Wednesday, December 07, 2011

All for Liebe

Sam Shirakawa went to Frankfurt to hear Klaus Florian Vogt in recital:

Klaus Florian Vogt
Recital | 29 November 2011 | Frankfurt-am-Main

Schubert: Die Schöne Müllerin

Several weeks ago, I heard a recital in New York given by a well-known singer. One of the pithiest comments I heard during intermission: nice voice but not a clue about the text. Which is why I dislike Lieder recitals these days. The disconneFrankfurtct between the singer and the song, the text and the music, appears to be growing wider as we modulate away from the golden phase of Lieder in the 19th century.

That chasm was narrowed to no little degree at Klaus Florian Vogt’s recital on 29 November at Oper Frankfurt. The feat was all the more remarkable because he tackled Schubert’s deceptively simple song cycle Die schöne Müllerin.

For me, the secret of Vogt’s interpretive cunning lay in mining his personal experience as a father to make the most of himself as a narrator. He told the story of a young journeyman’s hopeless love for his employer’s daughter, as he might tell it to his own kids. While the plot may be a bit advanced for children, Vogt’s singular achievement at his recital was to coax his audience of grown-ups into childlike attentiveness right from the energetic outset of “Das Wandern ist der Müllers Lust” and hold his public in thrall down through to the hoke-free resignation of “Gute Ruhe, tu’ die Augen zu...” Rarely have I attended a song recital where the collective concentration of the audience was so rapt. To be among an assembly of native speakers who bring their shared linguistic comprehension to the gathering was, for me, especially moving.

Vogt was helped hugely by Helmut Deutsch, whose partnering instincts produced a lively dialogue between piano and singer. Met audiences will recall him serving as Jonas Kaufmann’s redoubtable accompanist earlier this season.

You might not think of Vogt as a natural Lieder singer, given that he’s made the greater chunk of his fortune with chunky roles like Lohengrin, Florestan and Paul. But the voice on this occasion offered tanatalizing glimpses into what he might do with the songs of Mahler, Strauss and, not least, Wolf. As I’ve said repeatedly, his is one of the most unusual male voices now before the public: lithe, tungsten brilliant when so summoned and even from tip to tailfly. Plus he has a clue or two to what he’s singing about, which he articulates with telling diction, unpremeditated legato and compelling range of volume, free of blemishing overtones when under pressure. The recital also gave a new disclosure about Vogt’s art: he’s more versatile than he’s previously let on. But how versatile? His sunny, sole encore “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz” from Lehar’s Land des Laechelns offered some hints.
I’m looking forward to further clues he may disclose through his first Cavaradossi.

But that’s next year. This is now:

As I scurry out of the opera house onto Willy Brandt Platz, heading for the main train station, I’m confronted by a huge softly illuminated blue shield emblazoned with a star spangled golden €. So here I am, I realize, just around the corner from the headquarters of the august European Central Bank. Is this where they’re trying to save the world from fiscal doom?


Even as I hurry away, they’re inside, flushing gazillions into the toilets that constitute the world’s financial systems as a quick-fix to avoid another 8 October 2008. This measure, of course, will do nothing to solve Europe’s long-term debt crisis and will tabulate a terrible cost only a few dare think about. I glance fleetingly back at the opera house, tilting against the cold night wind, and I chill at the thought of what may go down the tubes to pay the piper.

©Sam H Shirakawa

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