San Francisco Performances' six Matthias Goerne recitals in Herbst
Theater over the years have shown a remarkable consistency of excellence,
regardless of the program. Tonight, as ever, there was the warm, beautiful
voice, effortlessly covering the entire baritone range, deeply-felt
expression of music and text, diction so perfect that the listener
understands even a foreign language he doesn't speak.
But tonight, there was something extra with "old reliable." The program
was more varied, Goerne's presentation was more confident than before,
and finally the distracting body language (conducting the music) under
control. Also, Goerne surprised and delighted the worriers (self included)
about the absence of the magnificent Eric Schneider as the accompanist.
Instead, Goerne brought along a wonderful young pianist, Alexander
Schmalcz, who plays not only everything right, but brings the most out
of the silence between notes. It was a gripping, moving, deeply satisfying
An unusually large, nine-piece Beethoven section, anchored around the
familiar "Adelaide," included such rarely-performed songs as "Resignation"
and "Wonne der Wehmut" (To the joy of sadness), plus both the Opus 32
and the Opus 94 "An die Hoffnung" (To hope). The latter was the set's
highlight, Goerne's voice soaring on the song's defiant, triumphant
conclusion. Schmalcz's simple, "clean," affecting accompaniment provided
an equal partnership.
Three Richard Strauss lieder followed, "Traum durch die Dammerung" (Dream
through dusk), "Allerseelen" (All souls), and "Die Nacht" (Night), which
ended with the combined sound of voice and piano that seemingly suspended
And then came Mahler's "Kindertotenlieder" in a performance that could
not be followed by an encore, in spite of the insistent ovation - singer
and pianist have given their all, and the audience's tearful experience
of the concluding "In diesem Wetter" (In this weather) demanded space
in which even the applause seemed to intrude, not to mention any other
Each section of the cycle had the same level of flawless expression from
voice and piano, tricky chromatic phrases exactly right, feelings evoked,
rather than imposed, "Oft denke ich, sie sind nur ausgegangen" (Often I
think they have merely gone out) both straightforward and heartbreaking.
At times, Goerne's voice took on an unusual "Wagnerian" timbre, making
one wanting to hear his Wolfram right then and there.
There couldn't have been an encore after the Mahler, it is true, and
it is a pity. It was a night when you just couldn't bear the idea that
Goerne would stop singing... and yet, he had no choice, doing the right
thing once more.
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