Monday, January 11, 2016

Strauss' Brentano Lieder

...from Berkeley
Richard Strauss, 1918, (Max Liebermann)

Catching up a bit here, but the week before Thanksgiving, I heard a fabulous concert at the SF Symphony, conducted by the ever-masterful Michael Tilson Thomas, which I alluded to in last week's post: Strauss' Brentano Lieder and Serenade, Op. 7, plus R. Schumann's Spring Symphony.  The program notes were illuminating and interesting (as they generally are at SFS), with an excellent essay on musical length and proportion by James Keller.

I already talked about Schumann's Spring Symphony last on to the Strauss.

The Brentano Lieder (Op. 68) are famous in soprano annals as being fiendishly difficult, due in large part to their tessitura, but also to their vocal demands.  Their tessitura (where they sit in the voice and range, for those of the less-vocally inclined among my readers), is super high, especially for song repertory.  One thinks of them in the same breath, for example, as Debussy's Quatre chansons de Jeunesse, in terms of where they sit for the voice.  Neither set is in my repertory, nor will they be, at least in their entirety, as I'm not a coloratura.

Soprano Laura Claycomb sang the pants off them. Brava!

Strauss, age 22
She performed the first five, ending with the tour-de-force "Amor," and skipping the last, "Lied der Frauen."  Who'd miss it after her mastery of the puckish, insouciant vocal lines Strauss wrote for his soprano in the middle four songs, especially in "Amor"--and besides, it's really written for a different kind of soprano than the rest, requiring a different kind of vocal heft (as is the first, "An die Nacht," which she also sang beautifully).  Strauss wrote the Brentano Lieder for the Elisabeth Schumann; she is said to have only performed the entire set once, in 1922.

NB: The matching bookend to the Brentano Lieder from Strauss' own repertory is his cycle, Vier letzte Lieder, written some 30 years later. These, however, are for more of a Marshallin-Sopran (the Marshallin being one of the roles from Der Rosenkavalier, my favorite Strauss opera and one of my favorite operas ever written...a topic for another day, though)--and thus are songs on the bucket list of works I want to perform in my career.

The Serenade?  A winds-only 10-minute amuse-bouche that shows how talented Strauss was, as it came off his 17-year-old pen.  A charming piece.

What I'm reading: Deborah Crombie's A Share in Death and Philip Kerr's March Violets (both excellent recommendations from a friend), having read--out of order for the series--his Lady from Zagreb.

What I'm listening to: Trois poemes desenchantes by Maurice Delage (for E4TT's concert on the 19th), Handel's Tolomeo (I'm singing Elisa in it on the 24th), music by Polish composers Martyna Kosecka and Zygmunt Krauze

What I'm working on: the first two of those, plus songs from Tailleferre's Six chansons francaises and Poulenc's  nostalgic "Les chemins de l'amour."

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