article was published by the author on Blogcritics Magazine Since that memorable Carnegie Hall debut, with people waving hundred-dollar bills to scalp a ticket on mobbed street blocks around the sold-out concert hall, New Yorkers’ enthusiasm for Kissin does not seem to have diminished in the least. Coming out of the Soviet Union as a prodigal talent with staggering musicality, his reputation had preceded his eagerly awaited appearances before both Russian and world audiences; and perhaps like no other, this pure Romantic has united them in an ecstatic communal sense. It was Carnegie Hall’s centennial season, 1990-91, and Kissin, age 19, was – as in the current season – the notable opening act, one of the very few artists who had never had to ask, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” He simply arrived, and performed annually from then on. “What makes a performance great?” I once asked him, and he simply remarked: “It has to be convincing.” Carnegie Hall initiated its Perspectives series in 1999 to further explore the complexity of what makes an artist great by showcasing leading artists’ individual interests and bringing in their musical friends. The previous pianist the series focused on was Sir Andràs Schiff in 2011-12. This season’s in-depth close-up opened channels of discovery into Kissin’s enigmatic persona and vocation on stage, in five different programs. Beyond bringing some of the musical milestones of Kissin’s career full circle, the series portrayed the artist who at 44, unabashed by the persistent trail of Wunderkind status, has proven he can carve out new paths of artistic growth and a remarkable personal departure. His choices of programs are always “a matter of love,” and it is the kind of intimate, sanctified love that does not warrant further conversation. Notwithstanding his free spirit he feels: “Talking about all kind of things including sex, is great fun – talking about music seems vulgar.” Knowing how close to his heart his programs are – he usually spends a full touring season with each one – one had to wonder why Chopin, with whose concertos the pianist skyrocketed to stardom and who, as Kissin confesses when pressed on the subject, is the closest to his heart, would not appear in any of his featured programs. Bookending the series with two of the arch-romantic Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff concerts, Kissin instead curated his classical solo recitals with works by Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms in conjunction with the Spanish composers Albéniz and Larregla. Highlighting his extraordinary temperament en galore with the Spanish rhythmic idiom added a most welcome geographic twist to the Germanic precursors. The recital program, which was performed twice that same week in November, was legendary not only because his “Appassionata” was nothing short of a revelation, but because a repeat performance of the same repertoire, selling out the house twice in a row, had till then been a feat achieved only by Vladimir Horowitz, in 1979. No one present at Kissin’s concerts, least of all the performer himself, would suspect that concert halls are scrambling to fill their seats at many other quality concerts. Least of all at the truly stirring season’s opening concert, with red carpets rolled out for the occasion all across 57th street. Opening of Carnegie Hall’s 125th season. Photo: Ilona Oltuski If Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the New York Philharmonic and its departing director Alan Gilbert was meant to be associated with one of Kissin’s own, most triumphant historic performances of the same concerto in 1987, given with Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic when the pianist was just 16, Kissin certainly stood the test of time. While one can’t say if Gilbert was as touched by Kissin’s brilliance as was Karajan, who, according to Karajan’s wife was moved to tears by the genial talent of his chosen young performer, their engagement certainly carried its own merit of excellence, making it also one of Gilbert’s rather gallant collaborations to remember. On the day following his evening of Yiddish music and poetry, Carnegie’s Executive and Artistic Director Clive Gillinson moderated – at the associates’ level ticket price – a public tête-à-tête on stage, where Kissin appeared relaxed and personable. He humored the audience with anecdotes about Prokofiev and his first meeting with Karajan, as well as his strong-mindedness when it comes