Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Tamar Halperin and Andreas Scholl perform Lieder in the Jerusalem Music Centre's Chamber Music Series

Tamar Halperin and Andreas Scholl (Photo:Renate Feyerbacher

The German countertenor Andreas Scholl is no newcomer to the Israeli concert hall or master class scene. He and his Israeli-born wife pianist Tamar Halperin performed a program of “The German Lied” in the fifth concert of the Jerusalem Music Centre’s 2013-2014 Chamber Music Series. The recital took place on January 9th 2014 in the Mary Nathaniel Golden Hall of Friendship of the Jerusalem International YMCA.

Harpsichordist and pianist Tamar Halperin studied at Tel Aviv University, the Basel Schola Cantorum and the Juilliard School of Music, where she received her doctorate in 2009 with a dissertation on J.S.Bach. Halperin’s performing career, including conducting from the keyboard, takes her all over the world. While her main focus is Baroque music, Dr. Halperin performs Classical- and contemporary music, also composing, arranging and performing popular-, jazz-, electronic and contemporary Classical music.

Born in Germany in 1967, Andreas Scholl began singing with the Kiedricher Chorbuben, a children’s choir, singing music of Bach from age seven. He continued singing in his high vocal register into his teens, the choirmaster observing that his was the countertenor voice. Scholl was the first undergraduate to study at the Basel Schola Cantorum, studying there with Richard Levitt, René Jacobs, Evelyn Tubb, Emma Kirkby and others. One of today’s greatest and most sought-after countertenors, Scholl soloes, teaches and records. In the field of modern music, composer Marco Rosano has created a new Stabat Mater for him; Scholl himself has worked with rock composer and Baroque countertenor Roland Kunz. Although in his teaching Scholl’s slogan has been “Lieber erstmal Lieder” (Firstly Lieder) Scholl has mostly been heard in much Baroque repertoire. In the program presented here, we see him exploring a genre taking him light years away from the works of Purcell, Bach and Händel, in performance of very different repertoire.

The artists opened with three of the Haydn settings of poems by Anne Hunter. On his first visit to London (1791-1792) Joseph Haydn befriended the widowed Scottish poetess Anne Hunter, who inspired him to set fourteen English tests to music, nine of them being her own poems. The result was the first set of Haydn’s English Canzonettas (1794), probably intended for house music at the hands of educated amateurs. Their beauty and sophistication, however, make them enduring concert pieces. Halperin chose to perform “Despair”, “The Wanderer” and “Recollection”. All sad, contemplative songs (“Recollection” is said to have brought tears to Haydn’s eyes whenever he sang it) Halperin and Scholl presented their quiet, intimate moods and occasional intensity with some effective word-painting, clear punctuation and a sense of their fragility. Halperin addressed the songs’ independent and distinctive piano parts articulately in all their small, delicate gestures.

Moving to the German art song, we heard a number of Schubert Lieder. “Im Haine” D738 (In the Woods), with its addressing of nature and so Viennese in its waltz-like style, was given lightness of touch; its lilting rhythm and major-minor duality were graced with small piano gestures. The haunting “Abendstern” (Evening Star) in which Halperin and Scholl move together in one of Schubert’s saddest songs, was followed by Schubert’s setting of Goethe’s “An Mignon” (To Mignon) (he composed two versions of it on February 27th 1815!), in which the artists create the piece’s restlessness and underlying drama. In their superb reading of “Du bist die Ruh” (You are Rest and Peace), one of Schubert’s five Friedrich Rückert settings of 1823, the artists weave subtle dynamics through the motionless wonder of the song, giving its tranquil atmosphere flexibility. In Schubert’s “Ave Maria”, Scholl held the song’s melodic tension with much control with Halperin highlighting melodic content not always presented by pianists. Schubert’s most minimal and one of his most affecting songs “Der Tod und das Mädchen” (Death and the Maiden) Scholl and Halperin presented the song’s two characters in great contrast, Scholl moving out of head voice to sing the part of Death in chest voice…very effective, indeed.

The artists then performed some of Johannes Brahms’ settings of German folk songs for voice and piano. Brahms was a collector of folk songs, this interest tying in with the revival of German nationalism in music. (With the composer being no stickler for authenticity, some of the songs were, however, taken from composed collections of songs.) All speak of love, most combining love with ideas on fidelity, infidelity and loss. In “Mein Mädel hat einen Rosenmund” (My Lassie’s Mouth is Like a Rosebud) the artists use tempo- and temperament changes to bring out the folksy humor of the piece. “All’ mein Gedanken” (Every Thought I Have) and “Da unten im Tale” (Down in the Valley There) were dealt with in delicate directness. In “Es ging ein Maidlein zarte” (Early One Morning) Halperin and Scholl coupled the gently lilting melody with its dire text, coloring it with naiveté and disturbing undercurrents. The Brahms section of the program ended with “In stiller Nacht” (In the Quiet Night), its text thought to be written during the Reformation in Germany by a person who was to be executed the next morning. The song was considered by Brahms himself as the best of the collection. Halperin and Scholl created the setting of night, evoking its wondrous and majestic mood together with sorrow.
‘The beautiful moon wishes to set
Out of pain, and never shine again;
The stars will let fade their gleam
For they wish to weep with me.
Neither birdsong nor sound of joy
Can one hear in the air;
The wild animals grieve with me as well,
Upon the rocks and the ravines.’

In the final song of the program, Mozart’s sadly philosophical “Abendempfindung” (Evening Sensations), Scholl’s smooth silvery, mellifluous and uncluttered singing presented the song’s fatalistic message, supported by flowing eighth-note arpeggios in the accompaniment which come to a grinding halt on certain key words.

Piano solos punctuated the evening’s program: Schubert’s Waltz In b minor opus 18 no.6, played poignantly, gently flexed and sensitive, a superbly paced reading of Brahms’ Intermezzo in A major, opus 118 no.2, its melodic lines interlaced iwith filigree-fine threads of nostalgia, drama and poetry and, finally, Mozart’s Rondo in F major K494, in which the pianist displayed her signature lightness of touch, virtuosity, Mozartian innocence and reference to Mozart’s whimsical touch. Tamar Halperin’s delicacy and articulacy are well suited to accompanying Andreas Scholl on the piano, the German Lied in the hands of a countertenor belonging to a very different soundscape than that presented by other Lied singers.

No comments: