In this corner, Matthias Goerne, with his many memorable San Francisco
Performances appearances in 900-seat Herbst Theater, singing Schubert
and Schumann, quietly, wonderfully; then tonight, at the other side of
the ring, in the 2,743-seat, singer-unfriendly Davies Hall, Goerne with
Richard Strauss lieder, against a full orchestra. One cannot help
worrying: how is that going to turn out?
I heard it, but I still don't quite believe it. As "Traum durch die
Dammerung" opened with the words "Weite Wiesen" (broad meadows), this
huge voice (who is that masked man?) filled the house, shook the rafters
- an amazing, delightful surprise. Goerne has not only a beautiful
voice, but a big one - who knew? And he kept it up, sailing through
eight Strauss songs, their monotonously lush, super-sweet orchestral
accompaniment suitable to relieve diabetic shock, but what a way to go!
Goerne sang "big," really big, but he also exhibited musical values
for which is justly acclaimed. The end of "Traum" was seamless, almost
imperceptibile; the diction superb all evening, but especially in the
"narrative" songs of "Das Rosenband" and "Freundliche Vision" impeccable;
the concluding "Oh come, wondrous, longed for night!" of "Heimliche
Aufforderung" like Gabriel's trumpet, but in velvet; the opening words
in "Ruhe, meine Seele" and "Allerseelen" utterly simple, although the
silence-to-music shift in "Morgen" trumped it all - and the end ("And
upon us will descend the happiness of speechless silence") profoundly
moving. Finally, a force-of-nature powerful "Zueignung" with an operatic
climax, prompting a warm, genuine ovation.
Ingo Metzmacher was the sensitive-passionate conductor, leading the San
Francisco Symphony at its very best, the strings shimmering, concertmaster
Alexander Barantschik's violin singing a magnificent soprano (tenor?)
along with Goerne. Through it all, there was one single problem with
balance, the orchestra "stepping" on Goerne in the penultimate phrase
The concert - which opens with Wolfgang Rihm's "Metamorphosis" and ends
with the Schoenberg orchestration of Brahms Piano Quartet No. 1 - is
repeated ONLY twice, Friday in Davies Hall, and Saturday in Flint Center.
Would that it ran through the month of March... and beyond.
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