My last Schubertiade day: In the morning I catch a bus to the little village of Schoppernau, where my hero, Franz-Michael Felder, was born. I spend a more than interesting hour chatting with the director of the museum, gleaning insights and inspirations. After a short walk through the village with its old wooden farmhouses, having lit a candle in the church for my beloved ones, I take the next bus back in the direction of Bezau and my hotel. The bus stops at the cableway station to the Diedamskopf, and it’s a hot day. The gondolas are going up and down non-stop, and the snow up there looks so cool. So I leave the bus and take the cableway instead. Ten minutes later, I find out that I can’t get to the very mountain top, the snow is too slippery for my sandals. So I content myself with a cup of coffee and a sandwich, in the cool breeze, and the wonderful vista. Clouds are building in the West however; there will be a storm tonight. A nap and a swim at the hotel later, and I’m ready for tonight’s recital. Having arrived early, I have time for a last visit of the open gallery that runs all along the left side of the concert hall, overlooking the valley and then mountains beyond. Dark grey clouds have built over the mountains; a warm wind carries the sound of distant thunder, and lighting flashes in the distance. A lady is standing by the railing, enjoying the spectacle, and we chat a while, about the upcoming recital, about concerts heard this year and last and the year before. We look at the vision before us and she says: “No wonder we all come back again and again.” Bernarda Fink, mezzo-soprano, and Marcos Fink, bass-baritone, and their piano accompanist Anthony Spiri, have prepared what seems to be a very personal and cosmopolitan programme. The first Brahms duet “So wünsch ich dir eine gute Nacht” is almost swallowed up by the noise of the rain that is drumming on the roof of the gallery now. In the next one they have recovered the public’s undivided attention however, and the sad story of the “Schwesterlein” who is dying of unfulfilled love comes movingly across, brother and sister with their warm, intense voices, impersonating “Brüderlein” und “Schwesterlein” convincingly, without stating the obvious. They take us through another one of Brahms’s folksong arrangements, “Vergebliches Ständchen”, with the same charm and conviction.
Warm voices, gracefully intertwining, give depth and personality also to four carefully selected Schubert duets, two lieder from Wolf’s Spanisches Liederbuch” and another selection of Brahms duets. It is after the intermission however, when the two singers show the other side of their talent, that speechless delight takes over: they interpret first a selection of songs in Slovenian, translated in their turn from all manner of languages. Questions of perfect text understanding and pronunciation being out of my power of evaluation now, all that remains is the sheer beauty of those songs, and the fascination of observing how the timbre of one and the same voice changes with the language. They are taking turns now to sing, and then reunite, the better for the public to appreciate the sonorous beauty of the language, and the unfolding of the bass-baritone and the mezzo-soprano to unexpected colours and textures. Without an orchestra it is still possible to create a world of music by using the different sound colours of different textual and musical languages. Each song we hear is an unknown treasure, to me at least, and an unexpected treat. It is much the same with the songs in Spanish language, only that having here the original texts in the program, it is possible to follow the singers through their pieces. And so we can hear how every poet and every composer come totally into their own, from the floral pieces by Carlos Guastavino to the deeply moving Borges poems “Jacinto Chiclana”, sung by Marcos Fink and “El titere”, sung by Bernarda Fink. Another unknown gem (to me) proves to be “Vidala”, by Argentinean composer Carlos Lopez Buchardo, sung by the two of them together. The sweet melancholy in this song goes well with our Schubert indeed, and with those two warm golden voices. Such a wonderful choice of amazing poems, set to music by so many unknown composers, Slovenian, Argentinean: A discovery, and a success, this last evening, and it is greeted with warm applause. There is an encore, of course, there has to be, there should be a night full of encores, but at one point we have to leave all the same. The storm has abated during the concert, crickets are singing again, the air is warm and sweet with perfumes of hay and alder. And I have to leave…