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Intimate Schumann recital really quite lovely

  • Jul 8, 2010
[caption id="attachment_2784" align="alignright" width="167" caption="James Taylor\'s singing was a delight, wrote the RG."][/caption]From The Register-Guard Born almost exactly 200 years ago (June 8, 1810), Robert Schumann helped usher in and further the “new” Romantic era of classical music in Europe. Long before the distractions of the modern world, good music was an important factor not only in the concert hall, but also in salons and in people’s private homes. On Tuesday evening in the UO’s Beall Hall, we looked in on and listened to a recreation of an elegant evening in the Schumann’s home — a chamber concert in the Oregon Bach Festival’s program titled “At Home With the Schumanns.” The stage featured Victorian-era chairs, tables and a divan, set amidst a grand piano and music stands. The musicians, in formal attire, arranged themselves in small groups around the stage, presenting a believable and charming image of what an evening of music-making in the Schumann home might have looked like. The music itself, all composed by Schumann, was a potpourri of chamber music and lieder, songs mainly of found and lost love. The composer’s lush, romantic Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 47, provided an architectural framework for the evening’s music. Its first movement opened the concert; the second movement ended the first half; the third movement, was the opening piece after intermission; and the fourth movement concluded the concert. The quartet was performed by Helmuth Rilling’s two talented daughters, Rahel, violin, and Sara, viola; David Adorgan on cello; and Shai Wosner, pianist, a very last-minute substitute for Jeffrey Kahane, who could not appear. They played well together, their coordination and timing virtually flawless, their energy and enthusiasm palpable. Soprano Elizabeth Keusch sang the first set of lieder, from Liederkreis, Op. 39. Her voice, pure and creamy, seemed to gather strength as she progressed through her six songs, her range leaning toward mezzo-soprano rather than high soprano. Accompanist David Riley, who spent more time playing than anyone else in the concert, provided superb piano support here and in his other seven appearances throughout the evening, never upstaging the singers and instrumentalists, but always there to sustain them with strength and poise. The Fantasiestucke for clarinet and piano featured Carey Bell, principal clarinetist of the San Francisco Symphony and a Eugene native. His playing was simultaneously powerful and mesmerizing, extracting haunting images from the music. I found his physical gestures, however, to be distracting. James Taylor sang four lieder from Liedenkreis, Op. 24. His tenor voice remains pure and unrestrained, very natural and musical. A delight. Romanian-born mezzo-soprano Roxana Constantinescu sang her five songs from the Fraunliebe und Leben, Op. 42, with a richness of tone and creaminess of timbre that made listening to her an exciting and deep-felt experience. Her physical gestures amplified the words of the songs and betrayed her extensive work in operatic roles. Longtime Bach Festival oboeist Allan Vogel played Three Romances for Oboe and Piano, Op. 94. These lovely, lyrical pieces showed Vogel to be the consummate artist that he is, his mellifluous, haunting tone a highlight of the evening. The coordination between Vogel and Riley was split-second perfect. The overhead English supertitle translations helped the understanding and appreciation of all songs throughout the evening. Altogether then, this was an intimate, personal visit to a more formal but gentler time in our musical past. Lovely! John Farnworth of Vida reviews classical music for The Register-Guard.