“Schumann was my first love as a child and teenager,” admits Christian Gerhaher. However, the baritone, a long-time friend of the Berliner Philharmoniker and artist in residence of the 2013/2014 season, is more than just a fan of Schumann. He is also a brilliant performer of his works, as the artist has repeatedly proven in concerts with the orchestra: in performances of The Paradise and the Peri and in Scenes from Goethe’s Faust, in which he sang the title role, driven by the search for meaning and a thirst for knowledge, a role with which he – according to the critic of the Frankfurter Rundschau – “sends one shiver after another down the spine” of the audience. This season, the baritone opens the chamber music series Singers – The World of Vocal Music. In addition to Dvořák’s Biblical Songs, he has also programmed rarely performed songs by Robert Schumann. He is accompanied at the piano by Gerold Huber who, in Gerhaher’s own words, is the guarantor of his success as a lieder singer. They both met in their youth in Straubing, have grown together as a duo and enjoy international success not only with their concert performances, but also with their (often) award-winning CD recordings. With the warm, lyrical timbre of his voice and his clear diction, Christian Gerhaher is often compared to his great idol, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau – the great idol
Gerald Finley, like Christian Gerhaher, is also a great admirer of Fischer-Dieskau. A native of Canada, the bass-baritone discovered his vocal potential through choral singing. “It wasn’t easy being a choirboy in Canada when all your friends were playing hockey and football,” he once said in an interview. Today, Finley is one of the leading representatives of his vocal fach, with his performances of Mozart’s Don Giovanni in particular receiving regular praise from the press. According to one review, he has the “most beautiful, sexiest baritone voice”. Other major roles include Hans Sachs in Wagner’s Meistersinger and Amfortas in Parsifal. In addition to his operatic appearances, Gerald Finley also regularly gives lieder recitals. His accompanist for this recital in the Chamber Music Hall is the conductor and pianist Antonio Pappano, under whose direction he has sung numerous operatic roles. Together, the two present a very personal programme: songs by Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Liszt, Ottorino Respighi, Ravel, Shostakovich and Paolo Tosti.
The American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato takes her audience to very different musical worlds: In a programme entitled “In War and Peace – Harmony Through Music”, the singer and the ensemble Il pomo d'oro present Baroque arias by Monteverdi, Henry Purcell, George Frideric Handel, Leonardo Leo and Niccolò Jommelli. Joyce DiDonato, who not only has a captivating voice, but also mesmerising dramatic skills and an irresistible charm, is a familiar face to Berlin audiences. In October 2012, she made her debut at Berlin’s Deutsche Oper as Rosina in Katharina Thalbach’s production of Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia. In Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation concerts, the singer made a guest appearance in June 2013 with a recital in the Chamber Music Hall of the Philharmonie. The theme of the recital was A Venetian Journey. That evening, she proved not only to be a gifted recital singer, but also revealed herself to be somewhat of a football fan: While the concert was under way, the German national team was fighting to get through to the next round of the European Championships. Every time she came on stage, she informed the audience of the current state of play before continuing her performance. In April 2015, she charmed audiences at the Baden-Baden Easter Festival and in Berlin as Marguerite in Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust.