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Brahms: Ein kleiner, hübscher Vogel

Since my upcoming Wolf Trap concert features four singers and two pianists, it seemed crazy not to open the program with the cornerstone work for those forces: Brahms’ Liebeslieder Waltzes. Normally I shun the obvious, so I briefly considered delving into the four-part writing of Szymanowski or Schoeck or Schreker. After about 40 seconds I came to my senses. Some pieces are evergreen, and the Liebeslieder are at the top of that last.

When Joseph Li and I worked on them last weekend, evergreen seemed too weak a description. “Good Humor truck” is more like it, a freezer-full of irresistible treats whose appeal is practically addictive. Each waltz is different in character, ranging from slow dances to dapper quick-steps to aggressive ones that have the razor-sharp drive of a mazurka. I knew they would be a good way for the Wolf Trap cast to bond with each other, and with Joe and me. Playing and singing this Brahms work is like having a sweet love affair. As you rehearse the Liebeslieder,  you begin to feel that you are in a room with the people who matter the most to you, a beautiful musical intimacy.

Here’s my (current) favorite, “Ein kleiner, hübscher Vogel,” sung and played here by a sterling roster of musicians: Edith Mathis, Brigitte Fassbänder, Peter Schreier, and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, with Karl Engel and Wolfgang Sawallisch at the piano. Deutsche Grammophon clearly spent some money on this project. They’re great…but I bet we can get this piece to sound even sweeter and more charming!

Song of the Day: November 24

Steven Blier (photo Liv Hoffman)NYFOS is celebrating our co-founder Steven Blier this week! In honor of his birthday on November 25, each Song of the Day post this week will be a tribute to him.  Happy Birthday, Steve!  We hope you enjoy these and have a wonderful week!

Today’s post comes from NYFOS’s co-founder Michael Barrett:

Now that Steve Blier is turning 64, I find myself thinking not so much about Steve’s resilience, his continuing professional productivity, or his unfailing stamina. Those traits all seem miraculous in the face of his fight with FSH Muscular Dystropy, but since I am around him lots, I really just see them as part of Steve’s character and work ethic. But what it is, on his 64th birthday that leaps out to me is Steve’s youthfulness. He’s eager about the future. He revels in discovery. He loves going out to shows in the evening. Is it any wonder his students become his friends and colleagues while they are still in school?

In honor of Steve’s secret to staying “among the very young at heart” is not THAT song, but the last movement of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony. “Himmlische Leben” by Friedrich Rueckert portrays a child’s view of heaven. Heaven is full of fun and games, the best food, the best music. It’s where everything awakes to joy, all in G major. I’m wishing Steve a wonderful birthday, and to his continuing enthusiasms and exuberance.

Here is soprano Edith Mathis singing, accompanied by another guy who hung on to his youthful mojo—Leonard Bernstein. The back-up band is the Vienna Philharmonic.
—Michael Barrett

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