Articles written for AUFBAU by Leonard J. Lehrman

Lincoln Center Festival 97
[A Truncated Tristan and a Magnificently Modulated Magic Flutelet or:]
Tristan & Tamino - Truncated
AUFBAU 63:15 July 18, 1997 p13
450 words
Copyright by Leonard Lehrman & AUFBAU
July 15, 1997

The first two classical music performances of John Rockwell's Lincoln Center Festival 97 fortuitously shared a common theme: truncation.

Music Director Kurt Masur conducted the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall on July 12 & 14 in the beginning and ending of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, i.e. the Prelude and Liebestod, with an Isolde who seems destined to follow in the footsteps of Flagstad and Nielsson: Deborah Voigt. Despite a few late brass entrances and some Luftpausen that seemed slightly mannered, the performance had conviction, drive, and verve. Masur repeatedly called for more vibrato, and got it, in contrast to his more muted accompaniment of Voigt earlier in the program with Wagner's Five Wesendonk Lieder, two of which were studies for Tristan.

The program opened with Hans Werner Henze's 1973 take on Tristan (that could have used some truncation): his 44-minute Prelude for Piano, Tape and Orchestra--a hodgepodge of Schoenbergian indulgence combined with Brahmsian and other allusions of questionable relevance. The taped portion, in which a young English boy read from a text whose erotic import he was obviously too young to comprehend, put a new twist on the legend.

A subtler, multi-leveled and hilarious twist on Mozart's Magic Flute was offered at Alice Tully Hall July 14, 16, 17 & 18, engineered by director/designer Herbert Wernicke in the person of multitalented tenor Christoph Homberger. This was not just an Anna Russell Ring-type narrative or parody. Billed as "The Solo Magic Flute" in its U.S. premiere, the one-man show enacts to extremes an opera director's triplenightmare:

  1. The piano's pedals don't work, so the piece must be done a cappella.
  2. All the cast members are from different countries--Tamino with hard r's from America, the Queen of the Night with Slavic chestiness from Bratislava, the Three Ladies with guttural Swiss accents, an appropriately echt Austrian Papageno, and at least one character from Hungary and/or France.
  3. There is only one person present to perform all the parts.

Homberger, aided by Wernicke's clever stagecraft, literally wrapped himself in the stars and stripes of the set, and sustained the interest and laughs of all but a very few walkers-out, who apparently didn't know the original or German well enough to follow it.

Wernicke is a brilliant dire
1980 Munich staging of
Handel's Judas Maccabeus in a concentration camp was one of the most striking operatic concepts [I have] ever [seen] realized. [Can't wait to see his latest collaboration with Homberger and composer Mauricio Kagel for this summer's Holland Festival. Entitled Aus Deutschland, it treats of Heine, Schubert, and the whole Romantic movement. Maybe at next year's Lincoln Center Festival?]

American Composers on German Themes [at Adelphi] AUFBAU 63:15 July 18, 1997 p13
767 words
Copyright by Leonard Lehrman & AUFBAU

As part of this year's summer session at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York, devoted to the theme of "Germany, Its Reunification, and the Implications for Modern Europe," on June 17, 1997 The Long Island Composers Alliance and Meet The Composer presented in the Adelphi Ballroom a well-attended concert of music by 3 American composers on German themes.

Patricia King's setting of Joseph Langland's poem "Buchenwald Near Weimar" was searingly performed by soprano Janis Sabatino Hills, bass Ronald Meixsell, cellist Suzanne Mueller Schanzer, and pianist Leonard Lehrman[, who has just been elected to a fourth two-year term as President of the 25-year-old organization. Meixsell was also impressive in the U.S. premiere of Lehrman's "Deutschland," based on Bertolt Brecht's powerful poem of 1920.]

Six of Marga Richter's seven settings of poems in German by the Duesseldorf poet Francisco Tanzer were presented; two sung by Hills, four by soprano Helene Williams, again accompanied by Lehrman. Tanzer had been moved by a German radio broadcast of some of Richter's music, and then invited her to come over.

The final poem in his series is about her, coming to terms with the German past of her forbears that she had never known. Richter movingly described her journey to Germany in the early 1980s, and her visit to the town of Einfeld where her parents had lived, the church where they were married, and so on. A map hung from a back curtain was used to show the location of the various German cities alluded to in the program.

The most moving journey described in the program, though, was Heinrich Heine's, in Leonard Lehrman's "Ein Wanderer durch DEUTSCHLAND nach Heine's Wintermaerchen." Lehrman, who after a year as assistant conductor at the Metropolitan Opera lived and worked in Heidelberg, Augsburg, Basel, Vienna, Bremerhaven, and Berlin from 1979 to 1986, told the audience: "Heine was writing in 1843-44 about his own 13-year cultural/political exile from Germany, in France. But in 1984 I saw in it a reflection of my own 7-year economic exile from this country, in Germany." The work has been coupled with Schumann's Dichterliebe and is a perfect piece for the Heine centennial, which could be celebrated for the next three years, since the date of Heine's birth is uncertain, being either December 1797 or 1799 [- all the records were burnt!]

The 1984 cycle charts Heine's progress from Paris, to Koeln or Cologne, to Hagen, to the little town of Unna, to the walled city of Minden, to his mother's house and then the docks in Hamburg. As in the Berlin of both 1844 and 1984, the British, the French and the Russians are all present - represented by quotations from their respective national anthems. So are the well-known German hymn "Ein' feste Burg," the German folksong "Die Gedanken sind frei," a portrait of the wolf in Eugene d'Albert's popular German opera Tiefland, and of course "Deutschland ueber alles," along with German fantasy, terror, intolerance, racism, hypocrisy, militarism, pride, and denial of ugly truths. [One can even see the coming of the Holocaust, the Berlin airlift, and Helmut Kohl, as well as some pert observations about Judaism, which Heine at first renounced but later re-embraced.] The work, brilliantly sung by tenor Ronald Edwards and soprano Helene Williams with the composer at the piano, ends with a timely and timeless plea for tolerance, understanding, humor, and support, especially for creators of art, particularly those alive, today.

The concert opened with five of Lehrman's settings of poems by the Berlin poet Harry Oschitzki, and also included the title song of his collaboration with Gnter Loscher, "Kommt, wir aendern die Welt!" as well as Lehrman's own humorous 1984 hymn to Berlin: "Four-Power City." It closed with a 75th-birthday tribute to composer Francis Thorne, his song "I Want More."

[The German National Tourist Bureau's Immediate Past Regional Manager, Michael Kranefeld, attended with his wife, and pronounced himself "enormously impressed" with both the concert and The Long Island Composers Alliance.] The Alliance presented its first concert in Europe last summer in Dresden, and plans to do so again next year in Bayreuth, by invitation of Wolfgang Wagner, grandson of Richard Wagner and head of the Wagner Festival. Composers have been asked to submit settings of texts in German or Yiddish for this concert. One, Raoul Pleskow, formerly of Vienna and now the retired Chairman of the Music Department of Long Island University, has already done so: His "Jetzt ist es Herbst," on a poem by Maximilian Dauthendy, is to be included in the concert.

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