to conductors who don’t share his vision. He also recalled some of his earlier years, when his revered only mentor through all these years, Anna Kantor, moved in with the Kissins, following them on their path from Moscow to New York to London. Turning 93 now, Kantor stays a vibrant member of Kissin’s family, and hers continue to be the ears he trusts the most; until recently she was an integral part of his concert touring entourage and it speaks for their deeply reverent relationship that the pianist continues to play new repertoire through for her. Evgeny Kissin with Anna Kantor. Photo: Ilona Oltuski A first was Kissin’s public opening up about becoming inspired and re-inventing himself: “As we live and develop we discover new things in ourselves, of which we were not aware earlier,” he says. “A few years ago, I would have never been able to imagine that I would be writing my own poetry in Yiddish and have it published…I have always hoped and continue to hope that I will always keep improving.” Almost no trace remains of the admitted former “painfully shy” mannerisms of his younger years. No matter how long the line of beleaguering fans may be, he happily obliges with oddly composed courtesy and at times touching generosity. Evgeny Kissin swarmed by his fans at Carnegie Hall after Rachmaninoff concerto performance. Photo: Ilona Oltuski Perhaps the least successful program of the series was Kissin’s much anticipated novel partnership with violinist Itzhak Perlman in a trio performance with Kissin’s longtime collaborator, cellist Misha Maisky. It was almost surprising that the performance lacked a persuasive harmonious flow of leadership and balance, given the great musicianship of all these artists individually. Perlman’s melodic lines especially seemed to get lost at times acoustically, flanked by Maisky’s and Kissin’s powerful virtuosity. In contrast, Kissin’s Yiddish evening was in some ways the most significant program of the series. Kissin’s passion project of Yiddish poetry recitation and music by rarely performed Jewish composers illuminated the deeply personal context of his engagement with Jewish culture. The fascinating presentation touched audiences on many levels, highlighting Kissin’s capacity and courage to explore new artistic frontiers. This was the case with works by Ernest Bloch, Alexander Veprik, Alexander Klein, and Mikhail Milner, with which Kissin ventured into modernist and folklore-inspired tunes off the beaten path. Carnegie Hall Green Room moment: the author with Mischa Maisky and Evgeny Kissin after their collaborative concert With his nuanced and melodic declamation of poems in the Yiddish idiom of Yitzhak-Leybush Peretz, Kissin captured the lyrical elements and aura of the language with its particular humor and spirit, transporting the transfixed audience into the bygone era of the shtetl. Soulfully baring his heart in every syllable, the magnetic performer – stripped of all his virtuoso veneer – sufficed to fill the hall, momentarily halting time. As in Kissin’s own poem, the evening’s credo points to celebrating our intrinsic individualism, which, if painful to bear at times, brings fulfillment through truth to ourselves. Ani maymin Credo Translation by Barrnett Zumoff Shoyn Terekh hot gezogt zayn kleynem zun mit shrek: After Terah* said fearfully to his young son: “Far vos bist nit aza, vi ale?”. “Why are you not like all the others?” Un s’iz geven azoy in yedn kant un ek, into which our brutal fate cast us.and it was so vuhin di dolye undzere brutale in every nook and cranny flegt undz nit varfn. S’iz dokh undzer koved, It’s to our honor, after all, vos tomid zaynen mir geven getray tsu zikh that we have always been faithful to ourselves, un hobm ot di khokhme oysgekovet: and have forged this wise saying: “Ven ikh vel zayn vi yener, ver vet zayn vi ikh?”