A Dresden recital of outstanding artistry and sincerity from Matthias Goerne and Alexander Schmalcz

GermanyGermany Dresden Music Festival 2024 [6] – R. Schumann, Brahms: Matthias Goerne (baritone), Alexander Schmalcz (piano). Staatsschauspiel Dresden, 24.5.2024. (MC)

Baritone Matthias Goerne and pianist Alexander Schmalcz © Oliver Killig

R. Schumann Abends am Strand (No.3) aus Romanzen und Balladen, Op.45 (1840); Es leuchtet meine Liebe (No.3) aus Lieder und Gesänge, Op.127; Mein Wagen rollet langsam (No.4) auf Vier Gesänge, Op.142; 16 LiederDichterliebe, Op.48
Brahms Sommerabend (No.1), Mondenschein (No.2) aus Sechs Lieder, Op.85; Der Tod, das ist die kühle Nacht, (No.1), Meerfahrt (No.4) aus Vier Lieder, Op.96; 9 Lieder und Gesänge, Op.32

It’s Friday evening in Dresden, the start of the weekend, and I have just attended for the first time a concert at the Staatsschauspiel, a significant building close to the Zwinger the famous baroque architectural estate. Following the terrible destruction of Dresden during World War Two in 1945, the Staatsschauspiel was the first major hall to recommence holding concerts.

With a lieder recital programme of Schumann and Brahms the partnership of baritone Matthias Goerne and his recital pianist Alexander Schmalcz produced rich and fulfilling rewards. Goerne and Schmalcz commenced with the Robert Schumann section of the programme, selecting one individual song from each of three lieder sets Opp. 45, 127 and 142. Next Goerne sang Schumann’s most admired song cycle Dichterliebe (A Poet’s Love) sixteen songs completed in 1840 with texts from a set of poems by Heinrich Heine. So many of these Schumann songs deserved praise, but I have singled out just four.

Especially admirable from Schumann’s Dichterliebe was the first song ‘Im wunderschönen Monat Mai’ (‘May, the magic month of May’) springtime is here it’s May and love is in the air, given such a typically smooth delivery by Goerne who was acting the part. Commendable too was ‘Aus alten Märchen’ (‘From tales of old’) that I believe concerns seeing love through the glories of the natural world. It was taken briskly by the duo and Goerne, an adept storyteller, moved easily between his low and high registers.

Goerne chose to dispense with an interval break and continued from Schumann directly into the second half comprising Brahms lieder. Two songs were selected from each of two Brahms song cycles Sechs Lieder, Op.85 and Vier Lieder, Op.96 and the recital concluded with the nine songs from the cycle Lieder und Gesänge, Op.32, settings of texts by August von Platen and Georg Friedrich Daumer that Brahms wrote in 1864. Platen and Daumer were contemporaries, both formally studied oriental literature and the works of celebrated Persian poet Hafiz, and these influences can be discerned occasionally in Brahm’s writing.

Of the Brahms lieder I found the song ‘Mondenschein’ (‘Moonlight’) from Sechs Lieder, Op.85 particularly commendable. Concerning love and the moon, in this nocturne Goerne was in splendid voice, easily achieving his high notes, and conversely provided a soft and tender tone. At the song’s conclusion Goerne was so involved he was crouching down and appeared entirely captivated. From Brahms’s cycle Lieder und Gesänge, Op.32 the final song of the evening made quite an impact ‘Wie bist du, meine Königin’ (‘How blissful you are, my queen’) where love is explained through the beauty of nature. In the mid to high range of the song Goerne was in lovely expressive voice having a tender feeling for the words with an especially strong sense of longing. After giving his all to the demanding programme at Staatsschauspiel, right at the end Goerne was still moving his body to the emotion and rhythm of the music. Throughout the evening the consistency of Goerne’s tireless performance stood out.

Comprising thirty-two lieder Matthias Goerne accompanied by Alexander Schmalcz gave a recital of outstanding artistry and sincerity with singing that embraced the very essence of the texts.

Michael Cookson

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