Christiane Karg and Michael Nagy sing Hugo Wolf
Christiane Karg soprano
Michael Nagy baritone
Gerold Huber piano
Italienisches Liederbuch (Books 1 and 2)
Mon, 11 Jun 2018, 20:00
Chamber Music Hall
“Even small things can delight us”. The first line of the first poem from Hugo Wolf’s Italienisches Liederbuch could be a fitting title for the whole work, in the course of which every little detail, both in the vocal and piano parts, has a special significance. In 1890, when Wolf began to set the 46 popular Italian love poems in the translation by Paul Heyse, he had already made a name for himself with his songs of poems by Mörike, Goethe and others. But he suffered from being acclaimed as a lieder specialist: in Wolf’s time, setting poetry to song was still considered a “small form” which required “a minimum of technical mastery” (Eduard Hanslick). To that effect, the composer complained to his patron, Tübingen University’s director of music, Emil Kauffmann in a letter dated 12 October 1891: “The flattering recognition as a ʻcomposer of liederʼ saddens me to my innermost soul.
What else can it mean other than a reproach that I only ever compose songs, that I master only a small genre?” However, in his Italienisches Liederbuch, Wolf succeeded in achieving maximum effect with the minimum of possible means: the songs trace the psychology of the characters and of the action from the first to the last note, while the whole is suffused with the serene light of the Mediterranean sun. And as such, it is no coincidence that both singers alternate in their songs, without ever singing together.
With Christiane Karg, one of the most sought-after lyric sopranos of our day, and Michael Nagy who, among other things, has already enjoyed success in Philharmoniker concerts as Kurvenal in Simon Rattle’s concert performance of Tristan and Isolde, Wolf’s rather rare song collection is now to be heard in the chamber music hall of the Berlin Philharmonie. The accompanist is Gerold Huber, a pianist renowned for bringing out the finest nuances on his instrument.