. “If I am like the others, who will be like me?” *Abraham’s father This bent of Kissin’s talent was earlier introduced on a smaller scale at New York’s Yivo Institute and at his momentous debut at Charles and Robyn Krauthammer’s Pro Musica Hebraica series, at Washington’s Kennedy Center in 2014; but it was a first at Carnegie Hall, drawing New Yorkers into Kissin’s other personal passion. (See my article about Evgeny Kissin on a mission to celebrate his Jewish heritage. ) Evgeny Kissin at Pro Musica Hebraica. Photo: Ilona Oltuski For the very first time in 2002, during Verbier’s prestigious festival in the Suisse Alps, the festival’s director Martin Engstroem encouraged Kissin to recite Russian and Yiddish poetry as an extracurricular presentation on stage. Kissin agreed, but only if other artists would participate as well. The ones who had confirmed, among them Zubin Mehta, had to pull out at the last minute leaving Kissin “to wet his feet,” as he recalled. What a happy coincidence it turned out to be, bringing his previously private predilection into the spotlight. For Kissin, the Yiddish language represents an important cultural territory of the Jewish people. On a personal level it became a reminiscence of his childhood, and peaceful summer months spent at his Yiddish-speaking maternal grandparents’ datshka. During his childhood, Kissin was made aware of anti-Semitic sentiments. Aggressive slurs were not unusual. Thugs in the neighborhood would call out to him: “Why don’t you go to Birobidzhan?” – the Russian territory with an official Jewish status, which became a center of Jewish culture at the time it was founded under Stalin, in 1934. Evgeny Kissin with Martin Engstroem in Verbier. Photo: Ilona Oltuski Kissin’s interest in his native Russian poetry and literature were closely followed by his interest in Yiddish culture and its language, which he had initially taught himself. Even though he grew up completely assimilated into Soviet society, he felt a strong connection to his ethnic heritage and always had a special place in his heart for Israel. After being in the public eye for a long time, he deployed his voice not only for numerous humanitarian causes, but also to protest a growing anti-Israel sentiment he observed living in London and Paris. In December 2009, his open letter to the BBC in protest of its perceived biased reporting made headlines. In 2010 he explained to me why he had spoken out: “I just felt that it was no longer possible to remain silent and not protest….my motivation came from the dramatic increase of anti-Israel slander.” (See my article, “The Artist as Citizen .”) His fan-website features a broad selection of sources in support of Israel. When we met at his first solo concert in Jerusalem the following year during his commanding Liszt tour, he was engulfed in the topic. (In 1988 he went on his very first trip to Israel with the Moscow Virtuosi Orchestra.) Performing in Jerusalem meant the world to him and he matched his sentiment with a dramatic biblical stance: “Im Eshkachech Yerushalayim Tishkach Yimini (If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand be forgotten).” Despite not living in the Promised Land himself, he initiated action to fully demonstrate his allegiance: in December of 2013 Kissin took on Israeli citizenship. His evolving sense of Jewish identity certainly plays a decisive role in his creative discoveries within its history, language and music and beyond that in Israel’s modern-day crisis. During one summer at the Verbier festival, Anna Kantor, concerned about this (to her mind) superfluous extracurricular activity, turned to me, remarking: “Ah politics, who needs politics…he should sit and play the piano.” I am certain the sentiment is shared by many, who would prefer an artist being removed from anything that could view the man and citizen behind the artist. Alas, despite his performance schedule of about 40 concerts a year worldwide, Kissin’s creativity obviously requires many different stimulating outlets, certainly feeding his extraordinary imagination at the piano. Just some days after his Yiddish recital, we met over tea and he brought the newest chapter of his novel. In his steadfast timbre, Kissin read it out loud in one sitting. He did not touch his tea. He was excited to share his modern-day drama depicting an opera-inspired Russian heroine’s suffering with deep sentiment, in a pictorial and captivating style. Here is an excerpt: From the novel by Evgeny Kissin, translated by Barrnett Zumoff Book 1: Outside It Was Snowing The smoke from the cigarette was beginning to mix with the emanations from the Indian aromatic sticks. There was no ashtray in the house, so the cigarette ash fell on the floor immediately after each light tap of her finger. She kept slowly and deeply inhaling the smoke, filling her entire body with the mild poison; oh well – the deed is already done, so relax and calm down. Three thoughts kept drilling into her mind: “Sasha, my darling”…”I’ll get the money as fast as I can!” …and “Now I‘ve really become a whore – I’ve lived to see the day!” “Man proposes and God disposes,” her wise grandmother Chana used