Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Love, love, love....

Last night at Carnegie Hall it was Thomas Quasthoff, Michael Schade, Bernarda Fink and Sylvia Schwartz singing, with Malcolm Martineau and Justus Zeyen on the piano. Both of them, on the same piano, for almost the whole programme. That kind of programming is quite rare, I would have thought. Maybe the left-over of Hausmusik as it was played in domestic living rooms in the early 19th century?

The programme was all Schumann and Brahms, Liebeslieder (love songs), mostly, though some also addressed to 'die Heimat'. It was the first time I had heard all of them live, and I was very curious about Quasthoff about whom I have read so much, including his autobiography. He's quite the star in the German scene. Oh yes, did I mention that all the songs were in German?

So first there was Schumann's Spanish Songbook. I am noticing that just now, when I can read the programme (these fat programmes seem to be always free here in the glorious US). I have to say I did not hear much Spanish anything in them. But it probably explains why the river 'Ebro' (Ebrus?) was mentioned in one of the songs. The programme talks about bolero-like rhythms.... they must have been very subtle.

Brahms' lovesong waltzes followed - these were clearly waltzes, and much fun was had on the stage. Sadly, throughout the evening, the ladies were a bit stiff, while the lads were having quite a lot of fun. Then more Brahms - four quartets, longingly singing of 'die Heimat' - that was a very moving quartet (psycho-question to self - why did I find that so moving?), and finally Brahms' NEW lovesong waltzes. More of the same, to some degree.

So the programme was very homogeneous, but quite lovely, beautifully sung, apart from those restrained ladies (who nevertheless sang beautifully). My heart did sink a bit when I saw the number of songs, but most were quite short. All the singers, it seems are very very high class singers - and maybe I was just a bit far from them, in the dress circle. Gee, those stairs are steep - both those getting up to there, and those in the cress circle climbing down to the lower rows.

Finally there were two encores of German folksongs, sung immediately after each other - "Da unten im Tale' and something about 'die Heide' which I know well but cannot remember the words. Quasthoff said it was his favourite song, and certainly, the performance was totally sublime! Come to think of it, as were some of the other Lieder as well. It was a great evening!