Monday, June 22, 2009

Cold, cold heart

Interesting review one of my Twitter buddied posted today, from the British Telegraph. Of Matthias Goerne singing "Die Winterreise." The Twitter buddy who posted it is a Web logger who goes by the name of Friedrich Kuhlau! But that is a whole other story.

Matthias Goerne, the German lieder singer, is no stranger to this Web log. Number one we are preoccupied with Schubert songs, and number two, we have commented on Goerne's rough and thuggish demeanor.

Here is part of what reviewer Ivan Hewett wrote in the Telegraph.

Goerne’s vocal power is absolutely astounding and so is his control. He rose to an awe-inspiring fortissimo on the last word of “Wasserflut” and then did a perfect diminuendo; and in “Das Wirthaus” he matched Schubert’s staggeringly powerful music with a perfect sustained quiet line.

It was tremendous but somehow unmoving, I suspect because Goerne is so utterly lacking in vulnerability. He wants to pin us to our seats with vocal shock-and-awe. The humanity in the performance came from Eschenbach. When Goerne asked, “Leaves, when will you turn green? When shall I hold my love in my arms?”, it was Eschenbach who softened Goerne’s hard edges with a beautifully expressive touch.

I have always found Goerne's recordings on the whole rather unmoving and perhaps that is why. But this is illuminating for me because I have never seen him in person.

It is funny, the people who get to you and the people who do not. A few weeks ago here in Buffalo we heard that solo recital by the pianist Yefim Bronfman. To be honest, I think Bronfman should work on his stage presentation. I know, listen to me talking. But his demeanor was too cold, too introverted. There is an audience there and you should at least glance at us once in a while, you know?

Still, he had that certain something and there was a kind of warmth that came through. So that stand-offish quality, I found myself writing it off as shyness. Or something. In any case, you wind up giving him a pass. He found some way to let the audience in.

How funny. You think you are just sitting there listening to Schubert. And there are all these different variables, constantly at work on the concert stage and in the twists and turns of your brain. It keeps things exciting, you have to say that.

That link is a clip of Thomas Quasthoff, by the way, singing the opening song of "Winterreise," a song I find tremendously moving.

Wow. Listen to that. Look at him and Daniel Barenboim when the song goes into the major. Look at their faces.

All these different variables at work.

1 comment:

  1. An interesting perspective, Mary (and thanks for the mention, incidentally).

    I've always found Goerne an exciting, expressive singer. In fact, he's responsible for encouraging me to listen more often to solo male voice recordings. So I found Hewett's comments about Goerne being less than ideal for this repertoire quite perplexing at first. Surely he'd be fantastic in German lieder, no?

    Then I thought more about Winterreise's subject matter, and about Goerne's stage presence - I've only seen him perform 'live' on TV - and conceded how the latter might not work so well with the former.

    On a sort of related note, great blog you have here. I'll be adding you to my blogroll very soon.