Schubert, Lieder, A. S. von Otter, T. Quasthoff, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, C. Abbado
Von Otter sang a set of exquisite Schubert songs, in evocative and colorful orchestrations by Max Reger and others, all but one of which she recorded live in Paris for a super disc with Thomas Quasthoff and Claudio Abbado (preferring here Reger's arrangement of Erlkönig over Berlioz's). The NSO offered some of its most subtle playing in support of von Otter, who never had to sing with more sound than she needed to dramatize the text, and Eschenbach helped to accompany her with suave support as she sped up or slowed the tempo at points. The winds were little more than a whisper in the tiny echoes of von Otter's melody in the melancholy Gretchen am Spinnrade, a detail not in Schubert's original accompaniment but added by Reger. Benjamin Britten's ingenious, slightly odd arrangement of Die Forelle, with the slippery trout motif in the clarinet but also echoed in other instruments, was loopy and fun, the anonymous orchestration of An Sylvia forthright and blustery, and Erlkönig a spine-tingling narrative. As in her solo recital, the most noteworthy songs were the most quiet and still ones, the tragic Romanze from Rosamunde and poignant, crepuscular Im Abendrot, with the NSO a flexible, murmuring backdrop. A welcome encore provided more of that character, Reger's orchestration of another Schubert Lied, Nacht und Träume, set to poetry by Matthäus Kasimir von Collin (1779-1824). It has been a good month for Schubert -- with an excellent piano recital by Paul Lewis last weekend and a violin and piano program by Alina Ibragimova and pianist Cédric Tiberghien coming up at the at Baltimore Museum of Art -- and one wished that the whole program could have been given over to von Otter.
Anne Midgette, National Symphony offers a quirky, diverse and sometimes soaring program (Washington Post, March 8)
This concert repeats tonight and Saturday night (March 8 and 9, 8 pm).