Matthias Goerne

Kentridge's Winterreise

Kentridge-winterreise-sf-2016* Notes *
SF Opera Lab began with visual artist William Kentridge's production of Winterreise last weekend. His beautiful meditations on Schubert's Lieder are deeply immersive and the incredible performers, baritone Matthias Goerne and pianist Markus Hinterhäuser though very talented, seemed almost incidental to the work.

The effect Kentridge gets with mostly black and white projections on a surface layered with paper is compelling, so much so that it was hard for me to focus in on the music. The landscapes and figures dancing or walking across dictionary pages completely held my attention for the 80 minute performance, which seemed much shorter to me.

Goerne has an absolutely gorgeous voice, vital and strong, but I was glad I had heard him before, because in this it might have been lost on me. The sound in the Taube Atrium Theater seemed properly adjusted, some of the weird echoey effects noticed at Daniel Okulitch's Schwabacher were not in evidence.

Tattling *
The audience was quiet. We were asked to look at our programs before the performance began and the lights were kept off, so browsing the translations was not a true option.

The much-touted cup holders were not in use, as we were asked to not bring beverages into the hall for this performance.

Eschenbach conducts Wagner & Dvořák

CE-IMG_2186-Eric-Brissaud* Notes * 
This week Christoph Eschenbach (pictured left, photograph by Eric Brissaud) conducts San Francisco Symphony in performances of Wagner and Dvořák. The two Wagner pieces included "Die Frist is um" from Der Fliegenden Holländer and Wotans Abschied from Die Walküre, with baritone Matthias Goerne as soloist. Goerne sounded characteristically legato. He was drowned out by the brass, and in fact the whole volume of the orchestra was rather loud. There was an obvious sour note in the second piece. There were moments when the first violins had a lovely, open sound, but the low strings were a bit muddy.

After intermission came Dvořák's Symphony No. 9, From the New World. Again, the powerful volume of the orchestra was impossible to ignore. I found myself distracted by the absence of William Bennett's oboe playing, as this was the first time I have heard San Francisco Symphony since his death.

* Tattling * 
There was some chatter, but nothing too obnoxious.

Matthias Goerne at SF Performances

SFP-MatthiasGoerne-02* Notes * 
San Francisco Performances presented baritone Matthias Goerne (pictured left, photograph by Marco Borggreve) in recital with pianist Leif Ove Andsnes on Monday. The performance focused on six Shostakovich songs from Suite on Verses of Michelangelo. These were interspersed selections from Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn, Rückert Lieder, and Kindertotenlieder. Goerne's voice is unreal, velvety and perfectly legato. He sounds unlike anyone else. "Wenn dein Mütterlein" and "Urlicht" were particularly heart-wrenching. The Shostakovich was also sung beautifully, especially his "Death" near the end of the program. Andsnes played assertively, with an insistent breathlessness. The contrast between singer and pianist could not be more marked, giving the proceedings an interesting tension.

* Tattling * 
The audience seemed entranced, and the performance was so gripping it was difficult to even clap between sets. Besides a mobile phone that rang just before the singing started, there was no electronic noise.

MTT Conducts Brahms at SFS

Moo * Notes *
Michael Tilson Thomas and San Francisco Symphony end a 3-week long Brahms Festival tonight. The chorus was in fine form during Friday's performance, the singers were very much together, in tune, and their German diction was fairly clear. The first half of the performance included Geistliches Lied, Opus 30 and Gesänge für Frauenchor mit Begleitung von zwei Hörner und Harfe, Opus 17. The organist for Geistliches Lied played well. The first of the Songs for Women's Chorus, "Es Tönt ein voller Harfenklang," was a bit cloying, though it was no fault of the harpist, horn players, or singers. The music for "Lied von Shakespeare" was quite pretty, and it was interesting to hear one of Feste's songs from Twelfth Night sung in August Wilhelm Schlegel's translation. The somber "Gesang aus Fingal," with a translated text from Fingal: An Ancient Epic Poem in Six Books by James Macpherson, was lovely.

The performance ended with the very grand Ein deutsches Requiem, Opus 45. Baritone Matthias Goerne sang "Herr, lehre doch mich" beautifully, his voice is rather light, but was always audible. I did not, however, care for soprano Laura Claycomb. I remember her Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos at San Francisco Opera as being well-acted but difficult to hear. This time I had no trouble hearing her during "Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit," but rather wished I did, as I found her vibrato unpleasant.

I am not sure how I arrived at the notion, but the sentimentality of Brahms inevitably reminds me of green meadows and cows at pasture. I suspect I must have formed this opinion early in life, which goes to show that early exposure to culture and high art are not an unqualified boon. In any case, such thoughts made "Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras" particularly memorable. However, there were some beautiful moments in which I was able to forget my absurdity, especially during "Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen" and "Denn wir haben hie keine bleibende Statt." Brahms nearly had me in the latter, the sixth movement, but the effect was ruined by the mawkish strains of harp in the seventh and final movement.

* Tattling *
Laura Claycomb's jewel-toned purple gown was becoming, the color enhanced the paleness of her skin and her pretty red hair. There was some speaking during the music, and premature applause after the third song of Gesänge für Frauenchor. Most distracting were the watch alarms marking the hour during the second and seventh movements of Ein deutsches Requiem.