Saturday, January 30, 2016

Baritone Thomas Zisterer and pianist Maria Neishtadt perform at a "Classical Viennese Soiree" at the American Colony Hotel (Jerusalem)

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Baritone Thomas Zisterer (

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A “Classical Viennese Soirée” was the subject of the second concert of the new chamber music series taking place in the Pasha Room of the American Colony Hotel (Jerusalem) on January 23rd 2016.  Supported by the Austrian Cultural Forum and organized and coordinated by Ms. Petra Klose (K und K Wien) in cooperation with the American Colony Hotel and its general manager Mr. Thomas Brugnatelli, the recital featured Austrian baritone Thomas Zisterer and pianist Maria Neishtadt (Russia/Israel).

The first half of the program consisted of classical baritone repertoire, opening with a whimsical and charming rendition of Papageno’s opening aria from Mozart’s “Magic Flute”, a pan flute hanging around Zisterer’s neck, in which the bird catcher sings cheerfully of the pleasure of catching birds, musing that it would be nice to catch pretty girls, making one his wife. With the ominous chords introducing Franz Schubert’s “Der Jüngling und der Tod” (The Youth and Death) the atmosphere darkened and Zisterer and Neishtadt took on the mood of the Lied, in which Josef von Spaun’s text tells of a young man in the face of death. This was followed by an evocative, crafted and beautifully narrated performance of “Der Lindenbaum” (The Linden Tree) from Schubert’s “Winter’s Journey”.  The artists then created the delicate autumnal setting for Alexander von Zemlinsky’s love song “Selige Stunde” (The Blessed Hour) from the composer’s opus 10 collection, indeed a treat, considering the fact that Zemlinsky’s many fine songs in the late Romantic idiom of Brahms remain sadly neglected by performers. Then two songs from Gustav Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder (1901-1902); first the intricate perpetuum mobile of  “Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder” (Do not look at my songs), in which Friedrich Rückert’s text asks the reader not to look at his texts before they are finished, claiming that bees do not allow anyone to observe their cell-building.  Zisterer and Neishtadt created the wonderment, the intensity and questioning of Mahler’s only overt love song (a gift to his new bride Alma) “Liebst du um Schönheit” (If you love for beauty’s sake). The artists concluded the first part of their program with a flexible and emotional reading of “Mein sehnen, mein wähnen” (My yearning, my dreaming) from Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s opera “Die tote Stadt” (The Dead City), certainly an outstanding piece for the lyric baritone.

Entering the Pasha Room with an armful of long-stemmed red roses, and handing them out to some of the luckier ladies in the audience, Thomas Zisterer opened the program’s section of Austrian operetta- and entertainment music with “Dunkelrote Rosen” (Dark red roses) from Karl Millöker’s opera “Gasparone”. A tender and accessible song, the audience was taken away to the gentle, unabashedly sentimental, light-hearted and flirtatious popular music genres of Vienna of the 19th- and early 20th centuries:
‘I bring dark red roses, beautiful woman,
And you know exactly what that means!
I cannot say what my heart feels
Dark red roses tenderly suggest it…’
Moving just a little eastward, we heard the artists in Austro-Hungarian composer Emmerich Kálmán’s waggish and playful “Ganz ohne Weiber geht die Chose nicht” (Quite without women things do not work) from “The Czárdás Princess” (1915) an operetta set in both Budapest and Vienna. Much at home in this genre, Zisterer, freely expressive on stage and light of foot, entertained the audience with his jaunty and rakish performance of the delightfully risqué song. Kálmán and Austro-Hungarian composer Franz Lehár were the leading composers of what has been referred to as the “silver age” of Viennese operetta. From Lehar’s “Merry Widow”, a hot ticket at the Theater an der Wein, we heard “Ich hol’ dir vom Himmel das Blau”, its message referring to the uncertainties and disappointments of love. Then to the jolly, lusty “Heurigenmarsch”, a song from Robert Stolz’ operetta “Around the World in 80 Minutes”, complete with humorous comments from the piano. (“Heurige” refers to wine from the earliest harvest as of November 11th. Bars in the environs of Vienna serving it are referred to as “Heurige”.)  Hans von Frankowski’s “Ja, das sind halt Wiener G’schichten” (1940) (Yes, these are Viennese Stories) is typical in its expression of Austrian joie de vivre combined with fatalism and melancholy, as heard in songs in Viennese wine tavern- and cabaret songs. Following the artists’ suave rendering of “Tarragona” from Nico Dostal’s operetta “The Queen’s Courier” (1950), Thomas Zisterer and Maria Neishtadt concluded their recital with the warm, simple sentiments of Rudolph Sieczynski’s best-known song “Wien, du Stadt meiner Träume” (Vienna, city of my dreams) one of a number of nostalgic, sentimental songs about Vienna  written by the composer. Providing German speakers and especially the Austrians present at the recital with smiles, a little nostalgia and much enjoyment, the operetta songs of the second half of the concert provided the audience with a classy evening's music and a flying visit to Vienna of bygone days, its people and its opulent popular bourgeois music scene.

Thomas Zisterer studied at the Tirol- and Vienna Music Academies. An artist of outstanding versatility, personality and relaxed stage presence, Zisterer can be heard performing early music, opera, children's opera, operetta, musical comedy, Mahler's Lieder, Haydn and Beethoven’s settings of Irish, Scottish and Welsh songs and even tangos; he performed the latter at the Tirol Landestheater (Innsbruck, Austria) with Carlos Gardel. His true, fresh lyric baritone voice, stable in all registers and unforced, sounded especially well in the intimate Pasha Room of the American Colony Hotel.

Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, pianist and organist Maria Neishtadt studied at the Mussorgsky Music College, graduating in piano performance from the St. Petersburg State Conservatory. She furthered her music studies at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance. A winner of several international awards, Ms. Neishtadt has performed in Europe, China and Israel and has won critical acclaim for her interpretation of Chopin works. A skilful and highly competent accompanist, she gave much life and substance to the works performed at the Jerusalem concert, addressing colour, texture and fine detail in some challenging (quasi-orchestral) accompaniments, together with Zisterer, changing musical guises from work to work.


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Pianist Maria Neishtadt (

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