The Many Moods of Hugo Wolf

      Charlotte Elia gave the second recital in the series Liedermorgen that she began last season with the Virginia Wesleyan College Department of Foreign Languages and Literature. This recital at 11 am October 23, 2003, brought students and interested listeners an excellent experience of art song sung in German. The earlier program offered lieder by several of Germany's finest composers but today's program offered Hugo Wolf songs exclusively. Many listeners find his settings to be the epitome of German song.

      Hofheimer Hall was full. Students from high school and college were there and the program was well designed to educate and entertain both novice and accomplished German speakers. The selection showcased Wolf settings of songs contrasting the many moods that Wolf is a master at expressing.

      In Verbogenheit (Seclusion) the text describes the heaviness of a world weary person who seeks his own solitude rather than endure either life's joy or pain. This was followed by Elfenlied (Elf Song), a charming story of an elf awakened at eleven by the watchman and his confusion at being brought into a night world so suddenly. With its music box-like piano and light-hearted text, what student could fail to be brought into that magical world. The fine accompaniment by George Stone often became evident as it did in these songs. Wolf writes sections for the pianist which set, complete or contradict the mood of the sung text.

      Mood shifts continued in Auf ein altes Bild (To an Old Picture) which tells with subtle understatement the story of the tragic life of the child Jesus, encapsulated in the opening word of the last line, "alas." In Lebe wohl (Farewell) Ms. Elia's deep mezzo tones indicated that her voice has become richer and deeper since last season and her soprano range was a smooth pleasant sound throughout.

      Ms. Elia pointed out that Wolf only set texts that had previously been set by other German composers if he felt that the text had not been adequately served. When Schubert set Goethe's text Ganymed he emphasized the use of nature in the poem. On the other hand, Wolf strived to bring us into a portrayal of the bliss beyond this world. Piano key changes move higher leading the vocalist upward toward the bosom of an all loving Father.

      Perhaps the best song for a youthful audience inexperienced in art song was Epiphanias (The Three Holy Kings) written by Wolf when he spent the Christmas holidays with the Heinrich and Melanie Köchert family including three young daughters. This humorous song of the "Three Holy Kings with their star who eat, drink and don't like to pay" was acted out by three young women while Ms. Elia sang the verses. The piano with its extended solo passages gives time for the pantomime to unfold.

      The other selections on the program strengthen the theme of introducing Wolf's rich diversity of compostions: Er ist's (a spring song), Blumengruß (The Bouquet) and Kennst du das Land? (Do you know the land where the lemon blossom grows?). Ms. Elia met the challenge of bringing alive the songs of Hugo Wolf in all their emotional diversity with beauty and excitement.


Mary Charlotte Elia's Devotion to German Lieder
Sunday, November 16, 2003 Wycliffe Presbyterian Church

      With George Stone at the piano, Charlotte Elia gave an excellent recital. In an era when a recital program is made up of a set of French or Spanish songs, German lieder, some American songs and some lighter fare to close, Ms. Elia continues to follow her muse. This is the third recital we have reviewed here in 2003 in which she sang only German lied. There was a good audience of appreciative parishioners and other community listeners.

      The program began with two of Mozart's songs from the beginning of German lied and concluded with two sets of songs by Hugo Wolf, written when the romantic lied had reached its rich fulness. In between there were songs by Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms and Clara and Robert Schumann. (If you'd like more information about these, see Issue #23 Liedermorgen at Virginia Wesleyan and Issue #27 The Many Moods of Hugo Wolf). As Steve says "Her interpretations grow deeper each time I hear her."

      The program booklet was lovely with rich graphic designs in a soft mauve color with full text and translations. The reception was lively with very good food.

      George Stone, Miss Elia's accompanist, does a masterful job in presenting this difficult repertory. His artistry shines especially in the Hugo Wolf where the piano often has an independent solo which underscores the sung words. Mr. Stone has undergraduate and masters degrees from East Carolina University in piano performance. He teaches applied piano at Virginia Wesleyan College where he has served as accompanist for the choral program. He also teaches at the Chesapeake campus of Tidewater Community College and accompanies at a local school and church. Most impressive to us is his great skill as a lieder performer in these solo recitals.

      Ms. Elia has a music degree from Virginia Wesleyan College, has performed in major choral works in our area and is director of music ministries at Wycliffe Presbyterian Church. In conversation about art song in Tidewater last winter, Charlotte said to us "I'd rather spend my time learning lied and creating recital programs of German songs than anything." She meant it and we listeners are the beneficiaries.

Back to Virginia Wesleyan 3