to say. Her grandmother’s words had sounded convincing to her even then, though she was still a child and of course couldn’t understand what they meant. Now, in the past few days, she somehow understood them with her whole being, from the tips of her fingers to the depths of her soul, perhaps as never before in her life. When she was still a young girl and had just begun to discover the world of pleasure, she used to fantasize about taking money for love. For instance, a nice man she liked would come to her and propose to spend time with her, and she would answer him playfully: “If you pay!” Now, however, she didn’t get to choose only nice clients… Five months did go by after the Russian heroine of his novel appeared, and reverberations of sentiments stirred by Kissin’s Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 slowly filtered through the hall. Nothing less had been expected from a moving farewell concert by Kissin, with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. For this final concert of the series, Kissin reunited with his longtime friend, colleague and frequent collaborator James Levine, who, as the Met’s leading force for 45 years, has just announced his final bow as music director. Photo: NPR.org, Maestro James Levine The eminent conductor, winner of 10 Grammy awards, entered in his wheelchair, elevated by a special mechanism onto a towering conductor’s podium. Kissin – and Levine – fans had witnessed this somewhat involved process in the hall already in 2013 when the artists collaborated on Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, when Levine, returning to the concert stage after injury and two years of absence, was greeted with a standing ovation. Kissin has played the world over with an extraordinary number of first-rate conductors, but Maestro Levine, the pianist once told me, is among those he really loves the most. For several years, Kissin and Levine were both at home in New York. Together they recorded Beethoven’s Second and Fifth Concertos in 1997. As a special highlight their all-Schubert piano duo program, recorded live at Carnegie Hall in 2005, speaks volumes of their alliance in temperament and artistic perception. It is also among Levine’s most favorite recordings, he told Kissin (even though for acoustic reasons and perhaps also to facilitate unrestrained physical motions, the music intended for one piano four hands was performed on two separate grand pianos). While Kissin’s beautiful singing lines where at times marred just slightly by the piano’s dry acoustics, the strong personal connection was palpable in their take on Rachmaninoff, on a beautiful night in May for Kissin’s last concert of the series. Familiar with Kissin’s 1989 recording of the concerto with Valery Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra, I had never before heard this all-time favorite concerto played live by Kissin. Rachmaninoff himself gave the premiere of the work composed in 1901, which established his fame and marked the end of a severe depression he had suffered. While Gergiev’s recording is certainly notable, already the entrance, just so slightly off, speaks of a much less deeply rooted musical bond than that between Kissin and Levine. In the recording Gergiev paints – at times more daringly – with a bigger brush, but Levine is a master at bringing out all the hidden nuances. If his Spanish repertoire already was full of vitality and rejoicing in the intricacy of mischievous rhythmic skill, in Rachmaninoff the drama got taken further. But despite the constant shifts between tender palettes and multiple climaxes there was nothing mise-en-scene, only a profound myriad of fine-tuned dexterity. If Carnegie Hall’s Perspective series set out to convey different angles of the performer’s aptitude with multiple genres and composers’ objectives, we witnessed it all. The blissful melancholy projected in this last Russian gem was matched only by his intimate poetry recitation, with a bared soulfulness that brought one closer into the world of this artist, and perhaps with one’s own humanity. With unrelenting inquisitiveness and willingness to challenge the status quo, Kissin does not rest on his laurels, which indicates there is much more to come; and how happy he looks. New York will feel the absence of this remarkable individual whose innermost workings can be found in his art. In the meantime, I am sure all his fans will join me in wishing him bon voyage as he spreads his artistic inspiration abroad.



