Glorious Goerne Recital brings end to Season – and Hall
by Joseph So / May 21, 2000
For those mourning the demise of the Weston Recital Hall as a concert venue, the recital by German baritone Matthias Goerne underscores more clearly than ever the reason for its failure, and the importance to keep it alive.
Here we have a liederabend by the greatest exponent of the genre today, the hall was far from full, even with a discreet “papering” of the house. Unfortunately, this was all too typical of what has happened at this venue ever since it opened in 1994. Except for the much-hyped stars such as a Bartoli or a Te Kanawa, many of the musical greats played to half empty houses the past six years. In other major music centers in the world such as London, New York or Vienna, the Goerne concert would have been the hottest ticket in town. The cynics would say that Hogtown doesn’t deserve such a magnificient recital hall, yet hearing the fabulous sounds coming from Goerne on Wednesday evening, one couldn’t help but feel a sense of loss – and the urgency to keep it going. Fortunately, there are grassroots efforts to keep the centre alive as a classical concert venue. A group of concerned music lovers are raising money to put a mini-series of fifteen concerts together for next season. In this day and age of big business, whether their efforts will amount to anything remains to be seen, but their passion and commitment are to be applauded.
Now, onto the concert! Goerne has constructed a masterful program based on the theme of the eternal search for the Romantic Ideal, by intertwining the Classical poetic longings of Schubert and the modern disillusionment of Hans Eisler. It is a thinking concertgoer’s program, and an absolutely brilliant one. The contrast between the 19th Century poetic imagination of Schiller and Geothe and the crass, hard-edged cynicism of Bertolt Brecht could hardly have been more skilfully invoked. To these ears, Goerne has simply the most beautiful baritone before the public today, bar none. But it is more than just voice. His musicality, attention to textual details, and communicativeness are all first-rate. Often, singers with as beautiful an instrument is content to just overwhelm you with sound. With Goerne, his commitment and expressiveness are never in doubt, and one feels as if he wears his heart on his sleeve. Has there been a more heartfelt and moving Sehnsucht (D. 636)? The Eisler songs require a sardonic and astringent delivery and one would think his rounded, mellow tones a disadvantage. Not so. Goerne sings with great intensity – Uber den Selbstmord is positively mesmerizing until he explodes with the fff ending. The undulating melodic line of Fruhling is negotiated without sentimentality.
So here it is – the eternal longing for what is real and worthy turns out to be illusional and superficial, either in the 19th Century Northern Romantic tradition or in mid 20th Century Tinseltown. All this makes for a rather depressing evening, but Goerne ends with the supreme Fruhlingsglaube (D. 686), giving a sense of hope for the future. Eric Schneider was the superb accompanist, with the soloist in body and spirit. At one point late in the program, I thought I saw a glimmer of tears in his eyes. Some members of the audience obviously thought the program was “too much work”, but the majority appreciated what the artist was trying to say. Repeated standing ovations brought Goerne back for no less than five encores – all Schubert and Eisler of course. While it seems highly unlikely he will be back in the acoustically friendly Weston Recital Hall in the foreseeable future, Goerne will be back next season, with the Concertgebouw and Riccardo Chailly as the soloist in Mahler’s Ruckert Lieder.
Matthias Goerne, baritone
Eric Schneider, paino
Der Wanderer D. 489/413 (Lubeck)
Wehmut D. 772 (Collin)
Schatzgrabers Begehr D. 761 (Schober)
Five Elegies (Bertolt Brecht)
Unter den frunen Pfefferbaumen
Die Stadt ist nach den Engeln genannt
Jeden Morgen, mein Brot zu verdienen
Diese Stadt hat mich belehrt
In den Jugeln wird Gold gefunden
Three Lieder from Texts by Schiller
Der Pilgrim D. 794
Gruppe aus dem Tartarus D. 583
Sehnsucht D. 636
Songs from the Hollywood Liederbuch (Brecht)
Die Maske des Bosen
An den kleinen Radioapparat
Auf der Flucht
Erinnerung an Eichendorff und Schumann
Uber den Selbstmord
Gesange des Harfners (Goethe)
Wer sich de Einsamkeit ergibt D. 478
Wer nie sein Brot mit Tranen as D. 479
An die Turen will ich schleichen D. 480
Der Wanderer D. 649 (Schlegel)
Schubert Fruhlingsglaube D. 686 (Uhland)