Foto: Birgid Steinberger
Schubertiade Schwarzenberg, these words don’t mean only magnificent concerts in a magnificent concert hall, they also mean magnificent surroundings of mountains, forests, brooks – all these things so dear to Schubert and so present in his works, that make him an unseen presence at the festival. They mean the hospitality of people proud of their country, of its history, its traditions, its grand men and women, and its development. They mean a wonderful and dangerous whole, dangerous because highly addictive. Whoever has been here once is lost, and wants to come back again and again, be it only for two days and three concerts. Last concert tonight for me, with Birgid Steinberger, soprano et Thomas E. Bauer, baritone, replacing Sarah Connolly, who is ill, and Markus Werba, who has another engagement. The two artists, accompanied by Julius Drake, offer a program tonight with songs only from the year 1815. Each one in his/her turn, and sometimes together, they dress a portrait of the artist as a young man, Schubert at eighteen years, sometimes melancholic, sometimes full of amorous élans. Experienced artists both of them, they master the art of lied singing, getting instantly into the musical ambiance of each lied, underlining each nuance. Birgid Steinberger, with her rounded warm and generous voice and her particularly Viennese charm ravishes with songs like “Die Nachtigall” or her pianissimos in “Nähe des Geliebten”. Together they are simply splendid in the very particular “Cronnan” D 282, composed on one of the Ossian texts. It is durchkomponiert, without rhyme or measure; Schubert is well ahead of his time here. The artists recite this story so intensely that one feels the Scottish mountain wind blowing, and follows them breathlessly through the heather. After the intermission, Thomas E. Bauer comes into his own with gems like “Skolie”, “Die erste Liebe” or “Das Rosenband”, delivered with warmth and finesse. In the humoristic “Das gestörte Glück”, he tells the story of a never given kiss, that ends on the demand of the singer that someone give him that kiss, right now. Birgid Steinberger doesn’t hesitate and gets up and kisses him smack on the lips, the public is delighted, the singer slightly surprised. The recital ends on two lieder sung again by the soprano, another “An den Mond”, D 193, on a text by Hölty, sung by the baritone, and a final duet, “Hektors Abschied”, on a text by Schiller, delivered again with a fine dramatic impact.
A Schubertiade evening after our own heart – all of Vienna’s spirit, all of the young composer’s personality is here tonight, and the artists end in beauty with a duet encore: “Heidenröslein”. A not exactly light-hearted lied, but tonight we hear a smiling version. That, too, is the Schubertiade Schwarzenberg.