Classical iconoclast

May 19

Florian Boesch Wigmore Hall Schubert Series

Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau at the Wigmore Hall, another highlight of tge WH's complete song series. Read my review of the opening concert in the series, also with Boesch asnd Martineau HERE.  The two recitals dovetail beautiful, complementing each other extremely well. As with the first recital, Boesch and Martineau mixed famous songs with others more esoteric. That's why the Wigmore Hall series is so important. It's not enough to know only "greatest hits", but to explore the whole traverse of Schubert songs.  That is why the Wigmore Hall series is so important. How I wanted to be at this recital, but circumstances proved otherwise. But a true Lieder buff will never be thwarted ! I recreated the programme through  recordings and memories. And I've heard Boesch and Martineau often enough to imagine how they'd sound.  As in most things in life, you get as much as you are prepared to put in. Schubert's settings of Goethe's Wilhelm Meister songs, the Gesänge des Harfners formed the backbone of the first half of this recital, and rightly so.  Although we've heard these songs so many times before, it's worth pondering their place in Schubert's creative output. Schubert would have known Goethe's saga in full, and probably understood the horror of the Harper's situation, cursed by guilt, exile and alienation.  In Wer sich Einsamkeit ergibt D 478, the piano recreates the sound of the kind of travelling harp Wilhelm Meister might have carried with him on his wanderings.  In 2013, at the Wigmore Hall, Matthias Goerne sang the Harfner songs transcribed for harp with Sarah Christ (review here). I remember thinking how beautiful the harp sounded, less assertive than a concert piano more plaintive. But the darker colours of the piano are firmer, reverberating in silence, very much part of meaning. These songs aren't core repertoire for nothing. Boesch and Martineau pull off a masterstroke,  though, by pairing the Harfner songs with other songs about struggle and journeying. In Der Pilgrim D794 to a poem by Friedrich Schiller, the piano part resembles the steady march of a pilgrim, possibly just as poor as Wilhelm Meister. He may never reach his goal, but he's inspired by "ein mächtig Hoffen und ein dunkles Glaubenswort". In Der Wallfahrt D 778a, to a poem by Freidrich Rückert,  "Meine Thränen im Bußgewand". This time the pilgrim is adrift in the desert. The song is but a fragment, created for performance by Schubert scholar Reinhard Van Hoorickx who recreated other fragments, like Lebensraum D1a which Boesch and Martineau did at the Wigmore Hall in September 2015. Then Der Hoffnung D295, a grudging, trudging sort of hope and Greisengesang D778, also from the same  Rückert Östliche Rosen from which Der Wallfahrt came, though the song is much more substantial. Here the protagonist has gone old and grey, but, having gone through tough times has found peace. As always, Florian Boesch programs with genius. Incredibly rewarding intellectually as well as artistically. What isn the them, then, of tye second half of this programme ? Is it love, albeit doomed love, like the Harfner's love ?. The jauntiness of Ratlose Liebe D138 gives way to Die Liebe hat gelogen D751 and Du liebst mich nicht D756, both plaintive, and the mood of secrecy inn Geheimes D719. That would fit around the strange, unsettling Abendstern D806, (1824) to a poem by Johann Baptist Mayrhofer.   Mayrhofer was a strange, difficult character : it says much about Schubert's personality that he put up with him so long.  The Evening Star is an outsider, shunned by others, presenting itself briefly before darkness settles. Perhaps Mayrhofer identified with it. The star sings "Ich säe, schaue keinen Keim, und bleibe trauernd still daheim." -  I shine, but stay sorrowful. This creates the right context for Lied des Florio D857 no 2. which comes from Schubert's incomplete Schauspeil Lacrimas, whose exotic "oruetal" setting cloaks doomed love.  The piano part connects to Abdenstern in that it sparkles gently, like a star, butb5then text expressly refers to poison and death. This song has a companion, Lied der Delphine (Florio's amour) for high soprano. It wouldn't suit Boesch's voice, but keeping the two apart fits in with the idea of unfulfillment. Bear Delphine and Florio in mind, though, for Der Kreuzzug D932  has notes so high that they stretch a baritone's range, which oddly enough fits meaning. A monk watches Crusaders heading off to the East. The piano part suggests the chants and bells of an enclosed monastery. The voice past, however, soars upwards, as if the monk could escape and ride off with the knights.  But "Ich bin, wie ihr, ein Pilger doch!". The monk is fighting inner battles every bit as difficult as those the Crusaders are heading towards.  With Das Grab D569, we reach the lowest depths. Now the voice inhabits the lowest points in the tessitura. The pace is funereal, the piano tolling a death march.  But good programmes don't send us home feeling sad, so it's followed with Am Tag aller Seelen D343, also known s Litanei.  "Ruh'n in Friden, alles Seelen"  Old and young, freed of earthly suffering, honoured on All Souls Eve, It's an extremely beautiful song, ideally suited to the sensitivity with which Boesch can sing.  And so to the blissful Seligkeit D433 in which happiness is restored.  In a way, perhaps we've been on a journey, or a pilgrimage, facing difficult times, but emerging, not like the Harfner, but like Mignon, transfigured by grace.

