Schumann's lied, "Belsatzr", Op. 57

Your 'hot spot' for all classical music subjects. Non-classical music subjects are to be posted in the Corner Pub.

Moderators: Lance, Corlyss_D

Post Reply
Lance
Site Administrator
Posts: 17752
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 1:27 am
Location: Binghamton, New York
Contact:

Schumann's lied, "Belsatzr", Op. 57

Post by Lance » Wed Jan 18, 2012 3:42 am

Image
RCA Victor 61225

Image
Orfeo C 224 031 A

I have been deeply engrossed latey in the lieder/songs of Robert Schumann. These mostly involve recordings made by bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff who recently announced his retirement from the concert stage (aged 52) because of illness. Among his outstanding recordings on the German RCA label is the Dichterliebe cycle and the Liederkreis cycle (Op. 39 after texts by Eichendorff). Other songs on this disc [61225], released in 1993 and now out-of-print, are the five Romances and Ballades III, Op. 53, three of which are called Der arme Peter, I, II, and III, all of which are ingenious. But then there is the brief, single-opused work called Belsatzar. Here's what one reviewer has to say about this piece, one you rarely hear in concert:

The piece, composed in a single day, so pleased its composer that he submitted it to his publisher as an independent opus (numbered 57). The song sets Heine's retelling of the story of Belshazzar's feast, beginning near midnight in the quiet streets of Babylon, then moving to the rowdy chambers where the king is found making merry with his court. The dancing of the lords and clashes of the goblets find musical representation in Schumann's busy, boisterous figuration. Finally, the king utters outright blasphemies against Jehovah, creating an uncomfortable stillness in the room. It becomes apparent that Schumann's setting has been rendering the sonic environment of the room, for as the hush falls over the court, the music becomes unnervingly sparse. As the divine hand appears and scrawls cryptic and holy pronouncements against the king, the bass line moves through a creepy chromatic descent. Finally Schumann's silences become his most effective pictorial device, foretelling Belshazzar's imminent death. ~ Jeremy Grimshaw, Rovi

Quasthoff and his piano partner, Roberto Szidon, give us a most memorable and mentally poignant and impressionable account of Heinrich Heine's text in Belsatzar. If you go searching, you will find that a number of recordings have been made of this particular lied, but I haven't found any more thrilling than that rendered by Herr Quasthoff. (Yes, those by the venerable Fischer-Dieskau are also outstanding.) While tenors and sopranos have committed the song to disc, it seems to me it is best suited for a bass or baritone for the greatest effect.

Funny, I've been listening to Schumann's lieder for ages and for some reason, the Quasthoff just put the piece on a new, higher plane for me.

Interestingly, in collecting some of the more rare recordings of German tenor Peter Seiffert, whom I mention on another thread dedicated solely to his name, I recently heard the Orfeo [224 031] recording of Schumann duets and lieder sung by him and his wife, soprano Petra-Maria Schnitzer with the excellent pianist, Charles Spencer, issued in 2003. Schumann's Four Duets for Soprano and Tenor, Op. 34, are also unknown examples of Schumann's lied talent. The four songs are based on poetry by Robert Reinick (1), Robert Burns (2,3), and Anastasius Grün (4). It is particularly the two Burns songs that make one immediately take note of this group given the quality of voice over piano combination allowing both to contribute totally to the expression/meaning of each song. More and more, people seem to be realizing or are made aware that the piano plays a major part in supporting the vocal line ... it's exactly half the performance with the vocal divas not taking 100% credit for the reading. (Gerald Moore was always right about this!)

If you haven't heard Belsatzr (Belshazzar) or these four vocal duets, spice up your life somewhat, musically, and enjoy these magnificent musical inventions/treasures!
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

Image

John F
Posts: 19974
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:41 am
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Re: Schumann's lied, "Belsatzr", Op. 57

Post by John F » Wed Jan 18, 2012 5:42 am

"Belsatzr" is an amazing song that I've never heard before, highly dramatic and challenging for the singer and the pianist. Thanks, Lance!

For those who want to hear it right now, I've found an extraordinary live performance by Dietrich Fischer Dieskau and Hartmut Höll, taped toward the end of his singing career. DFD really throws himself into this song, not just vocally but physically, making some unmusical sounds in the first part for dramatic effect, and transfixing the audience - us too - with his piercing eyes. Quite amazing.



The words are on the YouTube page, in German only, and you can switch to the page by clicking on the YouTube window here a second time after the video has begun to play.
John Francis

Lance
Site Administrator
Posts: 17752
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 1:27 am
Location: Binghamton, New York
Contact:

Re: Schumann's lied, "Belsatzr", Op. 57

Post by Lance » Wed Jan 18, 2012 12:27 pm

Thank you, John Francis, for the YouTube reference, which is extraordinary. Interesting that Schumann was so pleased with Belsatzr that he appended an opus number to a single lied.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

Image

Werner
CMG's Elder Statesman
Posts: 4223
Joined: Wed Mar 30, 2005 9:23 pm
Location: Irvington, NY

Re: Schumann's lied, "Belsatzr", Op. 57

Post by Werner » Wed Jan 18, 2012 1:50 pm

Thank you both, Lance and John, for this illustration of the magic the German Lieder repertoire can work as treated by a master.

I know you originally intended to credit Thomas Quasthoff, who fully deserves the tribute on the occasion of his retiement - but it still stirs the emotions to see the old master, Fischer-Dieskau, in action. Not to overlook hia dynamic keyboard partner.
Werner Isler

jbuck919
Military Band Specialist
Posts: 26866
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 10:15 pm
Location: Stony Creek, New York

Re: Schumann's lied, "Belsatzr", Op. 57

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Jan 18, 2012 10:45 pm

John F wrote:"Belsatzr" is an amazing song that I've never heard before, highly dramatic and challenging for the singer and the pianist. Thanks, Lance!

For those who want to hear it right now, I've found an extraordinary live performance by Dietrich Fischer Dieskau and Hartmut Höll, taped toward the end of his singing career. DFD really throws himself into this song, not just vocally but physically, making some unmusical sounds in the first part for dramatic effect, and transfixing the audience - us too - with his piercing eyes. Quite amazing.
Holy Geschmoke.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Lance
Site Administrator
Posts: 17752
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 1:27 am
Location: Binghamton, New York
Contact:

Re: Schumann's lied, "Belsatzr", Op. 57

Post by Lance » Thu Jan 19, 2012 1:39 pm

My feelings exactly!
jbuck919 wrote:
John F wrote:"Belsatzr" is an amazing song that I've never heard before, highly dramatic and challenging for the singer and the pianist. Thanks, Lance!

For those who want to hear it right now, I've found an extraordinary live performance by Dietrich Fischer Dieskau and Hartmut Höll, taped toward the end of his singing career. DFD really throws himself into this song, not just vocally but physically, making some unmusical sounds in the first part for dramatic effect, and transfixing the audience - us too - with his piercing eyes. Quite amazing.
Holy Geschmoke.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

Image

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 36 guests