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New York
Alice Tully Hall
01/13/2002 -  
Ludwig van Beethoven: An die ferne Geliebte, Nos. 1-6
Franz Schubert: Goethe Songs
Robert Schumann: Heine Songs
Hugo Wolf: Eichendorff Songs

Stephan Genz (baritone)
Roger Vignoles (piano)

“ O rest, so long desired!
We sense the night’s soft breath
now we are tired, how tired!
Can this perhaps be death?”

Earlier this season, a fine young tenor named Christoph Genz made his New York recital debut at the Walter Reade Theater. Now it is his sibling’s turn as baritone Stephan presents an afternoon of Romantic poetry set in song. One wonders whether the boys thrilled their parents in Leipzig with repeated renditions of the blutbruederschaft duet while maturing, but there is little doubt that there must be great pride emanating today from that particular household. For this concert, the program is intelligently arranged to feature three of the most beloved lyricists of the 19th century composers and, as the excerpt from Eichendorff which graces our heading illustrates, of the 20th as well.

Although the dates included in the program notes provided by Lincoln Center indicate that Franz Schubert lived to the ripe old age of 64, his actual life of only 31 years was passed entirely within that of Johann Goethe. This greatest of all German poets lived at a time when he was directly able to influence many of the most important geniuses of both the 18th and early 19th centuries (there is a moving memoir written by W.M. Thackeray about visiting Goethe when he was a very old man). His particular form of detached emotion helped to bridge the gap between the Enlightenment and the Romantic movement. Robert Schumann’s shortened life was lived within the time of existence of both Heinrich Heine (who died the same year as the composer) and Joseph Eichendorff (who expired the very next year of 1857). Heine is the romantic poster child, imbued with a glowing humanism and overflowing with emotion, while Eichendorff was more of a nature worshipper, whose folk-song style lent itself so handsomely to the lied. This intelligent program ran the gamut of emotion, even if its performer did not (Dorothy Parker would have been amused).

Mr. Genz the deeper began his career, as did his brother, within the choir of the Thomaskirche of Leipzig, carrying on the tradition established way before Johann Sebastian Bach. He is obviously well trained as a singer, his mechanics being solid and his technique secure, however, he must have had the same coach as his tenor relative, since the same lack of emotional variety haunted his recital. His voice is less naturally powerful than Christoph’s, although it was certainly adequate for the small Tully hall. Although this program could be described as correct, it can also be judged as lackluster.

Mr. Genz’ diction was questionable in Der Musensohn, but overall his singing is impeccable (as was the accompanying of Roger Vignoles). What was missing was a clear distinction between the styles of the four composers and three poets. After so much thought went into the programming, not much in the way of execution made this recital at all memorable. Certainly the presentation of the Schumann/Heine was superficially more emotive (how could it not be?), but I would have wished for this young soloist to let himself go a bit more (the same observation stands for his brother). One plane of feeling is simply wrong for this type of afternoon and the lukewarm reception of the audience seemed to bear out this criticism. The difference between Heine’s deeply penetrating description of the life of a sailor:

…poised between sky and sea,
between fear and joy…

and Eichendorff’s:

…all must drown,
while with a fresh wind
we will land in paradise…

was glossed over in the tedium of this presentation. This homogeneity was unfortunate, as there is definite raw talent in this young man. It’s time for him to stop and think about what he is singing.

Frederick L. Kirshnit



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