Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Matthias Goerne Recital

Saturday, May 17, 8:00 pm
Herbst Theatre
Matthias Goerne, baritone
Alexander Schmalcz, piano
SHOSTAKOVICH: Suite on Verses of Michelangelo, Op. 145 (Truth, Morning, Love, Separation, Anger, Dante, To the Exile, Creativity, Night, Death, Mortality)
WOLF: Michelangelo Lieder (Wohl denk' ich oft; Alles endent, was entstehet; Fuhlt meine Seele)
BRAHMS: Four Serious Songs, Op. 121

I was back at Herbst Theatre for this much-anticipated song recital. This time they didn't open the doors until 8:15, reportedly because they were still tuning the piano. I wonder if the late start in the morning had pushed everything back, like a late patient at the dentist's office causing a back-up for the whole day.

I'm not an aficionado of song recitals or even that knowledgeable, but Goerne is one performer who makes it easy to appreciate this rarefied art form. For me, his appeal starts with the beauty of his sound. I have some recordings of him, but there is something about that voice that does not come across in recordings. It flows out of him like it's a viscous material. & then there's the way he gets to the heart of the emotion so quickly. I feel like I barely need to refer to the texts to understand what's going on. As soon as he launched into the Wolf songs that began the 2nd half, I got so swept up in the music that it was impossible for me to be critical of the experience. I was discretely wiping away tears during the Brahm's song "Ich wandte mich".

Goerne gave his accompanist a big hug when he was done, & he had good reason to be so appreciative. Schmalcz was a truly supportive collaborator. He would set up the mood for each song efficiently, stay close to Goerne, then maintain the mood at the close, all without drawing particular attention to himself.

Our audience reaction was far too subdued, I thought. This was an exceptional evening, but the applause didn't last long enough for Goerne to give us an encore. Perhaps part of this is due to Goerne's austere stage presence. He simply walks out on stage & does his thing without attempting to be charming or wanting to win us over. He gives us the illusion that we are being moved solely by the music.

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