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.
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