Unlike singers who occasionally show up here, in the northern corner of
the Left Coast, Matthias Goerne is a veritable regular. His San Francisco
Performances recital tonight in Herbst Theater was the eighth such
appearance, making him a Ruth Felt favorite, performing as often as
Barbara Bonney and Thomas Hampson.
As the previous seven recitals, tonight's was also excellent, stopping
just short of whatever constitutes truly memorable. Goerne sang an
unusual, much appreciated program (previously performed in New York and
Atlanta), the music maintaining a level of interest and value, but not
reaching great, distinguishable peaks... just like the performance.
Right there, however, on Herbst's poorly lit stage (lights in the theater
were too bright to focus on the performer, too dim to read the text or
the translations), was a performer reaching all the way to the sublime
heights Goerne stopped just short of: Wolfram Rieger, the accompanist,
correctly and generously acknowledged by the singer every step of the
Rieger's playing was extraordinary, so much so that it commanded the
entire audience - without a single exception - to wait turning the page
or making any noise until the last sound of the piano died away at the
end of each song.
The program consisted of nine Mahler songs, including the rarely-performed
"Phantasie aus `Don Juan'" and "Verlor'ne Muh" (Wasted Effort), four
songs by Berg, and Wagner's "Wesendonck Lieder," yes, the one written
for a female voice, but just as powerful from a great male singer. It
was this cycle, and especially the closing "Traume" that "hit the spot"
the best. Goerne's warm, flexible voice sustained the melodic lines
beautifully, Rieger's accompaniment provided a glorious duet.
Compared with his earlier recitals, Goerne was more comfortable in the
low register, some of the sheen from the high notes (for which he was
distinguished before) was lacking. As always, every note was on the
money - one of the most accurate singers around, Goerne even handled the
devilishly difficult Berg songs ("Schlafen," "Schlafend tragt mich,"
"Nun ich der Risen Starksten uberwant" and "Warm die Lufte") without
While Rieger was uniformly "perfect," Goerne's high point - before the
end of the Wagner cycle - came in Mahler's "Wo die schonen Trompeten
blasen"(Where the shining trumpets sound), with an almost inaudible
introduction, a steadily building line, to frozen silence at the end,
the voice giving way to the piano; and "Urlicht," performed in a
breathtaking fashion, intense tension giving way to release. It all
made the listener look forward to Goerne's ninth recital here in the
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