At a Glance
had a knack for creating strong female characters in his Italian operas. We begin
this evening with two women of power, one admirable and the other not so much: a
medieval Lombard queen whose love prevails over tyranny and a Saracen sorceress
undone by passion.
Schumann turned almost exclusively to song composition in 1840, including the
cycle Frauenliebe und -leben. Written
in the same year as his marriage to the great pianist and composer Clara Wieck,
Schumann created richly expressive music for Adelbert von Chamisso’s poems in
which a woman recounts how she fell in love, married, bore a child, and mourned
her beloved husband’s death.
Next, we hear four songs by Fauré, a consummate master of the late–19thcentury
French art song. We are first transported to fantasy Persia, redolent of roses
and infused with wistful sensuality, followed by a dreamy melody. A melancholy,
courtly minuet in the moonlight is in stark contrast to the stormy final song,
a whirlwind of passion and despair.
Brahms wrote lieder throughout his life, and we hear five of his greatest songs
on tonight’s program: a meditation on poetry and music, an irresistible
expression of youthful ardor, a profound evocation of moonlit grief, a dialogue
between a girl and her lover, and a return to Persian exoticism.
It is not often that we in this country have a chance to hear the art
song of South Africa, but Elza van den Heever gives us that opportunity
tonight, with three of its most eminent poets and three of its art-song
composers rounding out the program. Two songs about longing for the beautiful
South African countryside enclose two songs about the arrival of spring, while
at the center of the group is a melancholy song by a Cape Malay slave longing
for her Javanese homeland.