sábado, 20 de octubre de 2018

Schoenberg's Gurrelieder in Auditorio Nacional de Música, Madrid. October 19, 2018.

Arnold Schoenberg is the composer who made a revolution in the history of music, giving the step that post-romantic and Wagner-influenced works in late 19th Century needed towards atonalism. In many places, his atonal work is more known than his previous one, giving him the fame of difficult composer.

The Gurre-lieder are a masterpiece of his tonal period, and one of his most celebrated with Transfigured Night or Pélleas and Melisande. This is not an opera, but it seems so. It tells the love story of  the King Waldemar and his mistress Tove, how he rebelates against God after her death, and his final condamnation, as well as his henchmen.

Four years ago, Eliahu Inbal conducted an unforgettable version of this epic work. And now in 2018, the Gurrelieder return to Madrid in the Orquesta y Coro Nacionales de España (Spain National Chorus and Orchestra) 2018/2019 season.

David Afkham, the principal conductor of the orchestra, gave a fantastic performance, with the orchestra in a complete state of grace. The prelude is brilliant and the orchestra achieves to show its descriptive spell. During the work, Afkham's conduction is opulent and spectacular, maybe a bit unnecesary in some moments of Waldemar's and Tove's songs. However, in the final Tove's song the orchestra reached a charming level of lyricism. The second and third part were in the same and splendid level. The chorus, joined by the Coro de la Comunidad de Madrid,  sang their complicated parts at an accomplished level, specially the male section.

During the first part, I sat in the upper stalls behind the chorus, close to the organ, who is an ungrateful zone to hear the voices, specially when having such an orchestra behind. After the pause I could locate in front, and to hear them better.

The tenor Simon O'Neill sang the part of King Waldemar. He has good qualities, for example good high notes and good acting skills, but the voice doesn't always resist the overwhelming orchestral volume. However, his song Du wunderliche Tove  and his last song were well sung, showing a good middle register and remarkable high notes.

Juliane Banse was a beautiful and dramatical Tove, reaching a charming voice in her last song. Karen Cargill was splendid as the Wood Bird, with amazing low register and attractive voice, despite being a bit nasal. Hers was a tragic and descriptive version.

Barry Banks and Wilhelm Schwinghammer sang very well their parts as Klaus the Jester and the Peasant respectively. The first one an accomplished character tenor and the second a bass with a nice voice to hear.

Thomas Quasthoff was the narrator of the final sprechgesang part. His voice has that great low-pitched sound reminding us the marvellous bass he used to be, reciting his poem with authority and dramatism.

The Gurrelieder are a marvellous experience when listened in an auditorium. Due to their difficulty its performances are not so regular. That is why whenever they come, it's an opportunity we shouldn't miss. And specially when it is performed with experienced musicians.

My reviews are not professional and express only my opinions. As a non English native speaker I apologise for any mistake.
Most of the photographs are from the internet and belong to its authors. My use of them is only cultural.

Any reproduction of my text requires my permission. 

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