Saturday, November 12, 2005

Mathilde Wesendonck

In the NY Times last Sunday was the headline "Why Shouldn't Men Sing Romantic Drivel, Too?"

This refers to the fact that Matthias Goerne has chosen to perform the "Wesendonck Lieder." How is one to explain this? I always used to say these were the best Wagner, concise pieces that get to the point quickly, and then move on. They also have the advantage of not having words by Wagner. One is inclined to see what isn't there more vividly than what is. There isn't the endless modulation, and most of all, there isn't any Stabreim.

It's difficult to hear ones own language. We don't hear it as sounds; we hear it as meaning. But a foreign language, that's another thing. In German Goethe is awesomely beautiful. If you immerse yourself in his poetry you realize that you didn't know German could possibly sound this beautiful. Wagner's poetry is hideous. Such ugly noises! For the lover of Goethe it is an offense. So Mathilde may be drivel, but she is very much less than hideous drivel, is in fact quite singable.

Matthias Goerne is worth noting. I saw one of his recitals in San Francisco, and he's quite authentic. It is admirable that someone would make a career of Lieder singing. It's admirable that one could.

The article says that he's at least thinking about performing "Frauenliebe." [Schumann's cycle "Frauenliebe und Leben"] Now if you want to call that drivel, I would not have a problem. These are very nice songs, I'm sure. I used to sing the ring song at weddings, but the overall perspective is quite masculine. It's what men think of women. Ick! Schumann's own wife certainly had a life nothing like this. So why not a man singing it?

Wagner seems to be a favorite target, as in this where I rag on Parsifal. I got quite nasty in this one, but took it all back here. I even praised his compositional methods here. I don't know what got into me. For me Wagner is someone who either works or he doesn't. When it doesn't work, nothing could be more boring, but when it does, it's the most moving experience possible.

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