Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Boy's Magic Horn

With LW, I heard Sir Colin Davis conduct the New York Philharmonic on Tuesday. The performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 2 in D major was suave. I found it boring. Much more interesting were Mahler's Twelve Songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Boy's Magic Horn). Compiled and published by Clemens Brentano and Achim von Arnim, the book pretended to be a collection of authentic folk poems, but comprised free renderings of texts and original compositions of the authors.

Mahler put to music "The Sentinel's Nightsong," the tongue-in-cheek "St. Anthony of Padua's Sermon to the Fishes," the pathetic "The Earthly Life," "Solace in Misfortune," the heroic and sweet "Song of the Persecuted in the Tower," the spring-like "Who Thought Up This Little Song?" the tragic "Reveille," the charming "Little Rhine Legend," the satirical "Praise from an Advanced Intellect," the insulting "Labor Lost," the elegaic "The Drummer Boy" and the brave "Where the Fair Trumpets Sound." In other words, a wide range of emotions.

Ian Bostridge (tenor) had a sweet and vulnerable voice, very suitable for the soon-to-die or dying or dead soldiers in these songs, but he was overwhelmed by the orchestra in the first couple of songs. Dorothea Röschmann (soprano) was expressive and powerful, a treat to hear at her NYP debut.

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