Gabriel Faur and Franz Schubert, although very culturally and musically different, share the same adoration and appreciation for the human voice. Albeit the two composers were skilled musicians, especially talented chamber performers, neither had much experience in opera music. Even so, both Faur and Schubert managed to compose amazingly difficult voice music. Because there are so few notes, the performer is not allowed the usual leniency, and in turn, and blunders are effortlessly noticed.
It is with such pressure that Michael Cotton and vocalists Dawn Pawlewski, William Shomos, Donna Harler-Smith, and Lucinda Sloan perform works of both composers. Faur s Cinq M lodies de Venise Op. 58 consists, as the title suggests, of five melodies. Shortly before the performance, Michael Cotton, the pianist for the evening, discussed some background information about the piece.
Faur composed these five melodies in Venice, intended for a princess. All five movements speak of a universal theme of love, and also simply beautiful creatures in general. The piece starts with Mandolin e, a quick-tempo song, the singer (in this case Dawn Pawlewski) attempts to recreate the same scene that Faur was observing while composing these movements, with her voice and expression. An illustration of this is during the line Et leurs moles ombre’s blues (and their soft blue shadows), where the singer decrescendos, the duration of pitches are longer, and the texture was not as thick and complex as previous lines, in effect causing the audience to truly feel the emotions behind the music. The following movements (En Sordine, Green, A Clam ne, C est l ext ase) utilize similar elements. Although each movement differs slightly in the melodic structure and the tempo, ultimately, the idea of beauty and love is what is being conveyed in all movements.
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Schubert s Sechs Gedichten von Heinrich Heine closely imitates Faur s theme o love. However, the melodic structure and the tonality are very different. In comparison to Cinq M lodies, which seemed to be mainly composed in a major key, with a clearly identifiable tonality, Sechs Gedichten appears to be composed in a minor key, or at least has a much more gloomy and eerie aura about it. The six poems speak about a city near the water, and the trials and tribulations of sailors and fishermen.
Schubert, like Faur tries to reach the senses of the audience, and essentially make them understand the music. He accomplishes this particularly well in the movement, By the Sea. In this movement, William Shomos, the singer, performs with an extraordinary amount of emotion. The movement has a great deal of dissonance within, which makes the mood all the more fitting.
In particular, when Shomos sings of Der N ebel sting, das as ser scholl (the mist rose, the waters swelled), the music crescendos, an imitation of the waters swelling. All of the six poems (Das Fischermadchen, Am Meer, Die Stadt, Ihr Bild, Der Doppelganger, Der Atlas) were sung with an enormous amount of emotion, which mainly consisted of anger, rage and overall discontentment. Often it is difficult to convey such emotions, however Mr. Shomos did so in an astounding manner. After a short break the program continued with Faur s Le Jardin Clos. This piece, sung by Donna Harler-Smith, consisted of a few more movements than the previous two.
Included were Exaucement, Quand tu plunges tes yeux dans mes yeux, La Messag re, Je me po serai sur ton Coeur, Dans la Nymph e, Dans la p nombre, Il m est cher, Amour, le bandeau, and Inscription sure le sable. All of these movements were similar in style to the previous Faur piece. In particular, Inscription sur le sable and La Messag re were quick-tempo numbers, composed in what appeared to be a major key, with a lot more consonance in comparison to Schubert who utilizes much more dissonance. Another notable difference was in the timbre of the singer compared to the previous singers. Donna Haler-Smith sang with a quieter, more airy voice. However, she seemed to be able to connect and enunciate the phrases well, without having to over-accent certain syllables that were not necessarily meant to be emphasized.
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On the other hand, because of the fact that this particular reviewer is not a singer herself, and therefore is not able to directly relate with the difficulties and obstacles facing opera singers, the aforementioned qualities are simply an observation, and nothing more. Overall, Le Jardin Clos was much more joyful in the lyrics and the emotions compared to previous pieces. Faur s style and musicality was very comparable to his previously performed piece. The last piece appears to have no title, just simply movements. Once again, it was composed by Schubert, and like both of Faur s pieces, Schubert s personality and musical preferences came out, and were similar to his previously performed piece. The five movements consisted of: Abschied, Der Wanderer an den Mond, Der Wanderer, Trost im Lied e, and Des Sangers Habe.
Lucinda Sloan was the vocalist for this piece, once again being accompanied by Michael Cotton on the piano. In Abschied there was obvious imitation in the phrases. Left wohl! Kling t klage voll was repeated many times throughout. In general, the music seemed to be sad, a slow-tempo, but yet pretty and complex in chords. Once more, the lyrics echoed the music. When the vocalist is singing of wir wander n be ide rustic zu (we both travel briskly on), the music accelerates; the tempo quickens to match the lyrics.
Also, in Der Wanderer, the tempo is much slower, symbolizing the slow journey of the wanderer. The piece concludes with Des Sangers Habe, a song that talks about a singer s possessions. This song was particularly full of strong phrases, where the music was fortissimo, and the texture was very thick, with many chords. This piece, as well as Sechs Gedichten von Heinrich Heine conveyed Schubert s emotions quite effectively through his use of opera music. In conclusion, Gabriel Faur and Franz Schubert have very different musical styles, which became very clear during the course of this concert.
However, even through two very different methods, their underlying message and theme remains constant. They both speak of love, beauty, all things good; every one being a universal theme that speaks to all time. And, as Michael Cotton mentioned in his foreword before the performances, in a time of despair and great fear, music might be the only way for people to overcome. And, it is without a doubt that music such as the pieces performed during this concert has had some, even if minimal, amount of healing power for the audience.
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