I just came home from a really nice trip to Cincinnati where I appeared on the Linton Music series in a program anchored by pianist Reiko Uchida.
Schubert lieder had been requested, and since it was late February, I thought a group of songs beginning in winter and gradually melting into spring would work well.
I was happy for the chance to add a couple of new Deutsche numbers to my repertoire, including Der Winterabend (definitely in my top 5 Schubert) and the epic flower ballad, Viola. Poor 13-minute-long Viola has been abused by so many commentators over the years -- most notably, by Fischer-Dieskau, who described the music as "terribly manneristic and boring", and called the 19 stanzas of poetry "a comical biology lesson" (yet in his recorded performance of this song, he somehow manages to sing as if his life depended on it). To me, the song is full of excitement, humor, and suspense, and the tragic ending never fails to leave me feeling devastated. It's like a lieder version of a great Pixar film.
I found these snowbells in Central Park last week.
The program ended with four Ludwig Spohr songs, including a very spooky setting of Goethe's Erlkönig. I'd always been a little wary of Spohr because I vividly remember hearing several very forgettable performances of his songs in college. I suppose it's unavoidable that after Schubert and Beethoven, Spohr is not going to seem terribly profound, but I think when he is performed with both care (i.e., not treated like second class music and hastily slapped together) and flair (especially the violin part, which is quite virtuosic but needs to sound easy), then it can be just the thing you want to hear at the end of a meaty concert.
Kids these days...not even pianos are safe from their "tags".
Speaking of meat, I checked Cincinnati chili off my list the last time I was in town. My food discovery on this trip was goetta, which is kind of a cross between scrapple and haggis. It's delicious.
Here's a nice review of the concert.