Oh Vienna! Part 2 – Lieder in the Musikverein

Though generally willing to try any type of music, I’ve always resisted Lieder – classical German song.  Far, far too grown-up for my taste. 

But visiting Vienna last week, I was disappointed that the legendary Staatsoper was given over to the appalling middlebrow Opernball – the annual schmaltz waltz meets celebs’ night out.  Opera had been banished from one of the world’s great houses, for the duration. 

What to do?  The next best choice was soprano Dorothea Roschmann’s Lieder recital at the Musikverein.  I’d been mightily impressed by Ms Roschmann in several lovely Covent Garden performances.  And I wanted to tick off the Musikverein, one of the classical world’s great venues. 

But Lieder?  Schubert?  Schumann?  Wolf?  It could turn into a long night. 

I needn’t have worried. Though struggling with a heavy cold, Roschmann, supported by pianist Graham Johnson, converted me instantly.   

Great gig.  I loved the show – two hours, entirely in German, with German programme notes.  It was a belter. 

It confirmed a central tenet of Music for Grown-Ups – music is music.  Forget the packaging.  Language is unimportant.  Successfully evoking emotion is the aim and the sole criterion for judging performance. 

Musikverein?  A gas.  Perfect acoustics.  Though the small hall was only half full – 250 empty seats for a performance by one of the German repertoire’s greatest voices!   Weird.  Perhaps the disparus were all cosied up at home, watching wall-to-wall Opernball on TV.   

Gerry Smith

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