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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

CD review: Soprano Marlis Petersen magnetic in odes to feminine mystique by Goethe

By John Terauds on March 30, 2012

MARLIS PETERSEN AND JENDRIK SPRINGER
Goethe-Lieder, Das ewig weibliche (Harmonia Mundi)

German soprano Marlis Petersen and her partner in life as well as music, pianist Jendrik Springer, have spun a magical, hour-long journey through the feminine mystique, as seen through the swoon-prone sensiblity of Romantic poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

The selection of Lieder is so well done that Petersen and Springer’s choices are positively shuffle-proof, compelling uninterrupted listening from beginning to end.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds

The poems may all have the same source, but the composers come from a variety of times and backgrounds. The magnetically chromatic opening song, a 1928 concert piece known as Stella’s Monologue, is by Ernst Krenek, who died in 1991. We get the requisite setting by Franz Schubert (“Was bedeutet der Bewegung”), but there are many more treasures here that include Richard Wagner as well as two notable women: Fanny Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann.

The most clever thing about this album is how the artists use Goethe’s Wandrers Nachtlied (Wayfarer’s Night Song) as an emotional palate cleanser throughout (the short poem speaks of the calm that hangs over the treetops at night, the birds have gone to sleep, and, soon, so will you). We get settings of it by Robert Schumann, 20th century pianist Wilhelm Kempff, Charles Ives, Nicolai Medtner, Hans Sommer (my favourite) and Franz Liszt.

Petersen colours every inflection and vowel, and even uses every breath and silence to deepen the effect. Springer heightens the mood and momentum with beautifully subtle work at the piano.

In short, this is one of the most compelling art song recordings I’ve heard in a long time.

(Petersen makes her New York City recital début at Carnegie Hall in October with a programme drawn largely from this album.)

For details and audio samples, click here.

In case you need an introduction to the marvel that is Marlis Petersen, here she is singing Philine’s big aria, “Je suis Titania,” from Mignon, by Ambroise Thomas.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
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