Cher Public

Plate spinning

geniaIn January “Trove Thursday” took a break from longer full-length offerings and served up a trio of “small plates”: Elina Garanca, Jonas Kaufmann and Anu Komsi singing Berio, Mahler and Sibelius. Another edition arrives this week with Genia Kühmeier, Christian Gerhaher and Phyllis Bryn-Julson performing works by Richard Strauss, Mahler and Berg. 

It’s been nearly nine years since Kühmeier’s Met debut as a radiant Pamina, one of the best I’ve ever heard. Sadly she hasn’t returned to the Met nor sung much opera in recent years due to the severe illness of her husband who died two years ago. The Austrian soprano has made relatively few recordings but she does occasionally appear in concert and this live Vier Letzte Lieder from 2014 provides a glimpse of her artistry. (That my beloved maternal grandmother’s middle name was Genia—and most people called her that—might partly explain why I’m pre-disposed to admire the lovely Kühmeier.)

Two years ago baritone Gerhaher appeared as the distant, grave Jesus in Peter Sellars’s chic and high-priced Berlin Philharmonic production of Bach’s Matthäus-Passion at the Park Avenue Armory.

In recent seasons he has sung more and more opera, roles ranging from Wagner’s Wolfram and Pelléas to Wozzeck and Monteverdi’s Orfeo. Unfortunately he has yet to sing opera in the U.S. where he remains known as an acclaimed recitalist and concert singer. His Mahler performances are particularly striking as one may experience in this version of the Rücker-Lieder from last year conducted by Bernard Haitink.

Now retired, American soprano Bryn-Julson was best known for her fierce advocacy of 20th century vocal music. Mostly a concert singer, she did occasionally appear in opera; for example, she was Malinche in Sarah Caldwell’s U.S. premiere of Session’s Montezuma in 1976. A favorite of Michael Gielen’s during his tenure at the Cincinnati Symphony. I heard them collaborate in 1984 in Schoenberg’s Erwartung. However, I missed this performance two years later of Berg’s lush concert-aria Der Wein which shows off her insouciant confidence in the most demanding music. Did she ever sing Lulu complete?

Strauss: Vier letzte Lieder
8. September 2014
Genia Kühmeier
Bamberger Symphony
Jonathan Nott

Mahler: Rückert Lieder
6 February 2015
Christian Gerhaher
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Bernard Haitink

Berg: Der Wein
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
January 25, 1986
Phyllis Bryn-Julson soprano
Michael Gielen conductor

“Trove Thursday” offerings can be downloaded via the audio-player above. Just click on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.

In addition, each of these three pieces, last week’s Olivero Fanciulla, and all previous fare remain available from iTunes or via any RSS reader.

  • PCally

    Kühmeier’s Pamina and Zdenka were the best I’ve EVER heard in those roles (and this includes people like Seefried, Popp, Janowitz, and Bonney), flawlessly sung and very moving in both roles without every being whiny or sentimental which is a tendency. Since Roschmann and Frittoli are past it, Isokoski has retired from opera, Persson doesn’t seem to be around all that much, and Harteros has moved away from Verdi, Kühmeier is probably the finest Mozart soprano around. I hope to have a chance to hear her in something in the future and I look forward to listening to this recording when I have the time.

    • leosweill

      have you heard Sylvia Schwartz? Perplexed that she doesn’t have more of a career.

      • PCally

        I’ve seen her as Susanna and Adina. I have to say that while I find her charming and a nice voice I don’t hear anything comparable to the women mentioned above. And unlike those women it seems like she’ll be a soubrette for the majority of her career, which probably explains why her career isn’t bigger.

  • leosweill

    my god, Kuehmeier is a revelation!

    • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

      Kühmeier, is, indeed, a spectacularly gifted artist. I heard her Wiener Staatsoper debut as Inés in “La favorite” in 2003 and immediately recognized hers as a career to watch out for. She subsequently sang Pamina (33 times), Zdenka, Micaela, Marzelline, Ilia (“Tito”), Adina and some smaller roles (Blumenmädchen, usw.) through 2011. There was a single Zdenka in 2014, and nothing since, but she is on the schedule for next season for three each of Micaela (in September) and Mozart’s Contessa (in May). When I can fit it in, I will post the Osterfestspiele Salzburg “Carmen” in which she and Kaufmann sing the Act I duet so perfectly, I could have left the theater very happy and fulfilled at that point (Kozena just isn’t a great Carmen, but she was married to the conductor).

      • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

        Oops: As grimoaldo correctly points ot, Ilia is in “Idomeneo,” not “Tito.”

  • grimoaldo

    Yes, I saw Kühmeier as Ilia in Idomeneo at San Francisco a few years back, she was wonderful, sang very sweetly all eveining through a long role. It is sad that her appearances have been limited by personal tragedy.

  • Bill

    Kuehmeier is indeed a wonderful soprano = I also heard her for the first time in Favorita where she stood out
    for the clarity of her voice, and then as a superlative
    Pamina in the line of Lemnitz, Seefried, Janowitz, Popp etc. Her Zdenka is first rate and I can hardly wait until she finally tackles the Figaro Countess, Donna
    Anna, Fiordiligi and some of the lyrical Strauss roles Several times she has cancelled the Figaro Countess.

    • PCally

      Well she has sung the Countess in the Guth Salzburg production (2011) to great acclaim. Don’t know about elsewhere. There used to be a clip on YouTube of the Dove Sono which was in the line of lighter voiced Countesses that tend to be the norm today. Still a beautiful piece of singing.

      • The Poet Lenski

        I believe she was engaged for a Countess at Salzburg that was also cancelled due to her husband’s death. She’s also twice been engaged for returns to the Met (as Micaela and Zdenka) that she cancelled. We can only hope that she will be able to eventually resume a regular performing schedule — if that is what she wants — and her upcoming engagements look encouraging.

        One of the greatest nights I’ve ever had at the Met was attending her second Zauberflote, just before Thanksgiving in 2007. Her most recent Met performance to date, and Damrau’s final Queen of the Night. The best Pamina I’ve ever heard. Absolute perfection.

      • rd

        Kühmeier´s Countess in Salzburg was perfect. I would not have changed a note.