In 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
Mahler: Rückert Lieder
6 February 2015
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Berg: Der Wein
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
January 25, 1986
Phyllis Bryn-Julson soprano
Michael Gielen conductor
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