Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Up late again, listening to Hugo Wolf

 The post the other day about "Anakreons Grab," the exquisite little song by Hugo Wolf, had unexpected consequences.

One, I have walked around for three days with "Anakreons Grab" on my brain!

Try that on for size. It is not fun! Going around the house singing Goethe poetry, your husband looking at you funny hearing German coming out of your mouth. Well, actually my husband is used to that, because I listen to a lot of German lieder. But the sweet chromatics of Wolf's work, that is something else.

Anyway, that was the first thing that happened. The second thing was, I heard from a person named Anonymous who is looking for a good recording of "Anakreons Grab" to introduce people to the strange and beautiful art of Hugo Wolf. If you read the comment on the previous post you will see that he is involved with a project to read Goethe's autobiography, in translation, in total, or something like that. You must excuse me. It is hard to absorb things when you have "Anakreons Grab" repeatedly playing in your head.

Apparently people of this person's acquaintance have trouble swallowing the Elisabeth Schwarzkopf interpretation of "Anakreons Grab." There is something off-putting about Schwarzkopf singing Wolf, he or she believes, something that is an acquired taste. Being that I acquired that taste instantly when I was about 12, I have trouble understanding it. But I believe it.

I have to say this though: I have been enjoying this conversation with Goethe fan Anonymous, and I went on YouTube looking for an "Anakreons Grab" that would not put off his or her listeners.

There are not that many performances on YouTube but the number grows daily. Anonymous set out some ground rules. Orchestral accompaniment was out, for one thing. Also you do not want anything that will alienate people. To me that disqualifies the video at the top of this post, by baritone Thomas Allen and piansit Malcolm Martineau. The performance is all right but who wants to sit there looking at that skull.

Hans Hotter is a singer I have loved since childhood ....

 ... but I am afraid his sound is rather vinyl and antiquated. Plus he might be forbiddingly German to people not into this stuff. The handsome Hans Hotter died only a few years ago, in his 90s. That was too bad because it was fun to see people interviewing him. They always called him "Herr Hotter."

I am enjoying that recording. What a deep, graceful voice. But onward.

Birgit Nilsson's recording on YouTube has the visuals going for it. It is kind of pleasantly ghostly with those twinkling stars.

But the sound is not great. And it is a live performance with too much coughing. Obviously this recording was made in Buffalo. There is that Buffalo cough.

I love that haunting little piano introduction, you know? That is genius, just those few notes. They draw you in, and it goes with the poem, that begins with a question. You have stumbled on this beautiful grave with the flowers blooming and the turtledoves singing and you wonder who is buried here.

We are still seeking the "Anakreons Grab" that will do for Anonymous. Let me see, let me see.

La la la la la la la.


What about this one?

 I have never heard of this singer, Lidia Vinyes Curtis, but I like how she sings "Anakreons Grab." She is natural with it and she seems to like the song.

Look at her when she recognizes whose grave it is and sings "Es ist Anakreons Ruh." You see it in her eyes! She is living the song. I like that. I looked her up. Her website says she is from Barcelona.

Perhaps Anonymous did not check out her video because of that microphone in front of her. I am not sure what that is doing there.

But anyway, Anonymous, might that work?


  1. Thank you so much for the Wolf posts and suggestions. I settled on Elisabeth Schwarzkopf after all - she sounded better and better the more I listened to the other singers.

    Now here's a clip of Wolf's irresistible and very singable "Verschwiegene Liebe". Guaranteed to get your husband looking at you funny for a few days:


  2. Oh, Anonymous, I love that song!! So enchanting and magical. And such a beautiful video! I'll have to post it. Thank you!! p.s. Let me know how the Schwarzkopf goes over.