Sunday, May 27, 2007


I went last night to see the Philadelphia Orchestra at Davies Hall in San Francisco, the same concert I tried to see a week ago in Davis. This time Matthias Goerne was there. The conductor was Christoph Eschenbach, or as I always think of him, Christoph von Eschenbach. As my concert neighbor said, the von is silent.

Goerne sang orchestrated Lieder by Schubert. The orchestrations were done by different people--Brahms, Reger and Webern--with varying amounts of success. I think I was least impressed by Webern's efforts. Too choppy and still idiomatically piano.

Goerne is a Lieder specialist and has brought a unique perspective to the genre. He has a growly, not particularly pretty baritone and a mysterious cello-like legato. He expresses with this legato, swooping and arching over the music. I had a completely different reaction to Goerne singing orchestrated Lieder than I had to Quastoff and von Otter. Here it seemed the right accompaniment for him, a more legato accompaniment to such a completely legato performance. He remains a miniaturist, not quite grasping the melodramatic requirements of an orchestra concert, blunting the climax of "Erlkoenig" when he most needed it. He's not doing drama. He's doing phrase. No one does it better. He did "Staendchen" as an encore. For me the tempo was too fast.

The Philadelphia played Brahms' Symphony #1 in the second half. It seemed a concerto for timpani to me for no reason I could explain. It starts with that fabulous timpani theme. I was fascinated watching the timpanist selecting and replacing his sticks as he stood high over the others. It was brilliantly played with especially beautiful shimmering strings.

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