Photo of baritone Christian Gerhaher and pianist Gerold Huber by Alexander Basta/Sony BMG, courtesy of Colbert Artists Management
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Abendbilder, C. Gerhaher, G. Huber
The first half consisted of Lieder that can hardly be called rarities, beginning with a selection of six pieces from Myrten, op. 25, the collection Schumann presented to his bride, Clara Wieck, as a wedding gift. The most famous one, Du bist wie eine Blume, was representative of the creative approach on display. Gerhaher sings with exquisite diction, the text always clear as a bell, perhaps exaggerating the trill of his R's. The poetry really is paramount. The tall Huber, like Gerhaher in formal tails, sat hunched over the embassy's sonorous Bösendorfer, favoring the soft pedal to craft a delicate envelope of sound, like the Lotusblume opening only to the gentle moonlight, perfectly scaled to Gerhaher's voice. The softness of many of the songs honed one's ears, so that we were glad indeed when the performers paused while helicopters passed over the embassy.
Cecelia Porter, Christian Gerhaher (Washington Post, October 13)
If you did not read the interview and concert preview that Jens Laurson wrote for WETA, it gives some insight on why Gerhaher is attracted to the dark corners of the song repertoire. Gruftmusik this was indeed, and the most satisfying set on the recital. The other pieces on the second half were equally grim and equally gripping, including Der arme Peter, op. 53, and Belsatzar, op. 57. The welcome but sadly singular encore was the slightly less gloomy Aus alten Märchen winkt es, from Dichterliebe. All in all, Gerhaher's selection and his approach bring out the game of contrasts in that line from the Liederkreis set, mentioned in the title of this post, about the deep sorrow in the song.
The next recital from Vocal Arts Society features soprano Anne Schwanewilms and pianist Malcolm Martineau, at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater (October 30, 7:30 pm). The program is all Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler.