Thursday, November 3, 2011

Review: Anne Sofie von Otter

Hong Kong Cultural Center Concert Hall, Tuesday October 25

I feel like it is already the Hong Kong Arts Festival season already. This was my 11th performing arts event in October. In fact, even with the Arts Festival, I only plan to go to ten events! But then, how can one not find time and energy to go to the recital of Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter? I saw her debut in Hong Kong back in December 8 2008. It was a Christmas-themed concert; and together with her pianist partner Bengt Forsberg and her Swedish band, they performed traditional and Scandinavian Christmas songs… not exactly the repertoire that I was dreaming of, but hey, it was a von Otter recital… This time around, however, the programme was just right… no, it was ideal!

Von Otter has mastered a wide range of repertoire in her career; and in this recital, she traversed through different languages and styles with effortless fluency. It was not difficult to appreciate the Grieg and Sibelius songs as they were quite accessible and von Otter showed great affinity and ease with them. But it was the Schubert songs that benefited from the “warm-up” of the first two sets. In Schubert’s, von Otter showed restraints with graceful lyrical beauty yet invest in it weariness and quiet despair. She ended the first part with Liszt songs, in celebration of Liszt’s 200 birth anniversary.

In contrast with Liszt songs (ending with the birth), the second part started with Mahler songs, in memorial of Mahler’s 100 death anniversary. Interestingly, two of the Mahler songs were just performed by Matthias Goerne with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra 16 days ago; and what a difference! While both were excellent, the underlying sentiments were quite different. Take Das irdische Leben (Early Life), Goerne with the orchestra took a more desperate account of the child’s hunger and the hopelessness of the situation, while von Otter with the piano was heartbreakingly despair almost like a mother recounting what happened to herself.

The Korngold songs do point out the fact that they were under-appreciated. These songs, especially the Shakespeare ones, demonstrated Korngold’s ability to craft tight melody lines that enhances the text. I do have to admit that I totally enjoyed the Weill songs. There is no substitute to language affinity, not von Otter’s but my.

Vocal Recital by Anne Sofie von Otter
Mezzo-Soprano: Anne Sofie von Otter
Piano: Bengt Forsberg

 Med en vandlilje
 Våren
 Lauf der Welt
 Till kvällen
 Les trois soeurs aveugles
 Var det en dröm
 Romance in A, Op. 24, No. 2 (1894)(Piano Solo)
 Die Forelle
 Du bist die Ruh
 Gretchen am Spinnrade
 Es muss ein wunderbares sein
 Es war ein König in Thule
 Die drei Zigeuner
 Es sungen drei Engel
 Das irdische Leben
 Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen
 Um schlimme Kinder artig zu machen
 Three songs of Shakespeare, Op. 29
 Come away, Death
 Mistress mine
 Adieu good man devil
 Glückwunsch (Dehmel), Op. 38, No. 1
 One Life to live
 Speak Low
 I´m a Stranger here myself

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At November 3, 2011 at 4:05 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought originally she was to perform Mahler's Urlicht as well.. guess she changed the program...


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