Mahler and Donizetti to balance the Handel

ffwYesterday I listened to Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde because I had never done it before and thought I should (must bring back Thursday’s something else). Today I listened to the 2014 Roberto Devereux from COC so I don’t get some part of Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno stuck in my head again.

With Lied my conclusion was that I can see why anyone bothers with it but I’m in no hurry to hear it again for at least a few good months. The length alarmed me in the beginning but it turned out to be less of a difficult listen than I thought. I don’t know that I actually liked some parts or rather that I enjoyed what Christa Ludwig did with the music. Perhaps a bit of both. Generally I have a hard time relating to the music of that period.

Devereux isn’t Maria Stuarda. It’s ok, less flashy (negligeable amound of trills), more Verdian maybe. There’s nothing wrong with Radvanovsky but I wasn’t overcome with mad passion and she had plenty of time to wow me. I think she and the chaps were expressive for what the music is, I just wasn’t invested enough (I don’t know the plot). It felt old school but I had this feeling even when attending performances of Donizetti operas. I guess we associate old school opera with this repertoire?

After predictibly getting very friendly with this Il trionfo I thought about a feeling I’ve had in recent months – that of having gone off belcanto a bit. Namely, I don’t think trills are well integrated within works of the 19th century. Now I know trills aren’t done the same way in Baroque as in belcanto. Even so, in 19th century works they seem superfluous (to me) though they don’t do so in Baroque. Maybe it feels more natural for Tempo or Bellezza to trill and less for some random human? I’m not sure, I think it’s more to do with the amount and the quality. After 1800 they just seem to be there for (often trashy) ornamentation, perhaps quantitative restraint would’ve worked better. How cool is it to have two grown up characters do the singing equivalent of cooing at each other?

Along the same thought, I was thinking how I feel that in Verdi the music and the ethos of the libretto don’t mesh. The feelings are modern (for his time) whilst the music seems old school. With Wagner I think things mesh well again, I just don’t like either the ethos or the music 😉

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About dehggial

opera lover with a predilection for Mozart and Baroque

Posted on February 14, 2016, in freeform weekend and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 46 Comments.

  1. “Das Lied von der Erde” is one of these that should be heard live methinks.. and with a particular singer (not sure which) but it suddenly clicks! at least that’s how it is for me.. then i can digest tube.. but not the other way around (though i must also say some of Mahler stuff i totally don’t get and yet others work right out of the box! you do need a particular singer…

    1 more interesting note: it seems i get it more with non-germans! perhaps it is really that convo we were having, technicality vs big picture 🙂

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    • live? Not sure I am ready to sit through live Mahler yet. But it is true that live, where you give it your whole attention and everything sounds vivid, makes everything a little more palatable.

      interestingly in this case I didn’t think the singers were at fault at all (didn’t particularly care about the Kollo chap or about the tenor line but he wasn’t annoying either). I don’t know what a different singer than Ludwig could bring to it that would make me fall all over but you never know. But since you mentioned the non-German thing I might give it another try with one. Just not now or tomorrow.

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      • ps- i heard all the “hype” about Mahler since a looong time and sat through 4 extravagant Mahler’s symphonies (not sure which) through the years of discovering classical music and never got anything out of it.. (only once with pro orchestra).. then finally i attended one with a local bass and the school orchestra and “click”, the local bass did it for me at the last minutes of the hour-long performance. it was this piece (Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Songs of a Wayfarer). may be i’ll listen to it again today to see if it captured the same effect… (am putting A.Coote there b/c Anik once mentioned to me she really enjoyed her way of interpreting Mahler in general.. but she’s german-speaking so may be that’s why.. i think for non-german speaking audience (me) we (I) need more than the text and background, hence my hypothesis that a non-german singer can get that across to us (me) better.. Finally, there’s this song cycle for dead kids that i sat through S.Mingardo singing and apparently got depressed for like a whole 3 days!! 😀

        (ps- on your note regarding live and you give it your whole attention, it’s not what i mean actually, coz when i don’t get, i don’t get 😀 , and Mahler’s orchestration in general i never get.. and yet somehow it finally clicked when i listen to a single vocal line accompanied by single instrument or very few..)

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      • ps- just thought i also note: some of VK’s most die-hard fans have sworn she’s absolutely not the right person for Schubert + Schumann lieder and yet I really enjoy her singing (but of course understanding nothing about the actual german part..) There was even quite a lively discussion about that once on Anik’s, and these same german-speaking (i assumed..) fans were raving about her singing of Russian arias.. and i was already thinking back then how interesting that for the language they’re not the expert in they “get” what she’s trying to say and yet insist she’s saying it “all wrong” when it comes to their language.. So i almost wrote a blog post back then but decided not to.. that I used to be a total ass when it comes to anyone trying to sing those vietnamese traditional songs I grew up listening to.. and it’s because it’s not just the song, but we identified something strongly with it (the experience we went through, the time it came out, the culture, the blah blah, a bucket of laundry that comes with it..) so we “personify” the way it “should” sound and thus when some eagle flying in trying to take a bite at it without those “familiarity” to our experience we can’t press the reject button fast enough..

        (and now i recalled my first venture to your blog, in fact, was when you wrote about her lieder cd 🙂 )

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        • ditto to that! I love that bit about how we “absolutely get it” in the foreign language. Luckily for us it’s all foreign 😀 I think you’re spot on with associating this and hat stuff plus our shared experience about songs etc. in our own language. To expect foreigners to get that is a bit rich, though I’ve also occasionally fallen into that trap. But on a good day I think it’s refreshing to hear another type of interpretation of the same old. Music doesn’t “belong” to anyone, it’s great that people enjoy different/foreign things which speak to them and they make them their own. I still like that CD 😉 I’m going to listen to Fischerweise right now.

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  2. It’s interesting that what comes off as old school doesn’t have really anything to do with actual chronology. I wonder if that has to do with our missing a whole lot of repertoire between, say, the late baroque and 1800. Everything has turned into remote outposts of style without the connections between them.

    Pedantic footnote: fwiw, trills in Verdi actually do carry meaning, more often than not 🙂

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    • It’s interesting what was selected into the main repertoire when the recording age began, which is what we now call old school (I think). Over time seems like things have been co-opted based on certain conductors’ or singers’ preferences, more or less at random. Looks to me like there was no organised way of pulling things back from oblivion, though the Baroque revival is perhaps the closest thing.

      ok, you’re the Verdi expert, I take your word. I was thinking about Rossini mostly when I wrote that. My relationship with Verdi has so far been very love/hate but I can’t claim expertise of any kind. Something seems to be missing or a bit off but I can’t articulate it very well.

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      • Yeah, it’s been haphazard and, as you say, driven by the interests of individual singers, with varying degrees of success and/or staying power. And bearing in mind that a large percentage of what we now think of as 19th c. Italian standard rep was fairly unknown by the time the recording age began (including about 50% of Verdi’s entire output, and more of Rossini’s).

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