Classical iconoclast

May 15

Dark Mirror Bostridge Zender Winterreise Part Two

At the Barbican, London, Ian Bostridge's "Dark Mirror", a brilliant response to Hans Zender's response to Schubert's response to Wilhelm Müller's poetry. Bostridge's journey into the dark soul of Winterreise explores uncharted territory, opening new routes into meaning. Winterreise is a work of such genius that you can, like Bostridge, spend a lifetime contemplating it yet still find more to learn. Hence the numerous reworkings and stagings to which Winterreise lends itself so well. This, however, must be one of the most fascinating, since it generates so many insights. Zender';s Winterreise delves into the inner musical logic, bringing out the  mechanics of the protagonist's mind, going round in obsessive circles. yet always compelled forward.  Hence the mysterious rustlings, and almost hypnotic pizzicato heartbeats, and tense bursts on wind instruments, exhaling and drawing breath. Very physical. As the pace picks up, a familiar melody, but oddly mechanical. The protagonist is determined to keep going lest his feelings overwhelm him. The vocal part starts normally enough, but suddenly, from "von einem zu den andern", words repeat mechanically, and the orchestra whizzes into a manic march.  Just as suddenly, a switch back to normal with Fein Liebchen, Gute Nacht but now we know the lyricism is forced. The protagonist can't give in to mere beauty but must struggle on.  The stops and starts and sudden flurries of recitation illustrate the protagonist's dilemma. Like a machine, he winds down, yet lurches back into life. Like an animal, he listens, picking up clues as to direction. Schubert's music is often quite driven - think Der Musensohn - so this obsessiveness is valid.  Zender's music is graphic, but also abstract enough that it's not mere illustration. Sudden turns, strange distorted sounds. Sometimes the singer recites rather than sings, as if he's trying to pick up an invisible trail.  The music throws you off-course, so you're as disoriented as the protagonist and  start thinking like him. The instrumentation evokes the sound of wandering folk musicians, reminding us of the tradition from which the Leiermann comes. The protagonist rebels against constraining systems.  It's no accident that he strides away from houses into the wilderness. The "Expressionist" visuals were also a good reminder that the boom in German art film in the 1920's had its roots in Gothic Romanticism. Netia Jones's images focus, too, on this "inner landscape". Though we see the ghost of a tree and glimpses of barking dogs, the stage resembles an infernal machine, with dangerously sloping angles and hard metallic surfaces. We catch glimpses of cogs and wheels, grinding relentlessly together. The hurdy-gurdy is a primitive instrument which drones, and is ground relentlessly, rather than played. At the end, we don't see the Leiermann as bedraggled beggar, but the image of the cogs and wheels grows huge, behind Bostridge's gaunt figure. Seldom has the identification between the Leiermann and the protagonist connected with such power.  "Wunderlicher Alter ! Soll ich mit dir geh'n ? Willst zu meinen Liedern, Deine Leier dreh'n ?"  Jones's images also connect the first song with the last. Dogs howl. The protagonist will ever be an outsider, threatening  conformity, whatever might be his fate.  Is the Leiermann a harbinger of death or the hallucination of a deranged mind? Perhaps some need such comforting thoughts to distance themselves from the protagonist, but I think there is much evidence to suggest an even more challenging outcome. Although the images in Winterreise are pictorial, their symbolism runs much deeper.  This Dark Mirror Winterreise also benefits from the unique quality of Bostridge's voice. He can infuse seemingly straightforward lines with layers of complex meaning. His voice stretches, as if probing the recesses of the mind, teasing out the surreal from the straightforward.  He's incomparable in Britten.  Bostridge's voice curls, tightly coiled like a spring, leaping upwards when Zender's lines erupt. There was a wonderful, haunted quality to this singing,  utterly faithful to the undercurrents in meaning. The wunderliches Alter is a vision, whether he's real or illusion.  Bostridge's hushed tones  suggest both horror and wonder in the English sense of the word.  As so often, Bostridge's timbre suggests an exotic instrument, again, in this case , in keeping with the implicit musical logic of Zender's conception.  Baldur Brönnimann, a sensitive interpreter of new music, conducted the Britten Sinfonia.  When - it's not a question of "if" - Bostridge's Dark Mirror reaches DVD, it will be a must for anyone seriously interested in Winterreise. Those of us fortunate enough to experience it live will never forget the experience.  Please also see my previous post on Hans Zender's Winterreise. Photos: top, Hugo Glendinning; bottom, Roger Thomas

Franz Schubert
(1797 – 1828)

Franz Schubert (January 31, 1797 – November 19, 1828) was an Austrian composer. Although he died at an early age, Schubert was tremendously prolific. He wrote some 600 Lieder, nine symphonies (including the famous "Unfinished Symphony"), liturgical music, operas, some incidental music, and a large body of chamber and solo piano music. Appreciation of his music during his lifetime was limited, but interest in Schubert's work increased dramatically in the decades following his death at the age of 31. Franz Liszt, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms and Felix Mendelssohn, among others, discovered and championed his works in the 19th Century. Today, Schubert is admired as one of the leading exponents of the early Romantic era in music and he remains one of the most frequently performed composers.



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