Thursday, April 28, 2011

SATB Spells Delight

There is something incredibly fulfilling about four voices in perfect harmony and that is exactly what filled the air in Carnegie Hall Monday night when soprano Sylvia Schwartz, mezzo Bernarda Fink, tenor Michael Schade and bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff lent their voices to a performance of Brahms’ romantic Liebeslieder-Walzer composed in the late 1860s and the somewhat darker Neue Liebeslieder-Walzer composed in the early 1870’s. The second cycle of songs were purportedly affected by the young Brahms learning that Clara Schumann’s nubile daughter, for whom he nursed an attraction, was elsewhere engaged.

Both cycles include songs about every aspect of loving. And did those singers ever love those songs! Their rapture spilled over the stage and into the audience who appeared enthralled. Ms. Schwartz was particularly moving in “An jeder Hand die Finger” and the following “Rosen steckt mir an die Mutter”. “O die Frauen” allowed Mr. Schade and Mr. Quasthoff to harmonize beautifully and the female voices did likewise with “Vögelein durchrauscht die Luft”. All four voices came together for the charming “Ein kleiner hübscher Vogel”.

We were also gifted with Robert Schumann’s Spanische Liebeslieder composed in 1849. Especially remarkable were the paired but separated songs “O wie lieblich ist das Mädchen” and “Weh, wie zornig ist das Mädchen” performed by Mr. Schade with great style and drama. The program also included some other lesser known quartets by Brahms.

Mr. Quasthoff contributed some amusing off-the-cuff comments and introduced the two encores which comprised his favorite “folk songs” which were absolutely ravishing in their deceptive simplicity. He seemed to enjoy himself enormously, particularly when exercising the bass end of his range. He and Mr. Schade are well known to New York audiences but, if the lovely ladies have sung in New York, I am sorry I missed them. And I strongly hope they will grace our welcoming stages once again.

© meche kroop for The Opera Insider

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