Poet and Peasant – Overture
Ich liebe dich, Op.37/2; Liebeshymnus, Op.32/3; Verführung, Op.33/1; Winterliebe, Op.48/5
Symphony No.7 in D minor, Op.70
Herbert Lippert (tenor)
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski
Reviewed: 1 March, 2013
Venue: Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York City
The first of three Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra concerts at Carnegie Hall conducted by Franz Welser-Möst – the second offers Schubert, Widmann and Richard Strauss, the third of Berg and Bruckner – opened with a piece of candy, the Overture to Franz von Suppé’s operetta, Poet and Peasant. Suppé’s works are now largely forgotten, but as led by Welser-Möst, this performance got the short program off to a sizzling start and came across as entirely idiomatic. The sober and sonorous opening, delivered nobly by the brass, was followed by a wonderfully dramatic tutti from the strings. The cello solo was charmingly played, and the waltz had a delightful Viennese lilt.
Next was a smartly grouped selection of four Richard Strauss songs, dating from the 1890s to 1900, with each chronicling a different variety of love. Herbert Lippert has a long and close relationship with the VPO. A former Vienna Boys Choir member, he frequently performs with the orchestra and since 2010 has been engaged with the Vienna State Opera. He also collaborates in operettas with “Herbert Lippert und seine Philharmonischen Freunde”, a group of VPO musicians. Unfortunately, although there were some lovely moments in this performance, Lippert’s voice was not always able to meet the difficult demands of Strauss’s music. He was at its velvety best in the softer passages of Verführung (Seduction), displaying great care and artistry in the shaping of phrases, especially the beautifully intoned final line “Du wirst mein eigen noch diese Nacht!” (You will be my own yet this night!), but showed audible strain in the more soaring parts of Leibeshymnus (Hymn of Love) and Winterliebe (Winter Love). The orchestral playing throughout was lovely. Lippert was more impressive and less overshadowed in the tender encore.
The highlight was the performance of Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony. Welser-Möst deemphasized the darker elements of the first movement and focused on drawing Dvořákian warmth and openness from the VPO musicians. The Poco adagio was particularly eloquent in its spontaneity, and the scherzo had a sparkling lift. The finale was full of vibrant energy and excitement. Welser-Möst and the VPO offered two encores: a beguiling rendition of Dvořák’s Slavonic Dance in E minor (Opus 72/2) and then a spirited polka.