To a date already marked in two religious calendars (the beginning of Yom Kippur for Jews; the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels in the Christian calendar), September 29, 2017 was special for what is now unfortunately rare in classical music: an evening of art songs ("Lieder" in German). Soprano Andrea Edith Moore, tenor Jason Karn, and pianist David Heid brought convincing interpretations of two song cycles by Robert Schumann: Frauenleibe und Leben and Dichterliebe. Having the original German texts and English translations was, as always, helpful in providing the audience with a complete understanding of the poetry. It's unfortunate that the poets' names were not included with the texts: Adelbert von Chamisso for Frauenliebe und Leben and Heinrich Heine for Dichterliebe.
Both sets of poems deal with love: a love lived out, and an unrequited love. For our time, Chamisso's textual journey through a woman's love and life is far from our feminist sensitivities. We seldom hear this cycle due in part to those texts. In his The Ring of Words commentary on art song, Philip Lieson Miller wrote: "…fond as one may become of Schumann's Frauenliebe und Leben cycle, one admires it less than Dichterliebe, not simply because the music of the one is superior to that of the other – beyond question Heine was a finer poet than Chamisso. Nowadays one does not take Frauenliebe too seriously because of the text – Cosí non fan tutte."
This program was more in the nature of a salon offering, the two cycles heard without intermission. While Moore's vocal tone began with a rather raw edge in her mid and lower ranges, she was at her best in the final three songs. Her portrayal of the woman's happiness of motherhood and sadness at the death of her spouse were beautifully poignant.
Where Moore's singing was dramatically understated, Karn's was more operatic, at times perhaps overstated for this art form. His German was easily understood, even in the faster songs such as "Die Rose." The optional high-A in "Ich grolle nicht" was powerfully clear, but the accelerando which followed was surprising, especially following the composer's specified "ritard" and overall tempo indication of "nicht zu schnell" (not too fast).
Then there was the opposite tempo question: "Allnachtlich im Traume seh' ich dich" was sung at a funereal tempo, so slowly that it lost its dream-like quality in sleep. Schumann wanted "rather/somewhat slow" (ziemlich langsam), not "as slow as possible." This song's piano postlude was bent out of its rhythmic shape as various note-values were changed in Heid's interpretive approach.
As a superb "collaborative pianist," Heid was totally together with each singer, handling Schumann's musical poetry with ease. Only when a song ended with the piano playing a solo "postlude" did his playing become less faithful to the score's rhythms.
This was the second of three performances of this concert, making it possible for more than just the Baldwin Auditorium audience to share in the beauties of Schumann's music and the artistries of these fine performers. The program will be presented again in Greenville on Saturday, September 30 at the Music House. See our sidebar for details.