Marlis Petersen & Jendrik Springer in New York – Goethe and the Eternal-Feminine

Was bedeutet die Bewegung?, D720
Felix Mendelssohn
Die Liebende schreibt, Op.86/3
Fanny Mendelssohn
Ach, um deine feuchten Schwingen

Gretchen am Spinnrade
Wonne der Wehmut, Op.83/1
Ach neige, du Schmerzenreiche
Vor Gericht, Op.15/6

Wandrers Nachtlied II
Morgenlied, Op.97/4
Monolog der Stella, Op.57a

Mignon and Philine
Kennst du das Land
None but the lonely heart
Singet nicht in Trauertönen; Heiß mich nicht reden
So laßt mich scheinen, Op.98a/9

Die Trommel gerühret, Op.29/2
Freudvoll und leidvoll, S280
Wandrers Nachtlied II

Es ist gut, Op.73/2
Bewundert viel und viel gescholten
Rastlose Liebe, Op.4/5

Marlis Petersen (soprano) & Jendrik Springer (piano)

Reviewed by: Lewis M. Smoley

Reviewed: 26 October, 2012
Venue: Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York City

Marlis Petersen & Jendrik Springer. Photograph: Y. MavropoulosMaking the transition from the opera house to the recital platform can be difficult for even the most accomplished singer. Often this changeover happens at the end of an opera singer’s career, and affording opportunity for greater intimacy and more direct communication with an audience. The young German soprano, Marlis Petersen, clearly has no problem singing in either venue if this performance and her operatic triumphs are any indication. Her sense of presence and dramatic expression suited this recital, and she controlled her vibrant voice to suit the modest confines of Weill Recital Hall.

The 22 advertised Lieder on this ambitious program were grouped into sets corresponding to heroines of poems and dramas by Goethe, exemplifying his notion of Das Ewig-Weibliche (The Eternal-Feminine) and covering virtually the entire modern history of the Song, from Beethoven to modern-day.

The range of emotions conveyed was extensive. Suleika’s fervent desire was treated quite differently by the Mendelssohn siblings, and profound suffering was achingly expressed in Tchaikovsky’s None but the Lonely Heart (Mignon) and in Wagner’s setting of Gretchen am Spinnrade. Her resentful scorn as an unwed mother forced to defend herself before a tribunal was dramatically conveyed in Medtner’s Vor Gerich. Also noteworthy was Singt nicht in Trauertönen, Philine’s immodest flirtations in praise of the delights of physical love in Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, as set by a petulant Hugo Wolf. Stella’s longing for the return of her lover in Krenek’s Monolog der Stella was a gripping melodrama.

Petersen conveyed these divergent emotions with operatic flair blended with intimate expressiveness. Her outpourings of heartrending poignancy were particularly effective in Wolf’s Heiß mich nicht reden, and she sang with wry wit in Braunfels’s Die Trommel gerühret, in which Klärchen, the heroine of Egmont, longs to join her lover on the front-line as a fellow soldier. Petersen’s enthusiastic performances made her a persuasive advocate for those settings that may be lesser-known.

Petersen was very fortunate to have the appreciable talents of Jendrik Springer, a duo in perfect equipoise, the pianist adding a light, agile touch to Petersen’s sensitive expressivity and enhancing her interpretation. Whether these songs communicate what Goethe had in mind by the Eternal-Feminine or are expressions of love’s joys and sorrows from a feminine perspective is a question worthy of discussion in a different context. What is unquestionable is that the entire recital was thoroughly delightful. For an encore was Liszt’s setting of Goethe’s Wandrers Nachtlied II, Petersen’s third traversal of that famous text.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to content