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Monday, August 04, 2008

HANS HOTTER ON LIEDER


I've been reading the memoirs of the German bass Hans Hotter (1908-2003)
called, conveniently, Hans Hotter by Hans Hotter (translated by Donald Arthur, published in 2006 by Northeaster University Press. The original title is 'Die Mai ward wir gegonen'-May was kind to me, a line from Schubert's Winterreise)

Hotter, in addition to telling us about his personal life and professional travels, thankfully offers some insight into the performance of lieder. On paper he's a secondary source. Seek out his recordings if you want to listen and hear the words and music from the oracles' mouth.

Here's an excerpt from pp. 236

"...a friend of Schubert's, the lawyer Dr. Leopold Sonnleithner, has passed down to us some hints from the great genius himself who created these "gruesome songs" (as he himself described Winterreise). In these hints, Schubert gives us what can certainly be regarded as authoritative answers...Schubert's friend reports, "I heard Schubert coach and accompany his songs more than a hundred times. He never tolerated violent expression in the performance of lieder. He always kept strictly in tempo except for those few passages where he himself specifically marked a tempo change in writing. The lieder singer should as a rule only relate the experiences and sensations of another person; he does not assume the role of the person whose feelings he is describing. Poet, composer, and singer must approach the song lyrically and not dramatically. Particularly in the case of Schubert's true expression, the most profound sensitivity has already been placed in the melody a such and is splendidly enhanced by the composer."

CP: Sing what's on the page. Nothing more and noting less.

So there.

I recommend this book and any of Hotter's recordings to anyone interested in learning to make music drama. Absent that, they are completely enjoyable for their own sake.

Friday, August 01, 2008

COLUMBUS SYMPHONY...WOULDN'T IT BE NICE?

I was thinking of the Columbus Symphony today, in anticipation of the Musicians of the Columbus Symphony concert set for tomorrow night at Veteran's Auditorium. The OSU Marching Band will be there, which is as savvy a piece of marketing and promotion as I've heard in a long while. They are, of course, regular participants in the CSO Summer Seasons.

I attended last Saturday's concert, conducted by Alessandro Siciliani. It was great. Crowded house, with lots of gutsy, passionate music making coming from the stage. In the intermission, I chatted with one of the CSO board members. I wondered if he felt like he was wading into enemy territory. (I didn't ask him that)
This gentleman has been a big supporter of the arts in Columbus for many years, and I'm sure there's no way he'd want to see the CSO fold. I didn't see any other board members there, but it was crowed and I don't know many of them, so for all I know the entire board could have been there. Good for them.

Wouldn't it be nice if tomorrow night the CSO Musicians, Mr. Hirokami, Mr. Beadle and all the board members in attendance could take a bow at the end of the evening, together, and in so doing signal and end to vituperation and who lives where and who cares and further signal a willingness to find some way to keep the band playing, period.

There are good and devoted people on both "sides" of this issue. Come out and take a bow. Music can do that much.