University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

University of Hartford

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde; Brahms: Die sch├Âne Magelone

06/17/2018 1:00 pm
06/17/2018 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

The German tenor Jonas Kaufmann could be regarded as the preeminent male operatic voice of our time. Kaufmann can do it all! From the heaviest Wagnerian roles to light pop concert fare. He has also tackled Mahler's "The Song of the Earth" orchestrated song cycle (1909), a work intended for two complimentary voices, one higher, one lower in range. Kaufmann has performed all six songs solo, employing his lower, baritonal range superbly. He was introduced to Mahler's song cycle as a student at the age of twenty through the vintage EMI recording with Otto Klemperer conducting, as sung by mezzo Christa Ludwig and tenor Fritz Wunderlich. On Sunday, June 17, 2012 I aired the 1964 DGG recording made in Vienna, with the native Viennese Josef Krips conducting. The two complimentary voices in this case were those of tenor Wunderlich and baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Performing Das Lied von der Erde live onstage solo without interruption requires considerable stamina. It's a daunting task, but Kaufmann has carried it off. As proof of his accomplishment he recorded the entire work in the "Golden Hall" of the Musikverein in Vienna in June of 2016. Jonathan Nott conducts the Vienna Philharmonic. A Sony Classical release from 2017.

Between the years 1861 and 1869 Johannes Brahms set to music fifteen poems from Ludwig Tieck's chivalric romance, Die schöne Magelone (1796). In adapting this medieval French tale to German language Tieck was appealing to that nostalgia or yearning for a former, purer age that is the essence of nineteenth century German Romanticism. That's why "The fair Magelone" ranked as one of the author's most popular works. Brahms' treatment of Tieck's lyrics possesses all the beautiful simplicity of folk song. Brahms was following in the Lieder tradition established by Schubert in classic examples like "Der Lindenbaum", which German speaking folk accept as practically a folk song. The song cycle, Die schöne Magelone, also possesses an astonishing unity, considering its bit-by-bit composition. By the year 1889 it had become customary to perform Magelone as a parlor or chamber music room entertainment, with a narrator providing spoken-word segments between the songs to carry the story forward. It's in that form that Brahms's Lieder were presented on Sunday, September 17, 2000 in a Berlin Classics CD release from 1999, with the distinguished German tenor Peter Schreier, accompanied on piano by Peter Rosel. Die schöne Magelone was recorded anew in 2014 without spoken narration in the studios of Bavarian Radio, Munich. Baritone Christian Gerhaher interprets the fifteen romanzen. (Some consider him to be the great Fischer-Dieskau's successor.) The pianist is Gerold Huber, a longtime collaborator with the vocalist. Bavarian Radio's proprietary label BR Klassik co-produced the recording, which was issued by Sony Classical in 2017 on a single silver disc.