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Archive for the ‘Hugo Wolf’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BARBARA HANNIGAN-Tiny Desk Concert #698 (January 26, 2018).

It has been some time since Tiny Desk has had a classical singer.  As with many classical Tiny Desks. I like to let the knowledgeable NPR person tell us what’s happening.  But I’ll say that her voice is stunning and although I don;t understand the German, it’s pretty fascinating stuff.

The night before this Tiny Desk concert, extraordinary soprano Barbara Hannigan and her accompanist Reinbert de Leeuw gave a beautiful and intense recital at Washington’s Kennedy Center. The songs, all in German, came from a heady period in Vienna, when music was transitioning from the swells of romanticism to the uncharted waters of modernism. Four of those songs make up this Tiny Desk performance. The bonus here is that these impassioned dispatches become even more intimate.

[Hannigan tells us that they will play four songs all from amazing moment at beginning of 20th century when music just started to depart from harmony as we know it.  It sounds tonal but it is representing the end of all things].

Consider the opening song, Alexander Zemlinsky’s “Empfängnis” (Conception). The harmonies are sweet, but almost too rich, like overripe fruit, when Hannigan sings lines like, “Und wie ich sehend meine Arme breite” (And as I open my arms with longing). You can hear the end of a musical era.

An indefatigable champion of new and modern music, Hannigan (who is also a conductor) has given the world premieres of more than 80 pieces. The voice is simply gorgeous — silvery, buttery-smooth throughout the registers, with crystalline top notes emerging from thin air and charged with emotion.

[Hannigan tells us that Alma Mahler (Alma Schindler) married Gustav Mahler and was the most beautiful, intelligent girl in Vienna.  She was Zemlinsky’s student (and probably more), but she married Mahler and he said there was going to but one composer in the family.  The next song was written when she was studying with Zemlinsky].

In Alma Mahler’s “Licht in der Nacht” (Light in the Night), Hannigan taps into the mysterious sparkle of a little yellow star twinkling through black skies as de Leeuw’s piano explores wayward harmonies. Hugo Wolf’s “Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt” (Only One Who Knows Longing) is a hymn to the yearning heart. De Leeuw explains that the key of G minor, in which the song is written, never materializes. It’s all about the longing for G minor.

[Hannigan says that for the Scoenberg piece, poet Richard Dehmel wrote the words.  He was an important poet put on trial for obscenity for his work Woman and World.  Even though he seemed to be talking about reflections in water the imagery was beloved to be quite obscene.  In this song, Jesus is singing to Mary Magdeline, saying “give me your comb and sponge I want to be close to you.”  It is very erotic].

The final song, “Schenk mir deinen goldenen Kamm” (the first music by Arnold Schoenberg to grace the Tiny Desk), offers a double dose of sensuality. Hannigan’s beautiful middle register and creamy phrasing paint the scene: Jesus asks Mary Magdalene for her comb because it will remind him every morning that she once kissed his hair. Hannigan calls the song “erotic” and she delivers on that feeling when, at the end, she cries out the name “Magdalena” with a lustrous, silken tone, touched with anguish.

It’s quite something.

  • Alexander Zemlinsky: “Empfängnis”
  • Alma Mahler: “Licht in der Nacht”
  • Hugo Wolf: “Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt”
  • Arnold Schoenberg: “Schenk mir deinen goldenen Kamm”

[READ: November 20, 2017] What Happened at Brent’s

This little book came to my desk at work and it seemed like a charming diversion.  The only problem with it is that it is set on Hallowe’en and I read it at Thanksgiving (and am now posting about it around Valentine’s Day).

Aside from some of the mannerisms and the language, this book could very easily have been written today and could easily be staged today.

The play is 31 pages (running time 75 minutes).  There are ten characters in the play, all but one are played by children.

Set on Halloween night, a group of 8th graders are having a party.  There are four girls and three boys.  The fourth boy is on his way shortly.  The children are all aflutter because their favorite actress Rita Rose is filming a movie in the town nearby.  They are all infatuated with her and think she is the best. (more…)

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